Cultural heritage

From Monumental War to the Monuments of War – Archaeology of the Great War in the Republic of Macedonia

Couple of weeks ago I went on a field trip to Mariovo region (Novaci municipality) for searching the remains of the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia. Field activities were based on surface prospecting of the Macedonian front remains during the Great War. The visit included the 1050 elevation, the upstream of the Black River (Crna River today or ancient Erigon), the villages Skochivir and Slivnica where the hospitals were settled during the WW1 and the field near the village of Bach which was used by the Air Forces. Immense photo and video documentation for some future research was made.

Oh, no, I am not a historian, nor will ever be engaged in modern history, since I am a prehistoric archaeologist and I love working with stone tools. But I am a director of HAEMUS, which is a very big center for scientific research and promotion of the culture based in Skopje and I manage many projects on different heritage topics, including this one about the WW1.

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Regarding the Great War, I could surely say that Republic of Macedonia is definitely an open-air museum. “Eastern Front”, known under many names in historical records but mostly as “Macedonian front”, has great importance for the history of Macedonia and the Balkans. I’ve had to pass through hard battles in the last three years in order to promote the archaeology from the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia. As an organization we’ve ran few projects, public debates and we organized very big conference on topic ”First World War in the collective memory – Exchange of experiences in the Balkans”. Still it wasn’t enough. I was devastated to show to everybody that on the modern territory of the Republic of Macedonia took place some of the biggest battles that killed thousands of soldiers of many nationalities and religions, which today are buried on more conceptual organized necropolises/cemeteries. The architectonic remains in places where battles took place, includes parts of the destroyed complexes of bunkers, positions, machine gun nests and trenches that can be seen today. They comprise the physical remains of significant points in European and world history in order to explain the reasons that led to the creation of ‘Modern Europe’. On the entire front line length of about 450 km there are thousands and thousands of artifacts and monuments everywhere, waiting to be explored, excavated, identified, cleaned, preserved and displayed in the museum, to tell the piece of the unknown European history.

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Archaeology of the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia so far has been completely unknown for both, the public and experts. But we won’t give up so easily from this topic. We are trying to contribute to the creation of some domestic archives of materials, as well as the exchanging of international experiences. Building human capacities who would participate in the dialogue for peace and reconciliation in the Balkan countries through scientific research and understanding of the past of this period, is also one of the aims of our work. We would like to express our gratitude to the of Embassy of France in Skopje, the French Institute in Skopje, cooperation Normandie/Macédoine, many municipalities, the citizen associations and all those scientists who actively helped us with own research or as logistics. And we are very happy bringing on daylight a topic less known but very challenging for many colleagues.

Vasilka Dimitrovska
Director of HAEMUS
Center for scientific research
and promotion of culture

For more info check: ww1conference2015.com

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This article was written as part of the action for ‘Day of Archaeologists’ (August 04, 2016). The goal is to raise public awareness of cultural heritage and the responsibility that archaeologists have about it.

‘Vesuvius, fare well until my return.’ A Non-Invasive Archaeological Research Project on the Shops of Roman Pompeii.

Via delle Scuole, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker.

Via delle Scuole streetscape in Region 8, Pompeii looking towards Mt Vesuvius. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

Vesuvius and I have a little one-to-one chat each time I visit Pompeii in southern Italy. It’s the first thing and the last thing I do on every fieldwork and research visit. Without Vesuvius I couldn’t be the archaeologist and researcher that I am. 

As a Roman archaeologist specialising in socio-cultural and economic examinations of ancient Pompeii and the early Roman Empire I have visited the ancient city countless times in the past 15 years. I feel like I know the city like the back of my hand: entering at the Porta Marina gate, sharing greetings with the Pompeii superintendency staff and custodians who I haven’t seen in a number of months or years, climbing the steep Via Marina road leading into the city that widens into the city as you arrive at the forum. Turn left and it’s the backdrop to the Capitoline Triad temple remains: Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that catastrophically destroyed and preserved the Roman city, a small town that wasn’t of particular great importance in the Roman Empire. The violent eruption of AD 79 had a myriad of consequences, covering the city in several metres of ash and pumice after a 24 hour long bombardment and killing those who had not escaped the city and burying the contents of their homes, businesses, religious sites and theatres entirely.

Nearly two thousand years later the city was ‘rediscovered’ (although it had never properly been lost) under the Bourbon rulers of Naples in 1748. Ten years earlier the ancient city of Herculaneum had been found and the fever of antiquarianism was rising. Excavation revealed surprisingly familiar aspects of an ancient civilisation: statuary, belongings, homes, and so on. Despite early use of backfilling, a practice in which materials excavated, such as soil, are returned to the opened areas, Pompeii eventually became the open air museum that we understand it as today. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t a city frozen in time. Since Day 1 of its burial the site has been subject to a slow, natural decomposition in addition to destruction carried out by humans, both in antiquity and from 1748 onwards.

