United States

Digging into a A Project Archive

by Karen Lind Brauer
Maryland, USA

Today I spent time reviewing the excavation records and administrative archives of the Baltimore County Center for Archaeology. BCCA served as the field component of an elective high school course, “Exploring Our Buried Past”, taught in as many as 18 high schools in the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), a large, suburban, kindergarten-through 12th grade-school district located in the US state of Maryland.

The Center involved high school students with first-hand, real-life experience undertaking primary research at the site of a 19th century, iron-producing, company town. During the winter months, in the middle of the school year, the Center presented Grade 3 school visitation programs serving as many as 100 classrooms per year. There were Summer school camps and multiple Teacher-in-Service programs that also took place at the Center which was located in a Baltimore County Recreation and Parks property called Oregon Ridge.

The archaeological education in the BCPS was part of the essential, or taught, curriculum (as opposed to being extra-curricular, ‘outside’ the formal instructional offerings). In operation for more than two decades, the Center closed down in the mid-2000’s due to changing academic requirements that constrained social studies educational offerings and the retirement of the project’s creator and leader, Social Studies Curriculum Specialist and Teacher Archaeologist for the BCPS, George Brauer.

I am picking through the Center’s archive of files today because I recently learned that a fellow archaeologist, Stephen Israel, is attempting to gather information on the Center’s programs and on its teacher participants. I know this archive should contain information that could be of help to him. Israel is preparing profiles on individuals who have contributed to Maryland Archaeology for a project entitled, Maryland Archaeology: Past Portraits. Looking over these files today I happily recall my time in the 1980’s and 90’s assisting with this enriching, educational opportunity that was experienced by almost 10,000 students being raised in our county.

Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery

Colleen Betti, DAACS Archaeological Analyst and Graduate Student, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, catalogs buttons and marbles from Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage. Photograph by Elizabeth Bollwerk

Colleen Betti, DAACS Archaeological Analyst and Graduate Student, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, catalogs buttons and marbles from Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage. Photograph by Elizabeth Bollwerk

Today we are surrounded by bags of 19th-century marbles, buttons, beads, ceramics and pieces of iron and copper alloy hardware. Our job is to catalog and analyze each one of these artifacts, which were excavated from domestic sites of slavery—the houses and surrounding yards where enslaved people lived and worked—at the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s plantation in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a typical day for us in the office, although we aren’t always surrounded by such amazing material culture. We work at the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS). Our database and website, www.daacs.org serve archaeological data from over 80 sites of slavery in the southeastern United States and Caribbean free of charge to researchers and the public. Founded in 2000, and funded by the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, DAACS is based in the Archaeology Department at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

The daacs.org homepage

The daacs.org homepage

Why do we do this?

Although it’s fun to study artifacts all day, we do have a larger purpose for our work. DAACS facilitates the comparative archaeological study of regional variation in slavery by providing researchers with standardized data from archaeological sites that were once homes to enslaved Africans and African Americans. A critical goal of our work is making data from archaeological excavations (those conducted in the 1970s all the way up through today) accessible and usable for archaeologists, historians, educators, and the public. Although excavation is essential to archaeological research, thousands of collections sit in museums and archaeological repositories that have not been cataloged or analyzed but have the potential to greatly inform our understanding of the past. By making data that has been cataloged using the same protocols from a variety of archaeological sites available via our website, DAACS is helping scholars advance our historical understanding of early-modern slave societies, by encouraging data sharing and comparative analysis across archaeological sites and geographic regions.

How do we do this?

Our staff consists of our Director, three full-time archaeological analysts and one or two part-time analysts. Although we are small staff, we get a lot done! On any given day we alternate between analyzing excavation information from field records, cataloging artifacts, answering material culture questions from colleagues, digital data management, and analysis for our own research projects.

There are four different ways that archaeological data gets into DAACS:

  1. Archaeological collections come to us at Monticello and we catalog them on-site in the DAACS Lab.
  2. We travel to the collections and field sites (so far we have cataloged collections in Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Nevis, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina).

