Archaeology of the Contemporary Past

Diversity in Archaeological Work: One Archaeologist’s Journey

The mission of the Day of Archaeology project has been to show the diversity of work done by archaeologists around the world as a group, and what a success it has been!

In this post, I want to demonstrate that a single archaeologist can have diversity in work throughout their career too, and to emphasise that there is (paid) work to be found in this field. I started my career with a focus on the archaeology of the Byzantine and Islamic periods in the country of Jordan. While I am still on this chosen path of mine and continue to be active in both excavation and research, I spent the actual Day of Archaeology this year writing a conservation management plan for a cemetery founded at the end of the 19th century in Australia!

I write this post especially for those younger people who might be interested in pursuing their interest in archaeology as a career but who may be discouraged (either by themselves or through the warnings of elders and peers) by the myth that there is no work in archaeology. The skills one develops as an archaeologist are transferrable. I don’t necessarily mean to jobs in the mainstream, though that is also true (but you just might have to try extra hard to convince employers of that!) – I mean in the field itself, and in related fields. With hard work and effort, supported by flexibility, a dedication to networking, a little bit of entrepreneurship, and of course (as with anything else), luck, an archaeologist can find work across a range of interesting projects and disciplines while getting paid.


Days of(f) archaeology

I’ve posted twice before, in 2013 and 2016, both times taking a break from work to write about what I was up at that moment, on the actual Day of Archaeology. This year however I was on a train heading up to the Lake District for a long weekend away from my job as one of two archaeologists for the South East region of CITiZAN (the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network). And thinking about how days off archaeology are still nearly always days of archaeology, something most, if not all, archaeologists would agree with.

Holiday reading

No 7 lipstick on the path at Yew Crag Quarries, above Honister Hause

The cairn on High Spy. Was it once intentionally shorter and squatter, or did the top fall and get replaced?

A window within a window. Keswick

Cemeteries and their Living Communities, and Archaeology

Knowing I would spend the actual Day of Archaeology doing moderator duties for this very website, I asked my Twitter followers what archaeological topic they would like me to share for my post.

The clear winner was discussing my project at a local cemetery. This is the second cemetery I’ve documented, both initiated to meet my teaching goals for my field school students, but the Vestal Park cemetery has been different because it has a community attached to it. Since Spring 2015, I’ve slowly been documenting the 19th century section of the cemetery with over 300 stones, in between my various jobs and writing my dissertation.

At this stage, almost two years later, I have gotten almost all of the documentation done. By scheduling weekly field school activities and offering surveying methods workshops to other graduate students and archaeologists in the area, I was able to assemble a complete map and photographs of every stone in the first 14 months. Still, only about 1/2 of the stones have been documented using our detailed form. I’m hoping to go back this fall to finish documenting as much as possible with the technology available to me, as long as I can find several days to go do it on my own.

As you can imagine, over the past two years I’ve learned a few things about cemetery research that I think are worth sharing, including principles I’ve developed from my experience.

Research in Active Cemeteries

When I started my project, I already had a relationship with the Town Historian and with several members of the local Historical Society, so identifying an appropriate setting was not difficult. This cemetery has a paid caretaker and is in a nice town, surrounded by businesses and homes. It is in no way neglected or forgotten. In short, it’s not the historic cemetery you may be imagining, with vines growing and spooky owl sounds. There are people visiting every day, including fairly often funeral processions, because the historic section is one small square of a larger, active cemetery. This place has an existing community of regular visitors and caretakers, as well as people who are just passing through during an emotionally difficult time. Your presence is noticed, and it can be hard to explain.

In a cemetery, there are loved ones who exist both in real life and in historical memory that are physically involved in the work you are undertaking. They are under your feet. Tread lightly.


Grave at cemetery for drowned man

This gravestone marks the burial of a man who drowned trying to save another man. These sorts of inscriptions grab the attention of visitors and amateur historians, wondering what the person’s life was like. This man and others buried here are still active in this place.

