United States

Archaeology 10,000 square feet (929.03 square meters) at a time.

Archaeology can take to some interesting places and for some interesting reasons. Today for instance, on the Day of Archaeology, I find myself sitting at a desk writing all day and doing various things that are heritage but not archaeologically related.

Let me explain. I am a contract archaeologist in the United States. For the past two years my work has primarily focused on providing cultural resource assessments for proposed telecommunications site. If you have ever notice cell antennas or towers, they are often located on rooftops or within small fenced areas (typically 100 feet by 100 feet [30.48 meters by 30.48 meters]). While this type of archaeology does not provide the window into the past that a multi-year excavation can provide, it does allow for many tiny windows over a large area. In just the past two years, I have been involved in over 100 projects in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

That perspective has allowed me to see archaeology from a much broader perspective. When you can work in the Appalachian mountains of Western Maryland (above picture) and the Sierra Nevada mountains in California (below picture) in the same week, you think about thing differently. These projects took place in November of last year.

In Western Maryland, I was evaluating a proposed cell tower that was going to be placed on a mountain top. The picture above gives one the idea of the condition. The ground was covered in boulders. The leaves provided the illusion of a ground surface. In reality the ground was 1.5-2 feet (0.46-0.61 meters) below the leaf litter. This meant that shovel test pits, a common survey technique in the eastern US, was not possible. However, there was still the chance that petroglyphs could be present on the boulders. After a few hours of crawling over boulders and trying not to break my ankles, I was not able to locate any archaeological artifacts or features within the project area. It was the atmosphere of that day that made it so memorable. A foggy, misty, early November with wet leaves on the ground and the trees barren. To be alone in such an environment can aid in the imagining of the different environments that humans have operated in.

The foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains provided a different kind of meditative experience (see picture below). This was an absence/presence survey of a potential site within a proposed cell tower compound. This time I was not alone. Acting as the Project Manager, I was working with a crew from a local CRM firm. Additionally, we were working with a tribal monitor from one of the local tribes. We excavated nine 0.5 meter by 1 meter test units throughout the project area over two day. We encountered fire cracked rock, rough flakes and bifaces, burned seeds, and charcoal. This lead to the early impression that we were within a potential ceremonial site for own of the local tribes. Having a tribal monitor helped to provide immediate context for the artifacts that we were recovering. It also provided an experience that I have not had on the East Coast, hearing about tribal life as a lived experience rather than being temporally detached. The location also provided its own splendor. These November days were warm and sunny with an excellent view of the valley below.

The point of this post is to let you know that you can find fulfilling archaeology in the smallest of projects. While I do not get to work a single great project or specialize in a unique subject, I have a better understanding of place because of all the places that I have worked in. From urban centers, farm fields, to mountain tops, humans have operated here. I have used this word ‘operated’ twice to describe people in a place because I want to incorporate all the activities that humans have done on a landscape (live, work, hunt, farm, fought, etc).

While I sit at a desk today, I know that soon I will be in the field, trowel in hand, in a place that I have never been in before. That is something to look forward to.


Michigan State University Campus Archaeology and the Future

By Lynne Goldstein

I am posting this on the Day of Archaeology website, as well as the MSU Campus Archaeology website (http://campusarch.msu.edu).

I was not going to personally post today for Day of Archaeology (#dayofarch) since our field season ended a few weeks ago, and I am getting ready for surgery (hip replacement). All of our student workers are off doing other things, so our lab is pretty quiet right now. Field work is also on hold since construction projects are in their final phases, in an attempt to be completed before school begins. However, when I realized that this was the last Day of Archaeology, I felt compelled to write something since I am also coming to the end of a project.

I created and direct the Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program (MSU CAP), and as of May 2018, I will be retiring from the University (although not from archaeology). The job of directing and administering MSU CAP will go to Dr. Stacey Camp, who has just arrived in East Lansing so that we can overlap for a year. MSU CAP is in very capable hands, and I am confident that the program will not only survive, but thrive. We will do a blog post welcoming and more completely introducing Stacey later in August.

Historic archaeology in general, and campus archaeology in particular, were never my primary research interests. But career paths are rarely straight, and I have found that one does best taking advantage of opportunities along the way. Given this, I have conducted excavations of several large and small historic cemeteries across the U.S., and I created this campus program, which is primarily (although not exclusively) focused on historic sites.

