British Columbia

Winter Archaeology…it’s a thing

It certainly wasn’t what I would have expected after watching Indiana Jones as a kid, poring over my grandparents’ National Geographics, or even after numerous archaeology classes of various types during my university years. In the North of British Columbia, Canada, CRM archaeology is driven by the requirement of oil and gas companies to have archaeological assessments done prior to all developments. They are conducted by privately owned companies complying with government regulations, and this  happens year round.

Winter archaeology. Yes, it is a thing. (more…)

A Day of Archaeological Survey in the Jungles of Northern British Columbia

Name: Paulina Dobrota.

Position: field archaeologist/ PhD student

I started working in interior B.C. in summer 2012. Although I’ve seen a couple of tough outdoors in my life, I am always baffled by the terrain here. After the beetle kill plague that hit these parts 10 years ago, the forests of northern British Columbia are jungles. Some days, I don’t even touch the ground at all. I walk on logs, balancing precariously. If they’re good, a pair of boots may last a whole season. Pants start tearing immediately in the thorny underbrush and the dreaded Devil’s club. And wait until you see the mosquitoes and flies!

I like to think of ourselves here as archaeological managers. We work for the logging industry. Like scores of other interested parties, we enter cut blocks prior to logging and do our part of the work. In our case, we rate the archaeological potential of each proposed development and proceed to mitigate or exclude areas of archaeological significance. We deal with archaeological sites and traditional use areas, and a lot of culturally modified trees (CMTs). Our work goes by a predictive model that isolates areas of interest which have to be surveyed on foot. As an amateur geologist and a geoarchaeologist in training, I am immensely thrilled by the breadth of our focus. We look out for cultural materials but also do terrain, hydrology, soil and sediment classifications and indicator plant species. Although we get to see artifacts quite rarely here, the scope of our survey makes this one of the most fun and stimulating areas I’ve ever worked in.

Every year, before returning to the field, I spend a month jogging 1 hour every day. I spruce up my gear and replace broken equipment. I re-read The Amateur Geologist’s Field Guide, and Indicator Plants of British Columbia and I’m ready to go.
On July 11 this year, we were notified that we were going to access a cut block by helicopter. We had already traveled to the area the previous day and were spending the night at a motel in a nearby town. We breakfasted in a road-side diner with other workers, piled into our trucks and drove out. First we negotiated our way through the forest road traffic, to the assembly point. Here, we had to wait in the grass by the side of the road with other forestry crews, joking with each other and spying at each other’s gear. Forestry crew often know lots about archaeology. Every time they meet us, they tell us about areas they think might have artifacts.

1 - logging road traffic

Logging road traffic

2 -  heli ride to the block

Heli ride to the block

The helicopter was making its way and we could hear the sound of the propellers through the air. We got a brief safety training and then we lined up for pick up. My team was last. We were going to get dropped off into a swamp, make our way across and get picked up from the other side of our block.

I pulled down my hard hat, my survey vest, laden with flagging ribbon, my field gear and my water pack. Each object – GPS, a compass, a camera – was tied up with reflecting yellow ribbon and secured with carabiners to my vest, which gave a faint smell of insect repellent, sun screen and sweat. I crouched down and ran up to the door. The air was completely still, so the ride was very smooth. We arrived to our area and circled it a couple times then proceeded to descend onto the swamp. We dropped out and my feet were immediately ankle deep in water. We crouched down again and ran to the forest line with our gear at knee level.

Once in the block, we make a game plan, spread out in transects with a width based on visibility and start walking. I always like to state my goals for the day. “Today, I want to find a cache with at least 10 pre-Clovis points in a tree-throw”. Actually, this has been my goal for the past 3 years. I’m still working on it.

2 - surveying in the block

Surveying in the block

First I check out the forest cover, and figure out what the likeliness of finding culturally modified trees is. Then I start noting plant species, observing vegetation patterns, marking out slope degree and aspect on my map while waving away mosquitoes. We call out for each other sometimes, “Marco!”, and wait to hear “Polo!”.

The survey is advancing smoothly through a rolling terrain. Two hours in, we hit a body of water and start following its course. We hike up a slope, just 20 m above the water’s edge. At the top, I already see a nice, flat ground covered in ground cedar and reindeer lichen. “What do you think of this place?” It’s just about 10 by 10 m or so. I kick up a bit of sod and do a soil check. “All good! I’m taking this one!”. We flag it with ribbons looped around trees, GPS it and take notes on laminated sheets (our “field paper”). Based on our client’s decision, we will either excavate or exclude this area from the development.

