University of Leicester

Creating Future Archaeologists: University of Leicester

I’m Alex, a course designer and teacher at the University of Leicester (and an Archaeology graduate/researcher by background). Although I work across all Humanities subjects, much of my day to day work tends to be Archaeology- or museum-themed; and this week in particular has been full of it.

One of the puzzles from the Archaeology Challenge, launched today. Can you solve it?

One of the puzzles from the Archaeology Challenge, launched today. Can you solve it?

This morning, I sent out two rather odd images to a cohort of undergraduate distance learning students on our BA Archaeology degree. The images are puzzles 8A and 8B in a 10-week puzzle game called the Archaeology Challenge which I run. Each week, the students get two puzzles which relate to the work they’re doing in their course books – the puzzles pick up key concepts and send the students off into real resources or data sets to apply their skills and find the answers. This week’s relate to identity and symbols, and to evaluating evidence: there’s an inevitable (and useful) link to some of the Richard III material from this one, which gets the students working with up-to-date evidence (see example image).

Richard III is all around us at the moment, of course. The second period of excavation is finishing down in the town centre, and today we might get more news of the stone coffin which was found earlier this week (I’m keeping my eye on Twitter and the Dig Blog). Earlier this week I was interviewed on BBC local radio about a national teaching award, but half of the interview ended up discussing the local dig and Archaeology in general.  Richard III  also casts his shadow over my afternoon activity: continuing work on a new ‘MOOC’ (massive open online course) we are developing to launch with Future Learn later in the year.

I’m overseeing both MOOCs we are creating, but one focussed on England at the time of Richard III is occupying most of my time at the moment. Together with Deirde O’Sullivan, we’re planning all sorts of interesting trips to archaeological sites for short film sequences, or studies of particular objects, to accompany the course narrative. I’m writing a section on late medieval manuscripts and early printing, so I’ll be interspercing the planning with some periods of writing.

As I told the radio interviewer earlier in the week, my Archaeology degree and earlier work in the field fuelled my sense of adventure and investigation – and gave me a large toolkit of skills from the humanities and sciences to draw on. I still retain this desire for investigation, and this multi-disciplined approach to problem solving, with me in all I do: all thanks to that Archaeological base.

A Day of Archaeology from the City of Brotherly Love (And Beyond)

It’s been a typically diverse summer day for me. One of my ongoing projects deals with understanding the initial adoption of pottery technology by the Indian peoples of the Delaware Valley (between roughly 1600 BC and 1000 BC) and subsequent trends in the manufacture and use of pots. Today I reviewed a number of recently published articles on the subject and made arrangements to see collections of pottery from archaeological sites in New Jersey (Gloucester County) and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). I also continued my review and organization of data from an ongoing excavation project I direct, along with graduate student Jeremy Koch, in the Lehigh River Gorge of Pennsylvania. This location is a fantastic layer cake of deposits left by Indian groups beginning around 11,300 years ago and ending in colonial times. The site was brought to our attention by amateur archaeologist, Del Beck, who was concerned about the site being looted. Del remains an important member of our research team along with my old friend and amateur archaeologist, Tommy Davies, and colleagues from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Clarion and Baylor universities. We are currently into our 5th year of investigations at the site and are collecting evidence of native cultures that is rarely seen in buried and undisturbed contexts in Pennsylvania. I’m looking forward to my next trip to the site later this week.

Michael Stewart, archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


For the record, I’m not an archaeologist. I manage the regional historic preservation program for the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. General Services Administration. The regional headquarters is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania although the region covers six states from New Jersey to Virginia. We undertake a number of projects for the federal government that involve ground disturbing activities and I manage the regional regulatory compliance, including archaeological investigations. On June 25, 26, and 27 I reported to a customer agency about the ongoing investigation of two historic archaeological sites at their project site in southern Virginia, sent copies of correspondence and archaeological resource identification reports to a couple of Native American tribes who expressed interest in being consulting parties to a Section 106 consultation, prepared a scope of work to direct an archaeological contractor to undertake a survey to identify whether or not there are archaeological resources present in a planned project area, and worked on slides describing how to incorporate archaeology into project planning for a training presentation I’ll be giving in a few months.

