cultural resource management

Kenneth J. Basalik – My Day of Archaeology, 2016

The business of archaeology, like business in general, can be a frustrating experience. I work for a cultural resource management firm in the Philadelphia area. I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar in Utah last week, but the time away from the office meant that my work had piled up in my absence. No big deal except that I am going on vacation next week for two weeks. You’d think that would be great, gone for a seminar, back a week, and then two weeks off. The problem is that when you tell your clients that you will be out for two weeks, they suddenly need a product before you leave. Never mind that you told them your schedule more than a month ago, that they have been holding on to the material you need to proceed with the project for months, when they send the material you need, it is incomplete and you already have a full schedule (since you planned ahead to get your work done before you left).

My day started, like that of many others, sitting in traffic to get to work. The first half of the ride is pleasant, but then I encounter a tanker truck that can’t seem to get above 25 miles per hour. When I get to the office 15 minutes later than expected (but still an hour early), I am tense and frustrated. The office is empty (after all I am an hour early) and I begin to unwind a little and start on simple administrative tasks. I actually get to examine some prehistoric pottery recovered from a site along the Schuylkill and address relative easy questions about scheduling field work. As the morning progresses I am beginning to feel that I can get through the day, and hopefully get out on time. Then the phone calls come. Can you do this for me? Can you send this out today before you go away? Can you answer a few questions about the ramifications of the archaeology work that I had another firm perform? And then the big one. We’ve reviewed the rush job and we realize that we didn’t send you all the information, can you revise the report ASAP and get it back to us today? Sure, sure I can, but you need to email the material. Three hours later, after slogging through a review of a less than stellar report and making (hopefully) useful comments, no material. Four hours later, still no material. I call. “Sorry it is taking longer than we thought to pull the necessary material together. We will get it to you tomorrow.” There goes my Saturday (good thing I was leaving town for vacation). Another day in the life of an archaeological manager. A touch of material culture, a bit of thoughtful consideration of archaeological issues, and a plethora of business related headaches.

Kenneth J. Basalik, Ph.D.
President, Cultural Heritage Research Services, Inc.
Lansdale, Pennsylvania, USA

Day of Archaeology: It’s the Small Things

An adorable point.

Possibly an Abajo or Dolores Contracting Stem.

Bushwhacking through miles of dense gamble oak and a variety of prickly shrubs for a seemingly endless survey, can dampen the mood of the hardiest of archaeologists.  Yesterday, I found myself covered in bruises and scratches, questioning the sanity of whoever thought surveying the side of a steep ridge with practically zero visibility was a good idea.  And it was 98 degrees and humid.  I was beyond grumpy.  I kept asking myself, ‘why am I doing this?!  How is this worth the trouble?!’  But then a bright white bit of stone caught my eye.  There, right on my transect, was quite possibly the tiniest projectile point I have ever observed on a survey.  This adorable bit of chalcedony snapped me out of my declining mood, reminding me of why I was out there in the first place: to observe and record the past.

43,847 sites and counting…

Hi! I’m Jolene Smith. I manage all of the archaeological data for the Commonwealth of Virginia at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. We’ve got nearly 44,000 sites in our inventory, with more being added every day. While most of my time is spent in front of a computer and not in the dirt, what I do is no less important. It’s about the follow-through. It’s taking the data produced by the destructive act of removing artifacts and features from their context in the soil and making sure it is safe, accessible, and useful. It’s about making connections. Here’s a day in my life.  (more…)

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 year and still no dinsoaurs, gold, etc…

Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI) is a Canadian-owned company that was founded in 1980 in response to increasing public awareness of the importance of Ontario’s heritage. With offices in Toronto and Burlington, we are the largest archaeological consulting firm in Ontario. Archaeological Services Inc. provides a variety of services including both archaeological and built heritage resource/cultural landscape pre-development assessments, large-scale heritage planning studies for municipalities, as well as Stage 4 salvage excavation of archaeological sites.

Below you’ll find a photo essay showing what we are up to on this Day of Archaeology 2014. Enjoy, and from all of us at ASI, happy digging!

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It’s a beautiful FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014 at Archaeological Services Inc. in Toronto and Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

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One of the ASI Partners, Robert Pihl, examining some incredible pipes from the famous Charles Garrad collection (from sites near Collingwood, Ontario).