    Leslie Cooper, DAACS Senior Archaeological Analyst, catalogs coarse earthenware ceramics from Seville Plantation, a large 18th-century sugar estate, at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in Kingston, Jamaica. Photograph by Jillian Galle.

    Leslie Cooper, DAACS Senior Archaeological Analyst, catalogs coarse earthenware ceramics from Seville Plantation, a large 18th-century sugar estate, at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in Kingston, Jamaica. Photograph by Jillian Galle.

  3. We conduct our own field work projects on Jamaica and Nevis through the DAACS Caribbean Initiative and enter the data into the DAACS database. All information from these sites are launched on daacs.org within a year of excavation. Learn more about our work in Jamaica and Nevis through DAACS and the International Slavery Museum.

    DAACS staff and students from the University of West Indies, Mona excavated shovel-test-pits at the Papine Slave Village. A massive masonry aqueduct that drove the estate’s sugar mill stands behind the excavators. Photograph by Jerry Rabinowitz.

    DAACS staff and students from the University of West Indies, Mona excavated shovel-test-pits at the Papine Slave Village. A massive masonry aqueduct that drove the estate’s sugar mill stands behind the excavators. Photograph by Jerry Rabinowitz.

  4. Finally, our colleagues who are trained in DAACS protocols and database entry can directly enter their data into DAACS via our web application, daacsrc.org.

Over the last five months we have analyzed material culture from Stratford Hall’s West Yard in Virginia, the Morne Patate Estate, an 18th c. sugar plantation in Dominica, and slave dwellings associated with The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home in Tennessee.

The data is entered using our standardized set of protocols into a PostgreSQL database thorough a web application built in Ruby-on-Rails software (www.daacsrc.org).   In addition to analyzing artifacts, and the archaeological contexts from which they came, DAACS staff digitize site maps, photograph artifacts, digitize existing slides of fieldwork, produce Harris matrices, and develop detailed site chronologies and discursive background content for each site. All of this content accompanies the artifact data when an archaeological site is launched on the DAACS website.

Interested in learning more? Stop by our site at daacs.org and take a look around. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@DAACSORG).

Jesse Walker – My Day of Archaeology, 2016

by Jesse Walker
Archaeological Society of New Jersey
Newsletter Editor and Executive Board Member

On Wednesday July 27, 2016, I devoted time to the Archaeological Society of New Jersey. Newsletters were printed for mailing to new society members. Emails from Executive Board Members were reviewed to ensure events, deadlines, and other organization tasks were addressed. One of major tasks the society is publishing a professional bulletin with articles about archaeology in the Garden State. I am editing an article about Native American flake stone tools that were excavated from a stratified site on the Delaware River floodplain near Frenchtown New Jersey. The results of microscopic analysis of flake tools are presented in the article. Editing involves checking grammar, formatting the manuscript, and reviewing the research design, archaeological data and conclusions. Publishing excavation results is a key responsibility in archaeology. It is eye opening to see how much effort goes into writing, editing, and prepared articles for publication in journals and bulletins. The membership dues to the Archaeological Society of New Jersey help fund the printing costs of the bulletin. Please consider joining the Archaeological Society of New Jersey to receive a copy of future bulletins.

Forensic Archaeology: Indiana Jones meets Gil Grissom

A feature indicative of a clandestine grave.

Image 1: A feature indicative of a clandestine grave.

It’s a sunny April morning and I’m leading a team of professionals in the investigation of an area of disturbed soil in a thickly wooded parcel of land behind a plowed field somewhere in Southern New Jersey.  A few scrapes with a flat-bladed shovel reveal a distinct line between sandier, lighter soil and the darker soil that surrounds it (Image 1).  The team takes photographs with a scale and North arrow in the frame.  They produce a plan drawing of the anomaly and they begin setting up equipment such as a shaker screen, 5-gallon buckets, pointing trowels, and a Munsell Soil Chart.

For those of us experienced in field archaeology, this sounds like a normal day “at the office,” but in this instance the team are wearing Tyvek suits and are setting out evidence bags in addition to the usual archaeological tools.  Instead of human remains from hundreds of years ago, this team is about to excavate a clandestine grave containing a modern murder victim (Image 2).