Donna Andrews, Regional Historic Preservation Officer, GSA Mid-Atlantic Region, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA


In the evening of June 25, 2012, I edited a draft of a publication being prepared regarding a multi-component prehistoric site (28GL228) located in New Jersey immediately east of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA). The article will be published in the journal entitled Archaeology of Eastern North America and presented at the 2012 Eastern States Archaeological Federation meeting in Ohio (USA). The data from 28GL228 provides insight into Native American culture in the Philadelphia region. This project is being conducted on a volunteer basis.

Jesse Walker, MA, RPA


I, Poul Erik Graversen, MA (Masters), RPA (Registered Professional Archaeologist), spent most of my Monday, June 25, 2012, doing research for my PhD/Doctorate Degree.  I am currently living and working in New Jersey (USA), not far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I grew up; however I attend the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.  Literature on free African Americans in the antebellum northeastern United States is sparse.  The literature that can be found on this very important topic has had little focus on the placement, layout, settlement patterns, and the archaeological record of these people.  My PhD dissertation aims to fill in the gaps of current scholarship focused on African American archaeology in the northeastern United States by means of an in depth analysis of both enslaved and free African American settlements in not only the northeastern United States, but in the southern United States and West Africa as well.  By analyzing the settlement patterns and socio-economic reasons behind the settlement patterns in other parts of the United States and the world, a clearer and more concise picture of the reasons behind the settlement patterns of free and enslaved African Americans in the northeastern United States will emerge.  Most of the information amassed in this regard up to this point stems from a historical perspective, with archaeological contributions and content lacking.  The new information gathered in this dissertation will shed light on the life-ways of these people via the archaeological record of both enslaved and free African American Diaspora in the northeastern United States of America and the ramifications of their extended exposure to European influence in North America. 

Poul Erik Graversen, MA, RPA PhD/Doctoral Candidate University of Leicester
Principle Investigator/Instructor Monmouth University New Jersey USA


Worked in the morning on several writing projects including my material culture based memoir: “Some Things of Value: A Childhood Through Objects”, my essay with my colleague Julie Steele on Valley Forge and Petersburg National Park Service sites, and some new stuff on American Mortuary practices inspired by my attendance and paper presentation at last week’s national meeting of the Association for Gravestone Studies held in Monmouth, New Jersey (USA). At about 10:30 am left Temple University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and went to Elfreth’s Alley [the oldest street in the USA) and discussed the excavations now underway, directed by my graduate student Deirdre Kelleher, ably assisted by two energetic volunteers and fellow student Matt Kalos. Three foundations have appeared (not the expected two) and need to be sorted out. Lots of stuff to think about there: the growth of 18th century Philadelphia, perhaps the first settlements there, the 19th century immigration and its impacts, all to be read through material culture; especially the remarkable surviving architecture. Greatly relieved not to get a speeding ticket as I journeyed back to Delaware City (Delaware, USA) where I answered some queries and agreed to some talks; including one on the Fourth of July!! My local historical society is busy trying to save a magnificent mid-18th century farmhouse on an imposing knoll surrounded by lowland farm ground and wetlands. Approved a draft to hopefully speed the preservation process along. Also reviewed the National Register nomination crafted by a group of us working at the Plank Log House in Marcus Hook, Pa., another early structure in the Delaware Valley. Regretfully decided that I could not attend the Fields of Conflict 7th Annual Meeting in Hungary this October. The day ended with a group response, led by my next door neighbor, to save an injured Great Blue Heron which found itself in front of our house. By 8:00 pm the heron was revived and taken care of at a friend’s animal hospital!

David G. Orr, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


I spent the day doing fieldwork at Elfreth’s Alley in Old City Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) as part of my doctoral research.  Elfreth’s Alley, designated as a National Historical Landmark, is credited with being one of the oldest residential streets in the nation.  My research seeks to illuminate the lives of the inhabitants on the Alley, especially the many European immigrants who resided on the small street during the nineteenth century.  This summer, I am working behind 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley which house a small museum and gift shop.  During the day I worked with volunteers from the local community who came out to learn about and participate in the excavation.  I also spent time discussing my project with the many visitors who came to the Museum of Elfreth’s Alley.

