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What do archaeologists do with the material record?

A day with Macedonian archaeology – “Neolithic settlement Tumba Madzari” (VIDEO)

This short documentary was recorded for the project celebration of international day of archaeology “Day of Archaeology 2013″ by association “Archaeologica” ‘with the support of Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia.

Realization:
association Archaeologica

Interlocutor:
Elena Stojanova Kanzurova

Camera, Assembling, Music:
Jane Kacanski

Organisation:
Radomir Ivanovic
Elena Karanfilovska

Skopje, July 2013

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A day of spatial semantics, digital excavation data and other things

Archaeologists tools: The laptop is now very much part of this armoury.

Archaeologists tools: The laptop is now very much part of this armoury.

Following on from my previous posts in 2011 (here and here) and 2012 (here), this year it’s a bit different. I’ve left the world of commercial archaeology to return to academia, starting a PhD in geosemantic technologies for archaeological research (GSTAR) based in the Hypermedia Research Unit at the University of South Wales with input from the Geographical Information Systems Research Unit. I also now undertake freelance digital heritage consultancy work for various clients in the public, commercial and charitable sectors through my business Archaeogeomancy.

Last Friday, the Day of Archaeology, was a fairly typical day involving some research and a bit of commercial work. I have a number of ongoing projects, a number of which required some input last Friday. And spending a bit of time with my latest daughter, three week old Florence (who has yet to show any interest in archaeology, unlike her big sister Amelia who loves ruins). One thing I rarely get to do these days is dig, my time being almost entirely filled with research, writing and other desk/computer based activities. But I still very much consider myself an archaeologist, it’s just that my tools are different. The photos I’ve used all come from my Flickr stream and are of archaeological sites, hopefully just a bit more interesting than photos of my computers…

Research

Finds bags

Finds bags containing instances of the class Physical Object, discovered through a Finding Event

I am currently wrapping up the literature review section of my PhD and heard last Thursday that my three month review has been accepted so full steam ahead. I’ve been looking at the range of Semantic Web and Linked Data technologies out there with particular reference to archaeological and heritage applications. Within this subject area, the GSTAR project is focussing on spatial data and geosemantic techniques and builds on the preceding STAR and STELLAR projects, collaborations between the University of South Wales, English Heritage and the Archaeology Data Service.

I’ve also been working on some refinements of an ontological model, the CRM-EH, further clarifying aspects relating to the formation of archaeological features, deposits and the deposition of artefacts. Preliminary results are posted here on my blog, which I use to talk about my work in digital heritage and interesting things I come across.

Consultancy

In addition to my research, I am currently working on a number of exciting projects for clients. I have just deployed an archaeological information system to facilitate the interpretation of marine geophysics data based around Microsoft Access and Esri ArcGIS; this is currently in beta testing which gives me an opportunity to complete other projects including some tools, again built using Esri ArcGIS, to support data collation, synthesis and reporting/cartography for Desk Based Assessments (DBAs) including Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).

Digging

Digging, the activity which reveals archaeological features, deposits and the stratigraphic relationships between them.

Another interesting project I was working on last Friday involves the creation of a Linked Data resource relating to the recent excavations at Silbury Hill, near Avebury, Wiltshire. This site is very dear to me, having featured in my undergraduate and masters dissertations which investigated the formation of landscapes in prehistory and the spatial patterning of archaeological remains by means of movement and perception of human scale actors. This Linked Data resource relates to the later Roman activity at the site and currently comprises c.40K assertions about contexts, stratigraphy, finds and samples all held in a triple store which will be published in due course to further add to the growing number of Linked Data resources online.

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LIPCAP Team – why we do what we do!

(Investigating C19 – C20 everyday life: creating community connections through standing buildings and garden finds)

A previous post outlines our community and public ‘DIY’ house and garden surveys. This post briefly discusses why the project has been developed, and what we hope will be some of the benefits. More information about LIPCAP (Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project) can be found via these links:

Websitewww.livinginthepast.org.uk

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/UrbArc20

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/

Flickrhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/living-in-the-past/sets/

YouTubehttp://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcy3KUXbjyFdaCodnHRy6lQ

Kirst (Project Director)

teaching_ox_uni

I started to develop what has become LIPCAP a few years ago, when confined to the house by illness and consequently prevented from pursuing my usual archaeological research and fieldwork. Unable to contemplate not ‘doing’ archaeology for any length of time, my immediate surroundings – a house built in the late 1920s – early 30s – inevitably drew my attention. I began to think about how those without archaeological knowledge or experience might be enabled to recognise the numerous traces of past domestic life just waiting to be discovered – and to record and share this information, potentially making a valuable contribution to studies of histories of the home.

