Novel by Anthropology Professor Illuminates Struggle between Development, Historic Preservation

Photo of Kelli Carmean

The setting is a central Kentucky pasture, many years ago the site of a creekside log cabin that housed three generations of pioneers.

Now, developers have brought in bulldozers to prepare the land for a modern subdivision.

In between stand an archaeologist and her students, racing against time to protect the past. “Creekside: An Archaeological Novel,” a new historical fiction work by Eastern Kentucky University archaeology professor Dr. Kelli Carmean, connects two story lines that link artifact and place, ancestors and descendants, and the present and the past.

Carmean “skillfully and convincingly weaves together the two seemingly independent plots in her engaging portrayal of past and present in the Kentucky Bluegrass,” said Dr. Richard Jefferies, an archaeologist at the University of Kentucky.

Carmean is featured in the EKU Libraries’ Focus on Scholarship video series (see video below).

“Creekside” connects the lives of a young 18th-century couple starting their life together on the land with a 21st-century couple starting their life together in the same locale, which Carmean envisions in Madison County.

“In many ways,” Jefferies said, “‘Creekside’ is as much about a sense of place as it is about people.”

Carmean, who earlier this year delivered the Roark Distinguished Lecture at EKU about an archaeological project at the Blue Grass Army Depot, said she has “always been interested in public service, sharing with the general public and interested laypeople the joys and challenges of archaeology.

“You can’t stop progress but you do have to take into consideration what gets destroyed in the process,” Carmean added. “I hope that anytime people see building on the land that they pause and think about … the cultural resources and human heritage of a place.”

“Creekside” readers will learn about excavation techniques, the typical daily experiences at a dig, construction deadlines, report writing, artifact analysis, damage from looters and collectors, and more.

The depiction of a frontier life includes early Euro-American settlement of the area, encounters with Shawnee defending their land, the rise of religious fundamentalism, and the persistent issue of class-based land ownership.”

“Creekside” is available at major bookstores, online, or directly from the publisher, University of Alabama Press. The Barnes & Noble at EKU Bookstore has signed copies of the book.

Published on September 09, 2010