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Madeline D. Kneberg Lewis
1903 - 1996

Madeline D. Kneberg Lewis photo Madeline D. Kneberg Lewis, 93, died of heart failure on July 4, 1996, in Winter Haven, Florida. Madeline Kneberg and Thomas M. N. Lewis were a team synonymous with Tennessee archaeology.

Madeline was born in Moline, Illinois, one of three daughters of Charles and Ann Kneberg. Her father, an artist and interior decorator, encouraged Madeline to draw -- a skill that would manifest itself in her later archaeological career. At 21, as an aspiring singer, she went to Italy and lived in Florence for four years where she explored art and music. During this period she decided not to become a singer and returned to Chicago in 1928 to enroll in the school of nursing at Presbyterian Hospital. After graduation, she continued her studies at the University of Chicago, majoring in sociology and minoring in psychology. It was here that she met Fay-Cooper Cole who encouraged her to pursue physical anthropology, ultimately taking her from a planned career in medicine to one in anthropology. Under Cole, Madeline completed all but her dissertation.

One of the largest archaeological projects to take place in this country was initiated with the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933. From 1934 to 1942, federal relief crews under the supervision of archaeologists from the universities of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama conducted excavations on hundreds of sites in the Tennessee River valley and its tributaries. Thomas M. N. Lewis was hired to head the Tennessee operations, and in 1938 he hired Madeline Kneberg to supervise the archaeology lab at the University of Tennessee.

Until the Works Progress Administration was dissolved in 1942, Madeline managed 30-40 individuals involved in processing and analyzing enormous quantities of archaeological materials. She and Tom developed and published a detailed laboratory procedures manual that included an attribute-based classification system, techniques for pottery reconstruction, and a system for collections management. As a physical anthropologist, Kneberg examined and classified over 2,000 skeletal remains.

A draft version of the excavations in the Chick-amauga Reservoir was completed in the early 1940s, but funds were not available to publish the entire report. Consequently, Tom and Madeline chose one site, Hiwassee Island, to publish, and Hiwassee Island: An Archaeological Account of Four Tennessee Indian Peoples was produced by the University of Tennessee Press in 1946. This landmark archaeological report exhibited the excellent scholarship of both authors, and it also contained illustrations of prehistoric life drawn by Madeline. This commitment to making the past accessible to the layperson is a hallmark of both Madeline and Tom.

In 1940, with some hesitancy over the lingering consequences of the Scopes trial, Madeline began teaching courses in anthropology. She and Tom comprised the Division of Anthropology, which became a full-fledged department in 1947. In 1950 Madeline became the first female full professor outside of the College of Home Economics at the University of Tennessee. Madeline was also elected a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Science.

The concern by Madeline and Tom for educating the layperson about archaeology is best manifested in the creation of the Tennessee Archaeological Society in 1944. The Society's journal, Tennessee Archaeologist, was to be "instrumental in arousing a new interest in the state's prehistory, and in encouraging a state-wide cooperation." Society meetings and journal articles presented the culture history of the state and encouraged proper recovery and recording of archaeological materials. Madeline and Tom were always available to identify objects, visit sites, and work with avocational archaeologists.

In the 1950s Madeline was especially active in the planning and construction of the Oconoluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, North Carolina. The reconstructed 18th-century Cherokee village employed many Cherokee craftspeople in the revival and promotion of traditional arts and crafts.

The culmination of the efforts of Madeline and Tom to interpret the Native American history of Tennessee came in 1958 with the publication of Tribes That Slumber: Indian Times in the Tennessee Region. Profusely illustrated with drawings by Madeline, the book has been among the 10 best sellers for the University of Tennessee Press with almost 18,000 copies sold to date. Another passion of Kneberg and Lewis was the creation of a museum on the University of Tennessee campus. Finally, in 1955, a bequest from Judge John and Ellen McClung Green in memory of her father made a museum possible, and the Frank H. McClung Museum was completed in 1961.

The same year, at age 65, Tom Lewis decided to retire, and after what Madeline called the longest courtship on record, they married. Their final contribution to Tennessee archaeology, published that year as Lewis and Lewis, was Eva: An Archaic Site. They retired to Winter Haven, Florida, where after an intensive 23 years of archaeology, they pursued other activities.

