Independence Day

Featured Today at the Virtual Curation Laboratory: George Washington’s Boyhood Home, Jamestown, and Monongahela Villages

by Bernard K. Means, Director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory

Bernard K. Means scanning the cellar feature at Ferry Farm.

Bernard K. Means scanning the cellar feature at Ferry Farm.

I just walked in from the field where I 3D scanned a Colonial-era cellar feature at George Washington’s Ferry Farm, continuing a busy week that will end tomorrow, July 11, 2014 in a Day of Archaeology Festival in Washington, D.C. sponsored by Archaeology in the Community. This is not the first feature that I have scanned at Ferry Farm using the Sense 3D scanner. A couple of weeks ago, I scanned this cluster of Colonial-era features at Ferry Farm–and one shovel test pit from a 1990’s archaeological survey (the square hole).

Animated Colonial-era feature from Ferry Farm.

Animated Colonial-era feature from Ferry Farm.

More typically, at Ferry Farm and other locations, I use a NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner to create artifact models.

Masonic pipe dating to the George Washington-era occupation at Ferry Farm.

Masonic pipe dating to the George Washington-era occupation at Ferry Farm.

The Virtual Curation Laboratory creates printed replicas of the digitally scanned artifacts and features, which are painted by students at Virginia Commonwealth University for public programs, teaching, and exhibition.

Becki Bowman (left) and Lauren Hogg painted printed artifact replicas.

Becki Bowman (left) and Lauren Hogg painting printed artifact replicas.

Some of these painted replicas were featured in a public archaeology program held on Independence Day (July 4)  just one week ago.

A young visitor in Colonial garb examined a chess set created using scanned artifacts.

A young visitor in Colonial garb examines a chess set created using scanned artifacts, as well as other artifact replicas.

The Virtual Curation Laboratory works with many partners in the cultural heritage community dedicated and devoted to protecting and presenting the past.  We have a particularly fruitful relationship with Historic Jamestowne, where we have 3D scanned a wide range of artifacts that are incorporated into public programs.

Becki Bowman holds up a freshly painted replica of an ivory compass dating to the early 1600s from Jamestown.

Becki Bowman holds up a freshly painted replica of an ivory compass dating to the early 1600s from Jamestown.

Ivory compass from Jamestown

Ivory compass from Jamestown

In late June, with help from Jamestown Rediscovery’s Danny Schmidt, we scanned this partially excavated bread oven at Jamestown, from a cellar where the cannibalized remains of a young woman dubbed “Jane” were found.

Animation of cellar from Jamestown.

Animation of cellar from Jamestown.

Lest it be thought that we only work on historic-era sites, we also pursue research on pre-Contact sites, including Monongahela villages that once existed across southwestern Pennsylvania and adjacent states. We work closely with the Westmoreland Archaeological Society, a group of avocational archaeologists in Pennsylvania that are actively excavating the Consol site, a multi-component Monongahela village.

Ceramic vessel from the Consol site.

Ceramic vessel from the Consol site.

 

Basin-shaped feature from the Consol site.

Basin-shaped feature from the Consol site.

For more about  the Virtual Curation Laboratory, you can visit us here. Other animations can be found at the Virtual Curation Museum, including this mummified opossum.

1179_opossum_mummy_new

 

 

The Business of Archaeology

Michelle Touton

While surveying, you sometimes find unexpected things–like blueberries! Yum.

I’m a project manager at a contract archaeology company, which means I have to be both an archaeologist and a businesswoman.  Anathema to purists, maybe, but in the United States most archaeology is done commercially, as part of an industry called Cultural Resource Management (CRM), and businesses need people doing business-y things to keep them running.  In CRM, developers hire archaeologists and architectural historians to help them deal with cultural resources that will be affected by their development project, in much the same way as they hire environmental scientists, traffic engineers, and architects.  We work for the developer, but our first duty is to the resources.

For me, the 2012 Day of Archaeology was pretty typical.  My primary task for the day, as it has been for the last month or so, is to continue editing a site report.  The archaeologist who wrote the report works mostly on prehistoric sites, but this report is about a historic site.  Since it’s her first historic-period report, we’re taking our time with it to teach her how to do it right.  Historic-period artifacts require completely different analysis knowledge than prehistoric artifacts (e.g., learning to recognize mold seams on bottles or differentiate fabric types in ceramics, vs. categorizing edge flaking in stone tools), which takes time to learn.  You also have more lines of evidence (in the form of historical maps and records) that you need to bring in to your analysis.  Work on the report has been slow-going because I often am too busy with other things to get a chance to work on it.

The Day Begins

My first task upon getting to the office–after brewing a pot of tea, of course–is to check in with our people in the field.  Today we have two field projects going on, both of which are in the monitoring stage.  “Monitoring” means that an archaeologist watches the construction crew as they dig, in order to spot any emerging resources (artifacts/sites/etc.) before they’re damaged or destroyed.  Monitoring is usually done after we’ve already done testing and evaluation of anything we know is on site, and is largely a failsafe to protect things we didn’t know were there.

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