My research, mostly carried out as part of a PhD degree, focuses upon the lesser studied shops and workshops, also known as tabernae, which fronted many of the homes along major arteries in the city. These small structures are important because they tell us about what everyday life was like for non-elite Romans, slaves and freedmen (ex-slaves) in terms of where they worked, their trades and crafts, their eating and drinking habits, and, in a few cases, where they may have lived. An insight into Roman shops at Pompeii provides an understanding of population, society, culture, urban planning, trade, and commerce. It also tells us quite a lot about the impact of war and Roman colonisation, slavery, migration, patronage, art, neighbourhood development and industrialisation across the city.

 

A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

A bakery retrofitted into a two storey house (8.4.27), left, and a shop for bread (8.4.26), right. Another shop (8.4.25), far right. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016.

In light of city’s size, I have chosen to work in a quarter known today as Region 8, just south of the forum and Via dell’Abbondanza, close to the two theatres of the Entertainment District, and bordered by the city wall and the Porta Marina and Porta Stabia gates. Most tourists to the city will walk by my shops without noticing their presence or their importance to the city, although they might notice the shops with counters looking like taverns. The majority of the 93 shops in this area are small structures under four rooms in total. Some are directly connected to the elite houses (popularly known as villas, but correctly identified as domus) that were owned by families of local political importance who also maintained commercial interests, which is in contrast to incorrect 19th & 20th century views that Roman elites avoided direct trade and monetary dealings.

One particular aspect of shops is a favourite of mine: the architecture. Quite a lot of my time is spent at my desk in England analysing field research carried out site and the architecture is often the most revealing because 18th & 19th century excavation records rarely include recordings of finds from the shops despite being rich sources of materials and decorated buildings in their own right. Archaeologists often refer to this type of analysis as non-invasive research’ because it doesn’t require further excavation and damage to ancient structures and landscapes. Pompeii is an excellent site to carry out this type of approach because the wealth of material and speed of early excavations means that much remains to be interpreted from exposed buildings and their contents. It is quite a lot like putting a massive puzzle back together when you don’t have an entire understanding of what that puzzle is meant to be.

To keep track of the extensive number of photographs, plans, archival records and my own analysis findings I developed a digital database (along with some generous assistance from Derek Littlewood, @eggboxderek). I love reading the walls for the information that they provide, with or without their finished decoration, revealing building phases and additions, and most importantly telling archaeologists about reconstruction following the seismic activity, including earthquakes, leading up to the fatal eruption in AD 79. Even details such as the simple thresholds set within shop doorways are thrilling: I can understand how and when these doorways and their doors operated, learn about Roman carpentry and locks and take part in scholarly debates around differences between mezzanines and upper floors and why their different terminology and definitions affect their use.

 

Database, Tabernae of Roman Pompeii. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

Database record for 8.4.27, The tabernae of Roman Pompeii: shops & workshops of Region VIII. A working example. Copyright Sera Baker, 2016. No use without permission.

And while my PhD research isn’t a group project, I depend on the regular exchanges of ideas and discussion of new developments at Pompeii with a number of other researchers. Some of the especially important individuals, projects, and publications, that have impacted my area of research in the recent past include Dr Joanne Berry, Drs Steven Ellis and Eric Poehler of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia, Dr Sophie Hay (@pompei79), and many, many others.

Sera Baker is currently completing a PhD at The University of Nottingham, UK. She enjoys discussing Roman archaeology on her Twitter feed, @seraecbaker. To learn more about Pompeii take a look at the official archaeological website from the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei, Ercolano e Stabia (English & Italian; for most complete information use the Italian site).

Where is the WAC Student Committee today?

Hello! The WAC Student Committee is run by archaeology students for archaeology students. We’re a diverse group representing 8 different countries including: India, Iran, Australia, Italy, Honduras, the United States of America, Nigeria and Mexico. In this post four of our committee report on their DoA.

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Photo courtesy of Natalie Marquez.

Marta Lorenzon

Somewhere along the way apart from being a field archaeologist, I specialized in analyzing building material from archaeological contexts. So this year leaving behind the obvious glamour of being 24/7 in the field digging through mud, sand and rock- usually covered with my own feature of dust and sweat – I focus on analyzing mudbrick particle size and creating a report on mudbrick typology for a dig in Egypt. In this region, mudbrick architecture is quite common in both domestic and public context. Thus I spent my DoA examining the data collected last month in order to show how microscopic and macroscopic analyses of mud brick material are quite relevant to investigate raw source materials, building material techniques and production.

