Connecticut

A Day in Archaeology from a Desk in Connecticut

This is my third Day of Archaeology as an archaeologist at the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT).  Honestly, I really tried to find an excuse to get out and do some “field work” so I could impress you all with my exciting job.  However, the truth is most of my work is done from my desk.  Before I begin I do want to put in a plug for CTDOT’s latest publication “Highways to History: The Archaeology of Connecticut’s 18th-Century Lifeways.”  The book has been in such high demand here that our office is currently out of hardcopies.

On to my day – Today I’m preparing for the ADC50 Summer Meeting next week in San Antonio.  ADC50 is the Committee on Historic and Archaeological Preservation in Transportation that’s a part of the larger Transportation Research Board.  My paper, “Public Outreach and the Section 106 Process: A View from the Connecticut Department of Transportation” is part of the electronic symposium, “Then and Now: Perspectives on Effectively Engaging the Public.”  Our papers were submitted early so participants and attendees can read them ahead of time.  Participants will only give a 5 minute presentation, leaving most of the time for discussion.  I’m really excited about this arrangement after attending the latest SAA conference and finding that the forums and panels where discussion took place were far more interesting than the paper sessions.  So I’ve got to read the other papers in the session so I’m well prepared!

Today I’m also working on a project review for a rail bridge in Norwalk over Osborne Avenue (Osborne Ave Bridge).  The rail bridge, built in 1894, is in need of a new superstructure, and the masonry substructure will be rehabilitated.  For all the projects I review I compile current and historic maps to gauge the potential for a project to impact archaeological or historical resources.  The map, created in ArcView GIS, looks like this: CTDOT Review Map.  (The large circles on the right side indicate known archaeological sites.  The symbols are enlarged to prevent specific site locations becoming public knowledge.)  Maps like this are shared with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and involved federal agencies to help determine the effect a project will have on historic properties.  Clearly this project in Norwalk does not have any archaeological sensitivity because of past disturbance.  The soils within the project area are classified as Urban Land.  Replacing a superstructure on a bridge that’s 120 years old may be another matter that I will be discussing with SHPO.

Outside of my paid job today I will be working on a Survey and Planning Grant application for the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology, who are applying for funding from the SHPO to research and record some archaeological sites with the intention of designating them as State Archaeological Preserves.  I am also looking forward to reading all about other archaeologists’ exciting adventures!

Another Day in Transportation Archaeology

It’s a rainy day here in Connecticut, but that’s not going to stop me from heading out into the “field.”  Not much has changed since my 2012 post.  I am still employed at the Connecticut Department of Transportation reviewing projects for impacts to archaeological and historic resources, and I am still the Connecticut Archaeology Awareness Month Coordinator.

Working in cultural resource management for a state agency is a balancing act.  There are so many transportation projects in the works and only a few people on staff to review them.  One of the things I find most challenging is keeping all of our engineers happy and their projects moving forward while also preserving as many cultural resources as possible.  Everyone’s budget is tight these days, everyone has their own set of priorities, and it’s my job to remind everyone that consideration of cultural resources is a value to the public (and required by federal and state laws).

Today my job included the review of a Phase I Archaeological Assessment and Reconnaissance survey report completed by one of our on-call consultants, the review of a project area in Pomfret, CT to assess the archaeological sensitivity of the soils around a bridge that is proposed to be replaced, a visit to a construction site in Waterford, CT where a bridge is being replaced, and a visit to Old Saybrook to visit my old friends from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.

The project area in Pomfret abuts the historic South Cemetery.  Though the Cemetery will not be directly impacted by the bridge replacement, a temporary utility pole will be installed on the property.  Because this is a project partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration the eligibility of South Cemetery for the National Register of Historic Places will need to be determined to establish whether or not this is a Section 4(f) property in regards to the Department of Transportation Act.  If the Cemetery is deemed eligible the appropriate documentation of the impacts of the use of the property will need to be completed.

South Cemetery in Pomfret, CT

South Cemetery in Pomfret, CT

 

There were no concerns about the archaeological sensitivity of the project area.  There was plenty of evidence of erosion, disturbance, and filling around the bridge, likely associated with flooding events of the Wappoquia Brook.

Disturbance along the roadside  at the proposed bridge replacement in Pomfret, CT

 

I stopped by a bridge replacement project in Waterford, CT that I have been monitoring since I began this job last summmer.  There was a Native burial discovered upstream from the bridge decades ago, and the consulting tribes had some concern about any potentially undisturbed soils in the project area.  I check in with the engineer and contractor whenever there is any kind of excavation on site.  So far the entire project area has disturbed soils with a lot of volkswagon parts.

 

Bridge construction on RT 1 in Waterford, CT

Bridge construction on RT 1 in Waterford, CT

 

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center has funding from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program Grant for the Battlefields of the Pequot War project (http://pequotwar.org/).  Currently they are surveying in Old Saybrook, CT and finding evidence of a skirmish between the English, who had a fort at Saybrook Point, and the Pequot.  Today Dave Naumec, senior researcher, found a musket ball!  The Pequot Museum is doing fascinating, ground-breaking work!

