Archaeology from the depths of the Delaware River to high atop Philadelphia’s Skyline

Today, I coordinated the activities of two groups of faculty and students working on archaeological related projects at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA USA. One project supervised by Erik Sundquist, Director of the Westphal Hybrid Lab and being produced by Riley Stewart, a Digital Media sophomore is an 11 ft. replica of a cheval de frise, an American Revolution era underwater weapon used to prevent British warships from sailing into Philadelphia. The artifact was recovered in the Delaware River in 2007 by maritime archaeologist J. Lee Cox Jr. and donated to the Independence Seaport Museum. Shortly after the artifact was recovered,  Craig Bruns, Chief Curator, Independence Seaport Museum, asked if my team of faculty and students could make a 3D scan of the cheval as part of the Museum’s effort to preserve it. Then Digital Media faculty member Chris Redmann and Digital Media sophomore Mark Petrovich scanned the artifact and produced a 3D model. Recently, Craig asked if we could produce a replica of the cheval from our scan data. Craig plans to use the replica as a proxy for the actual artifact as the Museum prepares to exhibit the cheval de frise. Before producing the full scale replica, Erik and Riley printed a miniature replica of the cheval to test the integrity of the scan data. Satisfied with the model Erik and Riley plan to produce the replica next week.

For the second project I reviewed storyboards for two Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that will be used in October to alert the public to two archaeology events. The first entitled, “Explore Philadelphia’s Buried Past” is a one day celebration where archeologists explain to the public ongoing archaeological work being conducted in Philadelphia. The free event is held at the National Constitution Center and is sponsored by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum and Independence National Historical Park (INHP) Archaeology lab. The other PSA will announce that October is Pennsylvania Archaeology Month. The storyboards are being produced by Digital Media freshman, Ryan Rasing. Both PSA’s will feature 3D models of archaeological artifacts from the INHP’s archaeology collection. The artifacts were scanned last week at INHP’s Archaeology Lab by Digital Media graduate student Jonnathan Mercado assisted by Ryan. Both are working to produce the PSAs that will appear on the upper floors of the Pennsylvania Energy Company (PECO) Building high above the city of Philadelphia for all to see.

Ryan (left) Jed Levin, Chief Historian INHP (center) Jonnathan (right) examine 3D scan data at INHP’s Archaeology Lab

Ryan (left) Jed Levin, Chief Historian INHP (center) Jonnathan (right) examine 3D scan data at INHP’s Archaeology Lab

AP Journal, its journey and my day of archaeology

by Elena Papagiannopoulou

For those of you who don’t know much about the journal or its short history, here is a brief account: The journal was born back in early 2010. Back then, Jaime was starting his company in Madrid and Elena was working in the museum sector in London. The journal was born by two people living in different countries, native speakers of two different languages and with different backgrounds, but with common interests and the same goal: the desire to enable access to research and debates in the field.

Since then, the journal, as well as the blog, has been steadily growing in contributions and readership; Elena was promoted to Editor in 2013; in early 2014 our team grew; in 2014 our first Special Volume was out; the journal has recently been indexed in two major databases (DOAJ & Latindex); and we are currently preparing Volume 5 (to be released this fall).


Volume 4 & Special Volume 1. Both published in 2014.

Volume 4 & Special Volume 1. Both published in 2014.

First of all, I should probably introduce myself: I am Elena and, although I have attended a range of archaeology-related courses, seminars and workshops, I am not an archaeologist. I hope you are not disappointed! Most people that do not know me well, knowing I am co-editing this journal, believe I am an archaeologist — I must confess I am flattered. When I tell them that I am not they are puzzled so I start explaining how I got involved in public archaeology and this journal, as I do today through this post.

I have a BA in Media, Communication and Culture and a MA in Cultural Heritage Studies. I am a founding member and Editor of AP Journal. My interests include but are not limited to cultural heritage management, public archaeology, museum history and ideology, exhibition theory and practice, museum learning and communication, and cultural tourism. I have worked on a number of relevant projects as well as in (and out of) the museum sector.

Jaime is busy today with his PhD and whatever he is always digging into (I guess he will tell you that later), so I will go on and tell you how I met Jaime and how it all started. I grew up in Athens, Greece, where I am currently based, but I met Jaime during my postgraduate studies at UCL Institute of Archaeology, in 2008. Jaime was then studying public archaeology and we were tied by common interests (such as… public archaeology!). So when he suggested we should start a journal together I did not hesitate much.

Actually, I was excited since our main philosophy was to start something truly open. In a moment when Open Access means free to read, but not free to publish, we wanted to keep a nonprofit model so that no one would feel money was a burden for them to publish their research. Step by step, we managed to convince more people to take part in this project, which (we believe) is now fully grown.

A lot has changed in my life since AP Journal was born. I moved back to Athens at the beginning of the financial crisis but, even during the busiest or toughest periods of my life, it never crossed my mind to abandon the journal. On the contrary, I am always doing my best to enhance the journal’s editorial quality. Oh, and Jaime has been there for me through thick and thin.

Although Jaime sometimes talks about becoming a ‘bad guy’, like in a James Bond movie, and conquering the world (of archaeology), the truth is we just want to keep growing in content and quality with this model, making AP Journal useful for researchers and practitioners of public archaeology. Our family has grown to include new team members, new readers, new donors, and new social media followers, so today’s ‘thank you’ goes to all of you!