Limina

Photo courtesy of the Limina Collective

Jacqueline Matthews 

As an archaeology postgraduate student my usual day sees me sitting at a desk; reading journal articles and books, writing, seeking out literature, using my library’s special collections to collect ethnographic data, and meeting with supervisors and peers. My DoA started with some fantastic news: my MPhil research proposal, which I started four months ago, was approved! This approval is a key milestone in my degree; it ultimately means I’m now officially ‘doing’ this research. The rest of my day was quite out-of-the ordinary as I was in-transit as I headed out on fieldwork in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for a couple of weeks (more information and pictures in my personal DoA post). While I love my research and am lucky enough to receive a scholarship to allow me to focus on it, it is nice to have a break from my routine, get some fresh air and reconnect with some of the practical realities of ‘doing’ archaeology, which I often miss as I focus on theory in my research.

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Rock Art site selfie, southern Arnhem Land

Jordan Ralph

I work on a casual basis as an archaeologist in two different sectors: academia and consultancy. My day of archaeology was spent travelling from my research assistant job at a field school in remote Northern Territory to my cultural heritage management job in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

I’m often asked if my job takes me to interesting places all over the world. Unfortunately, although I have travelled quite a bit, I haven’t had the pleasure of working outside of Australia. But that doesn’t make my experiences any less interesting. My job does take me to a lot of places within Australia – many places I’ve been to need different levels of permission, a good chunk of which is needed from local Indigenous communities. It can be a long process, but it’s right.  Last week for example, I visited a number of rock art sites in southern Arnhem Land, where I conduct my research, which only a handful of non-Indigenous people have ever seen. Today, I’m on my way to a new adventure in the Pilbara. While I’m relatively familiar with southern Arnhem Land, I’ve never worked in, or even been to, Western Australia. For the next two weeks I’ll be living in a mining camp and exploring, recording and excavating sites in the impact zone for mining development along with the rest of my team.

As for today, I’m travelling between jobs. In the last five days I have travelled 6,570km – something that has come to be part of my life.

Kate Ellenberger

Binghamton University Archaeological Field School, Courtsey of Kate Ellen

Excavation at the Binghamton University Archaeological Field School. Photo courtsey of Kate Ellenberger.

It’s the DoA, and I am on a speed-vacation between teaching my first archaeological field school and the annual week-long public archaeology program I help teach each year. One of my best friends from college is getting married tomorrow, so I traveled across the country to be here for a couple of days. I will return home for 7 hours before arriving back at work, ready to teach teenagers about archaeology.

This is a slice of my life for the past 5 years since I began graduate school for archaeology;  many small commitments and pockets of work that add up to a very full work life, with the occasional social intervention. If I’m lucky, when one demanding commitment ends, there’s another job to get me to the next step in my career. This week that means transitioning from educating college students to teaching young teens, and after that I’ll be installing an exhibit (did I mention I am a museum curator, too?), and after that revising websites for a local archaeology company. As a young professional I’m asked to take on many varied tasks. I’m happy to do them. Looking to the future, I am contemplating just which of those tasks is the one that I could stick with for a while. For now, I’m riding the adrenaline roller coaster of being a young archaeologist.

 

Public Archaeology – a community view

This all singing, all dancing contribution was undertaken by local film makers Delphine Coudray, and Roy Murray includes archaeologists, university students, local children and Paddy Rispin, from the Trim Living History group.

Dodging torrential rain showers, in between excavation cuttings, this is archaeological interpretation, community style: Blackfriary Community DoA 2013

DoA video

The Archaeology:

The Blackfriary Community Archaeology Project is collaboration between the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS), Meath Local Authorities and the community of Trim, Co. Meath, Ireland. The focus of the project is the Blackfriary, a 13th Dominican Friary, founded by the Anglo-Norman Geoffrey de Geneville, Lord of Meath in 1267. The friary was quarried out in the 18th century and the remains of are mostly buried. The site, listed as a National Monument in the 1970’s, is situated in a large field and is surrounded by housing. As the town developed, around it, the field fell into disuse and eventual dereliction. The Project is challenged with investigating the archaeological remains of the site, much now underground, and working with the local community to create a space where community and visitors alike can explore heritage and use the site in a mutually beneficial and sustainable way. The Irish Archaeology Field School carries out a summer excavation project at the site annually; this incorporates a practical field programme for archaeology, anthropology and forensic students into the archaeological research project.

The Community:

Our summer excavation season depends very much on the good relationship the School has with the community; Trim has an active community that are creative, resourceful and proud of their heritage. The School asked members of the community to help out with a contribution for the Day of Archaeology, something that the community themselves would be interested in… Although not perhaps a typical day for archaeologists, the imagination, enthusiasm and fun of this contribution is very typical of the School’s experience of working in this wonderful community. Enjoy!

 

What would Batman think about the Persepolis Fortification Tablets? Debating Heritage and Archaeology’s Place in the Social Sciences

I’m currently finishing my Honours degree (equivalent of a fourth year for those outside Australia) in Brisbane, Australia. My Day of Archaeology was spent in the classroom, taking a research colloquium course to finish the coursework component of my degree. Luckily for this post, our class today was particularly interesting and gives some insight into where archaeology is positioned as a discipline (in the Australian university system at least).