Deirdre Kelleher, Doctoral Student, Temple University, Department of Anthropology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


I am a Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA) lecturer who teaches in three programs (Anthropology, Art History, Cultural Heritage); I also am a sole proprietor archaeological consultant with 25 years of archaeological experience – every day is always busy, diverse in the tasks and projects I work on, and linked with archaeology and anthropology. Today I: 1. Finished and submitted a review for a textbook on on Native American history and culture to a major publisher of archaeology and anthropology texts 2. Submitted an application to be listed as an independent archaeological consultant for the state of Pennsylvania 3. Gathered material for, and started writing a draft of, a syllabus for one of three courses I will be teaching next fall (“Cemeteries, Monuments, and Memorials: Cultural Heritage and Remembering the Dead”) 4. Wrote a short draft of an invited book contribution on the topic of an Alaskan archaeological site I helped to excavate in 1987 and 1994.

Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer


I just returned from a visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, where I viewed the traveling Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Franklin Institute in which the accompanying artifacts of everyday life illuminate the scrolls themselves. I also was privileged to enjoy a preview of reconstructed transfer-printed creamware pitchers that will be included in an exhibit commemorating the War of 1812.  Curiosity about the images of naval engagements on these Philadelphia artifacts led me to explore similar prints offered on the websites of antique print dealers as well as on the Library of Congress Guide to the War of 1812. Researching Melungeons in aid of a relative’s family history quest, I examined Kenneth B. Tankersley’s work about the Red Bird River Shelter petroglyphs in Clay County, KY.

K. L. Brauer, Maryland, USA


June 26, 2012

Today, at Drexel University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), I met with two Digital Media undergraduates developing digital assets representing the James Oronoco Dexter House, the site of which was excavated in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.  The 3D model will eventually serve as a virtual environment in which users interact with avatars and take part in “possible” conversations that led to the formation of the African Church, later known as, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which are known to have occurred in this home. Jason Kirk, a junior who received a Steinbright Career Development Center Research Co-op Award to work on the project, is completing the latest digital model.  Jason and I met with freshman Joseph Tomasso who received a Pennoni Honor’s College STAR (Students Tracking Advanced Research) Fellowship to work on the project. Today is Joe’s first day on the summer term Fellowship. He will develop digital 3D models of appropriate furniture and furnishings that will be used to populate the house.  Virtual artifacts will include ceramics recovered from the archaeological site that are believed to be associated with Dexter’s occupation.  The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for a session with Independence National Historical Park representatives on Wednesday, June 27th.  At that Park meeting we will review the house model and will discuss appropriate virtual furnishings with Park experts.  The model has been prepared with advice from archaeologists Jed Levin and Doug Mooney (who excavated and interpreted the Dexter House site) and guidance from Public Archaeologist, Patrice Jeppson and Karie Diethorn, Chief Curator Independence National Historical Park.

Glen Muschio, Associate Professor, Digital Media, Westphal College, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Doing archaeology today has entailed a wide range of activities, some not always associated in the public’s mind with archaeology.  I work for a cultural resource management firm. Today’s work has included such mundane activities as reviewing contracts to perform archaeology in Bucks County and the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, USA; firming up logistical efforts to meet with a geomorphologist tomorrow in Delaware County (Pennsylvania); and checking time statements. Fortunately, the day also included putting the finishing touches on an archaeological monitoring report for work in Bucks County. This required nailing down dates for two artifacts found in association with a house foundation. I learned that Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 1930s stamped out automobile license plates with the year that they were issued. I also learned, through a historical marker database on the internet, that the Trenton Brewing company was incorporated in 1891 as a side line business of an ice company and stopped using the name by 1899. These two objects helped to bracket the date of the foundation that had been encountered.  In comparison to the mundane business aspect of doing archaeology, the historical information about the two artifacts, brightened my day.

