Ceramics

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section at the British Museu

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section at the British Museum 1. Wrong footed! Working on a New Kingdom wine jar (1930,0614.22) for an international loan, conservator Sarahi Naidorf finds that over painting has been used to tone in a base fragment from another jar. The jar was bought at auction in 1930.

1. Wrong footed! Working on a New Kingdom wine jar (1930,0614.22) for an international loan, conservator Sarahi Naidorf finds that over painting has been used to tone in a base fragment from another jar. The jar was bought at auction in 1930

 

The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals conservation section at the British Museum 2. Conservator Loretta Hogan works on a black-figure amphora (1847,0806.26) bought by the museum in 1847. The very old reconstruction has too much paint and plaster spread over the original ceramic.

The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals conservation section at the British Museum 2. Conservator Loretta Hogan works on a black-figure amphora (1847,0806.26) bought by the museum in 1847. The very old reconstruction has too much paint and plaster spread over the original ceramic.


Day of Archaeology 2016 at Laboratorio de Arqueología ESPOCH Ecuador

Un año más celebramos el Día de a Arqueología en Ecuador, esta vez, en lugar de celebrarlo desde algún yacimiento arqueológico, lo hacemos desde nuestro Laboratorio de Arqueología, situado el la Facultad de Recursos Naturales de la Universidad ESPOCH de Riobamba.

Haremos una jornada de puertas abiertas a todo aquel que quiera acudir a ver y participar en el trabajo que venimos desarrollando los últimos cuatro meses, con el estudio de los materiales procedentes de las 4 prospecciones arqueológicas superficiales realizadas en el cerro Collay (San Vicente, Yaruquíes, Riobamba), Cacha (Riobamba), Flores (Riobamba) y Rumicruz (Riobamba).

La gran mayoría de los materiales son de adscripción Puruhá, fechados entre el Formativo Tardía (700 a.C.) y el Período de Integración Regional (500 d.C.). En sitios como Collay son abundantes también las cerámicas Cañari de la misma época y de la costa con decoración incisa. Mientras que en otros sitios, como cacha, junto a la cerámica Puruhá es muy abundante la cerámica Republicana vidriada (1850-1940).

En estos momentos estamos en la última fase de estudio, escribiendo los informes finales y digitalizando el mayor número de cerámicas posibles. Nos encontramos ante el problema de que no hay casi estudios sobre cerámica Puruhá en época moderna.

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Pots and stats! Moments in a day of a post-doctoral researcher

This is my first blog post for the ‘Day of Archaeology’.

I am going to write about some aspects of the research project which I have been working on for most of the last two years, at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, London, UK.

The focus of my research is the later Egyptian Prehistory, also known as the ‘Predynastic’, a period which covers approximately a millennium (the IV millennium BC) and during which the most fundamental features that characterise the ancient Egyptian civilisation developed: sophisticated funerary rituals, monumental architecture, craft specialisation, the first forms of administrative practices and economic centralisation.

Some areas which I have been trying to investigate through my ongoing research are:

  • chronological and functional variability of settlements;
  • how the process of state formation influenced the life of the inhabitants of the Nile Valley (i.e. how it is reflected in the material culture of settlements, rather than how this process affected the mortuary realm);
  • dynamics of interaction between different cultural spheres extant in Egypt at this early stage.

The archaeological data which I have been using in my research especially concerns pottery and has been collected by me over the course of several study seasons I spent in Egypt in the past and in recent years.

Hk, Egypt / 2013 season: sorting pottery…

Some pottery collections held at the Petrie Museum and the British Museum in London, as well as unpublished archival records and published reports, pertaining to pottery which is not available for visual inspection and analysis, have provided further valuable data.

Potsherd analysis forms archive

Potsherd analysis forms archive

Re-use of data produced by other researchers and the integration with data collected by myself, though necessary for having a base of data as large as possible, has been quite challenging at many points, because of the different terminological conventions and multiplicity of systems employed for the classification and recording of the Predynastic ceramic material. Thus, initially part of my work has consisted in tracking correspondences (or lack thereof) amongst terms and codes used in different systems for indicating ceramic wares or shapes. Here one of my first attempts towards ‘translating’ (also visually) the code of a specific ceramic category from one classification system to another one.

Database setting_ceramic codes correspondences_form

Database setting: ceramic codes correspondence form

This integrated corpus of data has been the basis for conducting a series of quantitative and statistical analyses, aiming at identifying potentially significant patterns. In the ceramic assemblage of certain sites, several technological and morphological developments can be traced, for example appearance of new fabrics and the decline of others (see picture below); adoption of new ceramic shapes, etc. These developments seem to have a chronological meaning and, in some cases, reflect wider changes taking place within the society and economy in the course of the Late Predynastic, the period of state formation, in Egypt.