This interdisciplinary colloquium includes students from the four social science disciplines, archaeology, anthropology, sociology and criminology. Over the course of our degrees this is the first course that has brought us all together.  We’re here to learn from each other, discuss our similarities and differences, and ultimately become better researchers. It turns out that even though we are in the one ‘school’ we know so very little about each other, stereotypes abounded in our first class. Archaeologists apparently alternate between looking for treasure and dinosaurs, anthropologists seem to mostly follow Indigenous people around pestering them with questions, sociologists are reportedly obsessed with the philosophy of long dead white men, and criminologists seemingly harbour desires to be Batman. Blatant stereotyping aside, the social sciences are united by a rigorous interest in humanity, a desire to better understand its many nuances and intricacies, and ultimately to contribute our knowledge back to society.

Today’s class features a debate over the potential sale of the Persepolis Fortification Tablets in order to pay off a debt that Iran was judged to owe the victims of the 1997 Hamas bombing in Jerusalem (this is a serious and intensely political case on which you can read more about here). This debate brought up serious questions about cultural heritage, its role in the creation of identity, value in an irreplaceable source of information on the past, and whether items of cultural heritage should be exempt from treatment as ‘assets’.

Clay Tablet, Persepolis Museum, Iran. Image by Pentocelo via Wikimedia

Clay Tablet, Persepolis Museum, Iran. Image by Pentocelo via Wikimedia

What I found most interesting about this debate were the different perspectives that we all had on this one case. Whilst we all recognised the importance of the tablets and emphasised the global nature of cultural heritage, each discipline had a different focus. The sociologists were most interested in aspects of power and control, criminologists over the legality of the case and the commodification of heritage objects, the anthropologists were concerned with the issue of state control over material culture and the intertwining of cultures, and the archaeologists focused on the preservation of cultural heritage and the integrity of these priceless collections.

It seems unfortunate that this is the first time we have been united in our degrees as it is so clear that we have much to learn from our fellow social science disciplines. There is a tendency to put on blinkers and not see the valuable contributions and perspectives that others have on your own discipline. I’m not sure if any of the archaeology students were quite prepared for the unique criminological or sociological take on what you’d assume was a straight archaeological case. As an archaeology student one of the most important takeaways of this day has been the importance of being interdisciplinary and the value of being open to other perspectives.

Off now to rid the streets of crime…

ABC of Swedish planning archaeology and an archaeological paradox

There are many kinds of archaeologist – some are specialized in a region or on a period others do contract archaeology, surveys, work at museums, laboratories or work with planning issues etc etc. We do many many things. We do archaeology!I’ve done it all – more or less: I’m an osteolgist so I do the odd osteolgical analysis. I’m an archaeologist so I’ve done surveys, contract archaeology, research archaeology and currently I work at the County board of Östergöland in Sweden doing what could be called planning archaeology.

Osteology, mesolithic skeleton, Övra Wannborga, Öland, Sweden

Osteology, mesolithic skeleton, Övra Wannborga, Öland, Sweden

So what is planning archaeology? Well lets say it’s a form of archaeological desk-based assessments – what kind of archaeology is needed in a certain situation – for example when someone wants to build a road or house. In Sweden the County boards are responsible for this part, we also order the archaeology and then let the developer pay for it – sounds sweet, it has its ups and downs. Of course I can’t just decide from the top of my head, the decisions are made according to law and praxis.

This is how it works in Sweden, in three easy (or not) steps!

Step one. Person A, the developer, submitting a notification that he or she is planning a development of some sorts. The County Board will make an assessment concerning if there are archaeological needs, based on archaeological records, previous digs, historical maps and other studies. If we find that we don’t have enough knowledge to make a decision or if the data points to the likelihood that one may encounter ancient remains – then we order a preliminary archaeological investigation.

Ismantorp ancient fortress, Öland, Sweden

Ismantorp ancient fortress, Öland, Sweden

During a preliminary archaeological investigation an archaeological contractor, a museum or other arhaeological institution of the County board’s choice is choosen. They do a review of historical sources, archaeological material as well as a survey (field walking) and, if necessary, do search trenches.

Excavation 2010, Västra Götaland, Sweden

Excavation 2010, Västra Götaland, Sweden

Based on the information from the preliminary archaeological investigation we then either say that archaeology in some form is needed or not.

Step two. If needed the next step in the process is an archaeological investigation. During this the ancient monument is to be defined geographically, decide its function, be dated and its scientific potential should be described. For this a limited archaeological excavation is needed. The result should give us the information needed to decide if the final step is needed, a full archaeological excavation, but also facts enough for others to be able to make an excavation plan and a cost estimate.

Excavation, Blekinge, Sweden 2011

Excavation, Blekinge, Sweden 2011

Step three. The final step, if needed, is a full excavation, meaning the ancient monument is to be removed and documented. If this cost is under 890 000 Swedish crowns, ca: 104000 Euro, the County Board can decide who will do the archaeology, if it costs more it needs to be procured.