Kenneth J. Basalik, Ph.D. Pennsylvania USA



I work for an engineering company in Pennsylvania (USA) and serve as the Vice President of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). In the course of the day I went over plans for field and laboratory work for a Phase II bridge replacement project that will be starting shortly outside of Philadelphia. I spent time researching the status of industrial archaeological sites in the city for an encyclopedia article. Indications are that in some neighborhoods in the city, between 1990 and 2007, as many of 50% of the documented and listed industrial archaeological sites were completely or partially demolished, or were abandoned or fell into disrepair. In other neighborhoods with higher property values, more sites were preserved by adaptive reuse. In addition, I spent a portion of the day reviewing and proofreading comments on a visit to a laboratory for a major urban archaeological project in Philadelphia.  In the evening, I attended the monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF), an organization that works to promote archaeology in the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia).  After the meeting, I began reviewing the report summary for Phase IB/II testing and the data recovery plan for a major highway project in the city. The goal will be to prepare comments on the documents for submission to the agency that is sponsoring the project, on behalf of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum.

Lauren Cook, Registered Professional Archaeologist, Philadelphia, PA

A Week in the Life of a FLO (And Her Helpers)

A week in the life of a FLO – Wendy Scott, Leicestershire and Rutland FLO and Rebecca Czechowicz, FLA.


I added records to the database from an elderly long-term finder. We visited him at home last week and recorded objects found many years ago, before the scheme started here. We obtained accurate locations using maps and had a chat about his best find, a small but significant Viking coin hoard –The Thurcaston Hoard.


More inputting  (it never stops!).  In the run up to the Festival of Archaeology, myself and my manager have a meeting with our press office to plan our press releases. This year we have 73 festival events to promote, including a launch event at Kirby Muxloe Castle with EH (14th July), an event to promote a new Iron age coin hoard going into Harborough museum with coin striking activities (17th July).

We are also plugging two Leicestershire objects being in the final 10 of Britain’s Secret Treasures, an ITV programme highlighting the 50 most important finds made by the public (16th-22nd July).

We have help from a volunteer today. James Kirton is helping us to get all the amazing Bosworth Roman objects onto the database.  Amongst hundreds of brooches, we have 99 horse and rider brooches! Along with coins and other objects; all found as part of the Bosworth battlefield survey.


We have an appointment at Oakham Museum to meet a finder to record her many objects. Rebecca measures and weighs whilst I photograph and identify all the objects. Handily this co-incides with an invitation to visit Time Team filming at Oakham castle. We met up with Danni, FLO for Devon who works for Time Team, and local detectorist Dr Phil Harding who was detecting the spoil for them, to see what they’d found. A local journalist asked the other Dr Phil Harding if he actually did the digging! He was posing for a photo with a spade at the time,  so he replied “What do you think I do with this?”

Our Dr Phil detects the spoil whilst the other one supervises his trench.


Downloading and editing photos and researching objects from our recording yesterday, ready to add them to the database.  I have spoken to the finder of the IA hoard. We are arranging a photo opportunity for the press next week, prior to the event and I needed a quote for the press release. I also spoke to colleagues about one of our museums purchasing a treasure case, a medieval finger ring, for their collection. In the afternoon we were all distracted from work by a violent thunderstorm, with flash flooding and hail the size of golfballs!


Day of Archaeology! Today I am getting on with recording the objects we identified yesterday. I am also preparing leaflets and flyers for the Festival. Before I leave I will be gathering material for a weekend event. Sunday is the annual open day at Burrough Hill fort, Leicestershire’s best Iron Age fort. The University of Leicester are conducting a five year research project there.  We will have the latest finds along with other Iron Age and Roman objects from the area found by detecting and field-walking. We have Iron age Warriors, coin making and I will be on hand to record anything that people bring along.

With the exception of Time Team being in my area, this is a pretty average summer week. There are always more objects to record and input, events to organise and promote and people to see. . . . .