 

Dave Naumec finds a musket ball in Old Saybrook, CT

Dave Naumec finds a musket ball in Old Saybrook, CT

Pequot War era musket ball found in Old Saybrook, CT

Pequot War era musket ball found in Old Saybrook, CT

 

Outside of my paying job I have my volunteer responsibilities.  As the CT Archaeology Awareness Month Coordinator I am once again helping to organize an Archaeology Fair.  This year’s Fair is scheduled for October 19th in Wethersfield, CT (shameless plug).  Fortunately, this year I have a Committee of volunteers assisting in the planning of the Fair.  Today I’m sorting out the logistics of having the Fair flyer finalized, printed, and distributed.

That sums up my Day of Archaeology.  See you next year!

A Day in Transportation Archaeology

A shot of where I spent my day

This year my Day of Archaeology is quite different from last year (http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/digging-with-kids-historic-archaeology-education-and-fun/).  I have recently begun a new career as a Transportation Planner in the Office of Environmental Review at the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT).  My education and background in archaeology are what allow me to do preliminary project reviews for impacts to historic and cultural resources.  At the CT DOT, projects can vary from line painting on a road, to bridge replacement, to major infrastructure construction.  What I do day-to-day changes and it certainly keeps the job interesting.  Outside of work I also have other commitments of an archaeological nature.  I am on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology (FOSA), and I also volunteer my time running public archaeological excavations for local museums.  A lot of my “free” time is used organizing events.

Here is a general schedule of what my day looked like today:

6:15-6:45AM: While eating breakfast I spent time searching for organization contact information to solicit participants for FOSA’s Public Archaeology Fair, which will be held Oct. 27th 2012 in Wethersfield, CT.

7:00-7:30AM: While commuting to work I listened to The Archaeology Channel’s podcast (http://www.archaeologychannel.org/AudioNews.asp).

7:30-9:00AM: At the office I organized site maps and photos and filled out archaeology site forms to be submitted to the CT State Historic Preservation Office (CT SHPO) and CT State Archaeologist in order to get site numbers for two historic bridge and mill sites (in Plymouth and Woodbury) that were identified while out on a bridge survey last month.  This site information will eventually be added to the database of CT archaeological sites maintained by the CT SHPO and CT State Archaeologist.  This information is used by state officials for planning purposes and by CRM firms for research purposes.

9:00-11:00AM: I organized project information, maps, and recommendations to submit to the CT SHPO for review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA).

11:00AM-4:00PM: I reviewed 4 new projects for impacts to socio-economic resources, parks, refuges, scenic roads and bikeways.  (My job actually entails investigating impacts beyond cultural resources under NEPA & CEPA.)  These projects included bridge replacements and roadway and utility improvements.

5:00-6:00PM: Sent e-mails asking (begging & pleading) local archaeology and historical groups to participate in FOSA’s Public Archaeology Fair, sent out a rough draft of an advertising blurb for the event, and sent my FOSA Archaeology Awareness Month Committee an update.

That just about sums up my day.  Suffice it to say, much of my day revolves around archaeology in some way, even though I spend less and less time in the dirt.

 

Digging with Kids: Historic Archaeology, Education, and Fun

The Kids Are Scientists Too (KAST), Archaeology Field School for Kids has been held annually since 2004 at the Farwell House site in Storrs, CT, USA on the campus of the University of Connecticut.  Children between the ages of 9 & 15 are able to learn the scientific methods of archaeology by excavating a real archaeological site.

Farwell House

The Farwell House was built in the mid-18th century and occupied by the Farwell family until 1908.  The house was sold in the early 20th century, and shortly thereafter the University acquired the House.  The House served as a dormitory until the University determined maintenance costs were too high. The House was burned down in a fire training exercise in 1976.  At that time the house was the oldest in town.  The foundation was filled in, and the only research conducted on the site has been by children participating in the KAST dig.

The site is ready for Field School

Each summer new units are excavated in what once was the front, back, or side yards of the House.  Much of what the students discover in the upper layers relates to the burning episode.  Below the burn layer are artifacts dating to the occupation of the House and date to the 18th-19th centuries.

All excavations are overseen by a professional archaeologist, and reports are filed with the State Historic Preservation Office.  Now that the program is in its 8th year with its 5th staff archaeologist, questions about excavation strategy, professionalism, and the future of the site and the KAST program are coming to the fore.  This year has been especially introspective and self-critical.  As we move forward we want to insure not only an enjoyable experience for the students, but a professional investigation of an historic archaeological site that answers real research questions and makes a contribution to not only the archaeological community, but to the larger community.

The KAST Field School has run for the last week and concluded Friday the 29th of July 2011.  After 4 days of excavation the students spent a day in the “lab” at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.  Activities included washing and identifying artifacts and creating a display of their finds that will remain on exhibit at the Museum.

KAST excavators looking for artifacts in the screen

 

A KAST Student Washes Artifacts

KAST Display

The program has been well received by not only the students, but also their parents and local media.  A local news program visited the site and interviewed students for a short interest piece on the evening news.  It is my personal hope that programs and publicity like this will reinforce the importance of historic preservation and archaeology even in a precarious economic climate.