Click on each slides to see the types of artifacts that were recovered during the excavation of Russell Cave.

The first excavation of Russell Cave was not done by professional archeologists. Paul H. Brown, a member of the Tennessee Archeological Society, noticed a cave close to the area where he and a crew of powerline surveyors were working. Two years later, still intrigued by the site, Brown took along a fellow member of the Society back to the area. They approached Mr. Oscar Ridley, the landowner at the time, for his permission for them to access the area and excavate the cave. Once the permission was granted, Paul and three other members of the society, Charles K. Peacock, LeBaron Pahmeyer, and J.B. Graham began their excavation. The group dug several small pits inside the cave shelter, some of which were as deep as 7 feet. They found a plethora of artifacts; stone points, bone tools, potsherds, and shell ornaments.
Three Tennessee Archeological Society members excavating
Three of the four Tennessee Archeological Society members that did the initial excavation of Russell Cave: Charles K. Peacock, Paul H. Brown, and J.B. Graham.

NPS Photo

Carl Miller and his team excavating Russell Cave
Carl Miller and his team excavating Russell Cave. Bottom right: Ruth Louise Worsham Miller (Carl's wife)

NPS Photo

Recognizing the potential of Russell Cave, the group showed their findings to the Smithsonian Institute and appealed to have them take over the excavation. Carl Miller, an archeologist from the Smithsonian Institute, was sent to investigate the cave. He concluded that the site was a worthy project and reported back to the Institute, who in turn described the discovery to the National Geographic Society (NGS). Under the joint sponsorship of the Smithsonian Institute and the NGS, Carl Miller, his wife, and a team of experienced local coal miners excavated the cave from 1956 to 1958. They dug down more than 32 feet and recovered over 2 tons of artifacts.

Last updated: February 15, 2022

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