Image 2: Myself and participants of a 2-day forensic archaeology field course for police and field professionals, April 2016.

Image 2: Myself and participants of a 2-day forensic archaeology field course for police and field professionals, April 2016.

Most of us are familiar with shows such as CSI and Bones and some of us are avid fans (not me!)  In reality crime scene work is not nearly as sophisticated as what is portrayed on television. Many police departments don’t even have dedicated crime scene personnel.  The crime scene units that do exist vary widely in their training and range of capabilities.  Some do nothing more than take photographs and some are staffed by re-assigned police officers rather than specially trained professionals.  National standards of best practice and accreditation do not currently exist in the United States.

Forensic archaeology is the application of archaeological methods, such as excavation, documentation, recovery of artifacts, site interpretation, and site reconstruction, to modern investigative work.  This includes homicide investigation, mass fatality incidents, human rights violations resulting in mass graves, and even archaeological crimes of vandalism, looting, and black market antiquities.  In order for it to be “forensic,” there must be some sort of intersection with the law or judicial proceedings.

Image 3: Police officers learn how to use a total station to map an outdoor scene.

Image 3: Police officers learn how to use a total station to map an outdoor scene.

Forensic archaeology doesn’t have much of a profile in the United States but that is about to change.  In September 2017, Arcadia University will launch a new graduate certificate for archaeologists looking to gain a solid forensic skill set.  Training in police procedures, expert testimony, environmental evidence, forensic anthropology, spatial analysis, and geoforensics are all included.  Graduates of the program will be qualified for positions in death investigation, crime scene processing, human remains recovery, or even traditional archaeological work with an enhanced skill set of mapping, scene documentation, geophysical survey, and human remains excavation (Image 3).

Just as Indiana Jones inspired a generation (including myself) to take up a career in archaeology, Gil Grissom and the CSI team are doing the same today for forensic science.  As archaeology has moved away from the treasure hunting and looting of the late 19th and early 20th centuries into a codified discipline with best practices and ethical standards, so, too is crime scene work.  Archaeology has a lot to offer the forensic community.  It is my hope that by offering forensic training to experienced field archaeologists, we can start building bridges to move all of us forward together.

A Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Promotion of the new archaeological website www.konjuh.mk

For our anniversary, 15 years of continuous archaeological excavations at the site Golemo Gradiste, near the village Konjuh, we have recently created a website www.konjuh.mk. Through the website we wanted to convey the magic of Golemo Gradiste and its beautiful surroundings to all interested professionals and admirers of natural and cultural heritage. It’s my pleasure to present our new web site at this occasion of the Day of Archaeology because in this way it will be presented to the right audience.

konjuh

I would like to point out that as an international project, which was realized with Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, USA, and the Museum of Macedonia, today Archeological Museum of Macedonia, the research conducted at Golemo Gradiste it’s a project with the longest continuity in our country. This is due primarily to the great scientific potential of the site was recognized from the start and funded jointly by Gettysburg College, Dumbarton Oaks, the Getty Foundation and the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia.

konjuh1
The archaeological site of Golemo Gradiste at Konjuh is a rare example of a city founded in the late 5th or early 6th century in the province of Dardania within the Eastern Roman Empire. Situated on a high and elongated acropolis; a broad, gently sloping terrace between the northern foot of the acropolis and the Kriva River; and a narrow area at the south foot of the acropolis, the city represents the late phase of Roman urbanism, heavily fortified and significantly altered by the insertion of ecclesiastical architecture. Its municipal plan, fortifications, and churches represent the early phases of development of European urbanism and religious heritage. Covering an area of ca 17 ha, Golemo Gradiste near Konjuh is the largest and so far best investigated town from the 6th century AD in the north-eastern part of R. Macedonia.

konjuhd

On the naturally fortified acropolis, an even stronger fortress was created in the 6th century. There, through archaeological excavations 1998-2004, were revealed also gates, streets, stairs, and several residential and public buildings founded on the soft bedrock. A number of them, e.g., a large cistern for water, are visible today. With its dominant position overlooking the wider area, the hill of Golemo Gradiste was of stratigic importance for the safety of the city and its inhabitants during the restless times of the 6-th century. The site is also famous for the numerous chambers cut in the rock, found on the southwestern side of the hill. It is believed that they served as cells for monks in the past.