I thought that a campus-focused program would be good for a number of reasons (beyond being able to sleep in my own bed each night), but found that there were even more reasons than I had anticipated. Here are a few of them:

1. Doing archaeology on campus raises awareness of archaeology and the fact that sites are everywhere, and that campus histories do not tell the complete story. We see ourselves as educating a large community (students, faculty staff, alumni, the general public) on the importance and value of archaeology.
2. Students and staff are more likely to get involved and excited when the sites being excavated are something they can directly relate to, and developing an appreciation for and learning more about the history of the campus is good for everyone.
3. Campus Archaeology has changed attitudes and approaches of the upper administration of the campus, as well as the workers. Physical plant employees have told us that working with CAP has definitely made their jobs more interesting.
4. Running a field school on campus (which we generally do every other year) allows students who cannot go on an expedition elsewhere the chance to learn archaeological methods and techniques. Some students cannot afford to go elsewhere, others have family commitments that constrain their opportunities.
5. In addition to training students in archaeological methods like every archaeological field school does, we also train students in archival research and to work with construction crews, staff, administration, etc. This additional training that our undergrad interns and graduate student fellows receive helps them get into graduate school and get better jobs. They have a kind of training that few others receive; they all also get extensive training in public outreach and engagement.
6. Social media has allowed a very small program to have a very large reach – we regularly engage with archaeologists and the public around the world. Students are trained in conducting such engagement, including writing regular blog posts.
7. Studying the history of higher education – particularly the land grant schools – through archaeology is fascinating, reflects larger changes in the overall culture, and is an area that has not been widely examined archaeologically. Each graduate fellow focuses their individual project on a different aspect of this history.

I feel privileged to have been able to create and direct this program, and I have to thank Michigan State University for its generous and enthusiastic support. Will I miss doing this? Of course, but it is also time to move on the next phase. I love Day of Archaeology because – ona single day – we can see what kinds of things archaeologists are doing all over the world. We are learning a lot about our past, with some clear possibilities for future directions if we listen.

Archaeology and Iowa’s Project AWARE River Clean-up

By Elizabeth Reetz, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist

Paddling a stretch of more than 17 miles of river is something I haven’t done since working as an archaeologist in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But yes – I have continued to find a way to mesh my love of canoeing with my profession of archaeology, and integrate it with environmental education!  Paddling a stretch of more than 17 miles of river is something I haven’t done since working as an archaeologist in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But yes – I have continued to find a way to mesh my love of canoeing with my profession of archaeology, and integrate it with environmental education!

Pretty soon after moving to Iowa, I learned about an absolutely incredible (hyperbole intentional!) community event called Project AWARE (A Watershed Awareness and River Expedition). Project AWARE, sponsored by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and now in its 15th year, focuses on a different stretch of a different waterway in Iowa each year to increase awareness about, and community involvement in, water quality issues that impact the health of Iowa’s aquatic resources. The crux of this project is removing trash from the waterway. Just as important though is the project’s integration of place-based education focused on each year’s route to promote engaged conservation and stewardship. It’s just amazing – I wish every state had an event like this!

OSA's Cherie Haury-Artz engages 2016 volunteers with Iowa's archaeological timeline of artifacts.

OSA’s Cherie Haury-Artz engages 2016 volunteers with Iowa’s archaeological timeline of artifacts.

Playing with altatls and spears in the Project AWARE campground.

OSA’s Cherie Haury-Artz helping volunteers with altatls and spears in the Project AWARE campground.

Where this event links in with archaeology is simple: People use and have always used waterways and their resources. Most of Iowa’s 29,000 documented archaeological sites have been found along the state’s thousands of miles of rivers and streams, which means that Project AWARE participants have passed hundreds, if not thousands of archaeological sites over the past 15 years and, until recently, didn’t even know it! My office started doing one-day guided archaeological canoe trips for the Iowa DNR Water Trails program, community talks about the archaeology of Iowa’s water trails, and evening campground programs for the Project AWARE participants in 2014. In 2016, my colleague Cherie Haury-Artz and I signed on to be “resident archaeologists” throughout the 5-day canoe journey. As resident archaeologists, we give educational talks and showcase artifacts and traditional toys and games in the evenings. More importantly though, we’re available as informal educators and interpreters while canoeing the river. Archaeology is not only about objects and artifacts, but about how humans have used the land throughout time. A long stretch of river will pass numerous landforms, landscapes, and confluences, all of which have a human story to tell.

This year’s route covered 55 miles of the upper Cedar River, from the Iowa-Minnesota border to near Nashua, Iowa. Before the trip, I did a search through our archaeological site records and found about 50 previously recorded sites within 100 meters of the banks of the Cedar River (hear more during the last 20 minutes of this Iowa Public Radio program!), including highly visible remnant dams and bridge footings. Of course, we couldn’t see most of these sites, because what remains is below the ground, but that still doesn’t mean that the land isn’t telling a human story!