In 1995 at the 52nd annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Madeline was appropriately honored: "...WHEREAS the breadth of her endeavors clearly demonstrate that Madeline Kneberg Lewis is indeed a `complete archaeologist,' a `founding mother' of southeastern archaeology, and a role model for all archaeologists; NOW THEREFORE, BE IT KNOWN TO ALL that the Southeastern Archaeological Conference confers on Madeline D. Kneberg Lewis its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, and thanks her for her enduring contributions to southeastern archaeology, including her groundbreaking work to instill in the public an appreciation and understanding of the diverse and rich archaeological heritage of the Tennessee Valley."

Acknowledgments. I am indebted to and appreciate the recent biographical work on Madeline Kneberg Lewis by Hester Davis, Rochelle Marrinan, Lynette Nyman, Lynne Sullivan, and Nancy White.

Jefferson Chapman, Frank H. McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Select Bibliography of Madeline D. Kneberg Lewis Compiled by Lynne P. Sullivan

1935 Improved Technique for Hair Examination. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 20:15-67.

1936a Hair Weight as a Racial Criterion. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 21:279-286.

1936b Scientific Apparatus and Laboratory Methods: Differential Staining of Thick Sections of Tissues. Science 83(2):561-562.

1941 Prehistory of the Chickamauga Basin in Tennessee (with T. M. N. Lewis). University of Tennessee, Division of Anthropology, Tennessee Anthropological Papers No. 1. Mimeographed.

1945 The Persistent Potsherd. Tennessee Archaeologist 1(4):4-5.

1946 Hiwassee Island: An Archaeological Account of Four Tennessee Indian Peoples (with T. M. N. Lewis). University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

1951a An Archaic Autobiography (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 7(1):1-5.

1951b Early Projectile Point Forms and Examples from Tennessee (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 7(1):6-19.

1951c An Early Woodland Autobiography (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 7(2):31-38.

1952a The Tennessee Area. In Archaeology of Eastern United States, edited by J. B. Griffin, pp. 190-198. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

1952b The Autobiography of a Memorial Mound Builder (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 8(2):37-41.

1952c The Autobiography of a "Bone House" Indian (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 8(2):37-41.

1952d Comparison of Certain Mexican and Tennessee Shell Ornaments (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 8(2):42-46.

1953 The Cherokee "Hothouse" (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 9(1):2-5.

1954a Oconoluftee Indian Village: An Interpretation of a Cherokee Community of 1750 (with T. M. N. Lewis). Cherokee Historical Association. Cherokee, North Carolina.

1954b Ten Years of the Tennessee Archaeologist, Selected Subjects (editor, with T. M. N. Lewis). J. B. Graham, Chattanooga.

1954c The Duration of the Archaic Tradition in the Lower Tennessee Valley. Southern Indian Studies 5:40-44.

1955 The A. L. LeCroy Collection (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 11(2):75-82.

1956a The Paleo-Indian Complex on the LeCroy Site (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 12(1):5-11.

1956b Some Important Projectile Point Types Found in the Tennessee Area. Tennessee Archaeologist 12(1):17-28.

1957a The Camp Creek Site (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 13(1):1-48.

1957b Chipped Stone Artifacts of the Tennessee Valley Area. Tennessee Archaeologist 13(1):55-65.

1958a Tribes That Slumber: Indians of the Tennessee Region (with T. M. N. Lewis). The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

1958b The Nuckolls Site (with T. M. N. Lewis). Tennessee Archaeologist 14(2):60-79.

1959a The Archaic Culture in the Middle South (with T. M. N. Lewis). American Antiquity 25:161-183.

1959b Engraved Shell Gorgets and Their Associations. Tennessee Archaeologist 15(1):1-39.

1961a Eva: An Archaic Site (with T. M. N. Lewis). University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

1961b Four Southeastern Limestone-tempered Pottery Complexes. Southeastern Archaeological Conference Newsletter 7:3-15.

1962 Woodland Fabric Marked Ceramic System. Proceedings of the Sixteenth Southeastern Archaeological Conference, edited by S. Williams. 8:33-40.

1995 The Prehistory of the Chickamauga Basin in Tennessee. 2 vols. (Compiled and edited by L. P. Sullivan). University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville. [Includes several chapters authored by Kneberg.]


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