Chicago

Professional, Avocational and Public Involvement in Archaeology in Arkansas

This year’s “Day of Archaeology” finds me attempting to reorder my life just following the 2012 Arkansas Archeological Society Summer Training Program.

The Arkansas Archeological Society (AAS) was formed in 1960. It is open to anyone—from any walk of life—who is interested in archaeology.  This year I dug alongside retired school teachers, firemen, administrative assistants, college students, engineers, electricians, high school students, retired mill workers, social workers, research foresters, park interpreters (and park superintendents)  and college English instructors.  Many of these so-called avocationals have been doing archaeology for more years than me (some longer than I’ve been alive).  Two of our long time volunteers this year were 86 years old.  Anna Parks has been coming to the AAS “Summer Dig” since the 1970s, and Van Schmutz shoveled all day long in the hot sun despite his age.  Our youngest was 9 years old— Andy Colman who came with her mom, Carolyn, from Chicago, Illinois to learn about archaeology.

The 1836 Hempstead County Courthouse is ever present during our work at Historic Washington State Park in Arkansas.

Way back in 1964, a series of weekend excavations began under the direction of University of Arkansas Museum archaeologists and AAS members.  In the late 1960s the AAS was instrumental in lobbying my organization—the Arkansas Archeological Survey—into existence.  Thus the Survey and Society began partnering on digs by 1967.  By 1972, what had begun as a series of weekend events had expanded into a 16-day training program with excavations at various sites across the state.  Some have claimed that it’s the oldest and best program of its type in the country.

For the second year in a row I had the honor of directing the AAS Summer Dig at Historic Washington State Park in the southwestern portion of the state of Arkansas in the southern United States.  Between June 9 and June 24, 2012 over 100 volunteers and staff helped me investigate the site of an 1830s commercial district on what would have then been the edge of western expansion of the United States (Washington was a border town with first Mexico and then the Republic of Texas until Texas was annexed in the late 1840s).

The AAS has been doing archaeology in Historic Washington State Park since 1980, but these last two years have focused on the merchant district for which we have very few historical documents.  There are no known photographs and only a single map from 1926—long after fires in the 1870s and 1880s put an end to this vibrant business area.  Over the last two field seasons we have recovered the remains of at least 6 different buildings,  4-6 cellars and/or trash pits and tens of thousands of artifacts that will help us tell the story of this once important regional hub on the edge of the “cotton frontier.”

The archaeology was great, but I am always amazed at the layers of public archaeology going on at these events.  On one level we are teaching

the volunteers how to be archaeologists—not only through digging but also through a series of half-day seminars taught in two sessions throughout the dig.  This year we offered Basic Excavation (for first time attendees), Basic Laboratory Procedures, Site Survey, Mapping, Human Osteology, Indians of Arkansas, and Establishing Time (a class that helps volunteers understand dating techniques used by archaeologists).

On a second level of public archaeology, the volunteers and professionals on site then educate the general public about the value and methods of archaeology.  As we were excavating in an Arkansas State Park this year this was done constantly as we has many curious visitors every day.  Although I was “running the show” I rarely had to stop my work to help explain things to visitors as one of my colleagues and/or volunteers would quickly rush in to take over (and even demonstrate) what we were doing.

Of course, although the dig ended on June 24, there is still much to do.  In these days following the 2012 Summer Training Program I (and Carl Carlson-Drexler, my Research Station Assistant) have been moving equipment, organizing paperwork and field notes…Today I’m captioning the hundreds of digital photographs taken during the dig.  The two years of digging in the merchant district in Historic Washington State Park has produced more than twice the amount of artifacts than I recovered during my dissertation research (and I poked at that site for almost a decade!)…so I now have my work cut out for me…

More pictures from the 2012 AAS Summer Training Program can be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jcbrandon/sets/72157630003963231/

Pictures from last year’s dig (2011) can be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jcbrandon/sets/72157627004408646/

Find out more about the Arkansas Archeological Society at their website: http://arkarch.org/

 

You can read more about the AAS work at Historic Washington State Park at my Farther Along blog:

http://fartheralong.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/dirty-laundry-cloth-artifact-bags-in-arkansas/

http://fartheralong.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/more-digging-for-history/

http://fartheralong.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/preliminary-results-of-the-2011-aas-summer-training-program-at-historic-washington-arkansas/

http://fartheralong.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/digging-for-history-the-arkansas-archeological-society-training-program-returns-to-the-town-of-washington-in-southwest-arkansas/

http://fartheralong.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/spring-break-dig-on-block-6-in-historic-washington-arkansas/

 

5 Reasons Why I Became an Archaeologist

1. Travel

Ever since my parents took me on a trip to the Caribbean as a child, I plotted to find a way to spend every winter in the tropics. I wanted to get paid to travel. I wanted to escape the Chicago snow.

My chance came in grad school when I had the opportunity to teach field schools in Belize. I was in grad school for a long time so I was able to look forward to flying south with the birds each time spring semester rolled around.

Since completing my MA and PhD in Archaeology I’ve continued living a nomadic life by working on projects in Mexico, California, and Arizona. What I didn’t expect was that I’d eventually tire of travel after moving from motel to motel off remote desert highways as a CRM archaeologist. So now I’m what they call an armchair archaeologist, and today I’m exploring world archaeology via posts to this blog.

