David L. DeJarnette (1907-1991) was an archaeologist and professor at the University of Alabama, and is seen by many as one of the founding fathers of the study of anthropology and archaeology in the state of Alabama,
DeJarnette received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University in 1929, and was hired in a curatorial position at the Alabama Museum of Natural History later that same year. In 1932, he received archaeological training at the University of Chicago Field School. When in 1933 the Tennessee Valley Authority announced plans to construct hydroelectric dams along the Tennessee River, DeJarnette was hired to lead the archaeological salvage operations in the state of Alabama, excavating, with Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps workers, hundreds of archaeological sites in the areas slated to be inundated by the creation of the Wilson, Wheeler, and Guntersville Reservoirs.
DeJarnette’s work for the TVA continued until the United States entered World War II. During the war, DeJarnette served as a Coast Artillery officer in New Guinea and the Philippines. Upon returning to the States, DeJarnette became the first curator at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He returned to the University of Alabama in 1953, where he became a lecturer in the University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology and later an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology after receiving his Master’s degree in 1958.
DeJarnette worked extensively at Moundville, serving as director of Mound State Monument from 1953 to 1976. His annual archaeological field schools at the Moundville site and at other sites such as the Stanfield-Worley Bluff shelter and elsewhere trained generations of southeastern archaeologists. DeJarnette was also a well-known and accomplished photographer, and his photographs of his field research in the southeast United Sates, the Yucatan, and of his time in the Pacific comprise a good portion of the photography holdings in the Museum’s Archival Collections.