Although specialising in the Roman to early medieval transition (c. AD 350-600), I’d been interested in early 20th century housing and domestic material culture for some time; my research and fieldwork into early historic (for my studies, 1st century BC – AD 7th century) households often inspired me to investigate late historic contexts to ask comparable questions. More usually associated in the public imagination with the excavation of ancient remains, the role of archaeology is to investigate the material traces human behaviour in the past – whether prehistoric or historic. And similar techniques can be applied to standing buildings or buried sites to examine, record, and interpret relationships in time and place between people and the material world. Historical Archaeologists commonly analyse archaeological evidence in conjunction with other historical sources, such as documents, in order to understanding of past life in more depth. When studying earlier periods, I often consulted texts in an attempt to explore the interaction of material culture and beliefs; in this way, I was able to investigate social and cultural identity – particularly ethnicity, ‘tribal’ identity, and ‘national’ identity. By adapting approaches developed within sociology, anthropology, and psychology, archaeologists may begin to consider how material evidence both creates and reproduces ideologies, such as those fundamental to religious, social, and political organisation.

My tentative archaeological investigations into the archaeology of early 20th century domestic life (some of which I have shared on a blog elsewhere) made me aware of several issues. Firstly, that many old standing buildings – not ‘listed’ as being of historic worth, due to their commonplace survival – are likely to retain traces of everyday life in the past; the extent to which such traces do survive – even within substantially altered (‘gutted’) houses – may surprise some. Secondly, that DIY is probably eroding and erasing those traces at an unprecedented pace; conversely, renovation and modernisation provide excellent opportunities to explore these remains. And thirdly, that archaeological analysis may reveal information that will enhance interpretations of the domestic historic environment.

The most exciting aspect of these realisations was that such traces are accessible to many, with no need for destructive and expensive explorations: by adopting basic archaeological methods, anyone living in an old house might begin to explore the material histories of their homes – and contribute towards the historical record in the process. Being an industrial centre, hundreds (probably thousands) of small terraced houses, built mostly in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods for workers of local mills and factories, form line upon line of Derby streets (LIPCAP’s base); most are still lived in today. These houses are an untapped historical resource – not least for the children who occupy them, who may ‘get more out of’ history taught at school through practical investigations or their surroundings. But also, outside formal education, such houses provide opportunities for inhabitant to ‘make’ history through their own explorations, and find out about how previous generations of their own families (who perhaps occupied similar houses) may have lived.

In themselves, the findings made at individual houses might seem to be so fragmentary and divorced from wider society and culture that they are of little use or meaning. However, when studied with and compared to findings from other, similar, houses, analysis has greater potential to yield valuable information (perhaps revealing significant patterns), particularly if examined alongside other historical sources (such as documents and maps, photos and oral history), and in combination with the findings of individual and group Local History and Family History research.

My main objective for the project is to provide easy (and hopefully fun) opportunities for engagement with Derby’s rich historic environment; I intend to (and hope others will also) assess the findings from family homes in relationship to wider social and cultural networks. Each household was (and is) an integral component of a neighbourhood, several of which together made the town, which with other towns and villages comprised the region, which in turn combined with other regions to make up the country as a whole. The decisions and movements of the powerful few that controlled and managed the affairs of the nation (as well as those leading more local authorities), through this network of local communities, effected – and often were affected by – the individuals and families inhabiting each household. Therefore, in coming together through the project to pioneer new ways of exploring very specific and localised histories, our investigations may contribute towards understanding the wider and varied pasts of those outside and beyond the individual home, as well as providing a picture of life in the past in our own home.

A couple of members of the project team will now say a few words for the DoA about the project, and why archaeology appeals to them:

Debra (Secretary and Family History Co-ordinator)

debra

I have always been interested and fascinated in archaeology and when asked to become part of the project, I was both grateful and excited. As a child, I was always fascinated in ‘how we used to live’. What also excites me about the project is the possibility of sharing oral and family histories (adopting an ‘archaeological ethnographic’ approach), which enables a wider range of historical resources to be expanded to give meaningful interpretations and accounts to local communities.

Sarah (Youth Rep.)