In most cases the developer has to pay for all archaeology. Among the various steps in the process the developer can of course choose to cancel the archaeological process (and stop the development), they also aim to give the developer the opportunity to look at other opportunities or changes to lower thier costs. In the end the less archaeology being made the better we do our jobs – as the intention is to preserve monuments rather than make them disappear – a kind of archaeological paradox, wouldn’t you say.

A lot of what I do is this – is that boring?

– No, it actually is quite interesting and in many cases complex, and you get to learn new things along the way. I never thought I’d be doing make procurements when I studied archaeology, and by the way I wasn’t taught how to either!

Rock art, Hästholmen, Östergötland, Sweden

Rock art, Hästholmen, Östergötland, Sweden

Is this all that we do? No we do lots of other things concerning cultural heritage, such as signs at ancient monuments, small surveys, projects, meeting land owners, forest owners, looking into environments and landscapes etc. But when the sun shines outside I can feel the trowel luring me, but then again when its rainy/snowy, cold and/or wet it’s quite good to be sitting inside – looking out 🙂

Winter dig Sweden 2010

Winter dig Sweden 2010

Magnus Reuterdahl, an archaeologist at the County Adminstrative board Östergötland, Sweden and blogging at Testimony of the spade.

 

Cara Jones – A rare but busy day in the Archaeology Scotland office

Me and my desk - we actually rarely interact

I work for Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument Scheme, a five year initiative which supports and facilitates local community archaeology groups who wish to conserve and promote their local heritage. We work throughout Scotland – from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway and aim to work with 55 groups over the five-year scheme. In addition to our more traditional projects, we are also funded to do outreach projects – taking archaeology to non-traditional heritage audiences. I would call myself a ‘community archaeologist’ – a job title which can be open to interpretation and can encompass many different activities and tasks.

My Day of Archaeology is a little less active than last year’s post, and lot less active than the day I originally had scheduled. I had planned to travel over to the West Coast, visit one AaM group near Oban to give advice about how to start reporting on their results (from formal dissemination through reporting and archival submission, to wider dissemination through a Wikipedia page) and then go on to another group to help them with an open day they have planned for this weekend.

Instead, I have a rare but busy day in the office which usually starts by checking emails. This is actually only my second day back after a two week holiday and yesterday my email box was bursting with around 140 emails. Ok some of those were things like Google Alerts, blog posts etc, which can be quickly scanned and then filed away, but many of the emails were from my groups, colleagues, other heritage professionals, many of which contained requests for help, advice, project updates and questions about upcoming fieldwork, workshops or new projects. I am still getting through the backlog…

After email checks, I usually start to go through the dreaded ‘to do’ list, which usually seems to get longer not shorter. Today’s tasks include edits to one of my group’s interpretation leaflets (which, in addition to paper copies, will be available digitally on their website); source an image and gain permission for it to be reproduced on a groups interpretation panel; edit the text for an interpretation panel; check that the welfare facilities are in place for fieldwork starting in two weeks’ time; ring one landowner to arrange a site meeting; ring another landowner about submitting required paperwork; commission elevations for an interpretation panel to accompany a planning application; arrange space (with a computer suite) for an upcoming digital recording workshop; progress a Listed Building Consent application; arrange a facilitator for an upcoming interpretation workshop; have a meeting with a colleague about an education resource we are co-producing….and if I have time, start to review a copy of a WW2 diary for one of our outreach projects (this might be my ‘treat’ task at the end of the day!)

Today must seem like a very dull day to anyone reading this post, but this is the reality of a full time job within community archaeology. In order to go out and do the fun stuff, we have to work hard to make sure everything is in place. Our groups have the passion and belief and put in so many hours to make the project successful, but not all of them have the skills to make it happen, which is where we help!

A Day in the Life of Archaeological Services Inc. (Ontario, Canada)

Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI) is one of the largest archaeological consulting firms in Canada with over thirty years experience in the production and dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We have over 100 full-time and seasonal staff members and three offices – two in Toronto and one in Burlington. Our company is divided into separate divisions and here you will find little snapshots about what each field director or division at ASI is doing at the moment. Enjoy!

From Field Director Robb B:

Today I was stripping on site. Now that’s not what you think it means. We began stripping/removing the topsoil from our site today in hopes to uncover settlement patterns. We started roughly 20m away from outside the limit of the previously mapped extent of artifacts (as determined by surface artifact scatter or test unit artifact drop-off). As we move northward and closer to the main concentration of artifacts, hopefully we’ll find some sort of settlement pattern!

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The Gradall machine stripping the topsoil off Robb’s site.