Ceramic fabric variation across a stratigraphic sondage_Nekhen, Egypt

Ceramic fabric variation across a stratigraphic sondage (Nekhen, Egypt)

I learnt the analytical methods I have applied and how to use the software to perform such analyses as part of a specific training program I followed. The research project has been supported by a funding scheme (Marie Curie Actions) which specifically fosters advanced training and career development of researchers.

I feel so privileged for this exciting experience of research and training! Equally, I am grateful for the support I have received from my teachers, mentors and colleagues in the past and in more recent years!

Many happy returns … for this Day of Archaeology!

Grazia

You can find out more about the project on this webpage.

Uncovering Pollentia as Aspiring Archaeologists

Our names are Kiana and Addie, and we are high school volunteers helping to excavate a forum in the ancient Roman town of Pollentia. We are there through a program called Archaeospain, one of the few programs that offers authentic excavation experience for high schoolers, particularly those living in the US.

Mia and Nour

Pollentia is a Roman city on the island of Mallorca, and despite the fact that the site has been active since the 1920s, this project has been going on since the 1990s, working with The University of Barcelona and La Laguna University of the Canary Islands. This year a group of about thirty people, a mix of students, volunteers, and professionals, are working on the Forum and surrounding area. Addie and I are excavating a room that would have been a shop in the Roman market. We spend our mornings from 7:30 to 1 on site, and the afternoons from 3 to 5:30 washing and organizing pottery. This is the first week of a month long excavation, and the past few days have been spent “cleaning” the site, removing the weeds and the “superficial” layers of dirt. But even in just cleaning we have uncovered several pounds of pottery and bone. The most difficult aspect of the digging itself is not the actual finding artifacts, but finding the “layers” they belong to; understanding the differences in the the colors of the dirt and what they mean, how the layers correlate chronologically, and how to find the age of a section, or whether it has ever been uncovered before.

Addie Sifting

Part of our area has already been partially excavated, meaning that we also get to work with the “Roman layer,” the section that we know to be from the original city. Here, we have to be much more careful, working not with pick axes but with scraping tools and brushes, sifting all excess dirt to make sure we haven’t missed even the tiniest shard of pottery.

In the afternoon we sit around buckets of water and scrub our findings with nail brushes, whilst attempting to communicate with the slew of international students and volunteers, laughing and speaking Spanish to the best of our ability. Then we lay the pottery shards out to dry and label and file yesterday’s pottery in specific bags, which are then stored for later analysis.

While the digging itself is hard physically, and the labeling and analyzing can be tedious and time consuming, but each shard of broken pottery sparks excitement as we take one more step towards understanding the past of humanity.

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Maya Research Program’ s 23rd archaeological field season in Belize

MRP Logo 2013

What is the Maya Research Program?

The Maya Research Program is a U.S.-based non-profit organization (501C3) that sponsors archaeological and ethnographic research in Middle America. Each summer since 1992, we have sponsored archaeological fieldwork in northwestern Belize and ethnographic research in the village of Yaxunah, Mexico. The Maya Research Program is affiliated with the University of Texas at Tyler.

Our goal is, first and foremost, to conduct research that helps us better understand the complex ancient societies of the Americas. MRP is proud to have a diverse staff of talented scientists contributing to this goal and many of our affiliated scholars are recognized as leaders in their fields. Recent support has come from the Archaeological Institute of America, National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, the Heinz Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In addition, the Blue Creek field school has been certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists and the project was recognized as the winner of the Archaeological Institute of America’s Excavation Outreach contest.

Another key MRP goal is to encourage the participation of students and volunteers — anyone who wants to experience the real world of archaeological or anthropological research and understand how we learn about cultures may join us. We see this as a critical educational component of MRP’s work and it helps us accomplish our research goals as well. The ages of our participants range from 18 to over 80. So many of our participants return year after year that MRP has become an extended family. About half of our participants are university students under 30 years old and the other half are professionals and retirees. While the majority of participants come from the United States and Canada, we have students from Australian,  European, Latin American, and Japanese institutions as well. For students, academic credit can usually be arranged either via UTT or the student’s home institution. Many of our students go on to become successful graduate students in archaeology or a related field and return to focus on MRP projects for their theses and dissertations.

In 2014 and 2015 we again offer opportunities to participate in our field program and learn about the Maya of the past and today. The Blue Creek Archaeological Project is open to student and non-student participants, regardless of experience. The field school has been certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists and participants will receive training in archaeological field and laboratory techniques. Academic credit and scholarships are available. We invite students and volunteers to participate in the Maya Research Program’s  archaeological field season in northwestern Belize.

