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Societies, Chapters, and Clubs: Oh My!

My name is Kurt Thomas Hunt.  I’m a CRM archaeologist based in New York State and I head up an archaeoblog called Sexy Archaeology.  Sexy Archaeology is one way that I provide public outreach within the field of archaeology by sharing the work that I do alongside what I consider excitingly appealing happenings from around the globe.  I’m also the president of the New York State Archaeological Association’s (NYSAA) Thousand Islands Chapter, one of sixteen Chapters within the Empire State.

For this year’s Day of Archaeology, I’ve chosen to share a brief overview of the NYSAA’s history, highlight the work of my Chapter, and attempt to persuade those who are not already members to join their local archaeological Chapter or Society.

The New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA) is composed of professional and avocational archaeologists primarily within New York State (though residency is not a prerequisite to join). NYSAA exists to promote archaeological and historical study, and research covering the artifacts, rites, customs, beliefs and other phases of the lives and cultures of the American Indian occupants of New York State up to their contact with Europeans and beyond.

The NYSAA was founded in 1916 and there are currently sixteen regional chapters of the NYSAA throughout the State. Each of the chapters holds monthly meetings where they present programs related to New York archaeology. Some of the chapters conduct their own fieldwork with the assistance of both members and volunteers.  The NYSAA also publishes a bulletin and journal and sponsors an annual meeting in the spring of each year.

The Thousand Islands Chapter of the NYSAA was founded in 1994 and hosts over thirty members with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

Photo: Kurt Thomas Hunt

Our Chapter recently finished hosting a summer dig for its members along the shores of the Indian River, long known to be an essential byway for indigenous peoples through Northern New York.  While a complete understanding of the site is still a ways off, a rough interpretation dictates that the two-acre area was most likely a seasonal Iroquois occupation site.

Photo: Kurt Thomas Hunt

This rough interpretation is derived primarily from surface finds and excavations performed over the past couple of years.  During this year’s dig, 298 pieces of pottery were unearthed within the first five centimeters of a single 1m x 1m unit.  Other evidence has included flakes of locally sourced chert, projectile points, and just this year a post mold.

Photo: Kurt Thomas Hunt

Aside from fieldwork, the Thousand Islands Chapter has, in the past, hosted lectures and discussions from a wide range of professionals, organized tours of historical sites, and has provided educational outreach programs for both children and adults across several counties within Northern New York.

Local or regional chapters of your state archaeological society provide exciting opportunities and come with numerous benefits.  Society’s allow the chance for professional individuals to network, avocational archaeologists to hone their craft, and students the opportunity to garner experience from more seasoned individuals.  Regional societies or chapters also afford members of the community the opportunity to better familiarize themselves with the history and archaeology of their area.

I invite you to join your local Chapter and Society.  Not sure where to get started?  The AIA website is a great place to turn, but a simple Google search or an email to your State Historic Preservation Office will also help further your search.  Good luck, and make the most of it!

Enhancing worn inscriptions and the Day of Archaeology 2012

My name is Tom Goskar and I am one of the organisers of the Day of Archaeology, as well as being a freelance archaeologist who specialises in applying digital techniques to different aspects of the discipline. My day today has been rather mixed, but predictably involved being at the proverbial digital coalface of archaeology in two aspects.

At 8am I checked my email to catch up with the behind-the-scenes talk between the eight organisers of the Day of Archaeology, and log into this website to begin moderating the posts that were by then flowing thick and fast. By 11am I had been on a Google Hangout with Pat and Jess, and we had re-jigged the homepage to make it easier to explore, as well as temporarily excluding posts from last year to highlight the new contributions. It looked much better afterwards. I have been dipping into the website on and off all day, making sure that posts looked good, and expanding and linking the occasional acronym to help readers know what they are. The DoA moderators have been hard at work in the engine room!

In between, for a personal project I have been processing 3D data from a medieval cross close to where I live, here in Penzance, Cornwall, as well as helping to refurbish a soon-to-be-open digital arts space in the town centre.

