Non-invasive Survey

Cemeteries and their Living Communities, and Archaeology

Knowing I would spend the actual Day of Archaeology doing moderator duties for this very website, I asked my Twitter followers what archaeological topic they would like me to share for my post.

The clear winner was discussing my project at a local cemetery. This is the second cemetery I’ve documented, both initiated to meet my teaching goals for my field school students, but the Vestal Park cemetery has been different because it has a community attached to it. Since Spring 2015, I’ve slowly been documenting the 19th century section of the cemetery with over 300 stones, in between my various jobs and writing my dissertation.

At this stage, almost two years later, I have gotten almost all of the documentation done. By scheduling weekly field school activities and offering surveying methods workshops to other graduate students and archaeologists in the area, I was able to assemble a complete map and photographs of every stone in the first 14 months. Still, only about 1/2 of the stones have been documented using our detailed form. I’m hoping to go back this fall to finish documenting as much as possible with the technology available to me, as long as I can find several days to go do it on my own.

As you can imagine, over the past two years I’ve learned a few things about cemetery research that I think are worth sharing, including principles I’ve developed from my experience.

Research in Active Cemeteries

When I started my project, I already had a relationship with the Town Historian and with several members of the local Historical Society, so identifying an appropriate setting was not difficult. This cemetery has a paid caretaker and is in a nice town, surrounded by businesses and homes. It is in no way neglected or forgotten. In short, it’s not the historic cemetery you may be imagining, with vines growing and spooky owl sounds. There are people visiting every day, including fairly often funeral processions, because the historic section is one small square of a larger, active cemetery. This place has an existing community of regular visitors and caretakers, as well as people who are just passing through during an emotionally difficult time. Your presence is noticed, and it can be hard to explain.

In a cemetery, there are loved ones who exist both in real life and in historical memory that are physically involved in the work you are undertaking. They are under your feet. Tread lightly.

 

Grave at cemetery for drowned man

This gravestone marks the burial of a man who drowned trying to save another man. These sorts of inscriptions grab the attention of visitors and amateur historians, wondering what the person’s life was like. This man and others buried here are still active in this place.

Setting project goals at an active cemetery is very different from at a small historic family plot, which is what I was more familiar with before undertaking this project. No matter what, you are likely to need to get in touch with a groundskeeper or local government official responsible for maintenance to consult on what is appropriate. The main concern of the groundskeepers is to keep the area safe, tidy, and make sure the ground and stones are stable; historical research may be welcome, but it is not the priority.

Follow the lead of the caretakers on how to physically move through the space.

Proceed in goal-setting and discussing your project with people as though each and every person there has been recently buried. Settle on a group of collaborators to start with, and ask them if they are willing to share their stories and their vision for the project. There may be family members involved along with the groundskeeper, representative of the property owner, members of local historical interest groups, and any affiliated church. In my project, my meetings were usually limited to the groundskeeper and the Town Historian, but sometimes two members of the local historical society participated as well. Having other historically-minded folks involved motivated me to come up with ways to use the data I was collecting to tell the stories they had become passionate about through researching the buried individuals. But my dreams and my means were on very different scales.

Make modest promises and keep them. Be honest about your timeline and your limitations.

At least in my area, most of the people who are interested in public archaeology work and local history are retired folks of some means. Strangely enough this means that they often have more time and energy to dedicate to this particular project than I do, and so my timeline could easily appear to be sluggish from their point of view. It’s hard, and not really appropriate, to try to explain why it takes a year for my small crew to do something that would take a 20-person historical society a week, my professional training and equipment notwithstanding.

If I could start over again, I would be clearer about what I could accomplish in a short period of time. I would also push harder for information about what programs my collaborators used on the computer, what technology they were comfortable with, and what things they wanted me to know. Because I had existing relationships with most of my collaborators, I did not complete a formal Memorandum of Agreement at the outset, and that process may have helped me to avoid continually helping people open digital files, locate photographs, and provide other information technology help. I would have perhaps sought funding/help for a nicely hand-drawn map to accompany the data table and point plot map that I created.

Simple products are better for certain stakeholders than beautiful or “cool” ones.