konjuh2

Excavations since 2005 on the northern terrace have revealed two large residential complexes. One was a multi-unit structure, in which dwellings, storerooms, and workshops clustered around an internal courtyard. The second residence, displaying several spacious rooms, a kitchen area, and a colonnaded courtyard, undoubtedly belonged to a member of the elite. Between the two residences, a large, three-aisle basilica (35 x 15 m) with various unusual features came to light. Among its annex rooms a piscina for baptism is located in an apsidal hall. Fragments of exquisite relief sculpture found in both the Rotunda and the basilica point to a local, mid-6th century workshop.

Goran Sanev, MA – NI Archaeological Museum of Macedonia

 

Fort Vancouver and Archaeologists-In-Training

It’s hot and dry today in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Students attending the Public Archaeology field school at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site have just passed the halfway point of their Public Archaeology Field School. Since I am not actively doing archaeology on this Day of Archaeology this year, I thought it would be a great time to highlight the experiences of students in the field.

This area has been the focus of human occupation for a very long time. First Nations peoples used the resources of what is now the Columbia River. Fort Vancouver was established by the Hudson Bay Company as its headquarters after moving inland from Astoria in the early part of the 19th century. The US Army arrived mid-19th century and occupied the site until 2012. During World War I, a spruce mill provided wood for the war effort. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps had dormitories on the site. During World War II, the Kaiser Shipyards were on the site.

This year, the students are working at two different dig sites and, because this field school is comprehensive, there is also a group learning how to do site surveys, shovel probes, and mapping, and another group

Site of flag staff at Vancouver Barracks

Site of flag staff at Vancouver Barracks

working in the Old City Cemetery of Vancouver. I visited each group location and got to talk to the students about archaeology, study, and this field school.

The first site I visited is on the Vancouver Barracks Parade Ground. National Park Service archaeologists, Dr. Doug Wilson and Dr. Elizabeth Horton, have identified the location of the 1854-1879 flag staff.

When I walked to the site, two of the students were screening sediments. Two others were analyzing sediments and writing a description. They have uncovered a concentration of stones that the students think might be a path, and a post hole that may be the flag staff itself. There is charcoal in places.

I was curious to know what the students’ experiences were like. One student found that the course was more comprehensive than he expected, and anticipates the practical experience he’s getting will make him a better field archaeologist when that time comes. Another found himself dreaming of troweling, and said that seeing the artifacts in the field creates a connection with people whose voices have long been silent. Another student finds the jumble of pre-historic and historic artifacts at the same level intriguing, and is curious about why this is. Another student found a friction primer in very good condition, and she pulled it out to share.

I headed over to the Kanaka Village, the culturally diverse area where where excavations on two houses started during last summer’s field school are continuing. The students had to excavate early 20th century railroad ballast from a rail spur that serviced the spruce mill that existed on the site during World War I. When I arrived, students and volunteers were beginning to carefully excavate levels associated with the Hudson Bay Company period of occupation. A student found a clay pipe stem, which is indicative of the time period. He said he didn’t know what he was getting into with the field school, but has found it fascinating and a great introduction into archaeology as actual work. Another student was surprised at how hard the digging of the ballast was, but that she felt much stronger now. One of the volunteers, who has gone on digs with the Oregon Archaeological Society, remarked how archaeology is a field in which one could never become an expert in all areas, and that learning never, ever stops.

I joined the survey crew over lunch. They have been doing pedestrian survey and digging shovel probes in another area of the World War I spruce mill complex. They were all dirty and dusty, and happy to be in the shade. They talked about how learning about the process of archaeology in class was bolstered by the practical experience they were getting in the field. What they were finding was the connection between the past and the present, and being able to engage the public was an unexpected pleasure—particularly with kids. One student said that she, “Loved to watch the kids’ eyes light up.”