The Penzance Market Cross, made in the 11th century, is decorated and has many inscriptions. These are very eroded and most people do not notice them. Unless you happen to see the stone in just the right glancing sunlight, the sides of the cross appear to just have some panels of dots and a few lines, not much else. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Using photogrammetric techniques, I have been examining the cross to see if how well 3D capture techniques can enhance the inscriptions and decorations, with the aim of comparing my results with drawings made using traditional techniques (rubbings, chalking, torchlit photos).

In the spirit of the Day of Archaeology, below is a working illustration showing the north east elevation of the Market Cross, which I produced for this blog post. In the centre of the image is the cross as the casual visitor may see it. To the left, the colour information has been removed (which can sometimes be distracting), leaving the shape of the stone artificially coloured grey, with a virtual light source moved to show some of the decoration. To the right, a Radiance Scaling shader has been applied, which colours concavities and convexities to help reveal details on the stone.

Penzance Market Cross

Penzance Market Cross, captured in 3D with photogrammetry, and enhanced using digital filters.

 

As you can see from the Radiance Scaling image to the right, there is definitely more going on than first meets the eye. The figure in the second panel from the top is clearly visible, as are the letters and glyphs in the lower two panels. As I type, I am processing a mesh with a much higher level of detail, and look forward to the results which will be ready in the early hours of tomorrow morning. Comparing the results to the accepted interpretations made by Professor Charles Thomas will be interesting, whether they differ or help to confirm what we already know.

So, my Day of Archaeology has been a busy and varying one, and it’s not over yet. Time to publish this post, and return to the list of posts to publish some more from around the globe, so that we can all show to the world what archaeologists really get up to in our own words. I hope that it helps people today and in the future to understand just how exciting and relevant archaeology is to us all.

You can follow my archaeology musings over at my blog Past Thinking.

New Zealand Archaeological Association 2012 Conference Fieldtrip

New Zealand Archaeological Association 2012 Conference Field Trip

The conference this year is being held in Oamaru in New Zealand’s South Island.  Two bus loads of archaeologists went on the field trip today – coincidentally the Day of Archaeology – it is a feature of every annual conference run by the Association.

There is information about the Association and the conference including a programme here:

www.nzarchaeology.org

http://nzarchaeology.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=66:conference-2012&Itemid=60&layout=default

The conference programme and abstracts can be downloaded here.

 

Inspecting the Awamoko shelter site

Inspecting the Awamoko shelter site

 

Oamaru is renowned in New Zealand for its architecture. It had early wealth from its fine agricultural land, first in exporting grain but later from other crops, and pastoral farming. The wealth of the town in the late 1800s was reflected in its classical architecture. The buildings utilised a local white limestone – Oamaru stone, which was valued for building here and elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand

 

One of the buildings in Oamaru

The area is also rich in prehistoric sites. Early Maori sites occur at river and estuary mouths. They commonly have the bones of New Zealand giant extinct birds, moa, but also other birds, marine mammals and fish exploited by the first residents.

The most notable prehistoric sites in the area are the rock art sites that occur in overhang shelters and caves along the valleys in, and at the margins of the limestone. These date from the whole of Maori occupation and into the contact period where settler items also appear.

Out field trip visited a number of these sites, on a cold clear day, where there was fresh snow on the adjacent hills. We were guided by Maori manawhenua (people of the land) Ngai Tahu who have an active programme in preserving and studying these sites. Brian Allingham who works with them and has long studied them talked at each of the five sites visited as did Amanda Symon, curator of the Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust. They requested that any website use of images has their approval. As a consequence it is only the social views that appear here, but there are many images on the web – see the links.

The images we saw in the sites we went to included a spiral carved into the rock and drawings of people, dogs and animal forms. At other sites there are pictures of birds, canoes and many decorative elements.

Entering a decorated shelter

The Te Ana rock art museum in Timaru is a great place to start a visit to the area http://www.teana.co.nz/  It is run by the Maori manawhenua, Ngai Tahu.