Map of archaeological sites across Iowa and Project AWARE route

Iowa’s 29,000+ documented archaeological sites are clustered around rivers and streams. The Project AWARE route on the upper Cedar River is highlighted.

A selection of artifacts from sites recorded along the 2017 Project AWARE route.

A selection of artifacts from sites recorded along the 2017 Project AWARE route.

The longest day of the 5-day paddle was 17.5 miles on Day 4 (July 13), which is an incredible amount of paddling combined with pulling and hauling tons of trash from the river. That day, we passed 19 recorded archaeological sites, ranging from undiagnostic prehistoric artifact scatters and Woodland and Oneota villages and mounds to a historic hotel site in downtown Charles City. Most of these sites were recorded between the 1970s and 1990s, because this stretch of river traversed a pretty undeveloped part of Iowa. Where there is little to no development, there is little to no contract archaeology. Therefore, we strongly emphasized to participants to pass the word about our need for land owners and artifact collectors to help us build the story of Iowa’s archaeological past. A huge misconception in Iowa, which ranks 47th with less than 3 percent public land, is that archaeologists will either “take control of your land and tell you what to do” or “tell everyone about where you find artifacts.”  To Iowans and beyond, I just have to say, neither of these things are true!

But back to the paddle…

Crew hauling heavy tire from river

It takes a small village to “excavate” some of the trash!

We started off the day during morning announcements by presenting what type of archaeological sites the participants would pass along the route and then headed to the launch. My partner for the day, Dante (a Theater student from the University of Iowa), was participating in this 6th Project AWARE and was pretty well versed at spotting trash – in a way, its own type of archaeological survey! Our first big find of the day was less than a mile into the morning. Often paddlers will come across others working on projects, known to some of the participants as “excavations,” and stop to see if help is needed.  We came across Mirm, a first year participant who moved to New England from the Netherlands, and Ron, a second year participant from southeast Iowa, working with a team to remove a large tire from the river bottom.  The tire still had the rim, which meant it was heavy. After draining the mud and water from the tire, it took a small village to hoist it onto two canoes, which we roped together to make a “canoe-maran” for safer and sturdier transport.  Because the first trash collection point was nearly four more miles away, we paddled as hard as we could to haul this estimated 300-lb beast and drop it off before the cut-off time.

Creating a canoe-maran to safely and securely haul oversized and heavy trash.

Creating a canoe-maran to safely and securely haul oversized and heavy trash.

After dropping off the beast and unhitching from Mirm and Ron, we enjoyed some pie and ice cream and got back on the water in search of more “trophy trash.”  We found lots of aluminum cans that collected downstream from a highway overpass and part of an old truck precariously eroding out of a steep river bank.  Hello, nettles. Towards the end of the journey, we came across a huge team working diligently on a huge mess. As an archaeologist, I am both fascinated with and astonished by the array of material culture found in these rivers. This large trash dump – mostly in the river – contained one of the largest varieties of items I’ve seen in one river dump.  There was barbed wire and fencing in the bank and along the river bottom, tires, parts of a TV or radio, a car hood, a conveyor belt from some farm machinery, and weird metal bits us archaeologists like to refer to as, “unidentifiable metal objects.”  Canoe after canoe was called over and filled to the brim, and to my knowledge, no one got to finish cleaning up this dump before the sweep came by to get participants back to camp.  We had another hefty load. At the end of the day, my arms were as dead as a day full of non-stop shovel testing.

The canoe-maran team that hauled the beast! Mirm, Ron, Dante, and Elizabeth.

The canoe-maran team that hauled the beast! Mirm, Ron, Dante, and Elizabeth.

Loading up volunteers with trash from a large dump in the river.

Loading up volunteers with trash from a large dump in the river.

One of the big questions is, are some of these trash dumps actually archaeological sites?  Truth is, in a technical sense, they could be. What we focus on here is context, integrity, and knowledge about the past that we don’t already know. If these items are loose and in danger of washing down the river or hazardous (sharp and rusty metal, broken glass), I’m okay with them going in the trash. If these items are certain to erode away and become a bigger hazard, again, I’m okay with calling them trash. Rusty metal is not at all good for water quality, so let’s get it out of the rivers. People are not digging into the ground to remove objects.  Participants are well-educated about private property and bank stabilization, and leave these items found in these contexts as is. The “excavations” mentioned before are where items (usually tires, oil drums, and old cars or farm machinery) are eroding out of the river banks, with enough obvious exposure to catch someone’s eye. Also, what happens to archaeological artifacts that are found in the river?  As far as I know, no one the past two years of me being a resident archaeologist as come across any prehistoric artifacts.  If these artifacts are found, we encourage people to get a photo and, to the best of their ability, a location so we can later record or update a site file.  We practice a “leave no trace” ethic and do not collect artifacts.  Artifacts in the waterway are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