My last stop was the crew working in the Old City Cemetery of Vancouver. They were just finishing their lunch, and spared me a few minutes before getting back to work. One student has another year till graduation, and looks forward his archaeological theory class this coming year. He appreciates having the opportunity to attend a field school in a national park. The resources available, and the knowledge of the park rangers is interesting. Another student was surprised by the level of detail and documentation in archaeology, but knows that it’s necessary.

My overall impression was of excitement and enthusiasm about the work being done by all of the students. Everyone is eager to get to work, whether it’s in the field, or in school. That kind of energy is what keeps us all engaged in our work, and looking towards the future.

The Veterans Curation Program

Staff Sergeant Mark Crawford, Georgia National Guard, sorting lithic debitage.

Staff Sergeant Mark Crawford, Georgia National Guard, sorting lithic debitage.

It’s a sunny Friday morning in Augusta, Georgia, and at the Veterans Curation Program laboratory a team of military veterans is hard at work preserving the nation’s prehistoric heritage.  They’re engaged in archaeological curation; stabilizing, documenting, and recording archaeological materials like potsherds and projectile points to save them for future generations.

Curation is the back end of archaeology – vital, but largely unseen.  Excavation is always in the spotlight.  Dirt-and-trowel archaeology is our data source, our brand, and our metaphor.  Digs provide iconic images and stories of struggle, adventure, and discovery.  Archaeology will always be linked to the thrill of discovering a site or an artifact that was lost for hundreds or thousands of years.  But what happens to the artifacts after they’re bagged, tagged, analyzed, and written up?  What happens decades later, when they’re moldering in the back of an unpaid storage unit, lost and forgotten except for a footnote in a report nobody can find a copy of?  That’s where the Veterans Curation Program comes in.

The Veterans Curation Program (VCP) specializes in rehabilitating neglected and deteriorating archaeological collections.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers selects some of the worst examples of national collections – the ones that are orphaned, lost, or infested by vermin, the boxes that are molding and water-damaged, full of bags that disintegrated decades ago – and transports them to VCP laboratories for a complete restoration.  At the VCP they begin a long process of stabilization and documentation.  Any excavation records associated with the collection are cleaned, mended, organized, and digitized so that future researchers have as much of the archival record available as possible.  The artifacts themselves are sorted, counted, weighed, and inventoried, and rehoused in archival-quality cardboard and plastic.  Technicians here create a complete digital inventory of the collection.  By the end of the rehabilitation project, we know exactly what’s in an archaeological collection, we have digital copies of all the important records, and the collection is stabilized to preserve it for future generations.

Air Force veteran George Bauser selects a box of artifacts to rehabilitate.

Air Force veteran George Bauser selects a box of artifacts to rehabilitate.

This is difficult work, and often delicate work.  And it’s being done by veterans.  The Veterans Curation Program hires and trains unemployed veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s a tough job market out there, especially for the enlisted soldiers who left the service with no degree and a set of job skills that are difficult to translate to the demands of the corporate workplace.  The VCP provides new skills like data entry, records management, public outreach, and support with job searches and resume writing.  Since 2009 the three VCP laboratories (one each in Augusta, Georgia; Alexandria, Virginia; and St. Louis, MO) have employed 173 veterans, the vast majority of whom have subsequently transitioned into full-time civilian careers.

Today, the Augusta VCP is working on three Southeastern archaeological collections administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District.  Jon Beaver, a former Army Sergeant, is photographing the White Springs 1979-1986 investigation with a digital photograph station designed by a forensic photographer.  Jon has a knack for photographing pottery tiny sherds and stone tools.  I ask him what part he likes best, and he says, “I like getting creative with the lighting.  I try and bring out the surface texture so things don’t look flat.”  Eventually these photos will end up on tDar, the Digital Archaeological Record, where the public will be able to view the results of his work.

Marine veteran Trey Williams holding a mended sherd.

Trey Williams, USMC, holding a mended sherd he processed today.