Despite the relatively low profile of this project, I have garnered more public interest in it than any other I’ve done, in large part due to the genealogical community. Just a few weeks ago my PhD advisor got an email from a woman asking for more information about her ancestor who was buried there, and that’s just one example. Word travels fast among the diner-breakfast crowd here, and I am sure it seemed more than a little weird that I would use fancy mapping equipment to measure stones that won’t go anywhere any time soon. Still, some of the cemetery’s dead are known around that same community, and beloved friends buried nearby only adds to the interest in the space being deemed important enough to be studied by an archaeologist.

Cemeteries are valued in many layered ways, including as active spaces of mourning and as places of local pride in past residents. Engage with peoples’ connection to the place instead of inventing a new connection.

I’m sure you will hear more from me about this later! I have more to say and more to do.

The Big Village Dig in Cobham, Kent, July 2017

I’ve always enjoyed posting about my summer activities through the Day of Archaeology….thanks for the opportunity to reach new audiences and tell them about interesting and exciting community archaeology projects in Kent.

A quick update on the Heritage Lottery funded Cobham Landscape Detectives Project. Following on from the Mausoleum Cottage Dig last summer (see 2016 post), we decided to organise a village dig for the second year of the project. We held an open meeting for residents in the Spring and were invited to test pit in over 30 properties. We offered residents the opportunity to dig their own test pits, with advice and equipment, dig one with us or allow us to dig in their gardens. As I write we have now excavated 40 test pits and trenches across the village, including collaborating with the Primary School to get every class involved in a dig on their playing fields and the North Downs Young Archaeologists Club to dig in the back garden of the Darnley Arms.

Working with Cobham Primary School

Working with the North Downs Young Archaeologists Club

We have made a number of interesting and important archaeological discoveries in a village that has seen little previous archaeological investigation. These include:

  • A previously unknown 17th or 18th century agricultural building in the back garden of the Darnley Arms
  • The surviving traces (paths and drains) of a great House at the east end of the village, comprehensively demolished in the 1850s
  • The lost Victorian reservoir of Cobham (built in 1848)
  • Medieval soils limited to the south side of the village, near the medieval church and priests college
  • The industrial quarter of the village, at its eastern end
  • A geophysical survey that may dispel the long held stories of a megalithic structure at the west end of the village, though the survey does hint at buried archaeology in the field.

Working on the Victorian reservoir, photo courtesy of Brian Hughes

And the finds? Bags and bags and bags of china plate sherds, clay pipes, glass bottle fragments, coins, tokens, nails, hinges, tiles and brick – more than enough finds processing to keep us busy for months.

The project has brought the village together in a journey of archaeological discovery, we have made many new friends and been asked to consider running a second season in 2018!

None of this would have been possible without the hard work, passion, humour and commitment of the many volunteers who have helped organise and staff the project. They are the backbone of every Kent County Council community archaeology project and completely invaluable, not to mention expert at the digging of 1m square test pits! The Cobham Landscape Project continues through 2018 and more information can be found at ArchaeologyinKent on facebook, ArchaeologyKent on twitter and the shorne woods archaeology group web page. I leave you with a picture of our youngest volunteer Violet! Not yet 4, but a 3 season veteran, having dug at Randall Manor in 2015, the Cottage dig in 2016 and now the Village Dig…she has an expert eye for china plate!

 

Violet the champion China plate spotter. Photo courtesy of Rock

Bringing the past into the future: a day in the life of a Geomatics Officer at Cotswold Archaeology

Hello! My name is Laura O Connor and I am a Geomatics Officer working for Cotswold Archaeology, in our Kemble office. This job is really varied and never gets boring! Not only do we work with GIS and CAD mapping software on a daily basis but we are also involved in a number of metric topographic/building surveys, laser scanning and photogrammetry projects. One of my favourite projects was the laser scanning of a historic walled garden in Cornwall. For this project, we used a GeoSLAM ZEB-REVO handheld laser scanner. This scanner allows the user to walk through the survey environment and record points at a rate of 43,200pts/secs. In the right conditions, it can capture points at a range of up to 30m with a relative accuracy of 2-3cm. I’m starting to sound like an advertisement now (I swear, I don’t work for GeoSLAM!!) but it is really a lovely piece of kit.

Using the GEOSLAM Zeb-Revo scanner in Cornwall (scanner was placed on top of a 2.8m pole to capture the tops of the walls)

 

I have been working in the Geomatics department for just over a year and a half. Before that, I worked as a field archaeologist in Ireland. I studied archaeology in University College Cork in Ireland, earning both a BA (Hons) and a MPhil degree. I left university in 2010 and discovered that there wasn’t a lot of work for archaeologists at that time so I then decided to study for a Higher Diploma in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Once I had that completed, I worked as a GIS analyst for two years. By then, archaeology work was becoming more available so I returned to the field in 2014. In December 2015, I got the geomatics job in Cotswold Archaeology, moved to the Cotswolds and the rest as they say is history!