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Great work on that unit, Sarah! It’s a beauty!

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It’s hard for Dr. Katie Hull (Manager of Historical Archaeology) to keep her adorable Irish Wolfhound puppy – appropriately named “Indy” –  out of the artifact box.

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Here is a photo taken by one of the crane operators of part of the New Fort site at Exhibition Place, which an ASI crew is currently working on. The foundations are of the northern half of the East Enlisted Men’s Barracks – a mid-nineteenth-century barracks built by the British to compliment the garrison at Old Fort York Garrison Common. What you are seeing in this photo will eventually be covered in a glass floor leading up to the front entrance of a brand new hotel: guests of the hotel will be able to see the original foundations of the barracks!

The crane was about 80-100 feet high when the photo was taken, and the foundations shown are approximately 110 feet (30 metres) by 40 feet (12 metres). For a scale you can see the ASI crew in the lower right corner!

The foundations of the northern half of the building (far right of the photo) are quite intact: the brick walled room (left of centre) is a coal cellar and the brick structures just above and below the foundations are what is left of two brick-lined box drains. There is also a remnant brick pipe drain (immediate right of the stone foundations), however, it is currently underneath a nice thick layer of mud.

If you want to read more information on the New Fort site, which has been actively excavated by ASI for the last 6 years, visit the Featured Project section of our website: http://ow.ly/z0szT

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Wes’ downtown Toronto crew hard at work excavating the New Fort site!

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Nobody puts Wes’ crew in a corner… unless of course they are profiling the barracks’ walls.

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Manager of Stage 1 and 2 Planning Division Projects, Bev Garner, on the phone with one of her many clients…

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Senior Archaeologist and Manager of Western Environmental Assessment Projects, Dr. Andrew Riddle, answering emails on his phone. He is also the Manager of IT, so we suppose it’s quite fitting for him to be surrounded by two computers and a smartphone.

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Here is our British star, Greg Pugh, working on a report when he is not out in the field on one of the richest properties we have ever worked on.

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ASI’s Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage Landscape Planning Division (phew!) work so well as a team that they find it hard to do anything without one another. They all wear glasses and read historical architecture books. It’s their thing.

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The perfect juxtaposition of old & new on analyst Miranda’s desk. What a tea-riffic combination!

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We are pleased to announce we have hired a new faunal analyst! Jackson also takes a lot of pride when selecting his office wear.

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The lab was busy today sorting through a new historical site — looks like they’ve “nailed” it.

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Here are Huron-Wendat representatives Melanie Vincent and Louis Lesage examining their material culture heritage at our offices in Toronto today.

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Senior Archaeologist, Dr. Bruce Welsh, can’t get enough of history. He spends his lunch hour buried in a book.

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ASI often has the privilege of working on a single site for multiple decades, such as the one pictured here. A quick glance through our records of this site produced this gem of a photo of Martin Cooper test-pitting the site in 1989. Years later, following in his footsteps, are Andrea Carnevale and Zeeshan Abedin, directing the salvage excavation of the site along with David Robertson and Robert Pihl. Stefan Jovanovich and Andreas Vatistas, pictured here, rounded off the rest of their team. Artifact analysis and the final report for the recent work are now in the process of being completed.

This is a great, albeit humorous, example of the roles and opportunities women have in the world of archaeology– not only to learn from but to also work alongside their mentors.

Ladies, keep digging!

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Cleo LOVES maps just as much as her owner, Jonas; an ASI Geomatics Specialist.

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Staff archaeologist Jenna hit the 3 pm wall. Thank goodness for her comically large Toblerone. Must. Have. Chocolate. Now!

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Assistant Manager of Urban Archaeology, Thanos Webb, often spends his day on the bike surveying sites downtown. He’s gotten so good at it that he can bike, review maps, make notes and drink coffee all at the same time!

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It’s a home office day for Staff Archaeologist Caitlin! Great slippers.

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Our crews have a good time together. It’s pretty obvious.

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A pretty great panoramic view of Amy and Erika’s historic site excavation.

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Lithic Specialist Doug Todd’s sorting table. He’s got a primitive process.