Sarah K

It is very hard for me to explain why I love archaeology, I just enjoy it extremely. One of the things that interests me about archaeology is finding out how people in the past survived in the conditions they lived in, I also enjoy discovering new and exciting artefacts when excavating. I think that it is fascinating to discover how our ancestors used to live.

I am looking forward to this project because I would like to experience what it is like to do fascinating archaeological fieldwork and get some idea of what it is like to be an archaeologist. I really want to be involved with this project because history is my passion and I want to do as much history related things as possible.


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My Day of Archaeology with Worcestershire Young Archaeologists’ Club

Using a sickle

Using a sickle

This year, my Day of Archaeology coincided with an event I had organised for the Festival of Archaeology, based at the Worcestershire Young Archaeologists’ Club Allotment.  The Allotment was acquired in early 2012 as a space for our young archaeologists (or YACs) to be able to undertake experimental activities, gain practical archaeological experience and to provide a resource for further activities during the year.  It was selected as a result of research undertaken using the Worcester City Historic Environment Record, which identified potential Roman settlement in the area, and therefore may provide a rare window into previously unseen archaeology.

Excavating a test pit

Excavating a test pit

Over the course of the past 18 months we have fought a long battle with the brambles and finally this summer were ready to harvest our first crop, a traditional long-strawed wheat.  We decided to run a day-long event with our young archaeologists so that they could get involved with the whole process of harvesting, using traditional methods.  Alongside these activities we also undertook to excavate a 1m x 1m test pit, to develop their practical archaeological skills.  The club has a strong mission to involve young people in real research, not just for the fun of it (though of course we have fun along the way), but to provide something of value to the archaeological record and to promote the sense that these very capable young people are contributing work completed to professional standards, and adding to our collective knowledge.  All the activities we undertake are set within their archaeological context, so the evidence for the experimental methods we are using on site is set out from the start, as well as evidence for plant and seed remains and the like.  We were very grateful to draw on the expertise of Environmental Archaeologist Liz Pearson  who has been involved with this project from the outset.

We’re not afraid to take risks.  Every YAC got to have a go with the sickle to cut the wheat crop

A finished corn dolly

A finished corn dolly

down!  Once cut, the wheat was bundled up and left to dry, except for a handful of stems used to make corn dollies, which proved to be quite a fiddly enterprise, though extremely absorbing.  Using a supply of grain which had already been dried, we were able to practice winnowing away the chaff and then used our rotary quern stone to make flour.

Finds at the #WYACAllotment

Finds at the #WYACAllotment

Meanwhile, over in our test pit, Rob Hedge, CBA Community Archaeology placement and member of the WYAC team, made sure that everyone was well-versed in Pythagoras Theorem as he explained how to set out a trench correctly.  A number of finds were uncovered within the top 20cm of soil including quite a few pieces of Roman iron slag, 18th/19th century clay pipe and what we believe to be the handle of a Tudor cup.  These finds will be processed by our YAC members and written up for inclusion within the HER.  In the meantime, live reporting via Twitter ensured that a greater audience than just those that could attend was engaged using our site hashtag #WYACAllotment.  We hope now to develop this project further, to build an ongoing resource for skills training and experimental techniques into the future.  At the time of writing a rather fine crop of flax is ripening and we hope to harvest and process this during the summer holidays!

Panoramicview

Bringing in the Harvest (with kind permission of Rob Hedge)


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Randall Manor Calling! An update from our Community Archaeology Excavation in Kent, 2013

Randall Manor, Kent, 2013

Randall Manor, Kent, 2013

Not so much a day of archaeology, as a short review of a month of community archaeology at Shorne Woods Country Park, Kent! This was our eighth year of excavations on the site, making it the longest running community excavation of one site in the County! I planned things carefully this year so that we would dig through a heatwave! In total we worked for 27 days on the site, with over 20 people on site on most days, rising to over 40 on our busiest days! I’m very much a believer in Pat Reid’s description of community archaeology as being done by the people, for the people. Everyone on site is a volunteer, apart from me and my post is part funded by the National Lottery and partly by Kent County Council. All site supervision is undertaken by volunteers, as are responsibilities for finds, records, plans and sections…I just keep the juggernaut that is the Randall Manor dig rolling!

This year we wanted to answer some final questions about certain key areas of the site, before we backfill and also try to gain more evidence for the early use of the site, pre the buildings’ construction. We had four areas open, one at the south end of the site, one across the junction between our putative aisled hall and cross wing, one across the kitchen and we opened up a big new trench to the east of the kitchen.