So what did I get up to today? Today was an office day so there was coffee and clean toilets galore! First job of the day was to the plot the distribution of flint from one of our sites that was recently excavated. We use ESRI ArcGIS software – our consultants in particular find the software really useful in spatial analysis for desk based assessments. We also use the Collector app, which is ESRI product that enables data collection in the field. Once the data is collected, it can then be uploaded and synced back to our servers for use in the desktop GIS environment. Our consultancy department love using the app on site visits!

Next thing on my agenda was to process some surveys sent back by our fieldwork teams. We have a number of Leica GPS instruments used by fieldwork staff working on evaluations and excavations. Once we process the survey data, we import the data into CAD and create plan drawings to email to the project leader on site to show them how their site is looking so far. Many of our project leaders and archaeologists are highly trained surveyors, which makes my job very easy in terms of quality control and creating lovely looking site plans.

An example of survey done at a site in Berkshire

Once I finish processing surveys, I grab the camera to do some photogrammetry work on a mammoth tusk we have in the office. Photogrammetry (the science of extracting geometric information from multiple photographs) is a very useful tool for the recording of archaeology, one which we utilise a lot both on excavations and for buildings survey. Undertaking photogrammetry of artefacts is harder in some aspects because of the size of the artefact, but it’s a fun process! If you’re interested in seeing some of our photogrammetry work online, check out our Sketchfab account at https://sketchfab.com/cotswoldarchaeology . Keep an eye out for the 3D model of the mammoth tusk!

One of my favourite 3D models is of Clay pipe kilns discovered during our excavations at Glassfields, Bristol. Make sure you check it out on Sketchfab!

Now it’s home time! I hope this post has given you an idea of what geomatics work can entail (it’s not all about making strong coffee but then again, sometimes it is). If you’re someone who wants to get into geomatics, one piece of advice I would offer is to hone your skillset in CAD and GIS as much as possible. ArcGIS is a licensed product but QGIS, which is an opensource GIS program is an excellent (and free) alternative. For CAD, one of my favourite open source solutions is Draftsight – definitely worth looking into. If photogrammetry is intriguing you, take a look online – there is alot of information out there about the best techniques to use. There are many cultural heritage institutions that use Sketchfab to showcase their lovely 3D models such as the British Museum, Historic England, and Discovery Programme (Ireland), so check those out online.

Laura

A day in the life… disappointing Neolithic enclosures but excellent gooseberries in Teesdale

Heavy rain as we drive up the A1 makes my daughter Iris (just 6), who is in tow for the day, much less enthusiastic. But fortunately it almost stops as we reach Upper Teesdale. Paul Frodsham and Stewart Ainsworth, waiting by the side of the lane, are here to do paid work for the North Pennines AONB’s LiDAR Landscapes project, following up the labours of volunteers, who have been systematically examining LiDAR imagery. I’ve been invited because they suspect that both the unusual enclosures we’re examining might be early Neolithic, but my involvement is unpaid, purely for interest. Retired aerial photographer Tim Gates is along for a nice day out, although his experience of the uplands, which rivals even Stewart’s, is always valuable.

We struggle into full waterproofs and set off up the valley side, hopping across a beck that’s almost dry, despite the recent rain, and zig-zagging up through the impressive basalt cliffs of Holwick Scar. Nestling in a valley by another beck, I spot the stone footings of a tiny post-medieval sheiling. Tim kindly keeps Iris moving forward by pointing out wild flowers.