Some more information on rock art can be found here and here and here and here.
A google search for images can be made here

Amanda Symon - one of our guides

Amanda Symon – one of our guides

Shelter near Duntroon

The buses near Duntroon

Walking between sites in the limestone outcrops

Snow on the Southern Alps foothills

 

The last stop on the trip was at Otekaieke. This is a grand estate house built in the Scottish manorial style by an immigrant Scot, Robert Campbell. He imported Scots craftsmen to assist in its construction. It is one of a number of like estates in the South Island built on wool wealth. Huge sheep runs were the locations of all these estates. It was only occupied as a house for a few years before Campbell died young, followed shortly after by his widow. They had no descendants. It was subsequently part of the series of estates broken up around 1900 under Government pressure to create more land for small farmers. The home and site was later a boy’s reformatory school but went out of that use and is now privately owned. The gardens are now much degraded and the site cluttered with a diverse range of more modern buildings dating from the school use.

 

Otekaieke – Robert Campbell’s great estate

 

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust register entries for the house and the associated stables can be seen here:

http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=4378
http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=4377

There is more about the station history  here.

A fuller set of pictures from the trip can be seen here on facebook.

The site locations are here on Google Maps

 

Penn Museum Archaeologist; Near East

I love being in the field, but this year I’m not excavating. My work is museum related for now, an important part of what we do. So, here’s my Day of Archaeology so far:

Got up around 6:30am and checked my email through my Blackberry. Found that our subcontract to the British Museum has gone through (much of what I do these days is done jointly with London and they are five hours ahead of me, so they have already begun work when I get up).

Got to the museum around 8:00am. I live nearby, which I like because I can walk to work. My computer is my secretary, so I checked on my ‘to do’ file. Yes, if I were more up-to-date I’d just use Google Calendar or some such, but I like having individual files for each day on my hard drive. I looked through the previous day making sure the most pressing things got done, deleting those items and assigning most pressing for today. I had a committee meeting for the Ur Project yesterday; I have to write up the minutes today for distribution to others on the project, that gets the most pressing mark for the morning.

 

Brad Hafford in his cluttered office, 524 Museum

 

Our project is taking legacy data, excavation material from 1922-1934, and modernizing, that is, recording it all digitally and uniting it in one place — the interweb. The excavation was a very important one, that of the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq and was conducted jointly by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Under laws of the day, artifacts collected were divided between the nascent state of Iraq with its newly founded National Museum and the two excavating institutions. Thus, half the artifacts are in Baghdad, the other half are split between Philadephia and London. But there is much more to an excavation than artifacts. There are also field notes, photographs, catalogues, letters, telegrams, receipts, drawings, watercolors, and so much more. We are digitizing and uniting all of this material. We want to create a site where anything and everything concerning Ur and its excavation can be accessed, researched, and gazed upon in wonder; all in open-source, freely accesible and linked data form.

Creating it takes time, patience, and money. It takes access to the artifacts and archives which are not solely spread among the three museums mentioned, but objects also secondarily sent to many smaller museums around the world, paricularly the Commonwealth at the time. There are Ur artifacts from our excavations as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. And many more in the UK: Almost 1000 artifacts are in the Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries. Not only that, but reconstructing the original numbering system for artifacts and photographs, and connecting that to the modern museum numbering systems, linking objects back to their original field records is not as easy as one might think. Our work is quite complicated. But also most worthwhile.

Museum cafe opens around 9am. Armed with coffee, and organized on my computer daily to-do list, I can face the rest of my day in confidence.

10:00am Eastern: Skype conference with British Museum colleagues. We’ve been trying now for some weeks to establish dates and room reservations for a project meeting near the end of the calendar year. Since this one needs to include funding agency, high-level museum administrators, principle investigators, other museum representatives, etc. it’s been difficult to mesh schedules. It’s also difficult to get space in the British Museum since it is in high demand.

Next we discussed the state of the merger of datasets between our two museums concerning Ur. It’s going slowly because we created our digital data from two sets of records divided by decades and the Atlantic. These records have to be meshed so that a unique identifier refers to each and every object. Then we have to get it all on a server so that both museums can access, update, and correct it. As I have probably already noted, re-unification is not easy. But we have great people on both sides of the pond working on it. Birmingham is on board and we’re starting the process of contacting the other institutions that have subsets of the Ur material. And of course we’re still trying to get the Iraq National Museum on board, but politics has gotten in the way for now.

