Museum Musings

Breaking Ground

Close your eyes and imagine a scene: hundreds of people move past the plaza. Behind the plaza rises a mound. At its crest a palisade sits squarely, obscuring whatever may lie behind. A woman in a woven skirt stops and stares at the palisade, wonder in her eyes. Suddenly a voice calls from the distance. She must move on, toward a field which opens and recedes into the horizon. Emerald stalks of corn reach toward a massive Georgia sky.

Mound -opt
Mound A: the center of what might be the first capital city of the Capachequi chiefdom. The field school will be spending their first week conducting shovel tests and beginning unit excavation near the base of the mound.

Spanish -moss
Spanish moss hanging near the current excavation.

Life proceeds—dogs bark, a fire smolders, and old friends converse in the afternoon heat. In contrast to the loudness and vibrancy of this city, the mound is quiet. It shadows the world beneath it.

Close your eyes and you can imagine such a scene. Open them, however, and this city—home for many people from C.E. 1100 to 1700, though namely the Capachequi Indians—disappears into the misty reaches of time. Longleaf yellow pine tower overhead, Spanish moss drapes from the branches. Shadows stretch across the long abandoned mound. Where once a community thrived and voices filled the air, now only the hum of gnats persists. A lone tractor rolls by slowly in the distance, and one finds it hard to imagine a city once thrived here.

Fernbank Museum’s archaeology program continues this summer in partnership with the Points of Contact Archaeological Field School from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, under the direction of Dr. Dennis Blanton, adjunct archaeologist. Why are we exploring the history of this multicomponent site? Because this is our history—not only as Americans, but as global people. This is, after all, a site structured by global events. This site might prove to be Capachequi’s capital—a site which possibly “fissioned”1 off from other Mississippian groups along the Chattahoochee River. Later, in 1540, Hernando de Soto certainly visited Capachequi. We must wonder in what ways our site is structured by that visit, and why did Native Americans eventually return to the site during the Spanish mission period (1650-1700)? 

The -JMU-team
The JMU Archaeological team, led by Dr. Dennis Blanton, and assisted by volunteers, begins their work. Here we see them preparing to excavate at the base of Mound A.

As time moved on, the Capachequi disappeared. The site was overlaid by plantation after plantation. Our world must have, at some point, made decisions in relation to the earlier events surrounding Capachequi, the later Spanish mission period, even the early days of industrial expansion and the plantation system—a chain of events which today seems ghostly, residual, yet uncannily human. Close your eyes. It is all too easy to imagine the voices.

If you want to see more from the field, click here.

— Allen Luethke and Kelly Teboe

1 In short, a “fission” society would have split off from another preexisting society, perhaps because of conflict within the society. A “fusion” society, then, would have coalesced from other preexisting societies. The concept of “fission” and “fusion” societies has been applied nearby in research conducted by John Howard Blitz and Karl G. Lorenz. Their work can be read in The Chattahoochee Chiefdoms, printed by University of Alabama Press in 2006.

Written by Fernbank Museum at 14:55

June Volunteer Spotlight

We are thrilled to recognize Jane Kinkade as our June Volunteer of the Month.

On Tuesday afternoons twice a month, visitors and volunteers alike can visit The Fernbank Café to hear the lovely sound of Jane Kinkade playing the piano. Nearly ten years ago, Jane came to the Museum seeking a place to practice her craft, but she has stayed for the great experiences she’s encountered along the way. A former teacher for DeKalb County Schools, Jane loves to see families and children get energized about their visit, particularly if that means she can “plant a little seed” of excitement about the piano! June -VOTM

One of her favorite aspects about volunteering involves the surprises she encounters each time she comes to the Museum. Every day is different, and she never quite knows what atmosphere she’ll be walking in to. She loves the challenge of matching her performance to the energy level in the Café, and is always thrilled to receive compliments from her listeners.

We’d love to have you join our team! Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Fernbank Museum. You can also call us at 404.929.6360 or e-mail

—Kate Naylor. Member and Volunteer Services Coordinator

Written by Fernbank Museum at 15:06

Meet Fernbank’s Newest Team Member

Hello everyone! Let me start off by saying, it is truly an honor to join the Fernbank Museum team and I am excited to get to know the Museum as well as its staff and visitors. In my new position as PR and Marketing Coordinator, I aspire to gain new experiences, but I am most looking forward to delving into the ins and outs of natural history, becoming a connoisseur of Fernbank and establishing some awesome relationships.Nikki -blog -web -saved

I suppose this is when I tell you a little bit about me! As you know, my name is Nicole, but also feel free to call me Nikki. Before dubbing myself as a “native” Atlantan, I was an army brat, born in Wurzburg, Germany. Shortly after my younger sister Lindsey was born in Schweinfurt, my family moved to the States. We have lived in a few different cities within South Carolina and New York, before returning to Georgia in 2000.  