After 30 minutes we reach the first site, on a plateau in the bleak moorland, and within seconds we’ve concluded that it’s not a Neolithic enclosure, but a typical Bronze Age field, defined by low banks of stone, laboriously cleared from the surface. Even today, 3,000 years later, the pasture within the plot is richer and greener than the surrounding rough grassland. Iris finds a disarticulated sheep skeleton to play with. A burial cairn, incorporated into the field boundary, is of interest because excavation in the 1980s (we note that the trench was never backfilled!) produced a Neolithic stone axe. But there’s no other indication that the cairn’s any earlier than the Bronze Age, so the axe might be a curated ‘antique’. The monument’s position in the landscape also prompts debate: although there’s a more conspicuous knoll nearby, the cairn was placed lower down, next to a tiny beck – a deliberate link with water. Paul asks whether it might actually be a ‘burnt mound’, ie the residue of a Bronze Age sauna, since these are invariably found next to small watercourses. But we’re all happy that it’s a bona fide burial monument. Did a little clearing in the woodland here first attract the builders of the monument, and later the occupants of the tiny farmstead? We look for the site of the large roundhouse that would typically sit at the edge of a Bronze Age field and soon find it, half concealed beneath the drystone walls of a post-medieval sheep-shelter, shaped like a Mercedes badge. There’s a welcome opportunity to joke about the sheep-shelter being a Bronze Age “tri-radial cairn”, a form of monument that briefly attracted national attention a few years ago when Paul was Archaeologist for Northumberland National Park, and which we think is a fiction. We discuss the potential diameter of the roundhouse and whether it might actually be a dismantled burial cairn, since there’s an unusually pronounced ‘kerb’ on one side (and where has all the stone for the sheep-shelter come from?). After 10 minutes, we’ve failed to reach a conclusion, but the primary question has been answered and Iris is bored, so we head back down for lunch, eaten standing by the cars in the drizzle, before driving into the next valley to look at the next site.

This second earthwork has been interpreted previously as an Iron Age palisaded enclosure. Even before we leave the cars, Tim puts money on it being medieval or later, based on a glance at the lidar print-out. It takes us a while to pin-point the start of the footpath up the valley side, because the signs have apparently been removed. Walking back and forth along the lane, we notice some heavily-fruiting gooseberry bushes in the hedgerow – Iris wants us to stop there. But eventually we’re sufficiently confident in our map-reading to set off boldly through a sea of cow manure, studded with islands of abandoned farm machinery, oddments of scrap and barking, wildly straining sheepdogs (a typical upland farmyard). Using the lidar imagery, we find the enclosure quickly. It is immediately clear that there are actually two separate earthworks. The later one, an enclosure defined by a low bank and ditch, has a very irregular plan that bizarrely surrounds a dry valley and parts of two knolls. Tim and I conclude that it’s a medieval or later wood-bank, made to protect a rare – and now vanished – surviving scrap of woodland in this largely treeless landscape. If it was spring, I’d be looking for the tell-tale species of plants that indicate ancient woodland, because they often outlive the trees. The earlier earthwork is what has attracted Stewart’s attention: an arc of low, stony bank, almost completely grassed over. It predates the ?wood-bank, which clearly cuts through it. But what appear to be artificial earthworks on the lidar imagery prove to be natural scarps reflecting the underlying geology (that’s why it’s important to ‘ground truth’ LiDAR), so, despite prolonged scrutiny, we can’t convince ourselves that the arc of stony bank ever formed a complete enclosure. Nor can we date it, except that it’s earlier than the ?medieval enclosure. Tim, keen to win his bet, claims that it’s just an earlier version of the wood-bank. The rest of us are more circumspect, but we can’t get much further without excavation, and that would be an expensive shot in the dark. So we head back down to the cars, Iris clutching a trio of bleached rabbit bones. On the way, Paul and I discuss a publication on the Neolithic in northern England which he’s co-editing, and to which I’m contributing – probably the day’s most useful outcome for me. I promise to email him things when I get back to York. He and Stewart drive off to inspect a newly-discovered Romano-British enclosure further down the lane, but Iris insists that Tim and I stay to pick gooseberries. Well, payment in kind is always welcome! And as soon as Paul is out of earshot, Tim grumbles that anyway he’d rather pick gooseberries than look at “yet another bloody R-B enclosure”.

 

I’m looking for any artefacts that might have been excavated from the Bronze Age house by rabbits. Iris is looking for the bones of the excavators.


Aerial photographs (or those magnificent men in their flying machines!)

For the past 5 years I’ve blogged about being a Historic Environment Record Officer for Leicestershire County Council, a job I’ve been doing for 13 years.  I maintain the database containing information about all known archaeological remains in Leicestershire and Rutland.  In my blogs I’ve talked about various things, some of which explain my job more than others!  But this year, since it’s the last one, I thought I’d just post a bunch of lovely piccies.  🙂

One of the big projects we’ve been doing over the couple of years is adding metadata to slides we’ve had digitised and linking them to the HER database.  We have many years of this to do, at the current rate of progress, but it should make the images easier to access.  Some of them are the only evidence for cropmark sites, or show earthwork sites that have since been ploughed away, so being able to easily provide that evidence when questioned is really helpful!

