Since 2004, Fort Bragg has been the professional home of Linda Carnes-McNaughton, a historic archaeologist and trailblazer.
A self-proclaimed “Army brat” Carnes-McNaughton, was born at Fort McPherson, Georgia. Her father retired with 25 years of Army service and served in the Korean War. Growing up as the youngest of five girls, she explains she and her sisters were their father’s platoon.
Carnes-McNaughton credits her passion for anthropology to an experience many military children identify with, living abroad at a very young age.
“My dad was in the Army, and he was deployed to Japan for a three-year tour. After the first year alone, he came back and got his Family … and we lived in Japan for two years … from the time I was six to the time I was eight. In hindsight, I think that experience, that exposure, that immersion into another culture at a very young age, planted those seeds of anthropology in my head,” Carnes-McNaughton said.
It was an experience that resonated with her.
“How cool it was to live in a different culture for a little while and participate, not just be a spectator, so, I always think that experience planted a seed very early on. So, it’s all related to my dad being in the Army,” she said.
With those seeds planted early in her educational career, Carnes-McNaughton took an interest in biology and sociology; this naturally translated into the study of anthropology and archeology during higher education.
Carnes-McNaughton completed her undergraduate degree at Georgia State University in 1975. During this time, women were underrepresented in anthropology and archaeology, especially in leadership positions.
During her master’s program at the University of Tennessee, Carnes-McNaughton noted that the gender gap in archaeology was evident but changing.
“That really was more of a male-dominated setting,” Carnes-McNaughton said.
Instead of focusing on any potential differential treatment, Carnes-McNaughton approached research and contract work with enthusiasm, focusing on professionalism and hard work. This is how she gained the respect of her peers. Her perspective helped to inform the research and scholarship.
“What I brought to the conclusion or my contributions to any of those projects made a difference to what we found, how we interpreted it, what we said about it,” Carnes-McNaughton explained.
In 1997, Carnes-McNaughton completed her doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By this time, women had come a long way in the field of archaeology.
“They were not just the screeners and the laboratory processors; by now, the women were leading the excavations, they were leading the research, they were writing the technical write up of the excavations,” Carnes-McNaughton said.
Carnes-McNaughton is clear that throughout her career, experience and contract work were the backbone of her journey. Through each educational step along the way to her Ph.D. Carnes-McNaughton worked in contract archaeology, supporting herself financially while expanding her knowledge and understanding of her field.
When asked what her most significant accomplishments are, “Pottery and pirates run parallel,” Carnes-McNaughton said.
As part of her graduate work, Carnes-McNaughton was among the first to excavate pottery kilns in North Carolina, deeply expanding regional pottery production knowledge. This experience would also come in handy later in her career at Fort Bragg, with the excavation of tar kilns, a prevalent remnant of the naval stores industry that predated Fort Bragg.
While working for the state cultural resources department, Carnes-McNaughton began to see an increase in artifacts from a 1718 shipwreck discovered off the North Carolina coast in 1996. This shipwreck later proved to be the “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” the flagship of pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. The 300-year-old pottery and other artifacts crossing her desk were too much to resist and her passion for the artifacts culminated in an opportunity to co-author the book, “Blackbeard’s Sunken Treasure: The 300-Year Voyage of Queen Anne’s Revenge,” with Mark U. Wilde-Ramsing.
“That’s something I am very proud of and might be the only overall summation of this project specifically done for the general public,” Carnes-McNaughton said.
Between 1990 and 2003, while at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Carnes- McNaughton had the opportunity to ply her trade at a diverse range of state-owned historic sites, including Town Creek, civil war battlefields, colonial towns and historic homesteads.
“It was very rewarding,” Carnes-McNaughton said.
In 2004 Carnes-McNaughton shifted from state work to federal, becoming an integral part of the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Program (CRMP), a department within Fort Bragg’s Directorate of Public Works.
As Fort Bragg’s program archeologist and curator, Carnes-McNaughton does not simply curate artifacts. In her over 16 years on the installation, Carnes-McNaughton has worked tirelessly to curate relationships with military members, the public and heritage families. She provides a vital connection for Native Americans and heritage Families to the almost 14,000 years of human history they and their ancestors have contributed to here at Fort Bragg.
In addition, to connecting those whose pasts are rooted in the Sandhills of North Carolina, Carnes-McNaughton connects the people of Fort Bragg’s present to its past. CRMP is responsible for teaching environmental compliance officers introductory classes on the resources CRMP manages and protects. Carnes-McNaughton works with local Eagle Scouts annually on heritage projects.
CRMP also presents tours for military personnel, military and heritage Families and civilians, helping them to explore some of Fort Bragg’s most unique and oldest heritage resources.
(For more information about the CRMP and tour opportunity inquiries, call (910) 396-6680).