From the Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage Landscape Planning Division:

Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage Landscapes is busy this week with projects that are taking place in Downtown Toronto, in the farming communities near Toronto and in a very old and historic area near Niagara Falls.  The cultural heritage assessments that we do are a form of archaeology that takes place ‘above ground’. Right now, one staff member is working on cultural heritage evaluation of bridges in Eastern Ontario and even managed to find an old bridge in the middle of the bush! Another member of the team is developing a plan for salvaging architectural material from nineteenth-century properties that are slated for removal. Meanwhile, the team near Niagara Falls is exploring ways in which modern  infrastructure projects can fit into a landscape that is associated with Canadian heroine Laura Secord and which still contains a number of important historic sites. And, in downtown Toronto a team is looking at how the built heritage of the city can be best preserved; their work will contribute to the establishment of three new heritage conservation districts in the city.

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The incredibly talented (and good-looking) Built Heritage team.

From The Geomatics Team:

Today Blake is overlaying historical maps of Fort York dating back to 1815 and digitizing the buildings and features in Geographic Information System (GIS). This will allow researchers to examine the changes that have occurred at the Fort overtime. It will also aid officials to better protect their hidden archaeological resources should improvements within the fort be planned.  Shady is working with CAD files provided by clients in GIS and he is mapping built heritage features and areas that have archaeological potential that could be impacted by different alternates of transit projects. The clients can take Shady’s graphics and avoid archaeologically sensitive areas and they can try to ensure that built heritage features are not negatively impacted by future development.

From Field Director Jes:

My crew and I are currently working on a stage three historic site being impacted by a service line associated with a wind turbine. The view is quite nice, with 7 foot corn on one side and a farm with animals on the other. Unfortunately, excavating here is like trying to dig through a rubber tire, but my team is tough and knows how to get things done! Below is a a shot of the crew as well as our monitors from Caldwell, Walpole Island, and Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.

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Jes’s crew on site beside the cornfields.

From the Special Projects Division:

ASI is also conducting excavations at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto at the site of the East Enlisted Men’s Barracks of the New Fort York. Eventually, the exposed foundation of the barracks will be placed under glass and featured in an entranceway to a new hotel.

In south-western Ontario, ASI is investigating dozens of new sites dating to between six and three thousand years ago in cooperation with Six Nations of the Grand.  ASI is also currently documenting the artifact assemblages recovered over the last century from a number of Huron-Wendat ossuaries prior to their return to the earth as part of a large repatriation project planned for later this fall. The Huron-Wendat Nation, the University of Toronto, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the Ontario Heritage Trust are jointly participating in the project.

From Field Director Wes:

Our crew (Wes, Nina, Chris, and Kristen) have been excavating the remains of three outbuildings located behind the East Enlisted Mens Barracks at the New Fort Site in Toronto. The foundations of the buildings are partially intact, as are numerous brick and clay drains associated with the buildings. The first photo shows the remains of a brick and limestone structure built overtop of an earlier limestone privy building. It also shows that we are constantly having to battle ground and rain water! The second photo shows the remains of a brick sewer drain later replaced by a clay drain, both of which are beneath the limestone foundation of what was known as a Cleaning Shed.

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The foundations and drain from Wes’s site.

From one of the Material Culture Analysts:

I come into our box filled office that I share with two other historic analysts and pull out the collection that I’m currently working on. Each bag full of artifacts is labelled according to its provenience and I work provenience by provenience to lay out each bag’s contents and assign a catalogue number to every artifact, and slowly my database grows!

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Typical desk of an ASI material culture analyst.

From Field Director Stacey:

We have been working on a stage three pre-contact settlement. So we have been digging a 1x1m unit every 10m in order to determine how large the site is and create a grid of units across the site.  When we find a unit with over 100 artifacts we will dig four more units one on each side, 5m away from it. So far we have found lots of pottery, fragments of chert (flint) and animal bone. We have also found evidence of the walls of the houses in the site from post moulds in the ground. Once we finish determining how large the site is, we will begin stage four, block excavation.

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Stacey resting in one of her (very deep) 1×1 units!

From the Environmental Assessment Division:

Work continues along the expansion corridor of a major east-west highway north-east of the City of Toronto. Five separate crews are working on everything from test-pitting tree-covered and bug-infested lots to preliminary excavation of pre-contact villages.

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One of five crews working on the transportation project east of Toronto.

Environmental Assessment teams are completing work on the sites of future wind turbines. First archaeology, then clean energy!

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One of the crews excavating an area for the wind turbine project.

We are also currently excavating a portion of a fourteenth century ancestral Huron-Wendat village north of Toronto. Previously disturbed by road construction, ASI crews will be on site this summer salvaging data resulting from proposed road improvements.

From the TPOK Organizers:

On Thursday, July 25th, ASI hosted its bi-monthly lecture series, Two Pints of Knowledge (TPOK).  TPOK started at ASI two years ago and has been a resounding success in drawing large groups of ASI employees out to its bi-monthly lectures.  By covering a broad range of topics from lithics and pre-contact ceramics to present-day garbology and historic beer tasting, in an informal, company-sanctioned space, and often lubricated by a beer (or two), TPOK has created a space of learning and socialization within a corporate, CRM environment.