2014 Season Dates:
Session 1: Monday May 26 to Sunday June 8
Session 2: Monday June 9 to Sunday June 22
Session 3: Monday June 30 to Sunday July 13
Session 4: Monday July 14 to Sunday July 27

2015 Season Dates:

Session 1: Monday June 1st to Sunday June 14th

Session 2: Monday June 15th to Sunday June 28th

Session 3: Monday July 6th to Sunday July 19th

Session 4: Monday July 20th to Sunday August 2nd

If you are interested in joining the team this summer or next  – please get in touch soon as space is limited! If you have any questions – please don’t hesitate to contact us:

Maya Research Program
1910 East Southeast Loop 323
#296; Tyler, Texas 75701
Phone: 817-831-9011
Email: mrpinquiries@gmail.com

MRP’s 23rd archaeological field season in Belize

The Maya Research Program is having a very successful 23rd archaeological field season in northwestern Belize! This summer we are concentrating on the site of Xnoha. Xnoha is a medium sized Maya center located on the edge of the Alacranes Bajo. We are delineating the architecture of the site core, three of its elite residences, and a possible shrine structure. In addition, we have recorded and conserved the mural recovered from Tulix Mul, secured numerous soil samples from wetland features, and finalized excavations at “Alvin’s Cave” and “Rice Mill Cave 3.” Our bioarchaeology field school is active this session and we are looking forward to our 3D modeling and photogrammetry workshop next week.  If you are interested in seeing weekly updates from the field – you can follow our progress on our Facebook page or via the photo gallery on our website.

 


A day in the life of… a community archaeologist!

My name is Sam Rowe and I’ve been an archaeologist since graduating in 2009. I am currently the Community Archaeologist at the Museum of Liverpool where I have worked for 3 years.

Being a Community Archaeologist means doing a whole host a different jobs in one go. One day I be working with volunteers on an excavation or in the museum on a handling session, and the next I will be writing project reports and the more tedious tasks (like finances!) No day is ever the same which makes it such an exciting job! The best part of the job is working with a range of different people and bringing people closer to the archaeology of their local area.

For the last three weeks I’ve been managing a community excavation in Rainford in St Helens, Merseyside, as part of the ‘Rainford’s Roots community archaeology project’ (www.rainfordsroots.com). We have been excavating the site of an industrial clay tobacco pipe workshop on a site now occupied by Rainford library.

This season’s dig has been hugely successful with lots of volunteers getting their hands dirty and learning new skills. We’ve had people excavating, recording, taking survey measurements, and washing finds, and a whole host of visitors have been to take a look at the site. We’ve also installed a small case of objects inside the library to display objects found during our excavations.

We uncovered a whole host of objects associated with previous activity on the site including clay tobacco pipes, kiln waste from the production process, industrial waste (slag), animal bones, glass and a whole range of pottery. Industrial archaeology isn’t always the most exciting project in term of finds (you won’t be finding neolithic flints or Roman coins!), but there is always something to find and is a fantastic introduction to practical archaeology. It’s a great way to get out of doors, meeting new people, and learning about local heritage.

Today I am writing a presentation on the project and getting prepared to host a tour of a new display case in the Museum of Liverpool which exhibits a huge collection of post medieval ceramics discovered during the Rainford’s Roots project over the last two years.

You can follow the project on twitter @rainfordsroots and facebook.

You can found out more about community archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool on their website:

Volunteers excavating and recording the site at Rainford library

Volunteers excavating and recording the site at Rainford library

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Breadwinning & Archaeology – It´s Part of the Game, Folks!

Maria Beierlein de Gutierrez, Yavi-Chicha ceramic, colonial ceramic and plastic container

Maria Beierlein de Gutierrez, Yavi-Chicha ceramic, colonial ceramic and plastic container

When I found out about the Day of Archaeology, my heart went out to it. I was inspired to write about this day to make the world know what all these supposedly dusty archaeologists are working on. Let me put my grain of sand to it! As an archaeologist, I am working for 10 years now in a remote region of South America: the Altiplano de Sama in South Bolivia. Home to a overwhelming regional culture called Yavi-Chicha, which has been consistent for as long as 1000 years between 500 and 1535 A.C. We don’t know much about it, and that is where all my questions about it come from. Who were these people? Why were they so self-constrained but at the same time so widely spread in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina? Apart from this archaeological work I have been writing at Language of Things on materiality, museums, archaeology and other musings. Its kind of a non-scientific channel of work.