Most of our slide images were taken in the 1970s and 80s, though there are a few from c.1990.

1970s cropmark MLE5262

This is a photograph of Iron Age enclosure cropmarks west of Hawkeswell Spinney, Exton and Horn parish, Rutland (MLE5262).  It’s an example of how little metadata we have for some of the slides, since the only information given was its old site reference and a grid reference – there is no date.  We can assume it was taken in the 1970s.  Some slides have even less information than this, which means detective work is required.

1986 photo MLE2485

This slide, helpfully date stamped, is a 1986 snowy photograph of Great Stretton deserted medieval village (HER Ref No. MLE2485).  Some of the snow covered pictures are very good at showing up earthworks.  They also look rather beautiful!

1981 photo MLE330

This is a photograph of an Iron Age enclosure north-west of Newhall, Thurlaston (HER Ref. No. MLE330).  In the late 1970s the enclosure’s ditch survived to a depth of about a metre, though ploughing quickly eroded the feature – it appears to survive largely as a cropmark by the time of this 1981 photo.  (You can also see cropmarks of medieval ridge and furrow earthworks around it.)

1975 photo MLE440

We have a lot of photographs of this site – this is a 1975 photo of Hamilton deserted medieval village, Barkby Thorpe (just outside Leicester city) (HER Ref. No. MLE440).  You can clearly see well preserved village earthworks across the site, as well as medieval ridge and furrow earthworks in the fields outside the village.  Leicestershire has numerous deserted medieval villages, and quite a lot of ridge and furrow (though it’s gradually being eroded by modern farming).

1981 photo MLE16325

Another snowy picture, this one taken in 1981.  It shows the edge of Houghton on the Hill village (HER Ref. No. MLE16325), though the main interest in the picture is the ridge and furrow.  You can see how the earthworks bend in their characteristic ‘reverse-S’ shape, apparently caused by the ploughman turning his oxen at the end of each strip.

1970s photo MLE3183

Here’s a rather good shot of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery south-east of Elms Farm, Sheepy (HER Ref. No. MLE3183).  In all, at least 12 barrows have been recorded here from various aerial photographs, as well as other linears and pit alignments.  Crops have to be at a particular stage in their growth to show cropmarks well, and it also depends on the weather (dry years are better!).

1976 photo MLE3012

And here’s a cropmark from a particularly dry year – the legendary 1976.  It may not be the most exciting of sites, but you can see how the conditions have come together to produce a fine image of an Iron Age ditch and enclosure, at Peckleton (HER Ref. No. MLE3011 & MLE3012).  Some of our sites are only known from images taken in one year, however much we might search the abundance of aerial photography available today to find them again.  I have no doubt there are numerous sites awaiting discovery on the photos you can view via Google!

1980 photo MLE10129

As well as conditions needing to be right for cropmark sites, I should point out that conditions also need to be right for earthworks.  This is another picture of  Houghton on the Hill village (HER Ref. No. MLE16325), though it also includes some other earthworks including pond earthworks south of the church (HER Ref. No. MLE21529).  It was taken on 16th December 1980.  You can see that low winter light is the best for earthworks, with everything casting long shadows.

I hope that’s been at least vaguely interesting!  As we link photographs to our HER records the thumbnails are visible on the Heritage Gateway (click on the links below the photos above to check out the other images available).  Thanks are due to the photographers who took these photos, particularly RF Hartley (formerly of the Leicestershire Museums Service).  I should also mention Jim Pickering for his work in Leicestershire, since he has provided us with an excellent collection of images.

Monte Miravete: 19th century miners-farmers communities at Murcia (Spain). An Art-Archaeology project.

Hello everybody!

I am JoseAnt. Mármol from the fieldwork at Monte Miravete site at Torreagüera (Murcia, Spain). Here we are looking for identify the remains of the mining activity of the local farmer communities, their ‘hidden face’. The site contains 100 structures (mainly gypsum kilns) and 35 quarries, making the site one of the most big archaeological site in all the entire Murcia region with the best known remains of this activity in Spain. We are working with a chronology dated back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This campaign we have been surveying around 23 structures and 10 quarries, and the next week we will start the excavation of one of them, the structure MMIR-E1089, which seems to be a former quarry with a kiln associated with it, later transformed into a space for storage or living. One of the aims for this excavation is to know more about the chronology and temporal phases of the site, especially before the 19th century. Will we find something medieval? That’s our dream for now!