Tim Handley, a retired Infantry Staff Sergeant, is leading another group of veterans working on the Divide Cut II investigation.  The 100 boxes of artifacts from Divide Cut II are mostly lithic debitage and stone tools.  The technicians are processing each box bag by bag, emptying the contents, sorting the projectile points from the chipped stone and the groundstone from the ecofacts, building a complete inventory of the collection.  It’s slow work today—every bag is a rainbow kaleidoscope of chert flakes and broken stone tools.  Two months ago, none of the veterans in this laboratory knew an abrader from an anvil stone, but after a crash course in lithic technology (and a visit from a local flint-knapper) they’re happily sorting everything into their correct piles before counting, weighing, and tagging them.

At one point Tim turns to me with his hand outstretched.

“Broken tool?”

I take a look at the red chert in his hand.  Most of the edges are clean breaks, but one is sharpened, ever so faintly.

“Good catch.”

He nods and turns back to the small mountain of flint on his desk.  Half a dozen other veterans are doing the same thing, and the rhythmic clinking of stone on stone is audible beneath the hum of conversation.

So what do I do every day?  I’m the archaeologist on staff at the lab, and my main job is to train the veterans on the nuances of archaeological processing—ceramics, lithics, faunal, rehousing, interpreting proveniences.  I found my way to the VCP in a circuitous fashion, following the trade winds of globalization from the Midwest to Asia and then to Augusta, Georgia.  When I finished my MA in 2012, jobs in archaeology were in short supply (older archaeologists tell me it’s usually that way).  Eventually I took a job teaching history at a high school in Seoul, one of Asia’s neon entrepots where technology, capitalism, and traditional culture collide in heady fashion.  More than 30,000 U.S. soldiers remain stationed in South Korea, a result of the armistice that ended the war in 1953.  I married one, and within months the Army had relocated us to Fort Gordon on the outskirts of Augusta.

Working at the VCP has been both a privilege and an education.  An education in curation, in military affairs, and in the real benefits archaeology can have for the public.  I’ve seen first-hand lives and families transformed by the opportunity to gain new job skills in a supportive environment tailored to the special needs of veterans.  I’ve also had the opportunity to help restore a small portion of our national heritage that might otherwise have been lost to attrition and neglect.  To any aspiring archaeologists out there, I say: as exciting as the field is, don’t forget the other side of archaeology, the back end, that protects and preserves everything the discipline has worked so hard to uncover.  And I’d also say: go for it.

A rim sherd photographed at the VCP lab.

VCP laboratories create digital records of diagnostic artifacts, like this rim sherd photographed today.


A Day in the Digital Index of North American Archaeology

dinaa

What is DINAA?

The Digital Index of North American Archaeology, or DINAA,  applies open access principles to archaeological data created by governments and researchers, in order to create a standardized data discovery tool (without using sensitive information like site coordinates). This allows for a more complete understanding of the past by allowing data covering large areas, or those separated by modern political boundaries, to be analyzed using the same terms in one data set. As the index of DINAA grows, it will incorporate larger numbers of stable links to public data sets hosted throughout the Internet, and can act as a kind of library search engine for primary archaeological data on architecture, fauna, flora, lithics, pottery … or anything!

What We Do

Each state in the U.S. has a State Historic Preservation Office, or SHPO, and each of these maintains their own database of archaeological sites in their respective state. These databases have been designed independently of each other, and often differ in terms of data structure and vocabulary. DINAA uses definitions and organizational elements from these nearly comprehensive catalogs as its base data layer. We have created a system that allows these differing databases to become interoperable through translation to one or more standardized classifications. If the DINAA and each SHPO can talk to each other, the information from each state can be presented in one data set. A publicly accessible live map, seen below, is the one of the products of this process. Click on the link, or the map image to try your own query!

http://opencontext.org/sets/United+States/?cat=Site&map=1&geotile=0&geodeep=10&dinaaPer=root&leaflet-base-layers=on&q=moundhttp://opencontext.org/sets/United+States/?cat=Site&map=1&geotile=0&geodeep=10&dinaaPer=root&leaflet-base-layers=on&q=mound

Live Map of mound sites listed in the DINAA as of April 15, 2014.