And it was when I heard about the actual DAY of archaeology, the 11th of July, that I realized that maybe my Day of Archaeology would depict something typical of archaeological work, but that is NOT included in the least in the popular vision of “the shovel-swinging archaeologist“. It´s the fact that I won’t be doing “archaeology” in the term of “working in the field/lab”. Instead, I will be dedicating half of the day to the work that earns my and my family´s daily bread. Which has nothing whatsoever to do with archaeology. And the other half of the day I organized someone who will take care to pick up my son from school and I myself will be off: to a course on museum on “Teaching & Curating“. And by now, I can almost see the question marks in the eyes of everyone. What the hell has all this to do with archaeology? I can tell you.

Archaeology, as has been stated over and over by some awful colleagues (have a look here, if you like), is a job which is almost always underpaid. That is, if you get a job at all. Which I haven’t. At least not an archaeological one. I am working in an office, and all my archaeological work, the writing, thinking and analyzing sherds, has been reduced to my spare time. Which is not much, considering that I am alone with my son because his dad is doing an extended fieldwork session far away (which I support, by the way, so I won’t complain about this). But this means that time is reduced to the wee hours of the night. And I am not alone in this – almost every archaeologist I know has some sideline of work that has NOTHING to do with archaeology – but it pays our rent.

Over the years, this situation became more and more intolerable to my archaeological soul and I decided to go off and try another line of work, one with is more in line with archaeology. Which is where the second half of my “Day of Archaeology” comes in. Curating & teaching at a museum is in line with my fervent belief that we have to communicate archaeology and the past, as much and as best we can. So I took this course consisting of 5 modules, and am learning about curating & teaching at the museum. I am trying for a year now to get into it, but museums (as well as archaeology as a career) scarcely offer “real” jobs. And I can’t afford to apply to almost unpaid internships. And I can’t be taking courses which require me to move house for 6 months and stay away from my home for weeks on end. Someone was joking these days that archaeologists don’t have kids and its true: doing archaeology is difficult if you want to raise children at the same time.

So, this is my day of archaeology: earning the daily bread in an office. Going off by noon, I switch over to the museum to take the course in order to get back to a job related to archaeology. And in the night, after sharing s´thoughts with colleagues as concerned with museum teaching as I am, I will be reading literature on sherds and ceramic analysis. Because in the end, something wonderful has happened: I can prepare myself and our son for a trip to South America, going to analyze some hundred sherds of the formative and regional period – i.e. between 500 b.C. – 1535 a.C. I got funded for a four-week-trip and we will be doing this together. That’s the other side of archaeology: you get all the “exotic” fieldwork you ever wanted. So I will be back to where the photo above comes from: Bolivia. Seeing pots.

And this means that, again, I have to be 100 % prepared on topics like “style“, “material culture” and the meaning of things in a society that lived some 600-1000 years ago. It’s one of the most fascinating works Ive ever known and I have to admit that I will never cease to speak about its relevance to us. These sherds mean so much to the people that live right now in this region, that they founded a society that reincarnates the past to the living people. They claim to be descendants of the producers of this ceramic I am studying. They see these past people as their ancestors, as their cultural roots. If THIS is not relevance of the past to the here and now, I don’t know what could ever be relevant. It´s risky and its controversial, but it IS a real connection of today’s people to a past. A past that has been created and transformed, but a past that matters in a very direct way to many persons.

So, maybe my “Day of Archaeology” can sum up some parts of archaeology, even if I am not working currently in an archaeological job. But the non-archaeological bread winning, the desire of being currently developing skills to communicate our field of study and the practical work of studying a part of the past that is relevant to living people – maybe these three things can make clear what archaeologists do.

Let´s do it again&again&again!

Research team at Torohuayco, Sama, Bolivia, in 2007.

Research team at Torohuayco, Sama, Bolivia, in 2007.

 

2013 Day of Archaeology Festival Thank You!

The D.C. Historic Preservation Office (DC HPO) would like to thank everyone who came out and supported the 2013 Day of Archaeology Festival!  Thank you for stopping by our table and participating in our activities, we really enjoyed having you.   We would also like to thank Archaeology in the Community, for hosting the D.C. festival. 

It was a very successful event!

For those of you who wish to learn more about the DC HPO, within the Office of Planning, please navigate to our website.

The DC HPO presented on Prehistoric Pottery and Historic Ceramic assemblages, found in DC archaeological sites.  Displays were complete with signage and artifacts.  Visitors were engaged in a variety of activities, such as the “What is This?” game, where visitors had to guess the identity and function of artifacts on display.  The Stratigraphy Exercise, where visitors matched artifacts to associated soil contexts.  And, finally, the Pinch Pot making station, where visitors make their own clay Pinch Pots using prehistoric-themed tools and techniques.  It was a huge hit with the kids!

Scroll down to view photos!

Photos and Captions Blog Photos and Captions

 

Ceramics and Cultural Interactions on the Colonial Frontier

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

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

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

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