This event is hands-down my favorite archaeology outreach event of the year.  I’m proud of what this team of nearly 500 incredible volunteers accomplished this year! Just to brag a little bit, here are the end stats from the Iowa DNR:

  • Total Trash Removed – 28.0 tons (55,945 lbs)
    • Tires – 368 tires (7.3 tons; 14,500 lbs)
    • Scrap Metal – 14.9 tons (29,860 lbs)
    • Recyclables (redeemables, plastic, cardboard, glass, household hazardous materials) – 2.5 tons (5,045 lbs)
    • Trash – 3.3 tons (6,540 lbs)
  • Trash Recycled: 88% (49,405 lbs; 24.7 tons)

We can’t wait until next year!

canoe full of river trash

The home stretch of the 17.5 mile day with a canoe full of trash.

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Iowa Lakeside Laboratory Archaeological Field School

by John Doershuk, State Archaeologist, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist

I had an especially interesting day of archaeology recently that involved my annual archaeological field school class interacting with students from a soils class that was learning to use a Giddings Rig. Lee Burras, Agronomy Professor at Iowa State University, and I both taught courses this summer at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, located on West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County, Iowa. We arranged to have his soils class pull two 3-inch solid cores at 13DK143, the Prairie Lakes Woodland archaeological site my students were investigating. I spent some time discussing archaeological field methods and the context of 13DK143 with Lee’s students so they could better understand how archaeologists think about site formation and taphonomy issues as they relate to soils. Lee in turn discussed the mechanics of soil development with the archaeology students and they gained a far more nuanced understanding than I can provide about why the matrix they were digging looks and feels the way it does and how it came to be. As always, Lee and I found we both learned new things from one another as well as from the process of explaining our respective science to these students.

A Giddings rig set up near archaeological test units.

A Giddings rig set up near archaeological test units.

a Giddings rig soil core machine

The Giddings Rig

A soil core sample from site 12DK143, with deeper layers at top of photo.

A soil core sample from site 12DK143, with deeper layers at top of photo.

 

A Day of Archaeology in Deep West Texas

 

Spirit Eye (41PS25) is a prehistorically occupied cave system located in Presidio County, Texas just north of the Chinati Mountains (Fig. 1). The cave system is situated on the lowest level of a North/South trending limestone cliff. Access is possible via two entrances, lower and upper entrances that lead to a central U-shaped main chamber that connects with a smaller internal horizontal and vertical shaft system. Extensive prehistoric use of the cave is evident on the well-developed cultural talus deposit laden with thousands of pieces of debitage, various ground and chipped stone tools, and a distinct black anthropogenic soil. There are also historic food and beverage containers on this talus slope, remnants of years of looting into the rich and well-preserved prehistoric deposits.

The deposits within Spirit Eye are not pristine. Evidence of looting is clear: outside both entrances mounds almost three meters tall of screened cave fill are the first indicators of the destruction. As you move into the internal chamber, the portion near the lower entrance resembles a mineshaft from untold looting exploits, and near the upper entrance from the back wall of the cave to the opening is a large stratified mound over a meter tall comprised of looted cave fill. The persons that mined Spirit Eye were all after the same thing–the unique perishable artifacts that this cave preserved (Fig. 2).

The artifact assemblage from Spirit Eye offers a unique and holistic view into technologies that made prehistoric adaptation to the Chihuahuan Desert possible. In an effort to salvage some of this valuable information, the Center for Big Bend Studies of Sul Ross State University began the first systematic excavations in the cave in early May of this year. In operationalizing the excavation, we knew it would be important to understand the periods of looting, and what has emerged is a complex and storied history. By the 1960s, artifact collectors at Spirit Eye conducted intense periods of excavation fueled by both black market values and personal curiosity. Understanding this history has enabled us to relocate and claim orphaned collections in curational facilities like TARL and private collections, all of which contain unrivaled artifact assemblages. These looted collections, including many artifacts and a mummified set of human remains recovered from a private collector in the 1990s and now housed at TARL, will be one aspect of our investigations.
Our goal is to understand how the years of unsystematic excavation progressed and to develop research methods that can be used to salvage data from this and other extensively looted archaeology sites. Although our work is still ongoing, we have already recovered thousands of artifacts discarded by collectors, most of them perishable. Not surprisingly, these include domestic artifacts like quids, human coprolites, cordage, various kinds of processed plant fiber, faunal artifacts, foodstuffs, and carved wooden artifacts (Fig. 3). The site, while severely impacted, holds far-reaching research potential that requires an unconventional research design. We are very much at the beginning stages of this research, but it is obvious that we can use Spirit Eye as a laboratory to push the possibilities of research in perishable artifact analysis.