3 - surveying in the block

Surveying in the block

Surveying by a wetland

Surveying by a wetland

Landscape

Landscape

a CMT

a CMT

Cut mark on a CMT

Cut mark on a CMT

We continue with our survey and reach our pick up place hours in advance of the helicopter. “It’s only 2 pm, we got a 2 hrs and a half wait”. We vote on it. “Lets walk it!” We got our truck location, it’s only 5 km away and the map shows that there’s a DR (deactivated road) in 1 km. Now comes the portion we call ‘dead walk’. We finally hit the road and start making our way. The day is hot, I’m tapping my last water resources and some granola bars from the bottom of my survey vest pocket. It’s been years now since I have eaten a granola bar that was not sun baked.

Like archaeologists all around the world, all we talk about is places we worked in, places we could work in, places we would like to work in and FOOD. Foods we’ve eaten, and foods we will eat when we’re not in the field.

We finally reach our truck. We see the helicopter parked nearby, with the driver reading in the back seat and wave at him. We throw our gear in the back, get on, I write some finishing notes about our block and we drive away. “Tomorrow, my goal is to find a a cache with at least 10 pre-Clovis points…”

Arrow point found in 2012

Arrow point found in 2012


A day with Macedonian archaeology – HOARD OF BILLON TRACHEA FROM THE SKOPJE FORTRESS

The copper hoard from the XIII century was discovered as a whole X.9.5.1, in a pit from Block: XXI, in the course of archeological excavations at the Skopje Fortress in 2009. It contained 50 copper coins, including 5 items of Bulgarian imitations (no. 1-5) and items presenting rulers, namely 2 items presenting Ivan Asen II (no. 6-7), 2 items presenting Theodore Comnenus-Ducas (no. 8-9), 2 items presenting  John Comnenus-Ducas (no. 10-11), 9 items presenting John III Ducas-Vatatzes with (no. 12-20), 4 items presenting Theodor II Ducas-Lascaris (no. 21-24), as well as the most numerous, 24 Latin imitations (no. 25-47). (more…)

A day with Macedonian archaeology “Decorative elements of Roman Headstones between the middle Sections of rivers Axios and Strymon”

Three basic types of headstones can be found in the area between the middle sections of rivers Axios and Strymon originating from the middle of the first until the beginning of the fourth century: headstones, steles and medallions. Since they appear in different parts of the area in question, they display their own local characteristics. Nevertheless, when grouped according to the regions in which they appear, they still carry certain artistic, typological and thematic specifics.

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The steles are the dominant type of headstones (total number of 134), followed by the medallions (9 pieces) and headstones as last (2 pieces).

The headstones, dated at the end of the first century, can be found in the region of Skopje i.e. on the territory of the city of Skupi, in Zlokukjani (no. 1 and 2).

Several types of steles can be found in the area between the middle sections of the rivers Axius and Strymon:

1. Roman type steles (also known as North Italian) characterized by large dimensions, tympanon and a separate inscription field containing an inscription in Latin.

2. Hellenic type steles, small in height, with a rectangular, pentagon or semicircular tympanum form, a wedge and an inscription in Hellenic.

3. Steles characterized by mixed Roman and Hellenic architectural and decorative elements.

4. Steles originating from local studios, characterized by small dimensions, tympanum, an inscription field with an inscription mostly on Hellenic.

It is considered that the monumental steles, also known as North Italian, are dispersed in two directions through Aquileia: across the Danube shore into Moesia and through the Dalmatia province, Dyrrhachium and Via Egnatia they arrive in Macedonia. The bearers of this headstone art were the soldiers, i.e. the craftsmen – lapidaries, who moved along with the soldiers. They would continue working on steles in the new environment.

This North Italian stele type was not well received among the local inhabitants in Macedonia, who continue to create and use steles characterized by small dimensions, analogue to the steles from the South, and completely opposite to the ones form upper Moesia, where the North Italian stele type is most numerous. The oldest stele belonging to the North Italian type was found in Malino – Sv. Nikole (no. 120), dating from the middle of the first century.

There is a mixture of roman elements – the tectonics of the slate and Hellenic elements – a full height figure and an inscription in Hellenic.

Headstones medallions, dating from the end of first to the beginning of the fourth century, can be found in southeastern Macedonia and the middle region of Struma. They are in the form of a disk with a concave basis with modeled busts in one, two and three rows. The frame of the medallion can be embellished with an egg shaped ornament, and in the lower part there was a wedge used to mount the medallion on a post bearing an inscription. These medallions can be found only in southeastern Macedonia and the vicinity of Gevgelija, Dojran and middle region of Struma.

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In the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, the most common motif on the steles is the vine with vine-leaves, ivy and acanthus leaves and grape clusters, dating from the second half of the third century, and mostly displayed in the second century. In the region of east and southeast Macedonia, this decorative element is very rare. The decorative vine first appears in Rome and through the steles in North Italy it is conveyed into Lower Moesia, thence into Upper Moesia, where it was well received by the population, as opposed to Macedonia, where its presence is limited and rare.