More emails and arrangements have placed me at about the half-way point of my Day of Archaeology. More in part 2…

Meta#dayofarch Reloaded

As you may have gathered, I am one of founders of the Day of Archaeology, and one of the team behind the manic moderation on the day itself.. My Day of Archaeology started at 6.30am, when I began to read and moderate posts. I was still there at 10pm, hovering over the site like a worried mother, fretting about our baby. But what a resounding success.. we made 1000 likes on Facebook in just 18 hours, and I haven’t even seen the Google Analytics data yet – we had problems earlier with the server, as the memory was reaching capacity (or something, I’m a bit vague about that sort of thing).. so I think that means thousands of people are looking at this.. But actually getting people to use the site as well as contribute to it is very important to me. What is the use of ‘a day in the life’ if no one uses the site?

As Mike Ellis memorably said at a conference I attended in 2009 (and I paraphrase slightly) “saying that your information is avaliable online does not mean it’s useful and accessible”.. This really affected me at the time, and although I have been involved in various online projects that haven’t quite yet grasped this concept fully, I really hope that this website is both accessible, useful, and a demonstration of the future of public, community, participatory archaeology – call it what you will.

The DoA team of 7 people worked as smoothly together as if we had been sprayed with WD40. The 400+ archaeologists that contributed to the site were enthusiastic and fearless. No posts were written that were difficult to understand if you were a member of the public. As a team of 407 we done good.

The important thing is what happens next – OK, so we can do this again next year, and aim for 500 archaeologists from every continent… But the potential of this site as a source for campaigning, education, career guidance, dissertation material and so forth is immense. I want to know what you plan to use it for.. You can always find me on Twitter (@LornaRichardson), or Google+ (search for Lorna Richardson, I’m the red-head). You can even email me at the Day of Archaeology email address if 140 characters are not enough… but please get in touch.

My Day of Archaeology…

How meta am I? I think I win any meta competition. My day was not only spent moderating and uploading blogs to the Day of Archaeology site, whilst Tweeting and Facebooking about it (and sending emails and texts), holding hangouts on Google+, Tweeting about holding hangouts on Google+ and Facebooking about Tweeting about holding hangouts on Google+, but I have also kept detailed notes about my experiences of the Day of Archaeology for my PhD research. I am re-using a Netnographic approach (online ethnolography of sorts) to the days participation and discussion on the various social media platforms as far as possible. So your interactions with me and the website have been considered ethnographically (all anonymously of course). And these thoughts and notes are now stuck on virtual Post-Its on my laptop, ready to be written up into a chapter for my research that discusses the creation of an archaeological community online. I think the day clearly demonstrates the existance of an online archaeological community, willing and able to cross social media platforms. It’s not just about being found on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook – it’s about using all of these technologies to create a supportive and cooperative environment on the Internet where archaeologists can come together to network, share, support and laugh about the wonderful world of archaeology.

We done more than good.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making the first Day of Archaeology amazing. So, July 2012 anyone?

Antiquities, databases and an atypical day at the British Museum

The Moorlands Staffordshire Trulla

The Moorlands pan, one of my favourite objects

For the last eight years, I have worked at the British Museum, following a couple of years working for a German Investment Bank in the City of London. I’m responsible for the management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme‘s IT infrastructure and I provide advice to the British Museum on ICT issues when needed. The world of IT, is entirely self taught knowledge for me; at university I studied archaeology at undergraduate and post graduate levels, with a specific interest in maritime archaeology. It has been a sharp learning curve, and one that I think will always be challenging and disrupted by new technology. Of course, I’m open to offers to get back below the seas and excavate underwater again!

