Continuing to cultivate his interests in history and archaeology, Keith Bailey is serving as the interpretive ranger and curator at Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site.
Located at 813 Indian Mounds Road S.W. in Cartersville, the 54-acre venue is where several thousand American Indians resided from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550. Regarded as the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast, the Etowah Indian Mounds features six earthen mounds, a village area, a plaza, borrow pits and defensive ditch.
“I have been working at Etowah Indian Mounds as an employee for a little over two years,” Bailey said. “The path that led me to this line of work started in the second grade with a field trip to Etowah Indian Mounds. I have always loved archaeology and history. Along with typical kids play, I played museum curator and archaeologist as a kid. When I graduated high school, I had intended on going to the University of Colorado to study archaeology, but finances at the time sidetracked me, so I spent years reading on the subject I liked while doing other things.
“Eventually, I decided to go back to school and work toward my childhood goal. In 2011, when I was attending Georgia State University, I interned at Etowah Indian Mounds.
Afterwards, I became the president of the Friends of Etowah Indian Mounds chapter of the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. I eventually applied for a part-time position that opened and worked as a maintenance employee for six months. Then I applied and was hired as the interpretive ranger.”
Name: Keith Bailey
Occupation: Interpretive ranger/curator at Etowah Indian Mounds
City of residence: Fairmount
Family: wife, Kerry; 16-year-old son, Kalias; and 8-year-old daughter, Kelita
Education: Associate of Fine Arts from Reinhardt University, 1992; Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Georgia State University, 2012
As an interpretive ranger, what is your role at the Etowah Indian Mounds, and what do you enjoy most about your work?
A: According to the state, I am the site curator. For organizational reasons they are moving away from using the title of interpretive ranger. However, currently, as the interpretive ranger, my main role is to educate and entertain the public while protecting the site. This includes the archaeological site, the museum and the natural surroundings. What I enjoy most about working at the site is entertaining and educating the public.
What is your favorite program at the historic site and why?
A: The primitive tools and weapons demonstration is my favorite program. It seems to be the most enjoyed program at the site and can lead to interesting conversations about the site when we do question-and-answer sessions afterwards.
What do you find to be the most interesting fact about the Etowah Indian Mounds or its former inhabitants?
A: There are many interesting facts about the site. It is hard to pick the most interesting. One thing that fascinates me is that some of the inhabitants of Etowah practiced body modification; particularly, the inhabitants practiced the flattening or elongating of skulls starting sometime after birth. This isn’t necessarily unique among people in the world, but it certainly is something we don’t see going on in today’s society, at least not here.
What do you hope visitors learn or take away from touring the historic site?
A: There are several ideas that I hope visitors take home with them: first is that the Native Americans who once lived around Etowah had unique qualities in their society that changed over time; second, that those unique qualities were exhibited through things now seen as artifacts, which were used to help them cope with the same kinds of issues, that we all have, even today, like collecting or storing food, or dealing with religious and social issues; and third, that even though the people who lived at Etowah may no longer be here, their society may help us take a look at ourselves. If none of that is taken home, I at least hope people are able to enjoy the peacefulness and beauty the site has to offer.
When did you start providing blacksmithing demonstrations, and what does it involve? What do you enjoy most about sharing this skill with the public?
A: I started demonstrating blacksmithing at Red Top Mountain State Park around 2003 after seeing their iron pour demonstration. Blacksmithing basically involves the heating of fuel to get iron hot enough to hammer and shape it, and then cool it down in a way to reach the correct hardness needed for whatever tool or decoration that you are creating. Each and every project has its own individual requirement. Blacksmithing is a way to engage people in a conversation about how things used to be done compared to how it is done now. Life may seem completely different now, even though a lot of the tools we have today provide the same function as others did in the past. We still do the same things; we just have different ways of doing them.
If you were not in your line of work, what would you like to do?
A: There are several other subjects that fascinate me. Geology, robotics and architecture are a few, but honestly, if I could not be doing something exciting or adventurous as a job, I would just assume to be back to the farm, riding the tractor all day for a living.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: Contemplative, fair-minded, humorous
What is the best advice you have ever received?
A: There were two pieces of advice that my grandfather-in-law would give. One was that there is never going to be more land than there is now, so buy it when you can and take care of it, and the other is, it is not what you know, but who you know.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: Among other things, I hike, camp, canoe, research, study genealogy, am Scoutmaster for [Boy Scouts of America] Troop 46 and play video games.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A: I really have no one favorite place. I enjoy being out in nature, so some of my favorite places are Pine Mountain, Pine Log Mountain, Red Top Mountain, Etowah River and Allatoona Lake. I also like to eat, so I like to eat at a good restaurant with my family.
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