The double arms motif found only on one stele in Marvinci (no. 122), dating from the first quarter of the fourth century, is brought about from the south.

The rosette is very often applied in the steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, from the second half of the first century until the second half of the third century, mostly displayed in the second century. It is very common as a decorative element on the steles in east and southeast Macedonia, from first half of the first century until the end of the third century. The appearance of the rosette as a headstone art motif should be traced back to Macedonia, and thence to Rome. This iconography is spread from Rome in all directions throughout the Empire and it comes back to Macedonia, where it obtains local marks.

The pine cone is one of the more frequent decorative elements, present in the funerary decoration of the steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, dating from the end of the first until the second half of the third century. This ornament is rarely found in east and southeast Macedonia. From Ravenna through the Danube shore, it has been brought from northern Italy to Moesia, where it was well received, which differs from its reception in Macedonia, where its frequency depends on the region.

The half-palmettes as a embellishment motif are very commonly displayed on the steles form the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, dating from the first half of the first century until the first half of the third century, as opposed to the steles in eastern and southeastern Macedonia, where they can rarely be found. This decorative element arrived from Northern Italy, along the Danube shore into Moesia.

As opposed to the above-mentioned motifs, the garland, the bucranium, the dolphin, the axe, Medusa’s head and Atis, numerous and characteristic for the steles in Northern Italy and the Dalmatia province, are quite rare and secondary in Upper Moesia and Macedonia. This testifies that should something new appear in Rome, it does not mean that it will automatically be accepted in all the provinces of the Empire. It should be emphasized that these decorative elements found on the steles in Dalmatia date from the end of the second century (with the exception of very rare prior occurrences), as opposed to the steles in Macedonia, where they date from the middle of the first century. This leads to the conclusion

that the influence from the second course, i.e. through Dalmatia cannot be even discussed.

The mirror and the comb are very common as funerary motifs on steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, as compared to other regions where they are seldom.

The coffret and the spindle are rarely found in all the regions. They occur on the steles in Macedonia and Hellas, and later on are accepted as funerary ornaments in all parts of the Roman Empire.

The vase is a common decor on the steles originating from the first half of the first until the end of the third century. It has shifted from the votive monuments to the steles in Macedonia, and is later accepted as a decorative element in the Roman headstone art.

Representations of figures are prevalent in this entire region.

The Thracian horseman is rarely displayed as an iconographic theme on the steles from the beginning until the end of the second century (three in total). As a counterpoint, the funerary feast, the bust and the half stature are very common.

The funerary feast is created and displayed since the second half of the first century until the second half of the third century throughout all the regions. During the 4th century BC, this motif is conveyed from the ancient steles to the steles in Macedonia, and later from Macedonia to Moesia, Tracia, Dacia and Rome. The simplified (common) version is spread from Rome to all the provinces of the Empire.

The human shapes appear in the first half of the 1st until the beginning of the 4th century in three basic forms: bust, a half stature and a full stature. The bust is found on 36 gravestones dating from year 70 – 86 until the beginning of the 4th century; the half stature is found on 10 steles dating from the end of the 1st to the first quarter of the 3rd century and the full stature on 6 steles dating from the first half of the 1st to the beginning of the 4th century.

In cases where the shapes are represented as busts or as half statures, it can be said that they are gravestone portraits wherein the craftsman-stonemason strives to represent individual characteristics. The gravestones’ bust can be model in several ways: by shallow, engraved lines, completely neglecting the clothes, on a shallow or salient surface. This means that alongside the shallow linear style, characteristic for the provincial art of the Roman age, we also encounter a salient relief that emphasizes the craftsmen tendencies to project the mass from the surrounding surface, especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when the statures are very salient i.e. highly protruded and resemble feely modeled sculptures, for ex. steles (no.51.61-64).

The rendering of busts on medallions is mainly realistic, i.e. the manner of modeling is in compliance with the general principles of portrait art. Thus these busts can be implemented and dedicated to the departed in every province of the Roman Empire and throughout the entire Imperial rule.

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In the process of creating decorative elements and realistic human representations, apart from the chisel, the craftsmen also used a drilling technique using an auger, slate (no. 1) and steles (no. 13,29, 30, 32, 35, 76, 77, 93, 99, 103); a technique that resembles engraving, stele (no. 78); puncturing, stele (no. 136) and gradation, steles (no.123, 124).

In the process of modeling these motifs, the main stylistic characteristic of the craftsmen is polishing, occuring in the first half of the 1st and lasting until the beginning of the 4th century. Apart from this stylistic characteristic, certain schematic and geometric qualities are apparent starting from the 2nd to the 4th century, especially during the 3rd century. From the end of the 1st century, and particularly around the middle of the 2nd, we come across a tendency for realistic rendition which although rarely present, shall last until the beginning of the 4th century.