The department that I work for, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (and Treasure) is a DCMS funded project that records objects that have been found within the boundaries of England and Wales by members of the public. They voluntarily bring these objects forward to one of our 60 members of staff, who then record them on our database. You could say that this is at heart, public archaeology in action. This database now provides the basis for a massive amount of research within the university environment and it is very gratifying to see what people do with the database that I built. For example, the map below (produced in ArcView – I use QGIS at home) shows where coins of different periods are found by our contributors. Of course, I have to be very careful who has access to the full spatial co-ordinates, academics have to apply for access and I use some maths to obfuscate points on a map.

A plot of all coins recorded on the Scheme's database

A plot of all coins recorded on the Scheme's database

I’ve also been heavily involved with the #dayofarch project alongside friends and colleagues (we’re calling ourselves”Digital Archaeologists” ). The team working on this project were Matt Law and Lorna Richardson who came up with the plan, Tom Goskar, Jess Ogden, Stu Eve and Andy Dufton). I provided the project with server space, Google analytics, installation of the software and configuration of the software with Tom Goskar. The project has been amazing to work on, and we’ll hopefully be writing this up and getting a chapter on it into Lorna’s PhD.

My day is pretty varied and is either filled with writing funding bids, writing papers (CASPAR workshop papers on Archaeology on TV and Museums and Twitter at the moment), refactoring or writing new code, creating maps in various GIS packages, manipulating images (by script and hand), meetings with academics, TV people or colleagues. It is extremely different to my previous job, and it is probably why I’ve stuck with the role for such a long period. The database that I run, has been written from scratch and I’m currently transferring all my code to GitHub so that others can make use of my work. All the software that I either use or build has to be open-source. I have a very small budget for my IT work – £4000 per annum; is this the smallest budget for a National IT programme ever? I use products from Vanilla for our staff forum, from WordPress for our blogs and various framework packages like Zend Framework for our main website and database. As such, I spent only £48 on the site’s rebuild, the rest goes on server hosting and backup! At the moment, I am also working on a variety of funding proposals, a couple of JISC bids and I’m also looking for funding for the Video-Conferencing workshop that Elizabeth Warry refers to in her post. This is based around the discovery of the Frome hoard and forms the basis for her Masters’ dissertation that I’m supervising with Tim Schadla-Hall. Other people working on this include the British Museum’s education team and members of the Treasure Team. I’m also on various academic advisory boards, an honorary lecturer at UCL (currently helping to supervise Lorna Richardson’s PhD) and a Trustee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, a scholarly society based in Marylebone that has a wonderful collection of artefacts, maps and photos, and I’m currently involved in helping with a research bid for high resolution imagery of fragile documents which involves a wide array of partners.

Ian Richardson hold a double eagle

Ian Richardson hold a double eagle

Currently we have records for over 720,000 objects which have been contributed by over 19,000 people in a 14 year time span. We get around 60,000 visitors per month to our site and around 3-10,000 objects recorded; the time of year has a great effect on this – harvest and seasons especially impact. The site was awarded ‘Best of the Web’ as a research tool or online collection at this year’s Museums and the Web conference in Philadelphia. Something I’m extremely proud of for all our staff and contributors.  All of these records are released under a Creative Commons NC-BY-SA licence and we’ve had considerable success with a variety of digital projects. High profile finds that come up generate a huge amount of interest, and I’ve been trying to get suitable images for the Wikipedia community. We’re finding our relationship with them very beneficial and we now have lots of images in the Wikicommons.

With my wife, Katharine Kelland, I built the Staffordshire Hoard’s first website in 12 hours, and this was viewed by 1/4 million people in one day when we launched. I now use this model as a way for publicising other significant archaeological discoveries. I’m very lucky to work in the British Museum, I never thought I’d end up working there and you never tire of walking through the main gates and up the stairs to the Great Court. In the last few years I’ve been privileged to have seen amazing discoveries close up – the Hackney hoard, the Moorlands patera, the Staffordshire Hoard, the Frome Hoard, the Wheathampstead hoard, and the list goes on. I’ve even got to dress up as a gladiator and parade around the Great Court. Where else could you do this?

