Debating Star’s coverage of Oxford mound
by Robert A. Clouse
Special to The Star
Feb 02, 2010 | 4932 views |  50 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I want to clarify the record in regards to a Jan. 28 story in The Star, “UA professor defends claims about Oxford mound,” that discussed my credentials without mentioning the credentials I do have. [View the report: Part 1 | Part 2]

After earning a bachelor’s degree with a major in anthropology and minor in geology from Indiana State University, I earned a master’s and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1974 and 1996, respectively. The University of Alabama named me director of its Office of Archaeological Research in 2001.

Prior to my arrival in Alabama, I was head of the Minnesota Historical Society’s archaeology department from 1981 to 2001. I also was an adjunct associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s interdisciplinary archaeological studies program, and in the classical and Near Eastern Studies department.

I taught a practicum in archaeological field methods and archaeological field schools for 17 years. I served as the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office archaeologist for 2 1/2 years, and I served an additional two years as acting Minnesota state archaeologist. For five years I served as the tribal archaeologist for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians Tribal Historic Preservation Board, a federally recognized tribe in Minnesota. Additionally, I just completed eight years of service on the board of directors of the Register of Professional Archaeologists — an organization that advocates for ethical behavior in the profession. I have served as principle investigator on more than 60 major projects, authored numerous articles and presented papers at nearly 30 professional conferences.

Since 2005, I have served as executive director of the University of Alabama’s Museums. The UA Museum system includes Moundville Archaeological Park, the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the Office of Archaeological Research, the Museums Collections Department, the Gorgas House and the Discovering Alabama Public Television program. I have taught and continue to teach four different courses in archaeology in the anthropology department at the university since 2002.

These credentials and others are freely available via the University of Alabama’s Web site,, for anyone who might be interested in a balanced look at my credentials rather than simply attempting to discredit one of my office’s recent archaeological findings.

The Jan. 27 edition of The Star stated that attempts to reach me after an Oxford City Council meeting were unsuccessful, and I feel compelled to respond to this comment. Following the council meeting, a Star employee introduced himself to me and asked for my business card, which I gave him. He asked me no questions while I was in Oxford, either before or after the council meeting.

Instead, Star staff waited until I was on the road to Tuscaloosa and called my home telephone number to leave a message. I was not accessible because following my public presentation in Oxford, where I fielded questions about my office’s report for more than an hour, I drove home, arriving at my house at approximately 10:15 p.m. This episode represents a blatant effort on the part of the newspaper to not include any additional relevant information to the story by claiming that I was “unavailable for comment.” This is entirely unprofessional behavior.

One of the purposes of continued research in archaeology is to test previous assumptions and hypotheses. Scientific knowledge grows through challenging existing assumptions in an effort to arrive at a more accurate view of the past. Continuing to blindly accept the same explanations of the past and the archaeological sites and objects that are our source of information about that past does not advance our knowledge or serve any purpose beyond preserving the status quo. I believe that new perspectives and information about the Oxford sites has helped us to more completely understand some of the relationships of cultural and natural elements of the landscape.

The Office of Archaeological Research conducted its recent investigations into areas near the city of Oxford at the request of our clients. We conducted the work to the best of our abilities following research standards of the profession. We turned those findings over to our clients while holding firm to the highest standards of honesty and integrity — as we have done in our numerous projects in the past. Implications to the contrary are blatantly false and border on slander.

I have worked with and dealt with the visual media and written press in Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Kentucky and in India for more than 35 years. The experiences I have had with reporting in The Star are without doubt the most agenda-driven and unprofessional I have encountered in my career.

Robert A. Clouse is executive director of the University of Alabama Museums and director of the Office of Archaeological Research at the University of Alabama.

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Debating Star’s coverage of Oxford mound by Robert A. Clouse
Special to The Star

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