Randall Manor, Kent

Randall Manor, Kent

Historically, our research suggests that there is a principal building on the site by the second half of the thirteenth century, with high status use of the site for around 100 years. After this the buildings are left to tenants before all occupation dramatically ends in the late sixteenth century, when the site is comprehensively demolished, perhaps as a source of stone for the construction of Cobham Hall.

Excavations this year have added to our growing understanding of the site. In the southern trench, it is now apparent that there was substantial attempt to expand the building platform to the south, burying a soil horizon in the process. Conversations with David and Barbara Martin (medieval building experts) also point to this end of the site forming the high end to the first high status building on site, complete with chimney and private garderobe?  All built over an early gully in which we have some good pottery evidence (to be analysed). There also seems to have been an attempt to create a revetted occupation area, outside the building.

In the trench over the aisled hall/cross wing join, we sunk a series of test pits that came up trumps with a ditch running under the buildings. This ditch had early thirteenth century pottery in its lowest fills…

The kitchen continues to provide fascinating evidence for the remodelling and phasing of the site. We now have a hearth and possible bread oven that lie under the later kitchen walls. This is in addition to a sequence of two tiled hearths and a stone hearth, all replacing each other and a series of patched and replaced kitchen floor surfaces….it will all take further teasing out!

Finally our new trench for this year! We suspected we might have another building, but have actually encountered a series of levelling layers, a trackway and occupation surfaces. Bags and bags of pottery from these and 3 lovely whetstones…

Just to add to the mix we also had a very nice Roman coin from one of the tile demolition layers and a pendant that needs conservation and cleaning work.

A really successful season with all credit going to the incredible amount of hard work put into the project by the many volunteers involved, both existing and new for this year.  5 schools dug with us, 2 on repeat visits through the dig; we also had a local Scout troop and 3 YAC groups digging on site. We organised and ran a weekend for visually impaired volunteers, in conjunction with the Kent Association for the Blind. Over 1,000 visitors had a guided tour of the site.

And….over our last weekend we had medieval re-enactors in the Park!

Lots of pictures at http://www.facebook.com/archaeologyinkent. Contact andrew.mayfield@kent.gov.uk for further info!

Possible Bread Oven

Possible Bread Oven

Knighting at Shorne Woods with the Woodvilles

Knighting at Shorne Woods with the Woodvilles 


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Not a bad day of work

Louis Magazzu, URS Corporation Burlington, New Jersey USA

Normally my weekdays consist of digging features or test units underneath I-95 in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA).  In the two years I’ve been working there I have seen such a wide variety of materials that you never really know what to expect.  This week however I’m seeing how the other half lives; I’m working in the lab getting a little taste of everything.  It’s Tuesday.  Jen Rankin, one of the field supervisors, asks me to set up a display featuring some of the I-95 project’s finest prehistoric finds.  We walk to her cubicle where she gives me a goodie box that would excite any prehistorian.  Some of the highlights include unifacial tools, bifacial blades, a broken atlatl weight, a handful of pot sherds, some clay pipe fragments, two tiny beads, dozens of projectile points of diverse types and materials, and finally taking center stage is a beautiful gorget of burnished slate with incised decoration broken rather neatly into two pieces.  I go upstairs to my case, clean it, and lay a black table cloth inside. At lunch I get a phone call from Kevin Donaghy, a Temple University graduate student whom I have been helping out on Saturdays on his site at the Revolutionary War battlefield of Brandywine (Pennsylvania, USA).  He excitedly tells me he thinks he’s found something important.  We are going back this weekend to check it out.  After lunch I place groups of artifacts on slabs of timber, place labels with each artifact type, and put a few sketches in the case showing some objects as they would have originally looked.  The case is complete but there is still a bit of space on the surrounding desk.  I take a bag of some experimental stone working fragments and set up a display showing successive stages in lithic reduction from chert cobble to several different blanks that might become projectile points or bifaces.  Not a bad day of work.


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Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project: DIY House and Garden Archaeology

Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project (LIPCAP) is developing ways to enable public participation in exploring the historical environment amongst which many live and work today. We are based in Derby – a town (now city) with a long history, which particularly came to prominence, substantially growing in size, during (and especially after) the 18th century, as an important centre of industrialisation.