Mapping Sardinian bronze age towers

I’m not an archaeologist, I am really a non-practising historian (specialized in contemporary history). So what am I contributing to an event like this where I decided last minute I may have something to say? I have a passion for archaeology, always had, so much that I took courses at the university to understand archaeology and participated in an excavation (as a student in 2004). I dived into the prehistory of Sardinia and visited archaeological sites. About two years ago I started mapping Sardinian bronze age towers called nuraghi (sing. Nuraghe) using a database and Google Maps to render these on a website available to everyone.  The Sardinian bronze age towers were built between 1800 and 900 BC and range from simple towers to complex multi-towered buildings.

Nuraghe Sorgono Ghilarza

Nuraghe Sorgono at Ghilarza

My work on this small self-defined project is confined to the weekend due to my normal day to day job (yes in the IT, and no nothing to do with my study). On saturdays I pick up the maps of Sardinia published by the Istituto Geografico Militare (IGM) scale 1:25.000 and look for the marks of the nuraghi on these maps. In the past the IGM and archaeologists collaborated to publish archaeological maps of Sardinia and since then the IGM has included them in the newest maps which are of 1989-1990.

I compare the marks to the marked nuraghi on Wikimapia. A number of passionates have started marking the nuraghi on Wikimapia which has made my work that much easier to find the exact geo coordinates. Next I locate the exact position on Google Earth and retrieve the information of the altitude (which is an approximate measurement).
This data, including the name of the municipality and the province of appurtenance, is entered in the database and then published through a Google map on the website. This way in the past two years I have built a database of over 3300 entries and am still working.

A sample of the map of nuraghi

A sample of the map of nuraghi in Google maps

In so far these bronze age towers have been subject to excavations or research I am trying to get as much as possible hold of published material to relate these to the nuraghi. One publication in particular concerns the archaeological maps of 1919-1946 by Antonio Taramelli, which provides also first hand information from the archaeologist, with a list of descriptions of archaeological structures and finds. But there are a lot of publications by many archaeologists with maps and lists of nuraghi or detailed excavation reports.

Obviously there is a concern regarding the preservation of so many prehistoric sites, and there are many more if you include nuragic (prehistoric) villages, tombs, sanctuaries. Many bronze age towers have already been dismantled, the stones used for construction of villages, roads and railroads. By keeping trace of these bronze age structures and publishing a list and a map I hope that my small project may contribute in maintaining this cultural heritage and serve as a bridge between the invaluable work of the archaeologists and the broader public.

Inside nuraghe Santu Antine Torralba

Inside nuraghe Santu Antine TorralbaNuraghe Losa Abbasanta

 

Nuraghe Losa at Abbasanta

Nuraghe Losa at Abbasanta

 

 

 

Resources:

Map of Nuraghi

From Day of Archaeology’s Bristol Office

As I write this, it’s 9.30 am on Saturday in the UK – which means it’s 10.30 pm on Friday in Hawaii (yes we have contributors in Hawaii). For most of the world, Day of Archaeology is over (although we will continue to publish posts for the next week). I am amazed, really very pleased, by just how many people embraced the idea of Day of Archaeology. Right now we have just under 360 posts published, with the promise of more to come. I’m told the #dayofarch hashtag was used over 900 times on Twitter during the day. I can’t begin to thank everyone who has been involved enough, from my fellow volunteers – Jess, Dan, Lorna, Andy, Stu and Tom – to all our contributors, and those who shared word of the day on facebook, twitter, Google+, academia.edu and other social media. What I hope we’ve created together is the single best resource to answer the question “what do archaeologists do?” Already, thanks to Terry Brock and Leigh Graves Wolf, work is underway turning the project into a schools teaching resource.

My day, unsurprisingly, was mostly spent checking through posts as they came in, occasionally altering them to make sure links to other sites or embedded videos worked, adding categories or tags if appropriate and (not too often actually) catching typos. I have no idea how many posts I checked, but I was consistently busy from 8 am to 6 pm and still working at 10.30 pm. I did grab the time to recruit one final volunteer for an archaeology engagement stand I’m helping to run at the Green Man music festival in Wales next month, but otherwise my day was all Day of Archaeology (how meta).