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ASI staff and TPOK regulars listening to one of the Thursday evening talks.

The existence of such spaces is paramount to the well-being and sustained ethicacy of the CRM industry at a time when the deadlines placed upon the industry by their clients are making the existence of such events harder and harder to host.  As the last line of defense in the daily battle to preserve cultural heritage, it is critical for contract archaeologists to keep up with the developing methodological and theoretical trends happening within the discipline.  While life and bills and a full work schedule get in the way with much of the reading that goes along with the work conducted by our colleagues in university and public sector-based academia, facilitating a lecture series like TPOK allows contract archaeologists to spread much of the research work along them while bringing fellow-minded archaeologists together for open discussion.  Thus, not only does TPOK allow for training and education in a socially-friendly format, it creates an open environment so that new conceptions on how best to approach cultural heritage management can emerge.  It is our hope that TPOK continues to be a thriving success and that similar venues spring up in other CRM companies to advance the cause of heritage conservation around the world.

From Laboratory Services:

The lab is the entry point for all artifacts that are coming in from the field.  We wash, sort, organize and keep track of all the artifacts excavated by ASI crews.  Every day is different since we receive such a wide range of artifacts, everything from precontact lithic scatters to nineteenth century urban sites.  Being in the lab we have the privilege of seeing the best finds come in from the field as well as discover the secrets of seemingly mundane artifacts. Today we received four bags of artifacts from the New Fort site, more specifically from privies associated with the enlisted men’s barracks (see Wes above).

We also worked on washing, sorting, and cataloguing some artifacts that came from various sites associated with a major east-west highway northeast of the city of Toronto.  Two of these sites are villages from the pre-contact era, which include beautiful decorated pottery, pipes and stone tools.  We also washed a small 19th century historic surface collection which had some nice decorated ceramics, a pipe stem, some bottle finishes and machine made nails.  This surface collection will be analysed and catalogued in the lab, to determine if this site needs to be excavated further.

In order to keep up with all the artifacts that arrive from our 10 field crews we have a partnership with the University of Toronto’s Archaeology Centre where we rent a space in their building as well as hire archaeology students to wash artifacts. Right now they’re washing a collection from a redware pottery. Because the site includes all the refuse, misfires, and other cast-offs there’s a lot to wash!

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A collection of pictures taken yesterday in the ASI lab and the U of T lab.

From the Toronto Survey Division:

The Toronto Survey division has recently completed the assessment of a project at the crossroads of two former concession roads in the Region of Peel. The subject property was comprised of a portion of a former landfill site and recently ploughed lands adjacent to a water course along the west perimeter. The former landfill portion of the site was deemed to have no remaining archaeological potential, while the ploughed lands were subject to a pedestrian survey at five metre intervals.  Despite careful scrutiny no archaeological finds were discovered.

From Field Director Rob W:

Today our group is focusing on some rolling landscape. We were all thankful for the break in the heat and the rise in the windspeed as we searched for artifacts on the hills and valleys of our long-standing project. More field crews working on site together meant time for catching up on projects from across Ontario. Nothing improves the work day like running into old friends in a familiar place.

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Rob W’s crew, Kiara’s crew and Jes’ crew working together on a slope!

If you would like to learn more about our most famous projects and artifacts, visit our website here.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Historical Archaeology & Visual Art

I am an historical archaeologist who teaches at Cheyney University and at West Chester University, two campuses of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education that are located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA. I am not teaching during the summer term which gives me time to pursue my research which involves studying the public’s engagement with the archaeological resources in Independence National Historical Park (a U.S. National Park Service property commemorating the birthplace of American democracy). Today, June 27th, has been a ‘catch-up’ day for me where I had time to move ahead on several items on my ‘wanting to do’ list. First, I wrote to the editor of the “Images of the Past” column of the Society for Historical Archaeology Newsletter (Benjamin Pykles) proposing a write-up about Jackson Ward ‘Smokey’ Moore, Jr.  Moore, a retired archaeologist and a Native American Chippewa, excavated in Philadelphia in the 1960’s at the site of Benjamin Franklin’s mansion.

Jackson Ward 'Smokey' Moore restoring a historic dish

Jackson Ward ‘Smokey’ Moore, Jr. in a National Park Service Public Affairs Photo, circa 1960. (Independence National Historical Park Archives).

My offer to undertake this write-up required researching the Newsletter’s back issues to determine the type of information expected for the column and I spent an hour doing this prior to contacting Pykles to make sure I had the kind of information wanted. I then turned to some on-going background research I’ve been doing for a possible book project that the art photographer John Edward Dowell Jr. and I have talked about doing. This would be a book designed for the general reader which would feature photographs John took during the excavation of the President’s House archaeological site in Independence Park. These photographs document the archaeological excavation and its findings about slavery and freedom at the birth of the American nation and, in doing so, they help create African American history. They are also art pieces made by a Black artist. Beyond documenting new American history evidence and documenting new African American history evidence, his photographs are art pieces (re’ artifacts) of black visual art. Today I spent time researching and considering how these images therefore fit into the history of Black visual art. After reading a significant portion of N.I. Painter’s Creating Black Americans I realized that Dowell’s President’s House archaeological site photographs not only help make Black history more visible but also help make black art history more “visible” and that this is something we would likely want our manuscript to address given that the history of black visual art, like African American history, has been ignored, overlooked, and excluded in the canon.

