The Southern Arkansas University Research Station of the Arkansas Archeological Survey (ARAS-SAU) is one of the original eight stations founded in 1967-68 (when SAU was still Southern State College). Among the ARAS facilities, the ARAS-SAU Research Station has had a remarkable stability. Unlike many of the other stations, ARAS-SAU’s physical territory has not changed significantly. Moreover, Dr. Frank Schambach, the original ARAS-SAU Research Station Archeologist appointed in 1968, served for 38 years–the longest run of any ARAS archeologist.
The Arkansas Archeological Survey was created while Schambach was working on his dissertation —Pre-Caddoan Cultures in the Trans-Mississippi South–and Frank was hired as one of the Survey’s founding archeologists. Dr. Schambach earned his Ph.D. in 1970 from Harvard University. During his tenure as station archeologist his research emphasized prehistoric Caddoan and pre-Caddoan cultures of the Trans-Mississippi South, including questions of Caddo relationships with the complex mound-building cultures of the Mississippi Valley. His research made him a well-recognized expert on ceramic typology and on trade networks linking the Southeast, Southern Plains and Southwest culture areas.
In 1982 he was promoted to Full Professor in the University of Arkansas Department of Anthropology. He was a popular teacher at SAU, where his anthropology classes consistently met (or exceeded) their capacity enrollment. Frank has also been fortunate in having a dedicated cadre of skilled amateur volunteers who have devoted thousands of hours to SAU station research projects in the field and lab over the years.
Schambach’s professional life has centered around Caddo area archeology. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters and several monographs, and has presented scores of papers at professional meetings, as well as many invited lectures to various groups. His work at the Crenshaw site stands out, for it was here that finds of unusual treatments of deer antlers and human skull burials started him on the long road to reconstruct the story of the development of Caddo culture and ceremonial life–a project that he hopes to address in retirement. Other important sites and topics he has been involved with (to name a few) are the Ferguson site, Battle Mound, Shallow Lake, Bangs Slough, the Sanders site in east Texas, Spiro, the DeSoto route, trade and warfare in the Mississippian world, and most recently the Tom Jones Caddo mound group on Grandview Prairie.
Schambach has also been a dedicated professor of archeology and archeological knowledge to the public, presenting over 500 talks to public school audiences, service clubs, the Kadohadacho Chapter of the Arkansas Archeological Society and other local groups in southwestern Arkansas during his career. He is the author of several annotated slide sets for public talks and has been on the Board of Directors for Pictures of Record, Inc. since 1989.
One of Frank’s great strengths is his skill as a writer. His prose is lively and entertaining without sacrificing precision–a rare gift. In an interview granted to the South Arkansas Sunday News, Schambach likened the process of piecing together archeological information to solving a puzzle. Archeology tells a story, one that cannot be adequately told in lists and tables. Frank Schambach’s colleagues and friends at the Arkansas Archeological Survey and beyond wish him well in retirement, and look forward with excitement to whatever part of the story of Caddo archeology he may gift us with over the next few years.
Between 2006-2014, Dr. Jamie C. Brandon served as the second ARAS-SAU Research Station Archeologist. Dr. Brandon earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, his MA from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and his BA from the University of Memphis. Dr. Brandon spent his 8 years focusing on historical archeology in southwestern Arkansas and directed extensive excavations at Historic Washington State Park–including 2 Arkansas Archeological Society Summer Training Programs (2010 & 2011).
During his tenure as ARAS-SAU Research Station Archeologist, Dr. Brandon served as the Vice-Chairman of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, on the Arkansas State Review Board for Historic Preservation, the boards of the Arkansas Historical Association and the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. Brandon was an Associate Editor for Historical Archaeology (the journal for the Society for Historical Archaeology) and the Associate Editor for historical archeology for The SAA Archeological Record (the newsletter for the Society for American Archaeology).
From 2014-2015, the station was under the direction of Dr. Carol Colaninno-Meeks. Dr. Colaninno-Meeks earned her doctorate at the University of Georgia, and her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida.
Dr. Colaninno-Meeks is a specialist in zooarchaeology, human-environmental interactions, stable isotope analysis, public archaeology and education, and curricular development in archaeology.
She previously worked for the Center for American Archaeology, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, University of Illinois, and University of Georgia.
In 2015, Dr. Colaninno-Meeks lefts the station to take charge of the Survey’s Sponsored Research Program (ARAS-SRP).
The current station archeologist is Dr. Carl G. Drexler. He earned his PhD from The College of William & Mary, his Master’s from the University of Nebraska, and his Bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College.
Dr. Drexler has worked for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, National Park Service’s Midwest Archeological Center, and U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. He has fieldwork experience in New Mexico, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Virginia, Cuba, Mexico, and the British Virgin Islands.
His research interests focus around conflict research, particularly the post-contact period in North America. This includes both sites of military engagement and civilian sites associated with periods of warfare. He also maintains active research interests in the Trans-Mississippi South region and Old Southwest, spatial analysis, and geophysical remote sensing. He is building an emphasis in Caddo archaeology to better-serve the people of southwest Arkansas.
ARAS-SAU Station Archeologists
Carl G. Drexler (2015-present)
Carol E. Colaninno-Meeks (2014-2015)
Jamie C. Brandon (2006-2014)
Frank F. Schambach (1968-2006)
—- Gloria Young (Spring 1980, teaching only during a sabbatical for Schambach)
—- Charles Thomas (Spring 1989, teaching only during a sabbatical for Schambach)
ARAS-SAU Station Research Associates & Assistants
Carl G. Drexler (2011-2015)
David Jeane (1997-2011)
John Miller (1980-1982)
David Kelley (1978-1979)
Beverly Watkins (1977-1978)
—- Al Weslowski, site survey (1972)
—-Jeff Flenniken, site survey (1971-1974)
This snippet is from The History of the Arkansas Archeological Survey by Charles R. McGimsey III and Hester A. Davis (1992), page 44… It chronicles the founding of the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s research station at Southern Arkansas University.
“1968 Meanwhile, Bob was recruiting four other archaeologists and negotiating the contracts and space on the four additional campuses (Arkansas A&M, now the University of Arkansas at Monticello; Southern State College, now Southern Arkansas University; Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas, and Arkansas Polytechnic College, now the Arkansas Tech University…Frank Schambach had been in Arkansas in 1966 for a short time because his dissertation was on material excavated by the WPA and Phil Phillips in the central Ouachita River Valley. Correspondence had been initiated with him, and when he came to the Caddo Conference in Arkadelphia in April, he was taken to Magnolia for his final interview with the college officials and accepted the Station Archeologist’s position there. So, by the spring of 1968, there was a commitment for cooperative agreements with all of the state-supported institutions of higher education, just as had been envisioned in the enabling legislation.”