 

The research of this site lets us know more about the farmers communities of Murcia, who represent the origins of the very identity of this region. But, the understanding of the suffering of these farmers climbing up to make lime for its houses and facilities, helps us relate to the current children lime miners in India, for example. This is a reflection also for contemporary world about the unsustainable exploitation of the landscape and the human capacity to transform and survive.

We are not only seeking for archaeological data. Since our team is an interdisciplinary young team and we don’t have so much economical support, we can be so creative as we want. So, we have done archaeological ethnography, poetry, artistic works with and at the site, and a long list of interesting papers and crazy interpretation of the site.

Maybe this is the unique project in Spain with an strong interest in developing an Art-Archaeology approach.

Our team is composed by: JoseAnt. (creative archaeologist), Manu (prehistorian interested in cinema), Javi (archaeo-botanist), Martín (interested in contemporary history), and some volunteers who will come the next week.

Here you can see a short video of the 2016 campaign:

 

Happy summer and enjoy the 2017 DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY!!!

Best regards,

JoseAnt. Mármol

 

 

Sharing Some Perspective on Archaeology in Florida…360° of perspective to be exact!

As an archaeologist working for the Northeast Region of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), I spend most of my professional days trying to engage the public with archaeology in Florida. On any given day, I’m out giving a children’s programs at a local library, speaking to to the Daughters of the American Revolution, teaching a training workshop on how best to protect historic cemeteries or helping volunteers monitor an archaeological site.

Unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere at all times! So I’m always looking for ways to broaden our impact at FPAN by getting people involved with cultural resources throughout the state in ways that doesn’t explicitly include me standing in front them.

In recent months, I’ve been working with a co-worker from our Southeast office, Mal Fenn, to explore ways we can document and take people to sites through virtual reality and film. I bought a 360 camera and hit the road to film sites throughout Northeast Florida and beyond. Here’s two sites I’ve visited recently and how creating these videos will help us with goals at each.

Shell Bluff Landing at the GTM Research Reserve is a site with a few issues. The site is actively eroded and was badly hit by a hurricane last year, losing several feet of shoreline in a day! At FPAN, we’ve developed a citizen science program called Heritage Monitoring Scouts (HMS Florida, for short) to get people out to threatened sites to monitor site changes and document anything we can before the sites continue to be lost. Creating videos on sites like Shell Bluff will help us document and share coastal changes as well as train new scouts in what to look for when assessing damages.

Kingsley Plantation at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve has the largest collection of extant slave cabins around! A few years back, FPAN and the National Park Service worked with Project Archaeology to develop a curriculum exploring archaeology at the cabins (download it here for free). We been trying to make the curriculum even more hands on and engaging, including creating 3D models of the artifacts and features from the site. Creating 360 videos will allow students to explore the site from the comfort of the classroom.

So I’ll be spending my Day of Archaeology working on editing more 360 videos. I hope to create more short videos and eventually even guided tours of sites that allow viewers to explore the locations from where ever they happen to be.

If you’re interested in playing around with some of this technology, but don’t have access to a 360 camera, I’d suggest a FREE app called Cardboard Camera (available on Android or iToys). The app uses your smart phone’s camera to create a stereoscopic panorama that works with any VR headset. Shout out to Mal for turning me onto it.

 

-Emily Jane Murray, Public Archaeology Coordinator at the Florida Public Archaeology Network Northeast Region located at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.

LEŚNY PUNKT EDUKACJI ARCHEOLOGICZNEJ

Niecałe dwa tygodnie temu otwarty został Leśny Punkt Edukacji Archeologicznej. Zlokalizowany jest on na terenie Nadleśnictwa Bobolice, w leśnictwie Łanki, w odległości około 100 metrów od granicy rezerwatu „Buczyna”, przy drodze asfaltowej łączącej drogę Bobolice – Drzewiany z Rajską Plażą koło miejscowości Porost.