MSU Campus Archaeology – Public Outreach

The Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) works to mitigate and protect archaeological resources on Michigan State University’s beautiful and historic campus.  Although the program was officially created in 2007, the first on-campus excavation occurred in 2005. The upcoming academic year (2017-2018) is bringing several big changes to the program: director Dr. Lynne Goldstein is retiring, and Dr. Stacey Camp was recently hired to take over as program director.  This means that we’re doing lots of behind the scenes house keeping to make sure that everything from the last 10+ years is in order before Dr. Goldstein’s retirement.  Additionally I’ve been serving as the campus archaeologist since 2015, and will be stepping down after May 2018 (when I will hopefully graduate!). That means I need to also have all of my materials well documented and in order so that the transition to the next campus archaeologist goes as smoothly as possible.

So, what does that means for me today? Today I’m working on a photo book documenting the last two years of CAP activity and projects. We distribute this book to university administrators, deans, board of trustees, etc. to highlight the wide variety of work CAP does. Obviously I’m still working on the 2016-2017 book, but below is a sample from the 2015 book.

2015 CAP Photo book Example

2015 CAP Photo book Example

Making and distributing this book is a great public outreach opportunity, allowing CAP to easily describe our field word, laboratory analysis, and outreach over the past years. My job today is to summarize these large projects into short, simple page length (or less!) descriptions.

Some of the major projects to be included in this years book are:

2016 Survey

During the summer of 2016 university landscape services rejuvenated one of the major entrances to campus.  Historically several important buildings (Y.M.C.A., hospital, weather bureau, and Station Terrace) occupied this area, so CAP conducted several sweeps of shovel test pits.  Testing revealed that most of the northern section of the entrance was highly disturbed, but the southern most portion of the median revealed the foundation of Station Terrace.

CAP field crew documenting STP 3B-14, part of the foundation wall of Station Terrace

CAP field crew documenting STP 3B-14, part of the foundation wall of Station Terrace

 

 

 

That summer the field crew also excavated at two additional locations, an old greenhouse and a botanical laboratory that burned down in 1879.

Beal's Laboratory foundation wall - burn layer visible in unit wall.

Beal’s Laboratory foundation wall – burn layer visible in unit wall.

Field crew members Becca Albert and Jack Biggs show off a pipe fragment from the Old Horticulture greenhouse

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs show off a pipe fragment from the greenhouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Reconstruction Project

Over the past year several CAP graduate fellows worked to recreate an 1860s meal on campus based on archaeological, archival, and historic cookbook research.  Although only photos will be used, check out this short video to learn more:

2017 Field School

From May 30th – June 30th MSU Anthropology undergraduate students returned to the site of Station Terrace (first located during the summer of 2016) to examine more of the building.  It was a small group this year, but we were able to excavate six units, and reveal more of the building’s interior and exterior.

CAP field school students Josh Eads and Kaleigh Perry excavate underneath ceramic pipes running along the stone foundation.

CAP field school students Josh Eads and Kaleigh Perry excavate underneath ceramic pipes running along the stone foundation.

Unit A north wall stratigraphy. The 2016 test pit is visible on the left side, with undisturbed layers including a feature visible on the right.

Unit A north wall stratigraphy. The 2016 test pit is visible on the left side, with undisturbed layers including a feature visible on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one thing I really wish I could include in the book, but can’t is this video of Dr. Goldstein demonstrating how to pop dirt directly into the screen:

These are just a few of the many projects campus archaeology has completed over the last two years.  If you’re interested in learning more, or keeping up with upcoming research and projects head on over to the Campus Archaeology website, or following us on instagram or twitter (@capmsu).

 

 

Archaeological Analytics for American Archaeology

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Making North American Archaeology Googleable … 
and Shareable…. and Tweetable… and Pinable!

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What is Archaeological Analytics?

Archaeological Analytics promotes public outreach on the web and social media for Archaeologists in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to turn our experiences into trending topics and shareable content. Hey- if a cute dog can have over a million Instagram followers,  SO CAN ARCHAEOLOGISTS!