LIPCAP_Fig_1_Silk Mill

Derby Silk Mill (much rebuilt after early 20th century fire): one of the earliest factories in the world – part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

Though much of the older housing once occupied by industrial workers has since been demolished, most of the late 19th and early 20th century small terraced houses built for the increasing workforce – many of whom were employed in the numerous local mills and factories – remain, and continue to provide homes for modern families.

LIPCAP_Fig_2_Rykneld_Mill

Rykneld Mill behind housing within West End study area

LIPCAP_Fig_3_Terraced_Street

Late 19th – early 20th century terraced housing within LIPCAP study area

LIPCAP aims, in partnership with local communities, to discover more about the daily lives of ‘ordinary’ people in the past by investigating the history of these houses (in particular), examining the traces of earlier domestic activities through standing building surveys and surveys of artefacts found in the associated gardens and yards. We provide guidance for investigating the surfaces of gardens and houses: this is to broaden access through ‘DIY’ surveys and recording, which are designed to be of low or no cost, and to prevent damage to the historical environment; at present, there are no plans for excavations, but may consider this in the future.

LIPCAP_Fig_4_Study_Areas

Project study Areas

In order to make fieldwork manageable, to make best use of resources, due to the existing evidence, and to enable comparisons, the project incorporates four study areas: Allestree Village, Little Chester, West End, and Friar Gate area; due to the opportunity to carry out detailed surveys, one property provides an interesting case study.

LIPCAP_Fig_5_eC2O_Outdoor_Toilets

The remains of early toilets investigated at one property outside Derby

We hope that this will provide opportunities for participation by those that neither inhabit  old housing, nor live in houses built upon the plots of demolished earlier housing, by investigating the remains of Victorian and Edwardian rubbish ‘dumps’ in and around the town.

LIPCAP_Fig_6_Victorian_Tip

Spread of surface finds: probable Victorian and early 20th century rubbish tip on the outskirts of Derby that LIPCAP is applying to investigate

However, by taking opportunities to investigate house interiors, we also record other remains that provide clues for home life in the past: close investigation often reveals (even in houses that have been much modernised) remains for earlier décor, utilities, and use of household space.

LIPCAP_Fig_7_lC19_eC20_Woodwork_Paint

Chips to later white paint revealing remains of early finishes within LIPCAP case study: late 19th – early 20th century ‘grained’ varnish beneath dark early – mid 20th century paint, within project case study, No. 8

LIPCAP_Fig_8_Wall Paint

Wall paint (probable early 20th century) within bedroom at No. 8 (below)

One task that has held particular interest for the project (and others) is recording of graffiti – through which we have gained insights into childhood attitudes and behaviour.

LIPCAP_Fig_9_'C19_eC20_Graffiti

Graffiti discovered during a survey of ‘No. 8’

We look at the material evidence alongside documentary records (such as census returns and trade directories), photos and maps, and oral histories and memoirs, and in this way are beginning to build up a more complete picture of everyday life at this point in time (c. 1880 – 1940) when the modern world comes into being.

Name

Relation

Condition/
Yrs married

Sex

Age

Birth Year

Occupation

Where Born

ELEY, Thomas

Head

Married

M

45

1866

Smith Striker Railway

Derby Derbyshire

ELEY, Maria Jane

Wife

Married
15 years

F

43

1868

Derby Derbyshire

RIPPIN, William

Stepson

Single

M

19

1892

Cotton Winder

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Harry

Son

Single

M

19

1892

Fruiterer’s Salesman

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Selina

Daughter

Single

F

18

1893

Cotton Winder

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Lily

Daughter

F

14

1897

Tent Maker Canvass

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Jane

Daughter

F

12

1899

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Eva

Daughter

F

9

1902

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Mabel

Daughter

F

7

1904

Derbyshire Derby

ELEY, Doris

Daughter

F

1

1910

Derbyshire Derby

No. 8 Census evidence for 1911

We will soon make guidance publicly available, to support local communities in carrying out garden surveys; over the next few days, we will test the step-by-step instructions for public participation that have been recently devised, which we will describe in a following post.

LIPCAP_Fig_10_Test_Garden_Finds

Finds discovered during a test survey of a garden outside Derby

LIPCAP_Fig_11_Test_Garden

Test Garden: location of above finds

The pilot stage of the project – testing new ways of integrating public and professional research and fieldwork – will run until 2015. LIPCAP is currently run by volunteers, and funded by donations; at present, our project team is small, and led by local historical archaeologist Dr Kirsten Jarrett. We would welcome further volunteers who would like to get involved in running the project and more sustained and detailed research and fieldwork – particularly those experienced in archaeology or local history, but this is not essential. A forthcoming post will hear from other members of the project team.

