Log in

Log in

The Chain of Command by Mark Newell

1 Aug 2021 1:12 PM | Cathy Jo Beecher

The Chain of Command

by Mark Newell

Nick Nichols had just returned from Iraq. He was a hard bitten, no nonsense Chief Warrant Officer who knew his way around Army regulations. His office was the place where Generals could get liquor, cigars and Omaha steaks. So when he volunteered to help me do the initial testing on 38ED221, the Baynham pottery site in Trenton, S.C., I was nervous about giving him orders. After all, he carried an automatic on his belt and a knife in his boots.

After we had set up our datum point we laid out a grid and the locations of our test pits. I explained that we needed to establish random test pits to determine the extent of the site. We set off into the Piedmont pine barrens and I gave thought to where the first random tests should be. Nichols stopped several hundred yards from the site and said, "Let's dig here." I stopped, realizing that I had to explain to Nichols that my being the 'Principal Investigator' -and a PhD - meant that I was the one that made the decisions. I said, "No, I'll decide," and moved on. Nichols didn't move. Again, "Let's dig here."

"No! - I'm the one with the PhD, I'm the PI, I decide where to dig!" I turned to move on. Nichols remained standing on a small slope covered with dead leaves and pine straw.

"No," he said, "We really need to dig here."

Over the next thirty minutes I lectured Nichols on the importance of listening to his PI and, for that matter, any elevated person of excellence who had reached the pinnacle of perfection by receiving a PhD. I also lectured him extensively on the importance of conducting repeatable, organized science - as opposed to 'Let’s dig here.' All the time I made sure his hands were not reaching for his automatic.

It was clear to me that we were standing on sterile soil with no indication of human activity. After this I asked Nichols if he now understood the importance of the chain of command - and the immutable truth that PhDs know everything and are always right. After this I asked: "So...what do we do now?"

He replied, "Let's dig here."

I tossed Nichols our cut down test pit shovel and then sat on a nearby log to watch this stubborn amateur volunteer CWO exhaust himself in the heat and humidity digging down through sterile soil. I pointedly looked at the sky, diddled the keyboard of my laptop and other activities designed to indicate my complete lack of interest in this futile exercise. At least it would teach him a lesson. He began talking..."I HEAR you Doc, I SEE you, Doc, and I guess you want me to apologize for giving you LIP!"

I finally looked in his direction. He was holding up three sherds, an ear, an eye and a full crude mouth with deep green glazing, red clay lips and white kaolin teeth.

That was when I realized that I had just discovered the very first African face jug production site in America.

Author Bio:

Mark Newell, PhD, RPA has published and lectured extensively on enslaved African activity at 38ED221 - giving Nick Nichols full credit for the discovery of the only face jug production so far excavated in Edgefield County, SC. He can be reached at


  • 2 Dec 2021 10:01 AM | Sigrid Arnott
    Sounds like he had "discovered" it!😊
    Link  •  Reply

Register of Professional Archaeologists
411 East Northfield Drive, Box 9
Brownsburg, IN  46112

Phone: (317) 798-3001

Grievance Hotline: (410) 246-2150

You do not have to be an RPA/RA to file a Grievance


© Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software