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March 12, 2010

ULM archeologist receives prestigious James A. Ford Award

The Louisiana Archaeological Society recently honored a University of Louisiana at Monroe archeologist with the James A. Ford Award, the highest and most prestigious award given by the society.

ULM Department of Geosciences Professor Joe Saunders received the award during the joint 36th Annual Meeting of the Louisiana Archaeological Society and the 45th Annual Meeting of the Mississippi Archaeological Association. He also serves as a regional archaeologist for the Louisiana Division of Archaeology.

The event was held in West Monroe, March 5-7.

The James A. Ford Award, named for one of Louisiana’s earliest and most prolific archeologist, is presented at irregular intervals to those select individuals who have contributed greatly to an understanding of Louisiana archeology. The award has only been presented five times since its inception 36 years ago. Previous winners of the James A. Ford Award are icons of Louisiana archeology including Clarence H. Webb, William G. Haag, Sherwood M. Gagliano, Jon L. Gibson, and Robert W. Neuman.

“To be included in the same list as (other Ford Award winners) is an honor,” said Saunders. “I have been very fortunate, and I am aware that without support from the community, the university, and professional and avocational archaeologists, I could not have achieved the accomplishments which prompted the society to give me this award.”

Saunders earned accolades following his work on archaic mounds in which he meticulously mapped, cored, excavated, radiocarbon dated, and analyzed sites such as Watson Brake, Frenchman’s Bend, and Hedgepeth. Through his collaboration with other scientists, Saunders conclusively answered the question on the age of these mounds.

His many articles on the subject of archaic mounds and his methodology leave no doubt now that mounds in the Lower Mississippi Valley, particularly in Louisiana, date back thousands of years before Poverty Point, initiating a major paradigm shift forever changing Southeastern archaeology.

Saunders came to ULM in 1989 as regional archaeologist for the Louisiana Division of Archaeology, after spending much of his earlier archaeological days in Texas. He earned his doctorate in anthropology in 1986 from Southern Methodist University.

He has authored and co-authored articles in such noted journals as American Antiquity, Science, Southeastern Archaeology, Journal of Field Archaeology, and Louisiana Archaeology.

Saunders has also contributed to scholarly books, including The Louisiana and Arkansas Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore and Mound Power, both published by the University of Alabama Press, and Archaeology of Louisiana, edited by Mark Rees and soon to be published by LSU Press.

In addition, Saunders produces detailed and highly important reports summarizing his research in Management Unit 2 of the Regional Archaeology Program on an annual basis, often presenting the results of his research at national, regional, and local archaeological conferences and meetings.

Some of those meetings and conferences include the Society for American Archaeology, the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, the Mid-South Archaeological Conference, the Louisiana Archaeological Society, the Mississippi Archaeological Association, the Arkansas Archeological Society, the Caddo Conference, the Louisiana Academy of Sciences, the Geological Society of America, and others.

Saunders advocates site preservation, working with landowners and organizations to further this effort. He has prepared seven successful National Register nominations during his career as a regional archaeologist and directed all of the fieldwork to identify, document, and interpret sites that are included in Louisiana’s Ancient Mounds Driving Trail.

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