Setting project goals at an active cemetery is very different from at a small historic family plot, which is what I was more familiar with before undertaking this project. No matter what, you are likely to need to get in touch with a groundskeeper or local government official responsible for maintenance to consult on what is appropriate. The main concern of the groundskeepers is to keep the area safe, tidy, and make sure the ground and stones are stable; historical research may be welcome, but it is not the priority.

Follow the lead of the caretakers on how to physically move through the space.

Proceed in goal-setting and discussing your project with people as though each and every person there has been recently buried. Settle on a group of collaborators to start with, and ask them if they are willing to share their stories and their vision for the project. There may be family members involved along with the groundskeeper, representative of the property owner, members of local historical interest groups, and any affiliated church. In my project, my meetings were usually limited to the groundskeeper and the Town Historian, but sometimes two members of the local historical society participated as well. Having other historically-minded folks involved motivated me to come up with ways to use the data I was collecting to tell the stories they had become passionate about through researching the buried individuals. But my dreams and my means were on very different scales.

Make modest promises and keep them. Be honest about your timeline and your limitations.

At least in my area, most of the people who are interested in public archaeology work and local history are retired folks of some means. Strangely enough this means that they often have more time and energy to dedicate to this particular project than I do, and so my timeline could easily appear to be sluggish from their point of view. It’s hard, and not really appropriate, to try to explain why it takes a year for my small crew to do something that would take a 20-person historical society a week, my professional training and equipment notwithstanding.

If I could start over again, I would be clearer about what I could accomplish in a short period of time. I would also push harder for information about what programs my collaborators used on the computer, what technology they were comfortable with, and what things they wanted me to know. Because I had existing relationships with most of my collaborators, I did not complete a formal Memorandum of Agreement at the outset, and that process may have helped me to avoid continually helping people open digital files, locate photographs, and provide other information technology help. I would have perhaps sought funding/help for a nicely hand-drawn map to accompany the data table and point plot map that I created.

Simple products are better for certain stakeholders than beautiful or “cool” ones.

Despite the relatively low profile of this project, I have garnered more public interest in it than any other I’ve done, in large part due to the genealogical community. Just a few weeks ago my PhD advisor got an email from a woman asking for more information about her ancestor who was buried there, and that’s just one example. Word travels fast among the diner-breakfast crowd here, and I am sure it seemed more than a little weird that I would use fancy mapping equipment to measure stones that won’t go anywhere any time soon. Still, some of the cemetery’s dead are known around that same community, and beloved friends buried nearby only adds to the interest in the space being deemed important enough to be studied by an archaeologist.

Cemeteries are valued in many layered ways, including as active spaces of mourning and as places of local pride in past residents. Engage with peoples’ connection to the place instead of inventing a new connection.

I’m sure you will hear more from me about this later! I have more to say and more to do.


Hej, chciałbym napisać wam kilka słów o mojej pasji, o URBEXIE.

Czym jest? URBEX jest skrótem od Urban Exploration czyli po polsku, miejskiej eksploracji.

Opiera się na odkrywaniu miejsc stworzonych przez człowieka, które są opuszczone bądź trudno dostępne. Przekrój takich miejsc jest olbrzymi, od opuszczonych po PRLowskich budynków przez zapomniane pałacyki i nienadające się do dalszego użytkowania drapacze chmur, po katakumby oraz zrujnowane kościoły. Motywów parania się miejską eksploracją jest tyle ile osób, które to robią. W moim przypadku jest to po prostu chęć ponownego odkrywania i poznawania historii miejsc, które czas powoli obraca w pył, a o których nikt nie będzie pamiętał.


Jeśli wizja wyruszenia w takie miejsca jest dla was interesująca musicie zdać sobie sprawę z zagrożeń, które się z tym wiążą i, których nie należy lekceważyć. Udając się w opuszczone lub wyłączone z użytku miejsce trzeba pamiętać o tym żeby nigdy nie iść samemu, brak jakichkolwiek zabezpieczeń na klatkach schodowych, zrujnowane stropy i dziury w podłogach przez chwilę nieuwagi mogą zafundować ciężki uraz lub nawet utratę życia. Dlatego warto mieć przy sobie zawsze kogoś, kto będzie w stanie udzielić nam ewentualnej pomocy. Niesamowicie przydatna jest również mocna latarka, telefon komórkowy o dużym zasięgu oraz nóż, który jest uniwersalnym narzędziem. Oprócz zagrożeń związanych ze stanem technicznym, kłopotów można spodziewać się od osób trzecich, które napotkamy oraz często służb mundurowych lub oficerów ochrony strzegących niektórych miejsc. Dlatego mimo, że czasami może wydawać się, że jesteśmy sami lepiej zachowywać jest się dyskretnie i cicho.