DINAA is an archaeological information tool for the Internet. Records for sites of interest can be browsed and used as a basis for further research. Maps can be exported as GeoJSON files for use in GIS software programs like QGIS and ArcGIS, allowing use by anyone through our open access policies. DINAA can be used by researchers to help identify broad areas of interest for their work, by educators who want to show students current maps of archaeological cultures, or for all sorts of important investigative or public activities. However, because of its sensitive data restrictions, DINAA is not built to conduct records checks for cultural resource management or other legal compliance activities. It is a public research and educational tool. Click on the map links or images to go to our query page and try it yourself!

On a typical day, much of the work involved with creating the DINAA consists of two tasks: obscuring site locations to prevent unauthorized access, followed by linking culture-history terms in individual state databases to a standardized terminology. Obscuring location data involves allocating sites to sectors on the map grid, each sector is 20 km on a side (or 400 square km),  then removing all geographic coordinates and other sensitive data. This work, done by registered professional archaeologists ONLY, allows useful cultural and scientific information to be published publicly online while simultaneously protecting important site locations.

The next step is to relate each state’s unique terms to the standardized vocabulary used by the DINAA (based off of the CIDOC-CRM ontology which is an international standard for cultural heritage data. The DINAA team first creates a comprehensive list of all archaeological terms used within a source database. They then sift through the published archaeological literature on each state or region to find discrete definitions for each term. DINAA accumulates definitions for sites, rather than replacing them, and users can query the original definitions to compare with the newer DINAA definitions to ensure accuracy and continuity. Reference citations for each new definition are then recorded and added to the DINAA Zotero library, which is also available as a public resource online.

zotero

Screenshot of the DINAA Zotero Library

 

The word cloud above, created by DINAA team member Kelsey Noack Myers demonstrates the variety of terms used across state archaeological databases. The size of the text for each terms corresponds with the frequency with which it is used. Linking these categories across multiple states is a major challenge facing the project team, but it is being used to document where people were on the landscape by major time periods in the past.

The word cloud above, created by DINAA team member Kelsey Noack Myers demonstrates the variety of terms used across state archaeological databases. The size of the text for each terms corresponds with the frequency with which it is used. Linking these categories across multiple states is a major challenge facing the project team, but it is being used to document where people were on the landscape by major time periods in the past.

What’s next?

Papers and posters about DINAA have inspired audiences at professional meetings over the last two years. Our team recently produced presentation materials for the 2014 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting (click here to access our papers, posters, slides, and a summary of our activities at the SAA meetings). An article in Literary and Linguistic Computing will be available this fall. Please follow our work or tweet us @DINAA_proj on Twitter, and visit our blog for updates. Team members are currently working on technical papers describing DINAA, and research based on it, related to both the construction of the index, and from examining the combined dataset.

DINAA also gives back to the discipline of archaeology, acting as a focal point around which we can discuss “how” and “why” we record data in different ways. Project team members have hosted one workshop with 30 participants already this year, and are planning a second next month. Site file managers and other researchers from many states in Eastern North America are participating. DINAA is an open, community effort, and the support of many people and organizations is what makes it happen. Feel free to contact us!

In 2014 our initial NSF funding period is coming to a close. We are currently planning the next round of funding that will help the DINAA grow to cover all US states and territories, as well as other North American nations as well.


 

 This Post Was Authored By the DINAA Team: R. Carl DeMuth, Kelsey Noack Myers, Joshua Wells (PI), David G. Anderson (PI), Eric Kansa (PI), Sarah Kansa (PI), Steve Yerka (PI), and Thad Bissett

Wrapping Up the Day of Archaeology 2013

The Day of Archaeology team pays tribute to all of our contributors for 2013. We’ve seen some wonderful posts and some great responses on social media and via the comments form.

