State Historic Preservation Office

A Day in Transportation Archaeology

A shot of where I spent my day

This year my Day of Archaeology is quite different from last year (http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/digging-with-kids-historic-archaeology-education-and-fun/).  I have recently begun a new career as a Transportation Planner in the Office of Environmental Review at the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT).  My education and background in archaeology are what allow me to do preliminary project reviews for impacts to historic and cultural resources.  At the CT DOT, projects can vary from line painting on a road, to bridge replacement, to major infrastructure construction.  What I do day-to-day changes and it certainly keeps the job interesting.  Outside of work I also have other commitments of an archaeological nature.  I am on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology (FOSA), and I also volunteer my time running public archaeological excavations for local museums.  A lot of my “free” time is used organizing events.

Here is a general schedule of what my day looked like today:

6:15-6:45AM: While eating breakfast I spent time searching for organization contact information to solicit participants for FOSA’s Public Archaeology Fair, which will be held Oct. 27th 2012 in Wethersfield, CT.

7:00-7:30AM: While commuting to work I listened to The Archaeology Channel’s podcast (http://www.archaeologychannel.org/AudioNews.asp).

7:30-9:00AM: At the office I organized site maps and photos and filled out archaeology site forms to be submitted to the CT State Historic Preservation Office (CT SHPO) and CT State Archaeologist in order to get site numbers for two historic bridge and mill sites (in Plymouth and Woodbury) that were identified while out on a bridge survey last month.  This site information will eventually be added to the database of CT archaeological sites maintained by the CT SHPO and CT State Archaeologist.  This information is used by state officials for planning purposes and by CRM firms for research purposes.

9:00-11:00AM: I organized project information, maps, and recommendations to submit to the CT SHPO for review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA).

11:00AM-4:00PM: I reviewed 4 new projects for impacts to socio-economic resources, parks, refuges, scenic roads and bikeways.  (My job actually entails investigating impacts beyond cultural resources under NEPA & CEPA.)  These projects included bridge replacements and roadway and utility improvements.

5:00-6:00PM: Sent e-mails asking (begging & pleading) local archaeology and historical groups to participate in FOSA’s Public Archaeology Fair, sent out a rough draft of an advertising blurb for the event, and sent my FOSA Archaeology Awareness Month Committee an update.

That just about sums up my day.  Suffice it to say, much of my day revolves around archaeology in some way, even though I spend less and less time in the dirt.

 

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!

Digging with Kids: Historic Archaeology, Education, and Fun

The Kids Are Scientists Too (KAST), Archaeology Field School for Kids has been held annually since 2004 at the Farwell House site in Storrs, CT, USA on the campus of the University of Connecticut.  Children between the ages of 9 & 15 are able to learn the scientific methods of archaeology by excavating a real archaeological site.

Farwell House

The Farwell House was built in the mid-18th century and occupied by the Farwell family until 1908.  The house was sold in the early 20th century, and shortly thereafter the University acquired the House.  The House served as a dormitory until the University determined maintenance costs were too high. The House was burned down in a fire training exercise in 1976.  At that time the house was the oldest in town.  The foundation was filled in, and the only research conducted on the site has been by children participating in the KAST dig.

The site is ready for Field School

Each summer new units are excavated in what once was the front, back, or side yards of the House.  Much of what the students discover in the upper layers relates to the burning episode.  Below the burn layer are artifacts dating to the occupation of the House and date to the 18th-19th centuries.

All excavations are overseen by a professional archaeologist, and reports are filed with the State Historic Preservation Office.  Now that the program is in its 8th year with its 5th staff archaeologist, questions about excavation strategy, professionalism, and the future of the site and the KAST program are coming to the fore.  This year has been especially introspective and self-critical.  As we move forward we want to insure not only an enjoyable experience for the students, but a professional investigation of an historic archaeological site that answers real research questions and makes a contribution to not only the archaeological community, but to the larger community.

The KAST Field School has run for the last week and concluded Friday the 29th of July 2011.  After 4 days of excavation the students spent a day in the “lab” at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.  Activities included washing and identifying artifacts and creating a display of their finds that will remain on exhibit at the Museum.

KAST excavators looking for artifacts in the screen

 

A KAST Student Washes Artifacts

KAST Display

The program has been well received by not only the students, but also their parents and local media.  A local news program visited the site and interviewed students for a short interest piece on the evening news.  It is my personal hope that programs and publicity like this will reinforce the importance of historic preservation and archaeology even in a precarious economic climate.

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?