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Interdisciplinary research on Flamingo Bay, South Carolina

Training and working in interdisciplinary studies can be difficult. Everyone has a different opinion and a different viewpoint on the major topics. However, these differing perspectives are exactly what make an interdisciplinary team shine. A recent article in Archaeology about the study of Carolina bays exemplify this.

Carolina bays are elliptical depressions that create an isolated marsh. The bays are fed by rain and shallow groundwater. They also have this interesting feature where virtually all of the bays are oriented in a northwesterly direction. There are often strong, unidirectional winds present that cause the bays to migrate from the southwest to the northwest. Geologically speaking, the bays are fascinating for the way they are formed and in their migration.

Beyond the geological importance, Carolina bays are rich in archaeological and cultural significance. Around the ancient landform of Flamingo Bay in South Carolina near the Georgia border, researchers are digging up knowledge of Middle-Archaic hunter-gatherer sustenance, industry, and lifestyles.

They found that small groups of people returned to the Flamingo Bay area year after year in the fall or early winter. When they gathered there, they concentrated their time on food processing activities, such as preserving the meat of migratory birds with the slow-combusting hickory nutshells.

This knowledge came about because one curious archaeologist, Mark Brooks, found some stones that looked out-of-place for the burial patterns of the region, and kept them as a geological question to explore later. Another team member, Tammy Herron, grew up on a farm and recognized the smooth, tooth enamel-like stones instantly as gastroliths, thus sharpening the snapshot of Flamingo Bay.

This research embodies what the curiosity and different perspectives of an interdisciplinary team can achieve. This archaeological project has a lot more investigation to go, and it'll take the combined drive, motivation, and curiosity of the team of archaeologists and geologists along with the personal history for extra insight.

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