The ultimate realism can be seen on stele (no. 128) from Southeastern Macedonia, where the departed is presented with a scarf on her head. In the 2nd and even in the 4th century, there is also an idealization of the deceased present, stele (no. 52) and medallion (no. 137, 138). Apart from stylistic polishing and a schematic quality, the local craftsmen also exhibit certain linearity, a geometric quality, disproportionate dimensions, as well as an effort to fill in the empty spaces, especially in the 3rd century.

The full stature human shape is characteristic for the steles of the Hellenic type, as is the funerary feast and the Thracian horseman, and the bust and the half stature figurines are characteristic for the Roman type steles. Even with steles of purely Roman type, a certain new style indigenous for this region can be sensed through the choice of themes that are a feature of the craftsmen from the South, as well as the manner in which these themes are rendered.

The Hercules knot, different garlands and vases characteristic for the steles originating from the region in the middle section between rivers Axios and Strymon can be found among these motifs dated from the first half of the 1st until the beginning of the 4th century.

Not just the vine, but every ornament is presented in a way that is characteristic only to the studios that worked on this territory in that period. Apart from the decorative function they also had an ethnographical and symbolic meaning that intertwined in the beliefs of the ancient Macedonians, the idea of an eternal life and rebirth. Long after the arrival of the Romans, the craftsmen continue to deal with motifs that were instilled upon them from the past, just adapting them to the tastes of those ordering the steles. The craftsmen – lapidaries had excellent knowledge of the symbolic meaning of the decorative elements, thus their choice and rendering of the headstones cannot be circumstantial. Some of the steles belong to soldiers and legionaries, for ex. to the Legio VII Claudia, the Fifth Macedonian Legion, Fourth Flavian Legion and the Third Gallic Legion, who after serving their duty or untimely release – pension, inhabited this territory. With them, different craftsmen came along that combined their new art skills with the existing knowledge and skills of the people who lived here. Namely, even before the arrival of the Romans, on the

territory of Macedonia headstone, influence by the craftsmen of the South, were being created and used.

And after the arrival of the Romans on Macedonian soil nothing changed in the appearance of headstones. They remained small, rectangular, semicircular or cubic, and only the bust is accepted as a decorative element. The funerary feast, the Thracian horseman and the full statute figure, characteristic to the iconography of the Southern craftsmen (from Macedonia and Hellada) were implemented as motifs on the Roman type steles in Upper Moesia.

In this way a symbiosis between the Roman and the Macedonian-Hellenic architectural and decorative elements was created, which combined with the local interpretation comprise a unique union in the funerary art originating from the territory between the middle sections of rivers Axios and Strymon and dating from the first half of the 1st to the beginning of the fourth century, whose lead bearers are the ancient Macedonians.

A Day of Archaeology from the City of Brotherly Love (And Beyond)

It’s been a typically diverse summer day for me. One of my ongoing projects deals with understanding the initial adoption of pottery technology by the Indian peoples of the Delaware Valley (between roughly 1600 BC and 1000 BC) and subsequent trends in the manufacture and use of pots. Today I reviewed a number of recently published articles on the subject and made arrangements to see collections of pottery from archaeological sites in New Jersey (Gloucester County) and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). I also continued my review and organization of data from an ongoing excavation project I direct, along with graduate student Jeremy Koch, in the Lehigh River Gorge of Pennsylvania. This location is a fantastic layer cake of deposits left by Indian groups beginning around 11,300 years ago and ending in colonial times. The site was brought to our attention by amateur archaeologist, Del Beck, who was concerned about the site being looted. Del remains an important member of our research team along with my old friend and amateur archaeologist, Tommy Davies, and colleagues from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Clarion and Baylor universities. We are currently into our 5th year of investigations at the site and are collecting evidence of native cultures that is rarely seen in buried and undisturbed contexts in Pennsylvania. I’m looking forward to my next trip to the site later this week.

Michael Stewart, archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

 

For the record, I’m not an archaeologist. I manage the regional historic preservation program for the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. General Services Administration. The regional headquarters is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania although the region covers six states from New Jersey to Virginia. We undertake a number of projects for the federal government that involve ground disturbing activities and I manage the regional regulatory compliance, including archaeological investigations. On June 25, 26, and 27 I reported to a customer agency about the ongoing investigation of two historic archaeological sites at their project site in southern Virginia, sent copies of correspondence and archaeological resource identification reports to a couple of Native American tribes who expressed interest in being consulting parties to a Section 106 consultation, prepared a scope of work to direct an archaeological contractor to undertake a survey to identify whether or not there are archaeological resources present in a planned project area, and worked on slides describing how to incorporate archaeology into project planning for a training presentation I’ll be giving in a few months.