Turning Archaeology into a Social Phenomenon

That’s easy… sort of! We know that managing websites, blogs, and a Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest page is a lot work… IF YOU WANT IT TO WORK FOR YOU. Web platforms are great tools for archaeologists to interact with the public at large. For example, a single post can reach thousands of people within a few hours. But, getting that kind of traffic depends on what your post, how often you post, when you post, etc.

You Photograph It, We’ll Make it “Googleable”

Archaeological Analytics created platforms for Archaeologists to share IMAGES of artifacts!  Images, in contrast to reports or academic articles, have higher ranking in Google searches and are one of the most shared formats in social media. Follow American Artifacts Blog for daily features of recently excavated artifacts. If you’re a professional, student or researcher, subscribe to Open Artifact and learn more about North American material culture through open access collections, forums and analysis guides.

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Sharing Some Perspective on Archaeology in Florida…360° of perspective to be exact!

As an archaeologist working for the Northeast Region of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), I spend most of my professional days trying to engage the public with archaeology in Florida. On any given day, I’m out giving a children’s programs at a local library, speaking to to the Daughters of the American Revolution, teaching a training workshop on how best to protect historic cemeteries or helping volunteers monitor an archaeological site.

Unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere at all times! So I’m always looking for ways to broaden our impact at FPAN by getting people involved with cultural resources throughout the state in ways that doesn’t explicitly include me standing in front them.

In recent months, I’ve been working with a co-worker from our Southeast office, Mal Fenn, to explore ways we can document and take people to sites through virtual reality and film. I bought a 360 camera and hit the road to film sites throughout Northeast Florida and beyond. Here’s two sites I’ve visited recently and how creating these videos will help us with goals at each.

Shell Bluff Landing at the GTM Research Reserve is a site with a few issues. The site is actively eroded and was badly hit by a hurricane last year, losing several feet of shoreline in a day! At FPAN, we’ve developed a citizen science program called Heritage Monitoring Scouts (HMS Florida, for short) to get people out to threatened sites to monitor site changes and document anything we can before the sites continue to be lost. Creating videos on sites like Shell Bluff will help us document and share coastal changes as well as train new scouts in what to look for when assessing damages.

Kingsley Plantation at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve has the largest collection of extant slave cabins around! A few years back, FPAN and the National Park Service worked with Project Archaeology to develop a curriculum exploring archaeology at the cabins (download it here for free). We been trying to make the curriculum even more hands on and engaging, including creating 3D models of the artifacts and features from the site. Creating 360 videos will allow students to explore the site from the comfort of the classroom.

So I’ll be spending my Day of Archaeology working on editing more 360 videos. I hope to create more short videos and eventually even guided tours of sites that allow viewers to explore the locations from where ever they happen to be.

If you’re interested in playing around with some of this technology, but don’t have access to a 360 camera, I’d suggest a FREE app called Cardboard Camera (available on Android or iToys). The app uses your smart phone’s camera to create a stereoscopic panorama that works with any VR headset. Shout out to Mal for turning me onto it.

 

-Emily Jane Murray, Public Archaeology Coordinator at the Florida Public Archaeology Network Northeast Region located at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.

Day of Archaeology at a Great Lakes Lumber Camp

As an associate professor of Anthropology at Central Michigan University, I run an Archaeological Field School every other summer.  This summer, field school students studied and documented the ruins of lumber camp in north-central Michigan. In Michigan’s northern woods, the remnants of a once extensive lumbering industry can be found in the form of lumber camp ruins, defunct railroad grades, and mill ghost towns.  The Anthropology program at CMU has a strong focus on public and community-engaged archaeology, so as a part of the field school experience I opened the site to the public on our Day of Archaeology (which was actually on June 8th).  Students in the field school shared with the visiting public about the process of site documentation from start to finish.

Michigan’s lumbering history is a complex part of industrial and colonial expansion of the rural landscape of the state.  Timber cutting expanded in predictable patterns, linked to the technological means for transporting timber from the wilderness to mills and on to the industrial centers of Chicago and Detroit.  The industrial expansion moved swiftly and methodically into places like Clare County, where between roughly 1870-1900 the entire county saw the development of cities, railroads, and mills as timber was cut.

   Historic Photograph of unnamed lumber camp with railroad near Farwell, Clare County.

Lumber camps were short-lived neighborhoods in the lumber extraction process, but also integral to the industry as dynamic labor communities.  These self-sufficient communities were often comprised of ethnically and cultural diverse populations.  As archaeological sites, they represent short, but intensive, occupations that are spatially organized into recognizable task areas: barracks for workers, blacksmith and farrier sheds, cook’s kitchen and mess hall, foremen’s office, and more.