View of the President's House by J. E. Dowell

ne of artist John E. Dowell’s photographs of the President’s House Site in Independence Park (right center, above the blue tarp-covered, back dirt pile). Dowell takes large format images (2 x 5 – 4 x 20 feet) which are then digitally scanned to produce highly detailed, deeply contextualized, images. His photographic style is known to convey life in the urban metropolis and he uses both unique perspective and lighting — namely pictures shot from high-rise vantage points that are taken at sun-up and sun-down.

Later on in the day I began typing up the meeting notes taken during the last monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF). I am Secretary of that non-profit advocacy group and I post the meeting minutes on the PAF listserv. However, I am coordinating a local version of the Day of Archaeology for the PAF and I switched to work on this task. I am coordinating Philadelphia area Day of Archaeology contributions from local area archaeologists as well as members of the public during the period June 25th-June 28th. I will use these contributions to develop a new page of content for the PAF webpages at www.phillyarchaeology.orgthat will help demonstrate and explain what people in our area do with archaeology both at work and at play. I will also be forwarding the contributions to the coordinator of the international Day of Archaeology blogging project.

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The logo of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, which is based on a commonly found historic dish.



Mud-Avoidance

My Day of Archaeology, is, as it was last year, meta.  I am one of the founders of the Day of Archaeology project, and I have spent my day (mostly) online, editing and posting articles and Tweeting about the project.  This is pretty much as good as my Day of Archaeology is going to get.  The loosest relationship my day had to field archaeology was when I went to see my back specialist this morning about a back injury I exacerbated last year when I was digging in Poland –  I went a bit mental with the de-turfing and hurt my back so badly I had to return to the UK and missed out on working on the most amazing 14th C. Baltic site.

A pal on Twitter said to me yesterday that I was mud-avoidant.  I will be the first to admit that what  I do for my PhD isn’t exactly archaeology.  I am a PhD student at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and my research is ‘Public Archaeology in a Digital Age’.  So I’m looking at how, where and why archaeology and the public meet online and how archaeology as a sector creates, sustains and uses online community.  There are a few things that keep me awake at night about my research, mainly because it’s just so damn fascinating.  At the moment, I am researching the concept of archaeological authority and knowledge-ownership –  I think that  changes to the landscape of communication in archaeology are simply a technologically-facilitated continuation of longer-term developments within the sector as a whole (get me).  But  how far has the growth of participatory media impacted the archaeological sector in the UK?  How have these media facilitated collaboration between professional and layperson? Has the encouragement of audience participation gone any way towards supporting any real acknowledgement of multi-vocal approaches to heritage issues? What evidence exists that social media dialogue is about sharing archaeological authority at all, in an online context?  Which part these ‘non-professional’ digital voices will be considered inauthentic, and why?  So many questions…

I do a lot of research through surveys, and talking to people, but a lot of my work is also observation.  How people interact, what is said, how it is said, where it’s said.. so today has been interesting!  I absolutely love my PhD topic and feel hugely privileged to be funded to undertake it.  I get to read lots of sociology, which is my new Best Thing, and I have learned so much by being part of the Centre for Digital Humanities, and the interdisciplinarity there.   It has been the most interesting 2 years of my life ever (and I’ve had some interesting years, believe me)..  I just hope someone will employ me at the end of all this, the big worry for every PhD student.

I have recently moved back home to East Anglia, mainly because it’s cheap, but mostly for some peace and quiet.  The flat, open landscape here created the archaeologist inside me (she really ought to get out more, poor girl).  The wealth of wool churches, the Norman castles, the shadows of Norse in the dialect, and the Scandinavian street names led me to study medieval archaeology 21 years ago, and although I am all about archaeology and communication, AD 400 – 900 is my secret passion.  But if anyone asks, I’m strictly social media & comms, right?  Right?

For us Public Archaeologists, understanding how we meet, discuss and inform the public and understanding the technologies we can use to do this is, I think, vital.  I just hope that my research outcomes will play a small part in having an impact on how archaeology exploits Internet technologies.  Part of this understanding is the development of the Day of Archaeology itself.  I am overwhelmed by the support we have been offered by archaeologists worldwide, for free, for the love of archaeology, because we believe it matters, not just for ourselves but everyone. That we have managed all this through the power of the Internet is witness to the increasing importance of Public Archaeology at a time when archaeology is being given the death of a thousand cuts.  Without public support, we will wither.

Better get writing then, eh?