Donna Andrews, Regional Historic Preservation Officer, GSA Mid-Atlantic Region, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

 

In the evening of June 25, 2012, I edited a draft of a publication being prepared regarding a multi-component prehistoric site (28GL228) located in New Jersey immediately east of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA). The article will be published in the journal entitled Archaeology of Eastern North America and presented at the 2012 Eastern States Archaeological Federation meeting in Ohio (USA). The data from 28GL228 provides insight into Native American culture in the Philadelphia region. This project is being conducted on a volunteer basis.

Jesse Walker, MA, RPA

 

I, Poul Erik Graversen, MA (Masters), RPA (Registered Professional Archaeologist), spent most of my Monday, June 25, 2012, doing research for my PhD/Doctorate Degree.  I am currently living and working in New Jersey (USA), not far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I grew up; however I attend the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.  Literature on free African Americans in the antebellum northeastern United States is sparse.  The literature that can be found on this very important topic has had little focus on the placement, layout, settlement patterns, and the archaeological record of these people.  My PhD dissertation aims to fill in the gaps of current scholarship focused on African American archaeology in the northeastern United States by means of an in depth analysis of both enslaved and free African American settlements in not only the northeastern United States, but in the southern United States and West Africa as well.  By analyzing the settlement patterns and socio-economic reasons behind the settlement patterns in other parts of the United States and the world, a clearer and more concise picture of the reasons behind the settlement patterns of free and enslaved African Americans in the northeastern United States will emerge.  Most of the information amassed in this regard up to this point stems from a historical perspective, with archaeological contributions and content lacking.  The new information gathered in this dissertation will shed light on the life-ways of these people via the archaeological record of both enslaved and free African American Diaspora in the northeastern United States of America and the ramifications of their extended exposure to European influence in North America. 

Poul Erik Graversen, MA, RPA PhD/Doctoral Candidate University of Leicester
Principle Investigator/Instructor Monmouth University New Jersey USA

 

Worked in the morning on several writing projects including my material culture based memoir: “Some Things of Value: A Childhood Through Objects”, my essay with my colleague Julie Steele on Valley Forge and Petersburg National Park Service sites, and some new stuff on American Mortuary practices inspired by my attendance and paper presentation at last week’s national meeting of the Association for Gravestone Studies held in Monmouth, New Jersey (USA). At about 10:30 am left Temple University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and went to Elfreth’s Alley [the oldest street in the USA) and discussed the excavations now underway, directed by my graduate student Deirdre Kelleher, ably assisted by two energetic volunteers and fellow student Matt Kalos. Three foundations have appeared (not the expected two) and need to be sorted out. Lots of stuff to think about there: the growth of 18th century Philadelphia, perhaps the first settlements there, the 19th century immigration and its impacts, all to be read through material culture; especially the remarkable surviving architecture. Greatly relieved not to get a speeding ticket as I journeyed back to Delaware City (Delaware, USA) where I answered some queries and agreed to some talks; including one on the Fourth of July!! My local historical society is busy trying to save a magnificent mid-18th century farmhouse on an imposing knoll surrounded by lowland farm ground and wetlands. Approved a draft to hopefully speed the preservation process along. Also reviewed the National Register nomination crafted by a group of us working at the Plank Log House in Marcus Hook, Pa., another early structure in the Delaware Valley. Regretfully decided that I could not attend the Fields of Conflict 7th Annual Meeting in Hungary this October. The day ended with a group response, led by my next door neighbor, to save an injured Great Blue Heron which found itself in front of our house. By 8:00 pm the heron was revived and taken care of at a friend’s animal hospital!

David G. Orr, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

I spent the day doing fieldwork at Elfreth’s Alley in Old City Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) as part of my doctoral research.  Elfreth’s Alley, designated as a National Historical Landmark, is credited with being one of the oldest residential streets in the nation.  My research seeks to illuminate the lives of the inhabitants on the Alley, especially the many European immigrants who resided on the small street during the nineteenth century.  This summer, I am working behind 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley which house a small museum and gift shop.  During the day I worked with volunteers from the local community who came out to learn about and participate in the excavation.  I also spent time discussing my project with the many visitors who came to the Museum of Elfreth’s Alley.

Deirdre Kelleher, Doctoral Student, Temple University, Department of Anthropology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

I am a Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA) lecturer who teaches in three programs (Anthropology, Art History, Cultural Heritage); I also am a sole proprietor archaeological consultant with 25 years of archaeological experience – every day is always busy, diverse in the tasks and projects I work on, and linked with archaeology and anthropology. Today I: 1. Finished and submitted a review for a textbook on on Native American history and culture to a major publisher of archaeology and anthropology texts 2. Submitted an application to be listed as an independent archaeological consultant for the state of Pennsylvania 3. Gathered material for, and started writing a draft of, a syllabus for one of three courses I will be teaching next fall (“Cemeteries, Monuments, and Memorials: Cultural Heritage and Remembering the Dead”) 4. Wrote a short draft of an invited book contribution on the topic of an Alaskan archaeological site I helped to excavate in 1987 and 1994.

Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer

 

I just returned from a visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, where I viewed the traveling Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Franklin Institute in which the accompanying artifacts of everyday life illuminate the scrolls themselves. I also was privileged to enjoy a preview of reconstructed transfer-printed creamware pitchers that will be included in an exhibit commemorating the War of 1812.  Curiosity about the images of naval engagements on these Philadelphia artifacts led me to explore similar prints offered on the websites of antique print dealers as well as on the Library of Congress Guide to the War of 1812. Researching Melungeons in aid of a relative’s family history quest, I examined Kenneth B. Tankersley’s work about the Red Bird River Shelter petroglyphs in Clay County, KY.

K. L. Brauer, Maryland, USA

 

June 26, 2012

Today, at Drexel University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), I met with two Digital Media undergraduates developing digital assets representing the James Oronoco Dexter House, the site of which was excavated in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.  The 3D model will eventually serve as a virtual environment in which users interact with avatars and take part in “possible” conversations that led to the formation of the African Church, later known as, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which are known to have occurred in this home. Jason Kirk, a junior who received a Steinbright Career Development Center Research Co-op Award to work on the project, is completing the latest digital model.  Jason and I met with freshman Joseph Tomasso who received a Pennoni Honor’s College STAR (Students Tracking Advanced Research) Fellowship to work on the project. Today is Joe’s first day on the summer term Fellowship. He will develop digital 3D models of appropriate furniture and furnishings that will be used to populate the house.  Virtual artifacts will include ceramics recovered from the archaeological site that are believed to be associated with Dexter’s occupation.  The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for a session with Independence National Historical Park representatives on Wednesday, June 27th.  At that Park meeting we will review the house model and will discuss appropriate virtual furnishings with Park experts.  The model has been prepared with advice from archaeologists Jed Levin and Doug Mooney (who excavated and interpreted the Dexter House site) and guidance from Public Archaeologist, Patrice Jeppson and Karie Diethorn, Chief Curator Independence National Historical Park.

Glen Muschio, Associate Professor, Digital Media, Westphal College, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

Doing archaeology today has entailed a wide range of activities, some not always associated in the public’s mind with archaeology.  I work for a cultural resource management firm. Today’s work has included such mundane activities as reviewing contracts to perform archaeology in Bucks County and the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, USA; firming up logistical efforts to meet with a geomorphologist tomorrow in Delaware County (Pennsylvania); and checking time statements. Fortunately, the day also included putting the finishing touches on an archaeological monitoring report for work in Bucks County. This required nailing down dates for two artifacts found in association with a house foundation. I learned that Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 1930s stamped out automobile license plates with the year that they were issued. I also learned, through a historical marker database on the internet, that the Trenton Brewing company was incorporated in 1891 as a side line business of an ice company and stopped using the name by 1899. These two objects helped to bracket the date of the foundation that had been encountered.  In comparison to the mundane business aspect of doing archaeology, the historical information about the two artifacts, brightened my day.

Kenneth J. Basalik, Ph.D. Pennsylvania USA

 

6/28/12

I work for an engineering company in Pennsylvania (USA) and serve as the Vice President of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). In the course of the day I went over plans for field and laboratory work for a Phase II bridge replacement project that will be starting shortly outside of Philadelphia. I spent time researching the status of industrial archaeological sites in the city for an encyclopedia article. Indications are that in some neighborhoods in the city, between 1990 and 2007, as many of 50% of the documented and listed industrial archaeological sites were completely or partially demolished, or were abandoned or fell into disrepair. In other neighborhoods with higher property values, more sites were preserved by adaptive reuse. In addition, I spent a portion of the day reviewing and proofreading comments on a visit to a laboratory for a major urban archaeological project in Philadelphia.  In the evening, I attended the monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF), an organization that works to promote archaeology in the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia).  After the meeting, I began reviewing the report summary for Phase IB/II testing and the data recovery plan for a major highway project in the city. The goal will be to prepare comments on the documents for submission to the agency that is sponsoring the project, on behalf of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum.

Lauren Cook, Registered Professional Archaeologist, Philadelphia, PA

Waterlogged Day, Waterlogged Wood….