Powyżej postarałem się wam zarysować jedynie obraz tego czym URBEX, jeśli taki sposób spędzania wolnego czasu was zaintryguje polecam poszperać po sieci, znajduje się w niej mnóstwo obszernych artykułów o tej tematyce oraz fora na których możecie spotkać podobnych mi zapaleńców oraz znaleźć informacje o ciekawych lokalizacjach. Czołem!




Miejska exploracja




Urbex, czyli urban exploration, czyli, dosłownie tłumacząc eksploracja, odkrywanie miejskich obszarów, w tym przypadku koniecznie opuszczonych. Urbex staje się coraz bardziej popularną formą spędzania wolnego czasu. Jest jednak wiele różnych wartości, które z tego typu rozrywki mogą płynąć. Dla jednych opuszczone miejsca to plener, który daje możliwość kreatywnego wyrażenia siebie. Nie chodzi tu o zwyczajny wandalizm, ale uwiecznianie widzianych obrazów w postaci zdjęć, a niekiedy i bardziej tradycjonalnych obrazów. Opuszczone miejsca są też często wykorzystywane jako swojego rodzaju sceneria dla profesjonalnych sesji zdjęciowych.

Miejsca opuszczone bywają odwiedzane przez osoby, które próbują się tam ukryć przed wścibskimi spojrzeniami. Są miejscem libacji alkoholowych i innych lubieżnych ludzkich uciech. Stają się przy tym niejednokrotnie ponownie miejscem zamieszkania , dla osób, które mieszkać nie mają gdzie.


Wreszcie opuszczone miejsca odwiedzają eksploratorzy, którzy szukają wrażeń, nowych widoków. Chcą być tam, gdzie inni już nie przebywają, w miejscach tajemniczych i odrobinę niebezpiecznych.

Każdy, kto odwiedza opuszczone budynki, konstrukcje, czy też całe założenia urbanistyczne ma swój cel. Ja, przebywając w takim miejscu czuję się trochę odkrywcą, robię zdjęcia. Może nie są one idealne, ale pozwalają nie zapomnieć o tych, niejednokrotnie niezwykłych obrazach stworzonych przez czas. Czyli wpisuję się w generalny rys miejskiego eksploratora. Z drugiej strony, jako archeolog, obserwując elementy, które nie pasują do pierwotnych założeń danych budynków, ukazujących ich historię od momentu, kiedy zmieniły się w ruiny, widzę ludzi, procesy, które złożyły się wspólnie z czasem na kreację tego unikalnego obrazu, który można obserwować tylko raz.

Urbex to dla mnie pewnego rodzaju archeologia współczesności. Czas jaki obserwujemy to przestrzeń przeważnie kilku dziesięcioleci, a tak może i kilku lat, uznając, że jej początek to dopiero moment, gdy dane miejsce zostało po raz pierwszy opuszczone. Urbex daje zatem możliwość obserwacji szczątków ludzkich zachowań, które miały pozostać w ukryciu, alternatywnego, nieplanowego drugiego życia budynku. Miejsca, które otrzymało nowe znaczenie.

Subiektywnie zatem hołduję zasadzie urbex’u, by „zabierać ze sobą jedynie zdjęcia a pozostawiać tylko ślady stóp”, jednak z punktu widzenia obserwatora-archeologa, we wszelkich pozostawionych śladach widzę odrębną historię miejsc opuszczonych. A zdjęcia, które zabieram są wspaniałym obrazem, który uwiecznia ten jeden, niepowtarzalny moment, w którym historia się na chwilę zatrzymała tylko dla mnie.