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Middle Archaic points that Doug has recently photographed. A lot of the material he has been looking at as of late comes from sites in Southwestern Ontario.

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Check out that detail!

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Chief Archaeologist and Managing Partner, Dr. Ron Williamson, examining an amputation from our excavations of the early nineteenth-century site of the first Toronto General Hospital.

Well, that was a busy day! Thanks for dropping by to see what we’ve been up to!

 

Sometimes I Finish 6 Seemingly Impossible Tasks Before Lunch…

Hello Everybody! I am very excited to take part again in the Day of Archaeology! I enjoyed taking part last year and afterwards reading the posts from all over the world.

My name is Molly Swords and I am a historical archaeologist. I work for SWCA Environmental Consultants and teach the Applied Cultural Resource Management class at the University of Idaho. Currently, I have number of “irons in the fire” and multi-tasking is a necessity. As others have probably mentioned there are a number of days that you are not outside in the field. This happens to be one of those days.

Phinney Hall houses the Sociology and Anthropology Department at the University of Idaho. I work mostly in the offices housed in this building.

I start my day off with patronizing one of the many coffee stands around Moscow. I know what a busy day it is going to be… so, this is my little moment of Zen. A 24oz vanilla coffee is going to see me through the first part of the day.
Upon arriving at work, I answer a number of different emails about various projects. The first email greeting me is a reply to an email I sent yesterday, including information that I gathered at the Washington State University Archives. I was able to venture over to WSU’s Special Collections and Archives to look over documents to help out some colleagues, Bob Weaver and Bruce Schneider, in another SWCA office. Part of the fascination of historical archaeology for me is getting to actually look through records to further explain the story.

Another email I received was from a University of Idaho student that I taught last semester. She had a few questions about field school, as she would be attending her first one soon. I quickly replied to her… conveying a little of my jealousy that she would soon be out at the Rosebud Battlefield Field School.

My desk at a relatively low level of chaos.

Since I am teaching a class in the fall for the University of Idaho, a small part of my day is doing some administrative things in preparation for that class, including ensuring all my paperwork is in order to get my new identity card (as mine expires on July 1st) and that I’ve made an appointment to get trained on the technology equipment for the room that I will teach in. I contemplate thinking of which books to assign… and then decide that today is the day not to go down that rabbit hole. Though preparation for the class can be tedious, I love engaging archaeology students in discussions of real-world archaeology.

I had a phone call with my SWCA PI (principal investigator), Jim Bard. We caught up on future opportunities and what is going on with the current project that we are working on Sandpoint, the main cultural resource project that I am involved with – a multi-year historical archaeology project in its final stages. I am compiling technical reports and editing versions coming back from the editors. With a collection of close to 600,000 artifacts this is no small feat.
In between all of these things going on, I am working on a proposal. My SWCA supervisor Mini Sharma Ogle and I email about setting up a time to chat on Monday about the logistics of writing a project proposal and budget to monitor a construction area for cultural resources.

Temporary housing and storage of the Sandpoint collection.

It is around this time that I realize that I have not had lunch… the coffee has worked its magic until after 2pm. So, I grab a quick lunch with the Sandpoint Lab Director, Amanda Haught. It just so happens that this day is her last day as Lab Director. So, our lunch is a working lunch during which we discuss where things are and what needs to be finished. When we return from lunch, we sit down again and go over things… while I take many notes. I will be stepping in and overseeing the remainder of deaccessioning of collections and be available for the staff for any questions that may arise.

It is around this time that Mark Warner makes his third appearance of the day in our office. Our cluster of offices are almost directly above his office so, it is a short commute for him to come visit. And as one of the PI’s of the Sandpoint Project, we see him at least once a day. Amanda and I quickly chat with him about progress of the collection and report.

Home Rule Irish pipe recovered from archaeological excavations of Willa Herman’s turn-of-the-century bordello in Sandpoint.

Coming home and decompressing on the porch, with a jack and coke, which led to drinks with my amazing neighbor, a National Park Service archivist, who is from Wisconsin and makes the best Old Fashions! She told me a popular joke among archivists, “Has Ken touched your collections?” (Ken Burns). Which made me laugh and laugh.