My name is Anne Crone and I am a post-excavation project manager at AOC Archaeology Group, working in their Loanhead office in Scotland. I am currently managing a number of large post-excavation projects, the most important of which is the Cults Landscape Project – important to me because I also carried out the fieldwork in partnership with my colleague, Graeme Cavers, and because it has enabled me to ‘indulge’ many of my research interests, in crannogs, waterlogged wood and dendrochronology.

crannog

The Cults Loch crannog under excavation

 

The fieldwork project has involved the excavation of a number of sites in and around Cults Loch, a small kettlehole loch at Castle Kennedy, near Stranraer in south-west Scotland. The project arose out of the initiative of the Scottish Wetland Archaeology Programme, the aim of which was to more fully integrate wetland archaeology into more mainstream ‘dryland’ archaeology. So we selected a landscape in which the archaeological sites appear to cluster around the loch and within which there were two crannogs – these are man-made islands found only in Scotland and Ireland and which are repositories of all sorts of waterlogged organic goodies!  We have excavated one of the crannogs which sits on a little man-made promontory jutting out into the loch, the promontory fort that lies on the other side of the loch, overlooking the crannog, and one of the palisaded enclosures that lies on the grassland around the loch.

And now we are halfway through the post-excavation programme.  We know that this is a later prehistoric landscape because we have 1st millennium BC radiocarbon dates from the promontory fort and crannog. But more exciting – I have been able to dendro-date some of the oak timbers from the crannog and we now know that most of the building activity took place in the 2nd and 3rd decades of the 5th century BC, and that there was refurbishment of the causeway in 193 BC – for me these more specific dates bring the occupants more clearly into focus…

Today – well, it started off with a 3 mile walk to work – usually a great start when I can think through my schedule for the day – but today the heavens opened and I was soaked by the time I arrived at the office! After drying out I settled down at my desk to read the report on the soil micromorphology from the crannog which my colleague Lynne Roy has just finished. As project manager I need to edit and check each report before it is sent out to the client, in this case Historic Scotland, but as the archaeologist I also want to read it for the insights it will give me into the taphonomy of the deposits on the crannog. And it is really fascinating! We found large patches of laminated plant litter, interspersed with gravel and sand layers which we interpreted as floor coverings that had been repeatedly renewed. Lynne’s analysis has revealed that the occupants probably cleaned away as much as possible of the dirty floor coverings before scattering over a sand and gravel subfloor and then laying down fresh plant litter. She can tell which surfaces were exposed for a length of time while others were covered almost immediately. And her work on the hearth debris indicates that peat turves were probably the main form of fuel on the site.

recording_timbers

Recording timbers in the warehouse

 

Like many archaeologists the majority of my time is spent at my desk, writing reports, editing reports, filling in/updating spreadsheets, and dealing with emails. So it is a pleasure to be able to don my lab coat and spend some time in our warehouse handling waterlogged wood. I am currently writing the report on the structural timbers from the crannog. The majority of the timbers were undressed logs or roundwood stakes, mostly of alder and oak, so most of the recording and sampling was done on the crannog. Samples for dendro and species identification were brought back to the lab but we only brought back complete timbers which displayed interesting carpentry details and were worthy of conservation. I have been completing the recording of these timbers and deciding which ones should be illustrated for the final report. There are some interesting timbers in the assemblage –large horizontal timbers with square mortises, presumably to take vertical posts, but what is the function of the horizontal timbers which have very narrow notches cut diagonally across them? Next week I will be off to the library to look for comparanda and to find explanations for some of the more unusual aspects of the assemblage

Read more about Cults Loch here

 

A Day in the Life of Tuzusai

Tuzusai is an Iron Age site in southeastern Kazakhstan that dates from 400 BC to AD 100.   Our 2012 field season began in early June.  Now one month into our excavations with local workers, we have discovered a house platform and its associated living surface.  In the two weeks a series of smashed storage vessels, jars and cooking vessels have been uncovered on the mud brick platform.  This is the first intact mud brick dwelling on the upper levels found, since large portions of the site have been destroyed by ploughing and re-surfacing, some which took place during the 1960s with the construction of the Big Almatinsky Canal.  Twelve burial kurgans (Iron Age burial mounds) were destroyed.

 

ArchaeoSpain project in Clunia, Spain

A team of students worked this past July on an archaeological dig to unearth the remains of a 9,000-seat Roman theater in the former Roman metropolis of Clunia (in the
present-day province of Burgos, Spain).

The Clunia Team

The Clunia Team

Students, all of whom study Archaeology at various American, Australian and European Universities, joined a team of archaeologists and archaeology students from Spain uncovering important information about how the Romans built and used the theatre. Our scope also included layers of post-use looting, which can tell us what happened to the theater after the final curtain-call. The daily tasks included the excavation and mapping of the site, in addition to extracting and cataloguing artefacts.

Clunia is widely considered by archaeologists as one of Spain’s most fascinating Roman cities, having served as one of northern Hispania’s capitals during the 1st and 2nd centuries. ArchaeoSpain teams consist of between around 10 participants from around the world who join Spanish crews of 10 to 20 more people.