Spreadsheets, Guidebooks and That Cake With The Sprinkles

I’m currently working as Special Projects and Strategy Assistant at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

At the moment, I’m co-ordinating two publication projects and one exhibition and also help to co-ordinate the organisation’s strategic work. It’s not

Spreadsheets and Post-its

My working life is defined by a series of colour-coded spreadsheets and project monitoring charts. Fortunately, I’m the kind of person who derives great satisfaction from organised lists of things plotted against timescales! This morning, like every other morning, began when I sat down with a strong cuppa and reviewed my project charts.

Next, I sorted through yesterday’s post-its. The post-it note easily tops my list of Desert Island Office Items: every task, telephone number and interesting fact I come across through the day gets scribbled onto a yellow (or pink, or blue) square (yes, they’re colour-coded too). Each morning, I sort out Stuff That’s Actually Important from Irrelevant Stuff That Caught My Oft-Wandering Attention.

Once I’m done with my spreadsheets and post-its, I have a list of Things To Do for the day. This is what I got up to this fine Friday:

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site

In 2009, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal was inscribed on the World Heritage List. It became the third World Heritage Site (WHS) in Wales, alongside the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd and Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. I’m currently working with colleagues and partner organisations to produce an official guidebook to the WHS as a key outcome of the agreed Management Plan.

My day-to-day job involves interpreting existing archaeological and historical records to produce a comprehensive, user-friendly guidebook. I spent this morning adding to my ever-expanding database of images that could potentially be used in the guidebook.

My favourite image from this morning was this early photograph of Valle Crucis Cistercian Abbey close to Pentrefelin Aqueduct. The photograph was taken in 1855. This scan was produced from a rare salt-paper negative held in the Commission’s archive.

Yesterday’s image of the same site later in the 1800s was well creepy, so a rather more pleasant view was welcome!

Inside Welsh Homes

In addition to working on the guidebook, I’m also looking into the Commissions’ records of domestic interiors in Wales. Some of the photographs and records I’m uncovering will feature in an image-based book and a touring exhibition, both of which are due for release in mid-2012.

Just before lunch, I met with Royal Commission photographer Iain Wright to talk about some of the recent colour digital images he’s made that could be relevant. We also discussed a programme of photography for pre-historic and early-medieval sites, to ensure we covered as full a range of historic periods as possible.

The Staff Away Day!

The rest of my afternoon was spent making arrangements for the Commission’s Staff Away Day in September – an important part of our working year as an organisation. We’re planning on visiting several archaeological sites near Goginan in mid-Wales, and possibly taking a look at the records held in the National Library of Wales. If all goes to plan, it’ll be an interesting and insightful day for everyone!

Most importantly, I sorted out tea and cake for the afternoon session of the day. By popular request – well, more of a demand, really – I’ve ordered that vanilla and buttercream icing with sprinkles. Yes, it’s the same one we get at training days.

After Hours

Once I’m done here at work, I’ll be heading home to do… well, more work!

I’m in the final stretch of my MA in Interpretation, Representation and Heritage (a distance-learning course through the University of Leicester) and spend most of my time outside of my job here at the Commission working on my dissertation. I’ll liven up the Friday night diss session with a glass of schnapps as an end-of-week treat! Living the dream!

Archaeology with a foot in three countries

I’m *really* a field archaeologist, but with the financial climate wavering here on the Åland Islands (an autonomous region of Finland) too, when it came to a decision between a nine month contract as a museum assistant at Åland’s Maritime Museum or the probability of no work in archaeology at all this year, the museum won. Still wanting to stay involved with archaeology – I’m also a recent graduate of the MA in Historical Archaeology by distance learning at the University of Leicester – I am now working voluntarily on the ongoing Kinchega Archaeological Research Project based at Leicester. So, at present, my day as an archaeologist doesn’t really begin till I’m home from work, sitting (back) in front of a computer, and right now, inputting entries from early twentieth century stores records into a database. The entries relate to an early twentieth homestead in Australia that has been under excavation since 1998, and the database will enable the records to be analysed in conjunction with evidence from the excavations. When I’ve posted this I’m going to fiddle with some total station data from the same site, with the aim of eventually creating shiny new maps and plans in ArcGIS. One aim of the project is to make the data and research available digitally, to make it much more widely accessible – and this, of course, is a Very Good Thing……