Historic industrial archaeology may not seem like an important topic, especially when the sites you are studying are only about 100 years old.  I mean, how much can you learn from the recent past that has photos and documents associated with it?  The reality is that there is much to be gained from studying the small residues of everyday life from even the recent past.  This is especially the case when it comes to lumber camps, which often have little to no historic documentation.  Think about it.  Before cell phone selfies, how many people documented their daily lives with photographs?  Before social media, how many average people had their stories told in official historic documents?  This is where archaeology can fill in the gaps.  By excavating lumber camp sites, we can see how everyday people lived, worked, ate, played, and slept about 100 years ago.

We started fieldwork by conducting survey (identifying any visible structural foundations) and geophysical prospection with a magnetic susceptibility meter.  Students learned how to navigate through the woods and identify building berms and cellar pits.  Magnetic susceptibility is a useful geoprospection technique that senses enrichments to the soil that increase magnetic properties.  This results in “hot-spots” that are organic or iron rich thanks to stuff left behind by people – in other words, places we might like to dig. These steps helped us identify former structures and chose locations for excavation.

Magnetic Susceptibility Geoprospection in action, with Teaching Assistant, Greg Swallow, supervising graduate students Kara McDonald (using meter) and Jeremy Cunningham (recording data). Greg is standing on the berm remnant of a building, these were earthen foundations for the temporary buildings of the lumber camp.

This lumber camp had at least seven distinct buildings (identified by foundation berms or cellars) and the remnants of a road.  Our primary goal was to identify what activities were conducted in each building, so excavation units were placed in several buildings to provide a snapshot of what people were doing in these areas.

Site Plan Map made using a Total Data Station and GIS software.

On our Day of Archaeology, we had excavations at four buildings open.  At Building 1, students discovered a huge stockpile of cut and hand-wrought nails, as well as other metal tools. So far, this building is our best candidate for the blacksmith’s shop.

Student sketch map of Building 1 excavation unit, showing density of nail fragments.

At Building 2, students found part of the building itself – which appeared as burnt planks of wood with nails.  They also found a number of clay smoking pipe fragments.  Based on the size and placement of this building, as well as its contents, it may have been the foreman’s office.

Photograph of one of the many clay pipe fragments found in Building 2.

Just outside the door of Building 4, students were astonished to find a pile of saw cut beef bone. Based on the density of animal bone, this building was most likely the cook’s kitchen – it also has a large cellar and is located next to a second cellar (both would have been necessary for storing the camp’s food).  The presence of beef is surprising, because it represents the most expensive cuts of meat, compared to the more commonly purchased mutton or hunted venison.

Photograph of Building 4 excavation unit showing butchered beef bones in place.

Building 7 was only detected by the geoprospection methods and was not readily visible as a berm, so our excavations at this building were aimed at determining whether a berm wall once existed in the area detected by the magnetic susceptibility meter.  While we did not find many artifacts at this excavation unit, we did find soil changes indicative of the berm structure and also a wooden beam left in place.  Therefore, we now know that Building 7 was a structure. Based on its location adjacent to the kitchen, it might have been the mess hall.

Photograph of Level-3 plan at Building 7 excavation unit, showing soil staining and wood plank associated with structure foundation.

In addition to the excavations, we also set up a field lab so that visitors could see how artifacts were cleaned, documented, and prepared for curation. Laboratory work, while not as exciting as fieldwork, is extremely important to the process of archaeology.  Analysis of the artifacts often takes two to three times as long as the fieldwork.  But, it can be just as fun to “rediscover” the artifacts in the lab and begin to tell the story of the site.

Graduate student, Mandy Kramar, talking with site visitor, Mariane Eyer, about artifacts found at site and process of cleaning and curation.

 All in all, we had a very fruitful first field season at the lumber camp.  Our public Day of Archaeology was also a success, with a couple dozen visitors (pretty good numbers for a remote location in rural Michigan) stopping by.  Most visitors spent hour or more touring the site and asking questions. More investigations are planned in October of 2017, coinciding with Michigan’s Archaeology Month.

Dr. Sarah Surface-Evans is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Central Michigan University who specializes in community-based archaeology.

 

Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture – A New Fifth Grade Social Studies Curriculum in Arkansas

Cover of the Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture 5th Grade Social Studies Curriculum.