As a newbie to Fernbank, I bring a strong background in writing with experience in event planning and public relations. In the summer of 2013, I graduated from Georgia State University earning my bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing. While enrolled, I was heavily involved in several campus activities including writing and editing for the student newspaper, The Signal and working as the PR Director for Georgia State Campus Events. For a year and a half I also wrote for the entertainment and lifestyle publication, Kontrol Magazine, and have interviewed many influencers and celebrities and have produced a number of articles and cover stories.

Upon graduating from Georgia State, I worked at the World of Coca-Cola as a Guest Relations Ambassador and was re-introduced to the world of customer service. Concurrently, I interned at Ask April Love PR, a boutique entertainment PR agency. Following my time at Coke and Ask April Love, I accepted a full-time public relations internship with Porsche Cars North America. During my 15 months working there, I had the pleasure of witnessing and being a part of the company’s move to One Porsche Drive, Porsche’s new corporate headquarters and home to the Porsche Experience Center.

In my free time I love trying new restaurants, exploring downtown Atlanta and hiking up Stone Mountain. My favorite hobby is singing and I enjoy performing at small gigs or at church on Sundays. Aside from music, other interests of mine include traveling, health and fitness, fashion and social media. (Connect with me on LinkedIn!) I can’t wait make some wonderful memories here at the Fernbank Museum!

—Nicole Holman, PR & Marketing Coordinator 

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:44

Memorial Day 2015

Fernbank Museum will be open during normal daytime business hours over the Memorial Day weekend. DSC_0058

Come face-to-face with the world’s largest dinosaurs, catch a flick on the biggest screen in town and more. Fernbank educators will also lead guests through a variety of hands-on activities during special drop-in programs offered throughout the weekend. Activities vary. Check the “Today at Fernbank” sign when you arrive for details.

Fernbank Museum’s normal daytime hours are: 
Sunday: Noon to 5pm
Monday – Saturday: 10am to 5pm

Purchase advance tickets online or by calling 404.929.6400. As always, parking is FREE 

Please note: Fernbank’s Martinis & IMAX® will not be offered on Friday, May 22. The event will return Friday, May 29.  

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing


Written by Fernbank Museum at 16:35

Amazing Amphibians

Poison dart frogs have been called “jewels of the rainforest” but you do not have to travel that far to catch a glimpse of a brilliantly colored amphibian. Just as the bright tones of poison dart frogs can inspire observers to think of gems, Red salamanders have been described as the “rubies of the Southeast.” Red salamanders (Psuedotrition ruber) are a common species across the upper two-thirds of Georgia. They range from the Missisippi River through the southeast and as far north as New York and are easily identified due to their fire toned skin dotted with black flecks. Red flashes among brown leaves and muddy areas close to streams and seeps confirm discovery of these secretive dwellers.Salamander

If observing in muck is not your idea of a fun afternoon, you can admire the Tiger salamanders in Fernbank NatureQuest. Like their red relatives and many frog relatives, Tiger salamanders ooze poisonous secretions to deter predators from eating them. Don’t underestimate the power of salamander poison! The most potent salamander in the world is the Rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa), native to California. A single newt has enough poison to kill a human if consumed. The better known relatives of salamanders, poison dart frogs are named for their toxins. The Golden poison frog is considered the most toxic, with enough poison to kill 10 people if consumed.

Amphibians are important indicators of ecosystem health. While bright colors may warn predators not to nibble, other factors threaten the extinction of amphibian populations across the globe. With careful observation and responsible environmental stewardship, we can continue enjoying the red salamander as Georgia’s very own gem, as well as their many relatives.

Interested in honing your observation skills? Take part in special programs offered in Fernbank Forest.

—Kate Donlon, Animal Programs

Pictured: a Red salamander (Pseudotrition ruber) found in Fernbank Forest. 

Written by Fernbank Museum at 16:10
Welcome to the official blog of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!