LIPCAP_Fig_12_No 8

Project case study, No. 8

If you would like to know more about the project, see our website; follow us on Twitter or Facebook, and see our Flickr and YouTube channels; we are also in the process of developing a History Pin channel. The Journal of Victorian Culture Online has also published a short article on the project.

LIPCAP_Fig_13_3D_No 8_Progress

No. 8 3D reconstruction in progress: to be ‘redecorated’ and furnished in late Victorian, Edwardian, and 1920s – 30s style

Project Social Media

Website: www.livinginthepast.org.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UrbArc20

Twitter: https://twitter.com/

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/living-in-the-past/sets/

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcy3KUXbjyFdaCodnHRy6lQ

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Ceramics and Cultural Interactions on the Colonial Frontier

A project that we are currently participating in is the Lord Ashley site, located outside of Charleston, South Carolina. The Lord Ashley site was the 1675-1685 fortified plantation and trading post for Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, one of the original eight Lords Proprietors of the Carolina colony. Archaeological research here has identified the foundation of oldest British brick foundations in the Carolinas, and the defensive moat. Research here has furthered our understanding of the Proprietary period and Lord Ashley’s involvement in the development of the Carolinas, even though he never had a chance to visit his Carolina estate. The artifacts have allowed us to identify specific groups of Native Americans who interacted with the colonists and the likelihood that at least some of the fifteen enslaved adult Africans there made their own pottery.

Nicole Isenbarger, our president, conducted an analysis of the locally produced earthenwares recovered during the 2011 College of Charleston/The Charleston Museum archaeological field school excavations. These ceramics, otherwise known as Colono Wares, are the non-European low fired hand built pottery found in the colonial sites of the eastern United States that were produced by both free and enslaved Native Americans and Africans. Her analysis gave us an idea of the different groups of people who interacted with one another at the site. A brief blog on her work can be seen on the Lord Ashley site blog at http://lordashleysite.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/making-pots-and-mixing-traditions/ One of our main questions was to look for evidence of cultural mixing or the sharing of potting traditions within these ceramics. So far the ceramics are very distinct and separate and we have not seen any evidence that the potters were sharing their ideas and techniques for making ceramics.

This year, Nicole volunteered with the field school excavations, which now also included students from Salve Regina University. She spent 3 weeks in the field working with students and teaching them proper excavation techniques. The artifacts from this field season will be processed at The Charleston Museum by student interns from the College of Charleston. Once the artifacts have been cleaned and catalogued, Nicole will study the Colono Wares we found looking for evidence of specific pottery traditions/styles and possibly even wares that show the sharing of traditions between these different groups.

To learn more about the Lord Ashley site you can follow the blog at http://lordashleysite.wordpress.com
where we will be keeping you up to date on the progress of our research as we begin to research the artifacts we uncovered during this year’s excavations.

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Flotation

By Brian Seidel, Assistant Lab Supervisor, URS Corporation, Burlington, New Jersey, USA
7/25/13

Flotation

Flotation is the process by which the smallest and most delicate artifacts are separated from soil for analysis.  Artifacts collected using this method can provide important information related to: reconstructing past diet and food consumption patterns, past environmental conditions, and the broad range of activities performed within an historic property or site. Soil samples collected during feature excavation are processed in a flotation tank that utilizes water pressure to separate the soil from the artifacts. During this procedure very light artifacts (light fraction) float to the surface and are collected in a catch bag, while the remainder of the artifacts (heavy fraction) are collected in a fine mesh screen as the soil and artifacts sink towards the bottom of the tank.

This week the heavy fraction from feature 364 at the Gunnar’s Run Site (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) was picked in the URS lab (Burlington, New Jersey, USA). This feature was a brick lined circular shaft. Today I cataloged the recovered artifacts. This included several varieties of seeds; raspberry, grape, squash, cherry, chestnut and a variety of yet to be identified seeds.  Other items found included; 19 beads, lead shot, nut shells, wood fragments, small glass fragments, a Whiteware sherd, brick and coal fragments.

Flotation is the process by which the smallest and most delicate artifacts are separated from soil for analysis — Brian Seidel

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