Shannon and the other students have learned not only how to conduct an excavation, but also how to interpret the archaeological clues discovered,

said ArchaeoSpain director Mike Elkin.

Over the past few years, our joint Spanish-international crews have uncovered priceless information about Spain’s ancient past.

In recent years, teams of students joining the ArchaeoSpain fieldschool have assisted in major discoveries at various sites in Spain and Italy. In Valladolid, teams are excavating the necropolis of Pintia, an Iron Age burial site that has revealed important clues about warrior classes from the 5th century B.C. In Pollentia on the island of Mallorca, the high-school group – one of the few archaeological programs for high school students in the world – has been uncovering sections of that city’s Roman Forum. At Monte Testaccio in Rome our team is helping unearth clues about Roman trade throughout the empire. And in Son Peretó, also in Mallorca, we are excavating a Byzantine settlement dating to the 6th century.

Interviews with the project team


SteveShannon

Steve and Shannon

Steve and Shannon

Mike

Mike

Joan

Joan (in Spanish)

Iza

Iza

Fiona

Fiona

Dave

Dave

Dan

Dan

Chelsea

Chelsea

Aixa

Aixa (in Spanish)

Swen

Swen

Tells of space and time….

I’ve always always loved learning and reading about the ancient world. It seems to me to be full of unsolved mysteries and puzzles, tantalizing enigmas about who-done-what and what happened where. Definitely by the time I got to University, I knew I really wasn’t even interested in anything else other than the distant past. I am currently researching for my dissertation in MSc in Web Science at the University of Southampton, and I’m looking at how to represent ambiguities in the spatial and temporal elements of the ancient cities of Mesopotamia.

red pen on line drawing of Code of Hammurabi (Old Babylonian)My path to this MSc has been long and winding. During my undergrad years at Birmingham University I focused on studying Mesopotamia and the cultures of the Early Bronze Age in the Near East. I learnt to read Sumerian cuneiform, as well as various dialects of Akkadian – I’d say that Sumerian and Old Babylonian remain my favourites, and in the course of my current research I’ve got the opportunity to again engage with these elements from my academic past.

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Mapping Sardinian bronze age towers

I’m not an archaeologist, I am really a non-practising historian (specialized in contemporary history). So what am I contributing to an event like this where I decided last minute I may have something to say? I have a passion for archaeology, always had, so much that I took courses at the university to understand archaeology and participated in an excavation (as a student in 2004). I dived into the prehistory of Sardinia and visited archaeological sites. About two years ago I started mapping Sardinian bronze age towers called nuraghi (sing. Nuraghe) using a database and Google Maps to render these on a website available to everyone.  The Sardinian bronze age towers were built between 1800 and 900 BC and range from simple towers to complex multi-towered buildings.

Nuraghe Sorgono Ghilarza

Nuraghe Sorgono at Ghilarza

My work on this small self-defined project is confined to the weekend due to my normal day to day job (yes in the IT, and no nothing to do with my study). On saturdays I pick up the maps of Sardinia published by the Istituto Geografico Militare (IGM) scale 1:25.000 and look for the marks of the nuraghi on these maps. In the past the IGM and archaeologists collaborated to publish archaeological maps of Sardinia and since then the IGM has included them in the newest maps which are of 1989-1990.

I compare the marks to the marked nuraghi on Wikimapia. A number of passionates have started marking the nuraghi on Wikimapia which has made my work that much easier to find the exact geo coordinates. Next I locate the exact position on Google Earth and retrieve the information of the altitude (which is an approximate measurement).
This data, including the name of the municipality and the province of appurtenance, is entered in the database and then published through a Google map on the website. This way in the past two years I have built a database of over 3300 entries and am still working.

A sample of the map of nuraghi

A sample of the map of nuraghi in Google maps

In so far these bronze age towers have been subject to excavations or research I am trying to get as much as possible hold of published material to relate these to the nuraghi. One publication in particular concerns the archaeological maps of 1919-1946 by Antonio Taramelli, which provides also first hand information from the archaeologist, with a list of descriptions of archaeological structures and finds. But there are a lot of publications by many archaeologists with maps and lists of nuraghi or detailed excavation reports.

Obviously there is a concern regarding the preservation of so many prehistoric sites, and there are many more if you include nuragic (prehistoric) villages, tombs, sanctuaries. Many bronze age towers have already been dismantled, the stones used for construction of villages, roads and railroads. By keeping trace of these bronze age structures and publishing a list and a map I hope that my small project may contribute in maintaining this cultural heritage and serve as a bridge between the invaluable work of the archaeologists and the broader public.

Inside nuraghe Santu Antine Torralba

Inside nuraghe Santu Antine TorralbaNuraghe Losa Abbasanta

 

Nuraghe Losa at Abbasanta

Nuraghe Losa at Abbasanta

 

 

 

Resources:

Map of Nuraghi