Punkt archeologiczny jest wspólnym przedsięwzięciem Instytutu Archeologii UAM w Poznaniu (w ramach projektu NEARCH – http://www.nearch.eu/), Nadleśnictwa Bobolice, Urzędu Miejskiego w Bobolicach i Towarzystwa Ekologiczno-Kulturalnego w Bobolicach.

Z tablicy edukacyjnej umieszczonej w punkcie archeologicznym uzyskamy ogólne informacje o zabytkach prahistorycznych, ich pochodzeniu i znaczeniu oraz o budowie geologicznej terenu. Lokalizacja punkty też nie jest przypadkowa – droga, przy której jest umiejscowiony,  jest fragmentem pomorskiego szlaku turystycznego Greenway – Naszyjnik Północy. Z drogi często korzystają liczni turyści, sportowcy, spacerowicze i amatorzy wycieczek rowerowych.

Bardzo cieszy i napawa nas optymizmem wzajemna współpraca w odkrywaniu i udostępnianiu dziedzictwa archeologicznego ziemi bobolickiej społeczności lokalnej i turystom, odwiedzającym te tereny.

Poniżej kilka zdjęć z otwarcia punktu. I zachęcamy do jego odwiedzenia!

Michał Pawleta

 


The struggles of being a geophysicist

Rob Evershed, Project Officer, Geophysics

Many people see geophysicists as the movie stars of the archaeological world; after all we can arrive at a random field and within a few hours reveal the wonders of the hidden archaeology buried there without once lifting a spade or shovel. In many cases the need for random trenches across a site can be replaced by fewer targeted trenches, allowing a quicker and potentially more thorough archaeological evaluation of an area.

However even geophysicists can run into problems occasionally. There have been more than a few times where the geophysics team have excitedly headed off to a new site, filled with joy at the chance to once again wield our magic machine, that goes beep a lot, and hopefully uncover lots of hidden unknown archaeology, only to arrive on site to find…

Jedlee and Ryan in a sea of nettles

Jedlee and Ryan in a sea of nettles

For those uninitiated in the dark arts of geophysics, when we arrive on site we set up our 30m or 20m grids using canes at the vertexes with help from our GPS. So far the knee-height nettles are only an inconvenience. However the next step is for the glamorous assistant (in this case Jedlee) to divide up two sides of each square with 6 inch plastic pegs that allow the surveyor (Ryan) to walk across the grid in regular traverses while the machine goes beep. Not only would the pegs be tricky to see, but a quick health and safety check would suggest that perambulating across the field could be hazardous with hidden rabbit holes or surprise vegetation ready to trip you up.

So sadly we had to wend our disappointed way back to the office to report that the field was unsuitable for surveying on that occasion. Fortunately since then the nettles have been cut and we returned to successfully complete the mission (and found some possible medieval features).

Other examples of unsuitable fields:

Rob looking wistful in the wheat

Rob looking wistful in the wheat

Deeper wheat

This one looks worse…

Tall flowers

This is just getting silly…

A river that is unsuitable for survey

Ok, enough already, that is definitely a river!

However sometimes even with adverse conditions we still struggle onwards to get the job done.

Surveying in a waterlooged field

Little can deter the plucky geophysicist


Day of Archaeology at a Great Lakes Lumber Camp

As an associate professor of Anthropology at Central Michigan University, I run an Archaeological Field School every other summer.  This summer, field school students studied and documented the ruins of lumber camp in north-central Michigan. In Michigan’s northern woods, the remnants of a once extensive lumbering industry can be found in the form of lumber camp ruins, defunct railroad grades, and mill ghost towns.  The Anthropology program at CMU has a strong focus on public and community-engaged archaeology, so as a part of the field school experience I opened the site to the public on our Day of Archaeology (which was actually on June 8th).  Students in the field school shared with the visiting public about the process of site documentation from start to finish.

Michigan’s lumbering history is a complex part of industrial and colonial expansion of the rural landscape of the state.  Timber cutting expanded in predictable patterns, linked to the technological means for transporting timber from the wilderness to mills and on to the industrial centers of Chicago and Detroit.  The industrial expansion moved swiftly and methodically into places like Clare County, where between roughly 1870-1900 the entire county saw the development of cities, railroads, and mills as timber was cut.

   Historic Photograph of unnamed lumber camp with railroad near Farwell, Clare County.