Public education is an important part of the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s mission. Recently we developed a 5th grade social studies curriculum aligned with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) 5th grade Social Studies Curriculum Framework. The curriculum, Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture: Plant-based Foodways in the Southeastern United States, focuses on plants because, as critical parts of our foodways, plants not only fulfill nutrient needs, they teach us about culture, history, and economics. Biologically, people need food to survive, but what we eat is part of our history and culture. In addition, Arkansas, along with the surrounding mid-South region, is one of only ten world centers of independent crop domestication. Preserved plant remains excavated from dry bluff shelters in the Arkansas Ozarks (and now curated at the University of Arkansas) represent most of the evidence supporting this identification. This curriculum is designed to celebrate this important aspect of Arkansas’s past.

The curriculum consists of five lessons to be taught over the course of one week, plus a bonus lesson. Each lesson is approximately one hour in length. The lessons use the 5E’s Instructional Model (Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, Evaluation) and focus on a temporal comparison of plant use in the southeastern United States that draws specific examples from Arkansas. The lessons model the processes of archeological inquiry pertaining to plant-based foodways. Students look at archeological evidence, including site maps, artifacts, and seeds, and their relationship to each other (context) to reconstruct and interpret the past. Students use archeology to discover how diets changed when people shifted from hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods to growing their own food through gardening and agriculture. In a bonus lesson, students explore the effects of European colonization in the Americas by mapping the exchange of plants on a global scale. Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture provides hands-on activities and guided investigation of three archeological sites in Arkansas (Rock House Cave, Toltec Mounds, and Parkin) in which students learn scientific literacy while gaining new knowledge about Native American plant-based foodways in the southeastern United States.

Lesson One: Archeology Is about People. This lesson defines archeology, dispels common misconceptions, and introduces students to the critical thinking and analysis processes that archeologists use to study the past. Students explore chronology, observe objects and infer their use in an archeological context, and use evidence to answer questions about the past. It introduces students to the importance of chronology and context in the study of archeology.

Teacher workshop participants learning about foraging foodways.

Lesson Two: Foraging Foodways. Students participate in the foraging foodways simulation and learn about early foragers. Students explore the basic need for food and learn about foodways and nutritional, cultural, and economic practices related to the production and consumption of food cross-culturally.

Lesson Three: First Gardens. This lesson introduces students to the basics of stratigraphy and students learn how archeologists determine the relative age of artifacts. Here students look at domesticated plant seeds and learn how Native American cultures changed with the development of gardening. For this lesson, it is helpful for teachers to show students examples of the seeds and plants. The ARAS has prepared packets of the sunflower, goosefoot, maypop, and sumpweed seeds highlighted in the lesson and distributed those packets to teachers at the workshops and made them available upon request.

Lesson Four: Changing Gardens and Evolving Fields. Lesson Four introduces students to changes associated with the adoption of corn agriculture, introduced from Middle America, using both archeological and Native American perspectives.

Lesson Five: Stability and Change in Early Colonization. Lesson Five introduces students to the use of primary historical sources. They learn how to study maps and accounts written by early explorers to identify evidence of additional changes in Native American foodways.

Educators learning about wild plants, like fiddlehead ferns, during the teacher’s workshop at Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

Bonus Lesson: Many People, Many Plates. In this bonus lesson, students learn about the Colombian Exchange and map the origin and spread of plants and think about how this historical process shaped their diets.

Printed copies of the curriculum activity book are available to educators by request. It is also available as a free download on the Survey’s webpage: http://archeology.uark.edu/gga/. The Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture webpage is designed to promote the curriculum and make it easier for teachers to use. All of the teaching materials are available as easy downloadable pdfs so that teachers do not have to photocopy the activities.

In addition, the Survey held two teacher’s workshops. They conducted an hour-long presentation at the Arkansas Gifted and Talented Educators Conference in Little Rock and held a full-day workshop at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (WRI) in Morrilton.

Dr. Horton showing the teacher workshop participants rock art depicting sumpweed on the walls of Rockhouse Cave.

This project was made possible with the generous support of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference’s Public Outreach Grant, the Arkansas Archeological Society’s Bill Jordan Public Outreach Fund, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The curriculum, the website, and the teacher’s workshops underscore the Survey’s mission to study and preserve Arkansas’s past and to share what we learn with the public. Arkansas has significant archeological resources, from the bluff shelters of the Ozark Mountains to Mississippian mound complexes of the Central Mississippi River Valley and historic plantations. Although the ARAS, along with citizen volunteers and local, state, and federal partners, campaigns for archeological education and preservation, our state’s sites and the archeological record face continued threats from development, agricultural land-leveling, and looting. Education is a way to help protect Arkansas’s archeological record. By working with teachers, we help them increase their content knowledge of the important contributions that southeastern Indians and European, African, and early American populations made to the ways in which people use plants today. We also foster a greater sense of the importance of preservation among teachers and their students.