The day in numbers

  1. Registered users: 1,067
  2. Number of posts: 329 published (we have 13 in draft if the authors would like to finish them?). In 2012 we had 343 and in 2011 we had 429. So in total: 1,122 are published.
  3. Number of images: 3,291 have been submitted, in 2013 1,148 images were uploaded to the site.
  4. There were over 5,500 tweets sent using the hashtag of #dayofarch
  5. Facebook: reach grew by 263.6% on the previous week. (It will no doubt follow the long tail model until next year.) Average reach for posted links was 37 and for status updates 52.
    A statistical breakdown from facebook for demographics

    A statistical breakdown from Facebook for demographics

    Use of gender-specific pronouns within the text of day of archaeology posts – by Ben Marwick

  6. Our fan base by country is weighted towards the UK, USA and Spain.
  7. People from 85 countries visited the site, with the majority from the UK, USA, Canada and Spain.
  8. The most viewed posts on the ‘Day’ were by Charles Mount (326 views) and by Amanda Clarke (233 views)

Making the day better?

There are some issues , that  we need to resolve as a collective and as a contributing mass to make this project a success on a grander scale:

  1. How do we engage (this word has been debated at length in the last two years, for example at the CASPAR events at UCL) with a wider public audience and break the silo?
  2. How do we bring in funding to pay for publicity materials such as posters, stickers and mail shots? At the moment, the only costs are for running the server (covered under PAS running costs) and registering the domain name.
  3. Do we need to recruit new team members to make this project easier to run?
  4. How do we get established, big name academics and archaeologists to participate? We haven’t managed to garner contributions from people of the standing of Hodder or Renfrew, and we don’t seem to have had anything from the big name TV archaeologists even though we’ve badgered them on social media, for instance. Why have they not joined in? What is the barrier stopping these people from participating?
  5. How do we get archaeologists from developing and even many developed countries to participate? We lack a volume of entries from say sub-Saharan Africa or Japan or China or South America. The map below shows where people have come from to view the site (blue shades getting heavier means the site was viewed in greater quantities there).
    Location   Google Analytics
  6. How do we retain people annually? Contributions have gone down from the first year of the project even though we now have over 1000 individuals registered. Why is this?
  7. How do we get people with an interest, but no professional or amateur involvement in ‘archaeology’ as a discipline but maybe as a passion to contribute?
  8. How do we reach out to media channels and get our project into their output?
  9. How do we get institutional buy-in on the scale made by Museum of London or RCHAMS?
  10. Can we make this a reproducible model for other disciplines? We built on the Day of Digital Humanities for instance.
  11. What do we need to do better? Did you hear about the project at the last minute, or did you have problems registering or contributing your post? If you don’t tell us, we can’t improve.

Research potential

Some academic work has already been done on these data that have been generated via the project website. Since the 26th, Ben Marwick of the University of Washington has done some in-depth modelling using the R programming language and previously, Shawn Graham from CarletonUniversity did some topic modelling and has blogged extensively about what he did with the website content. The content added here, provides a wonderful career insight for aspiring archaeologists world-wide and can only get more useful year-on-year.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Now, we as a collective have to write up three years of the project as an academic article and the raw content of these posts will be posted as CSV to github shortly.

See you next year?

The Day of Archaeology team 2013: Andrew, Daniel, Jaime, Lorna, Matt, Monty and Tom.

Introducing Project Archaeology to Teachers

Friday, July 26, was the third day in a five-day Project Archaeology teacher workshop in Topeka, Kansas, sponsored by the Kansas Historical Society and Shawnee County Historical Society. Project Archaeology (http://projectarchaeology.org) is a national heritage education program, founded by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for educators and their students. The program was developed for three purposes: to develop awareness of our nation’s diverse and fragile archaeological sites, to instill a sense of personal responsibility for stewardship of these sites, and to enhance science literacy and cultural understanding through the study of archaeology.

National Project Archaeology, headquartered at the Montana State University, is building a network of educators, archaeologists, and historic preservationists to develop materials and distribute them in every state. The 2013 workshop held at the historic Ritchie House (http://skyways.lib.ks.us/orgs/schs/) trained nine upper elementary and middle school teachers in Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter, as well as three Kansas-specific curriculum units (ttp://www.kshs.org/project_archaeology). Following the classroom portion of the workshop, an optional day and a half of fieldwork was offered.

Teachers become the students in interpreting artifacts and their placement in the family room activity