Lumber camps were short-lived neighborhoods in the lumber extraction process, but also integral to the industry as dynamic labor communities.  These self-sufficient communities were often comprised of ethnically and cultural diverse populations.  As archaeological sites, they represent short, but intensive, occupations that are spatially organized into recognizable task areas: barracks for workers, blacksmith and farrier sheds, cook’s kitchen and mess hall, foremen’s office, and more.

Historic industrial archaeology may not seem like an important topic, especially when the sites you are studying are only about 100 years old.  I mean, how much can you learn from the recent past that has photos and documents associated with it?  The reality is that there is much to be gained from studying the small residues of everyday life from even the recent past.  This is especially the case when it comes to lumber camps, which often have little to no historic documentation.  Think about it.  Before cell phone selfies, how many people documented their daily lives with photographs?  Before social media, how many average people had their stories told in official historic documents?  This is where archaeology can fill in the gaps.  By excavating lumber camp sites, we can see how everyday people lived, worked, ate, played, and slept about 100 years ago.

We started fieldwork by conducting survey (identifying any visible structural foundations) and geophysical prospection with a magnetic susceptibility meter.  Students learned how to navigate through the woods and identify building berms and cellar pits.  Magnetic susceptibility is a useful geoprospection technique that senses enrichments to the soil that increase magnetic properties.  This results in “hot-spots” that are organic or iron rich thanks to stuff left behind by people – in other words, places we might like to dig. These steps helped us identify former structures and chose locations for excavation.

Magnetic Susceptibility Geoprospection in action, with Teaching Assistant, Greg Swallow, supervising graduate students Kara McDonald (using meter) and Jeremy Cunningham (recording data). Greg is standing on the berm remnant of a building, these were earthen foundations for the temporary buildings of the lumber camp.

This lumber camp had at least seven distinct buildings (identified by foundation berms or cellars) and the remnants of a road.  Our primary goal was to identify what activities were conducted in each building, so excavation units were placed in several buildings to provide a snapshot of what people were doing in these areas.

Site Plan Map made using a Total Data Station and GIS software.

On our Day of Archaeology, we had excavations at four buildings open.  At Building 1, students discovered a huge stockpile of cut and hand-wrought nails, as well as other metal tools. So far, this building is our best candidate for the blacksmith’s shop.

Student sketch map of Building 1 excavation unit, showing density of nail fragments.

At Building 2, students found part of the building itself – which appeared as burnt planks of wood with nails.  They also found a number of clay smoking pipe fragments.  Based on the size and placement of this building, as well as its contents, it may have been the foreman’s office.

Photograph of one of the many clay pipe fragments found in Building 2.

Just outside the door of Building 4, students were astonished to find a pile of saw cut beef bone. Based on the density of animal bone, this building was most likely the cook’s kitchen – it also has a large cellar and is located next to a second cellar (both would have been necessary for storing the camp’s food).  The presence of beef is surprising, because it represents the most expensive cuts of meat, compared to the more commonly purchased mutton or hunted venison.

Photograph of Building 4 excavation unit showing butchered beef bones in place.

Building 7 was only detected by the geoprospection methods and was not readily visible as a berm, so our excavations at this building were aimed at determining whether a berm wall once existed in the area detected by the magnetic susceptibility meter.  While we did not find many artifacts at this excavation unit, we did find soil changes indicative of the berm structure and also a wooden beam left in place.  Therefore, we now know that Building 7 was a structure. Based on its location adjacent to the kitchen, it might have been the mess hall.

Photograph of Level-3 plan at Building 7 excavation unit, showing soil staining and wood plank associated with structure foundation.

In addition to the excavations, we also set up a field lab so that visitors could see how artifacts were cleaned, documented, and prepared for curation. Laboratory work, while not as exciting as fieldwork, is extremely important to the process of archaeology.  Analysis of the artifacts often takes two to three times as long as the fieldwork.  But, it can be just as fun to “rediscover” the artifacts in the lab and begin to tell the story of the site.

Graduate student, Mandy Kramar, talking with site visitor, Mariane Eyer, about artifacts found at site and process of cleaning and curation.

 All in all, we had a very fruitful first field season at the lumber camp.  Our public Day of Archaeology was also a success, with a couple dozen visitors (pretty good numbers for a remote location in rural Michigan) stopping by.  Most visitors spent hour or more touring the site and asking questions. More investigations are planned in October of 2017, coinciding with Michigan’s Archaeology Month.

Dr. Sarah Surface-Evans is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Central Michigan University who specializes in community-based archaeology.