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Zahner Lecture Series “Archaeoastronomy in Southwestern North Carolina”

The Highlands Biological Foundation’s annual Zahner Conservation Lecture series has two more lectures remaining this season. Join them on Thursday, August 3rd at 6:00 p.m. for their next public program featuring Drs. Jane Eastman and Brett Riggs of Western Carolina University (WCU) as they present “Archaeoastronomy in Southwestern North Carolina”.

In ancient Cherokee perspective, the matters of this world, the Above World and the Beneath World intertwine, and Cherokee peoples constructed ritual landscapes to engage the beings and forces of these realms. Recent investigations in the Little Tennessee River Valley have revealed one such landscape that marks astronomical phenomena and bespeaks sophisticated systems for measuring calendrical time and the cycles central to Cherokee life. These patterns indicate complex observational sciences that guided functions of indigenous societies long before European contact. This program will offer insights into the rich cultural heritage of the Cherokee peoples and their historical, sacred landscapes.

Dr. Jane M. Eastman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and Director of the Tali Tsisgwayahi Archaeological Collections Facility at WCU.  Dr. Eastman has been deeply involved in the study of Cherokee archaeology, culture, and language revitalization and served as the Director of WCU’s Cherokee Studies Program for 14 years.  Most recently, Eastman has been involved in testing and data recovery of Cherokee ancestral sites on WCU’s campus and remote sensing at several former Cherokee town and mound sites. She has become very interested in landscape archaeology, especially the sacred aspects of landscapes and cosmology. Eastman is applying that interest to exploring western North Carolina as a Cherokee sacred landscape and teaching about cosmologies around the world.

Joining Dr. Eastman is Dr. Brett Riggs, an esteemed archaeologist and expert in the ethnohistory of the Cherokee and Catawba peoples. Dr. Riggs is a Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies at WCU, and he has made significant contributions to the understanding of Removal-era Cherokee archaeology and documentary sources, influencing the expansion of the NPS Trail of Tears National Historic Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. Prior to joining WCU, Riggs was a Research Archaeologist and Assistant Professor in the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina, and he previously served as deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer and Archaeologist for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

This program is generously sponsored by Suzanne & Don Duggan, Julie Farrow, Florence & Tom Holmes, Ruthie & Franko Oliver, Adele & Nick Scielzo, and Margaret Waters, and a small reception will follow. All are invited to participate in HBF’s free Zahner lectures which will be held at the Highlands Nature Center on Thursdays at 6:00 p.m. through August 10th. To preview HBF’s full Zahner lecture lineup, please visit The Highlands Nature Center is part of the Highlands Biological Station, a multi-campus center of Western Carolina University.

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