(more…)

Archaeological Publishing

I’m an archaeologist, and I’m also a publisher. Many of my colleagues in the Publications Office of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA, founded in 1881) in Princeton, New Jersey, were archaeologists first, and edit, proofread, typeset, and manage the creation and production of our quarterly journal, Hesperia, as well as a wide variety of books. We work in the field when we can, but our primary job is to publish the work of the School: excavation reports and monographs of the Athenian Agora, of Corinth, and of affiliated excavations, as well as the publication of the work of our friends in the Gennadius Library, the Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory, and the Archives, plus the research of scholars working within the broad field of Greek archaeology of all periods. The ASCSA is charged by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism with primary responsibility for all American archaeological research, and seeks to support the investigation, preservation, and presentation of Greece’s cultural heritage. ASCSA’s publications satisfy the last part of our mission.

The week leading up to the Day of Archaeology has been an extraordinary one for us in Publications. We just received our advance copies of Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, by Betsey A. Robinson (Vanderbilt University). The creation of this interdisciplinary volume utilized, for the first time at the ASCSA, a dedicated project wiki, and favored the digital exchange of files and comments outside of email. Communication between project team members in several U.S. and in Greece was both constant and transparent making for quick turnaround. We used Google Sites for the wiki which was the project’s hub at host for files, Skype for voice/video communication, Adobe Creative Suite 5 for design. We also assigned digital object identifiers (DOIs) for the first time within an ASCSA book so that readers could view large, high-resolution plans online. Post-production, we’re using (also for the first time) Facebook and Twitter in conjunction with print media to promote and market the book, and are putting review copies into the hands of traditional reviewers like the Bryn Mawr Classical Review as well as into the in-boxes (and Dropboxes) of archaeologists in the blogosphere. Archaeological publication has to include ways of letting the world know new research has been published.

Other books in production for 2011 include volumes on Greek manuscripts, Bronze Age Tsoungiza, Sikyon, Athenian pottey, Byzantine graves and human remains at Isthmia, dedicatory monument inscriptions from the Athenian Agora, and a collection of articles on houses and households in ancient Crete. We split the editorial and proofreading duties between our full-time staff of editors and freelancers who have been trained in the ASCSA’s house style (modified Chicago style) as well as in archaeology and Classics.

Hesperia, the journal of the ASCSA, has recently undergone some changes to make it more contemporary, useful, and accessible to archaeologists and other scholars worldwide. On August 1st, the journal’s full run (80 volumes from 1932 until now), becomes available on JSTOR’s Current Scholarship Program. All issues of the journal have never been online in a single location before, so now readers can browse across all articles from the past 80 years.

With Hesperia appearing both in print and online, we wanted to be able to begin to take advantage of the Internet in allowing us to host digital editions of issues that contain full-color images, something that is prohibitively expensive to print. For issue 80.2 which will be released on August 1st, we’re including a free, LH IIA2 pottery catalogue from Tsoungiza both as a PDF file, but also as an HTML webpage for improved usability. For some archaeological publication of data, we need to think beyond what can be printed, and consider other ways of presenting archaeological data for the use of other scholars and researchers. We hope to host everything from color images to 3D reconstructions to entire data sets. The full-color article and online supplemental material are first-steps in that direction.

We are also venturing into open-access content for Hesperia, and have begun to post articles for free on our website. We expect this section to grow considerably over time.

Lest people think that archaeological publishing consists of musty-dusty tomes, we are currently embarking on a program of eBook creation, providing both print and digital editions of new titles to our readers, ultimately digging into our back-list to make older books available digitally, too, in a format that can be both searched and annotated and are not merely page-scans saved as PDFs.

Ultimately we hope to produce apps that will merge archaeological texts with multimedia, GPS functionality, data, and more, providing a reader full context. As all archaeologists know, context is key.

On July 29th, the Day of Archaeology, I will be meeting with editors and archaeologists both in person and via Skype as we plan a new way to manage our publishing projects with less paper, more speed, and better communication. We’ll also be reviewing the f&gs (folded & gathered sheets) for the print edition of Hesperia 80.2 prior to approving the issue for binding. I’ll assist our designer with typesetting our monograph on Greek manuscripts. I’ll be emailing several of our authors who are currently in the field in Greece and in Turkey about the status of their books and articles. I’ll look at a lot of digital images of pots. And I’ll probably take a break to go through the Publications archives to catalogue some correspondence from the 1930s and 1940s, finding delight in hand-written notes and typescript pages marked in pencil.

I was an archaeologist before I became a publisher. I excavated at Isthmia (Greece) and Poggio Civitate (Italy). I earned my MA in art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri – Columbia, and my BA in archaeology (double-major with writing) from the University of Evansville. I’m tickled that I am publishing an article by my undergraduate adviser this week. And I am honored to be publishing Agora “blue books”, Corinth “red books” as well as Hesperia (and Hesperia supplements), series that I used extensively during my student years. I love being a publisher, and I love publishing the work of my peers and of my heroes.

SAA at Garfield Park, Washington, DC

 The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) is participating in the Day of Archaeology 2011 festival at Garfield Park in Washington, DC.  Today I’m preparing materials to distribute to kids, families, teachers, and anyone else who drops by.   We’ll also have some hands-on archaeology activities at the booth. The festival is sponsored by Archaeology in the Community--a network of archaeologists, anthropologists, teachers, and volunteers working together to make archaeology accessible to youth, schools, and community organizations though creative programs and community projects. Look for additional posts about the festival from organizer Alexandra Jones.