In a way, the journal is our child; a child we are proud of. We love it, make time for it, and do our best for it. However, editing a journal is not an easy ride, as we all have to keep on with our lives and works. This is why the team grew in the first place, but when you love what you do, you just keep doing it so, instead of doing the same with more people, we decided to do more, especially with the social media which I am responsible of. Facebook and Twitter are a communication channel, but the blog had great potential for new original content and participation, so we have started sharing short reviews and interesting information. Actually today, I am doing some copy-editing for one of the reviews.

My day today started with a big glass of iced coffee. Actually, I did not even use a glass but the shaker and a straw. On a sunny and hot day like today, I sweat not only because of the weather but also to catch up on copyediting work for the journal and, later tonight, reading —especially the latest book of Yannis Hamilakis, Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect, that Jaime’s editorial just published in Spanish too this week!

My iced coffee, my copy of Yannis’ book in Greek, and the one Jaime promised to send me in Spanish, which came out from the printer just yesterday.

My iced coffee, my copy of Yannis’ book in Greek, and the one Jaime promised to send me in Spanish, which came out from the printer just yesterday.

I must admit that the #dayofarch posts are a very good excuse to take regular breaks!  While typing mine, I feel grateful for my friendship and collaboration with Jaime, and with the rest of the team (from left to right in the picture below: Alejandra Galmés, Alexandra Ion, Amanda Harvey, myself, Kaitlyn Goss —and Jaime in the centre). We managed to build something that we can be proud of: a journal that is becoming a reference in the field of public archaeology. And, although I am not an archaeologist by degree, on days like these I feel like one.

Picture from our latest team meeting.

Picture from our latest team meeting.

If you don’t know our journal yet, find out more about it here:






Bones, the Bard, and plenty of pots

I opened my office door this morning to see a roomful of skeletons.

My name’s Rob Hedge, I’m a Community Project Officer for Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. Part of my time is spent helping people find out more about their local heritage and why it matters, from building mock-dig sandpits to standing in the High Street trying to get passers-by enthused about Worcester’s medieval pots. I also work in the Finds team, where I’m responsible for overseeing the processing of artefacts once they come in from site, and for analysing some of the small assemblages of finds.

So, the skeletons… we’ve been excavating an area of the churchyard attached to Holy Trinity, Stratford – famous as the Church where Shakespeare is buried (though they keep him safe from the likes of us in a tomb within the church). And yes, before you ask, the “Alas, poor Yorrick” joke has been done to death, by virtually every visitor to the site. An extension to the church is planned, and so we’re carefully recording and excavating almost 200 burials spanning at least 600 years which will be disturbed by building work. After analysis, they’ll be re-buried on site. It’s a densely-packed cemetery and time is tight, so I’ve been down recently to help with the site work. Personally, I don’t particularly enjoy excavating cemeteries, but it’s a necessary evil – if we didn’t excavate them, they’d be destroyed by construction work. We work hard to keep disturbance to a minimum, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

And the inevitable consequence is bags of bones, each individual careful and separately labelled up. Soon, they’ll be taken down to our friends at Ossafreelance, who’ll carry out the analysis. But for now, they need somewhere cool and dry. I make a note of what’s come in, separate out the finds and samples, load the skeletons onto a trolley and wheel them into our store, trying to avoid mental puns about skeletons and closets…

Assessments next: first, a small assemblage of finds from an infilled Lime Kiln. A nice selection of late 19th/early 20th century domestic items: stone china, stoneware bottles, pot of ‘Cherry Tooth Paste’ (I’m almost tempted to test the dark red residue clinging to the lid of the pot…) and a near-complete tea-cup made by T & R Boote in Burslem, Staffs around the turn of the 20th century, with this gorgeous stamp showing a steamship, flags fluttering and furnaces firing:

Semi-porcelain cup

Semi-porcelain cup, T & R Boote, Burslem

The finds tell us that this Lime Kiln probably fell out of use by the late 19th century, and was probably backfilled shortly afterwards. Our palynologist Dr Suzi Richer walks in, and looks bewildered to find me weighing a brick. It was a very nice brick, honest…

Next, to talk through progress and answer correspondence for a project we’re doing for Historic England; we’re trying to assess the amount and potential value of archaeology and local history research produced by societies, community groups and associations. We know there’s a lot of it, and we suspect the full potential of this work to enhance local Historic Environment Records and Research Frameworks isn’t being realised. If you’re involved in voluntary-sector research, please take a look at the project and take our survey. It’s been fascinating to see the responses coming in, and to hear about so many interesting projects, challenges, successes and frustrations. There are some interesting trends emerging… keep an eye out for the report later this year.


Microscope? Check. Scales? Check. Finds? Check. Tea? Check. Doughnuts? Well, it is Friday…

Back to the finds, and onto artefacts from a watching brief on a scheduled ancient monument, a medieval moated manor in north Worcestershire. High-quality post-medieval domestic pottery from a well-to-do household, including early English porcelain, and the base of a lovely medieval jug with splashes of yellow glaze. But my eye is drawn to a chunk of coarse tile, orange surfaces, grey core, with a neat square tapering hole pierced through: a medieval roof tile. Hooked over the roof lath with a simple peg, these tiles were produced in the area from the 13th century onwards; though not much to look at, they had one big advantage over thatch: they didn’t burn! There’s more on Worcester’s medieval fire-proofing measures over on our Dig Lich Street blog.

Medieval Roof Tile

Medieval Roof Tile, showing peg-hole and sandy, grey core

Finally, as the Field Staff roll back in, drop off the day’s finds, moan about the weather and steal my doughnuts, I make final preparations for tomorrow’s exhibition of finds from Worcester Cathedral Roundabout. If you’re in Worcester, drop in and see us at Tudor House Museum. I’ll be there 10 til 4, trying my best to bring the finds to life!