“What progress has preserved” are the words you see with the logo for Columbus, Georgia. With Westville’s move to Columbus we are preserving all of our buildings, artifacts and the stories of southerners. Before we put in the first water line, remove old power poles or bring in the first building, we are preserving something less easily seen.
The story begins around AD 900 but we are picking it up in 1958 because it is where progress leads to our story of preservation today. In the spring of 1958, Ft. Benning Boy Scouts found pottery in the vicinity of the power substation at the Ft. Benning end of Lumpkin Road. This find got the attention of Sergeant David Chase, Ft. Benning’s first archaeologist and the first director of the Infantry Museum, formed in 1959. There were previous archaeology excavations at Ft. Benning and in the greater Columbus area but this find was in an unexplored area.
This area near the power substation is adjacent to the old trailer park which is where the Town Center of Westville will be located. Studying the early David Chase archaeology report and a later study done by the city of Columbus in the adjacent area where they were putting in the RiverWalk and planned to develop a marina, were an important part of the process as we developed our plans for the museum.
In 1958 after the Boy Scout find, Chase conducted archaeological digs there and also explored land to the north, uncovering two more occupational areas. The following is an excerpt from David Chase’s report. “The first of these on the Cliff M. Averett property, contained evidence of an early Swift Creek transitional phase. Adjacent is a trailer park known as the Post Trailer Court. At the time of our visit, road scraping operations were underway in the unoccupied portions of the court. Examination of the scraper-exposed surfaces revealed the presence of very dark circular spots in the light sandy clay of the sub soil. One of these was excavated and became the first in a group of refuse pits which would define the culture and was named for the property owner– Averett.” 
Study of these finds in situ (undisturbed and in place) provide archaeologists the needed context for their study. In this series of articles you will see reference to the Averett culture as well as the Averett site. A 1950 article by Dr. A. R. Kelly of the University of Georgia endeavors to help us understand the nature and use of the word site in archaeology: “When we speak of a site, in the sense of history rather than the idea of simple locality, we denote several important things about a specific place or spot of ground, meanings that are both inherent and projected by our subjective thoughts. The size of the site might be determined by geographical limitations. The events might define the extent of the site.”
A site is more than just an area defined by geography or specific known events, it is a reference point for how we remember things, and build upon the knowledge through the use of tangible data archaeologists recover from the ground to supplement historical accounts or to provide previously unknown information for scholars. For our purposes, the Averett site is defined by geography and the Averett Culture denotes what is considered to be the Late Woodland period of AD 900-AD 1100.
David Chase dug and explored the area in 1958 and 1963 and life in the trailer park continued, with all of its inherent disturbances to the ground such as regrading roads, septic systems, utilities and the like, and no further archeology study was done until the fall of 2016 when Westville undertook a new survey, conducted by Southern Research, looking for clues to the past for scholars to study.
We often attempt to answer the question, what is the South? One often heard response is the South is a sense of place. How does a narrowly defined archaeology site, the knowledge learned of the people who inhabited it, influence our perceptions about the South?
How did we decide where to dig? Next month this series will continue by exploring the process used on this particular site.
 David W. Chase. The Averett Culture Coweta Memorial Association Papers, January 1959
 A.R. Kelly. Early Georgian Fall 1950 Vol 01 No1