As we sit in her backyard and catch up on our professions, I can’t help but think about all the amazing archaeologists that I’ve had the pleasure of working with on the Sandpoint Project and that I have the best job in the world!

Whew… hope you enjoyed this snapshot of my whirlwind day. FYI- my title is a take on a quote from Alice in Wonderland.

Archaeology is Anthropology

As a college student, the question of my major and future career ambition is one of those frequently asked questions that I contend with on a daily basis. Very few seemingly understand what it means to study cultural anthropology- that isn’t necessarily a value judgement, merely an assessment of my personal experiences. The FAQ takes various forms, but amounts to something like “What are you going to do with that?” or “Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher.”

One of the many docks that is part of the inventory of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

I must admit that I often ask myself the same question(s), which prompted me to participate in an internship rather than a field school this summer as part of my undergraduate degree requirements. I knew that I had to find something that interested me both as an anthropologist and as a historian.

I ended up working on a project that satisfies both of those requirements. So far this summer, I have participated in a NAS fieldschool that was held in Traverse City, Michigan and helped other underwater archaeology students with their individual projects. I have attended various organizational events as a representative of my site supervisor/mentor. But for me, one of the coolest things about this internship is my participation in a complete inventory of the historic docks and piers of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Last summer at this time, I was spending the day conducting research on a shipwreck that washed ashore in the same area in late 2010. This summer, I spent the day (once again) doing research. And while the area of historic research is not really in my scope of interest, the information that I found on one of the historic sites is rather fascinating (which for me was rather unexpected). The dock that I am researching is called Aral Dock and is one of many century old docks in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore that has all but disintegrated into just pilings. The dock itself was rather homogeneous for the area in both build and use. Cargo such as lumber and agricultural items was loaded and unloaded at the dock and was sent on its way to various ports around the Great Lakes. Aral Dock is not interesting (for me) because of it’s construction, or materials, or rate of decay; Aral dock is interesting because of the scandal that surrounds it.

Research through local and regional newspapers as well as oral history from residents shows that there was a double homicide on this particular dock, earning it the nickname “Murder Dock”. The reason was money related- taxes, specifically- and the murder touched the small agricultural port town in a way that was unexpected for that community.  As a student of anthropology and history, this salacious history of an area that is currently considered to be quiet and relaxing for residents and tourists alike is an interesting study in local anthropology.

The area itself was a combination of industrial and agricultural, with the docks acting as a material reminder of how these people once lived and worked. What remains of the historic docks in the area is submerged in varying depths of water, ranging from shoreline depths to fifteen feet. Position fixing has been a chore, especially because of the wave action that is common in this specific bay on Lake Michigan. That is not to say that this experience hasn’t been enlightening or enjoyable. I can now say with confidence that I know what it is that I can do with my degree in Anthropology: I want to take what I have learned and apply it the field of historic archaeology, specifically sites that are underwater. Yes, I will likely spend more time in a library, museum, or historical society than I will in the field. I will likely be spending large amounts of time sifting through innumerable amounts of historic photos and oral histories as I did on the Day of Archaeology. But I have come to realize that there is no better way for me to combine my interests in history and human culture than by studying the physical material remains of the people that once occupied the most beautiful place in America.

Plus, my office will have one heck of a view. So, there’s that, too.

 

Gearing Up For Public Archaeology at the Fortress of Louisbourg, Among Other Things

I believe the normal archaeologist work day is to enter the office (or the field) in the am with a work plan then watch it change almost immediately.This is why I like this job, it’s ever-changing.  I became smitten with the idea of archaeology and palaeontology at an early age (grade 2 I believe) yet I never would have considered what the ‘job’ would be. Back then, it was dreams of digging and discovery. Now it’s about protection, understanding and education much of the time.

Talking to local students and their teachers about archaeology at Louisbourg, at the rescue excavation site of an 18th century fishing property on the North Shore of Louisbourg harbour at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada in 2010

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notes from an archaeology webmaster

Couldn't do this every morning without COFFEE!

It’s 5:00am here at my house in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, USA. The baby is sleeping, the house is blissfully quiet, and the first pot of coffee is on. I sit at my computer and begin work on updating an archaeology website I’ve been maintaining in one form or another for the past 16 years. This early morning ritual of job postings to archaeologyfieldwork.com is well-known amongst my colleagues (and the poor souls I’ve had to share a hotel room with on projects).

