archeologist

Average Day in the Office – Mary Jachetti

URS Burlington, New Jersey, USA  (Posted by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum webmaster)

Today, I am picking a flotation sample that came from the Dyottville Glass Works site (36PH037), a glass factory site that was run under several different owners from 1771-1923 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA).  The most notable of the glass works owners was the late Dr. Dyott, an apothecary, who ran a Utopian-like society for his glass workers. The flotation sample, like many other samples from the site, is almost completely glass. An almost straight sample of glass is unusual in float, with seeds and rocks being the usual. The glass ranges from small, flat or slightly curved fragments of window or vessel glass or manufacturing debris (various sized and shaped glass fragments created by the manufacturing of glass vessels), to semi complete vessels and whimsy fragments such as Jacob’s ladders and flip flops.

On an average day for a lab technician, any of the following could occur: checking- in incoming artifacts, washing and bagging; mending, marking, or gluing a large feature or a completed project; floating soil samples or picking float; researching a specific artifact or patent; cataloging; or helping prepare a display for a public outreach event or private client showing.  Occasionally, we rotate out into the field or help with work overloads in different departments. I have assisted with some minor GIS work as well as historical research.  The day does not always begin or end at the office or in front of the computer. Some days, lunch is spent learning about pottery types or special artifacts in a seminar session or the afternoon is spent educating visitors, either at the office or at a public outreach event. The job changes and evolves. It may not be as glamorous and glitzy as my roommates and fiancé think that the day of an archeologist should be, but I love my job and I’m glad that I’m always doing something different and learning something new.

By: Mary Jachetti, Lab Technician

Betsy Ross’ Pitchers

I have been an archeologist in the U.S. National Park Service for 24 years (can it really be that long?), where I now serve as head of the History Branch at Independence National Historical Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Today, June 27th, I spent several hours working with colleagues preparing a small exhibit commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. This temporary exhibit will feature two ceramic pitchers we recovered in Independence Park during the excavations at the site where the National Constitution Center now stands. The pitchers were found in the bottom of a privy pit (outhouse) that once stood in the backyard
behind the house where Betsy Ross spent her last years.  Did Betsy throw them away?

Pitchers found in the bottom of a privy pit

Made in England between about 1816 and 1820, the pitchers bear images of two War of 1812 naval engagements in which the fledgling U. S. Navy was victorious over the mighty British Navy.  English potteries produced many such designs specifically for  export to the American market. In so doing, they were helping an adversary celebrate a victory over their own navy. I don’t know if they appreciated the irony in that. I do know that they were glad to find a willing market for their goods.  Whatever they meant to the British potters, for Betsy Ross’ family they probably marked the stirrings of national pride sparked by the War.
During the course of the day I also spent time meeting with a colleague from our maintenance staff trying to figure out the safest way to remove an obsolete 1970’s ventilation duct from inside the vault that protects some of the remains of Benjamin Franklin’s house at our in-ground archeology exhibit in Franklin Court. There was yet another meeting today. This last one involved deciding on how the archeologists and the museum curator in the park could best assist a team of faculty and students from Drexel University’s Digital Media program in adding accurate details to a 3D digital reconstruction of the 18th century house in which a African American coachman lived. The reconstruction is base on another site we excavated within the park.…and of course, as every day, there was lots and lots of paperwork to fill out. I do work for the government, after all.

Jed Levin
Independence National Historical Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Who is an Archaeologist?

Who is an archeologist? – This might seem an easy question and in some cases it might be, for example if you work as an archaeologist or if you have a degree in archaeology. Then again there are several trades that deal somewhat with archaeology, for example a guide at museum, an author or an journalist that write about archaeology, that doesn’t require an archaeological degree or that you’ve worked as an archaeologist. Others might have a degree in archaeology but has worked or intended to work as an archaeologist. The last six months I’ve been part of a work group for the Swedish Union DIK ( Link in Swedish) to set down ethical guidelines for archaeology. The work is not done but it’s been interesting to read other ethical guidelines, for example the EAA and the AAA and sit down and discuss ethical issues as well as issues’ concerning what is archaeology and who is an archaeologist.

(more…)