Had I not been doing this, I would most likely have been on site in Somerset, where I’m currently part of a team of commercial archaeologists excavating the surface of a former island now thoroughly inland, and buried under two metres of marine clay. The site occasionally yields some very nice lithics, such as this:

Flint arrowhead from Somerset

I may have been doing some lab work. I’m a part-time PhD student at Cardiff University, investigating environmental change throughout the period of human occupation in the Outer Hebrides. Mostly, this means I identify and count snail shells from samples taken in different features and layers on archaeological sites. You might think of the reasonably large snails you see in your garden when you read that, but there are many more species of snail that are truly miniscule – as small as 1mm in their largest dimension. Often these snails have very specific tolerances for the environmental conditions they can live in, which is especially informative when you have a few different species with similar tolerances occuring together.You can learn quite a lot about the use of different areas of a site from the snails. Some snail species arrived on the islands later than others, and I’m going to be working to date these arrivals as closely as possible, with the hope that the presence of a particular species in a deposit can become a tool for relative dating, much like archaeologists use particular types of ceramic or lithic form (the picture above, for example, is a classic Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowhead).

The day after Day of Archaeology will be spent (in part at least) reading through posts I didn’t get a chance to see yesterday. I’ve really enjoyed reading about other archaeologists’ working days around the world. I don’t think I’ve learned more about archaeology in a single day before. Day of Archaeology will return next year. Thank you all for making it such a positive experience

Matt Law

 

7. Digitising Crickley plans and using GIS

There are numerous plans showing the features at Crickley Hill – some are simple pencil drawn plans (done in the field), but most have since been reproduced in ink, for both durability and to make features more visible. When I was digging at Crickley, I remember planning (drawing) contexts – this was done using a 1m grid that had been divided into 10 x 10 cm squares. Any item the size of a 2p piece or larger was drawn. This resulted in very detailed plans (anything smaller was unlikely to show up when the plan had been reduced to scale).

(more…)

Ses Talaies

The entrance (facing west) of the Talaiot at Ses Talaies

On my route to the centre of the island I stopped by at a site I know since it crossed my way by chance several years ago. It’s one of the around five hundred Talaiotic sites known on Mallorca.

Ses Talaies in Google Maps

Ses Talaies is a wonderful place. The old cyclopic walls surrounding a circular Talaiot that has obviously been excavated professionally (trenches still discernable) are sticking out here and there in between the ‘modern’ rubble walls limiting the parcels of land.

Old and 'modern' stone walls at Ses Talaies

The fields close to the Talaiot are full of objects on the surface esp. pottery. One of the old walls is attached to the Talaiot providing ground for dense vegetation of wild olives and almond trees.

I spend about an hour in the shade at the foot of the Talaiot making up my mind on an abstract I submitted just before starting the holidays.

Why that?

I’m invited for a conference in Cairo in October to deliver a keynote on building archaeology and its methods that are supposed to be strongly influenced by modern technology. For many good reasons the organisers of conferences want to have a summary of what will be presented months before the actual event – this summary is also known as an abstract and it has strong implications for the authors. Mostly you have to summarise first and write the talk later. Not always easy especially when you’re asked to contribute something basic and well thought on the methods of an archaeological discipline.

I usually start with a mindmap. It’s a handmade drawing with keywords. The main topics show up early. This basic concept is then complemented with arguments also interconnected with arrows etc. In the end it doesn’t look good, but it’s sufficient to derive a summary.

I have this mindmap with me, so in very relaxed moments I take it out and look at it and bits and pieces of how to communicate the different arguments come into my mind being written down instantly.

People who know me might find in surprising, but it’s still all by hand. I tried to use mindmapping software tools , but it’s not really working out.

So at least I did something quite typical for an archaeologist today…

Please note: When I visit sites that are not prepared for visitors I

  • do not climb on walls
  • do not pick up anything (not even pottery from the surface)
  • and, of course, don’t take anything with me

To keep the archaeological record intact is extremely important. Ses Talaies might be subject of full archaeological investigations in several decades only. We have no idea about techniques applied in the future. The past twenty years most certainly only offer a glimpse on the changes to come.