I’ve been working as a field archaeologist longer than the website has been up, but over the past few years, my employment has been sporadic. I have two young children, and I can count the archaeology projects on one hand that I’ve participated in since becoming a mom. Being a field archaeologist and working within cultural resource management in the U.S. usually means a life of travel. In the past, a new archaeology project may have found me in Frostproof, FL, Wilmington, DE, or Penn Yan, NY. Quite often a phone call was received on a Thursday or Friday with the news that I would be somewhere across the state, or several states away on Monday morning. I used to spend so much time on the road that I rarely bothered to unpack my truck. Once I went nearly 5 months without seeing my apartment.

Fieldwork for me is on hold for the time being, and I must be content with running archaeologyfieldwork.com. The most popular part of the website is the forum for daily employment postings. Sometimes employers come to the site and post their own jobs, and often they are mailed to me to post on their behalf. However, the bulk of job adverts are forwarded from elsewhere on the internet. Each morning and throughout the day as time allows, I laboriously search employment aggregators, government websites, archaeology groups, company websites, e-lists, RSS feeds, and have mastered the art of incredibly targeted Googling. On a good day I’m able to find 20 or 30 new jobs, and on a slow day or a holiday weekend it may only be a few. Through the years I’d guess that tens of thousands of job adverts have been posted to archaeologyfieldwork.com. In a way, finding and sharing this information appeals to the archaeologist part of me that I’m still reluctant to give up.

Once you get archaeology in your blood and find yourself doing something else (whether it’s an office job, or being a stay at home mom), you miss it like crazy. I look forward to the day when a local archaeology position may manifest, or the kids are old enough and I may have the opportunity to be a shovelbum once again. In the meantime, running archaeologyfieldwork.com helps me to feel connected to the archaeology community. I’m not actively “doing archaeology” on a daily basis and getting my hands dirty, but by running the website I feel like I’m giving something back to my colleagues. The truth is, archaeologyfieldwork.com is helping me as much as it is helping others, and without this connection to the world of archaeology I would probably miss it even more.

I still have my archaeology dig kit in the closet, though. Hopefully it won’t be gathering dust for too long.

The Big Picture: Archaeological Records after the Project is Done

Greetings! I’m Jolene Smith. I work for the Department of Historic Resources in Virginia, USA. I decided to post on Day of Archaeology because I am most certainly not what most people would consider a “typical” archaeologist. I manage digital and paper records and mapping for nearly 43,000 recorded archaeological sites in Virginia through our government agency, which is also the State Historic Preservation Office.

Sometimes I miss being out in the field, but certainly not today. It’s currently 100°F/38°C outside at lunch time, so I’m very happy in my air conditioned office cubicle.

Distribution of Sites in Virginia by County

Distribution of Recorded Archaeological Sites in Virginia (work-in-progress!)

My work so far today has been very heavy on GIS (Geographic Information Systems). I spent the morning creating a quick map showing the density of recorded sites in Virginia’s counties for a publication of the Archeological Society of Virginia (our state’s wonderful avocational archaeological organization). It’s still a major work-in-progress, but I’m happy I was able to easily generate this data. The ASV hopes to use this info as a guide for where to conduct future archaeological surveys. With a little more work, I’ll be able to clean up some errors, pretty it up, and label everything so the data will be easily understandable.

I spent much of the rest of the morning working on creating records for a large project conducted by a CRM (cultural resource management) consultant, making sure the GIS mapping is accurate and matches the information in our databases and in the printed site form records. Quality control is a big part of what I do. It’s fundamental to remember that archaeology is inherently destructive, so it’s critical to have good, clear records.

Here’s what I have on tap for the rest of the day: I’ll work with some more consultants to create records for new archaeological sites and add information to previously recorded sites. I’ll also be responding to a few emails from members of the public interested in recording small cemeteries in our inventory. Then, I’ll probably review a few archaeological projects that have been conducted at the future sites of mobile phone/telecommunications towers as part of Section 106 compliance to make sure that there won’t be impacts to important archaeological deposits. Quite a variety, isn’t it?