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.

Want to keep up with what we do in Iowa? We’re on FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr, and YouTube!

Monte Miravete: 19th century miners-farmers communities at Murcia (Spain). An Art-Archaeology project.

Hello everybody!

I am JoseAnt. Mármol from the fieldwork at Monte Miravete site at Torreagüera (Murcia, Spain). Here we are looking for identify the remains of the mining activity of the local farmer communities, their ‘hidden face’. The site contains 100 structures (mainly gypsum kilns) and 35 quarries, making the site one of the most big archaeological site in all the entire Murcia region with the best known remains of this activity in Spain. We are working with a chronology dated back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This campaign we have been surveying around 23 structures and 10 quarries, and the next week we will start the excavation of one of them, the structure MMIR-E1089, which seems to be a former quarry with a kiln associated with it, later transformed into a space for storage or living. One of the aims for this excavation is to know more about the chronology and temporal phases of the site, especially before the 19th century. Will we find something medieval? That’s our dream for now!


The research of this site lets us know more about the farmers communities of Murcia, who represent the origins of the very identity of this region. But, the understanding of the suffering of these farmers climbing up to make lime for its houses and facilities, helps us relate to the current children lime miners in India, for example. This is a reflection also for contemporary world about the unsustainable exploitation of the landscape and the human capacity to transform and survive.

We are not only seeking for archaeological data. Since our team is an interdisciplinary young team and we don’t have so much economical support, we can be so creative as we want. So, we have done archaeological ethnography, poetry, artistic works with and at the site, and a long list of interesting papers and crazy interpretation of the site.

Maybe this is the unique project in Spain with an strong interest in developing an Art-Archaeology approach.

Our team is composed by: JoseAnt. (creative archaeologist), Manu (prehistorian interested in cinema), Javi (archaeo-botanist), Martín (interested in contemporary history), and some volunteers who will come the next week.

Here you can see a short video of the 2016 campaign:


Happy summer and enjoy the 2017 DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY!!!

Best regards,

JoseAnt. Mármol



Harold Augustus Hyde’s Contribution to Welsh Archaeology

This post has been published on behalf of Heather Pardoe,  palynologist in the Botany Section, Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales.

Harold Augustus Hyde had a long and distinguished career at the National Museum of Wales. He was appointed Keeper of Botany in 1922 and he remained in this post until his retirement in 1962. He published more than 100 papers. Hyde collaborated with many of the leading archaeologists of the day working in Wales including Sir Cyril Fox, Aileen Fox, Grimes, Hemp and Williams. His research made a significant contribution to their discoveries.

National Museum of Wales Staff Outing 1925. The arrows indicate Sir Cyril Fox (back centre and Harold Hyde (front, right, reclining) (With thanks to Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales Library).

In the 1930’s and 1940’s Hyde worked with the Museum’s Director, Sir Cyril Fox and his second wife Aileen Fox. Hyde identified small fragments of charcoal found on archaeological excavations and this provided insights into the composition of the local vegetation at the time. In some cases his results provided vital clues for the rituals and other activities taking place at the site. For example, Savory (1950-1952) described a house foundation of Neolithic or Early Bronze Age from Mount Pleasant Farm, Pyle (only the second found in Wales) overlain by a Middle Bronze Age Cairn. Hyde examined charcoal from the site and found that the fragments from the Late Bronze Age central ritual deposit were all slow-grown ash. Hyde suggested that the ash may have been deliberately chosen and felled expressly for the pyre since ash burns so well. Hyde was clearly interested in the evidence that this site provided of locally growing ash in the Neolithic or early Bronze Age.

Hyde’s notes on charcoal from Mount Pleasant Farm

Hyde was one of Britain’s leading palynologists. He used pollen evidence to improve our understanding of the post-glacial vegetation history of Wales and to support the research of the archaeologists with whom he worked. For example, in the late 1930’s a cauldron and a sword were donated to the National Museum of Wales. They were recovered from a peaty mountain tarn at Llyn Fawr, Rhigos when the lake was drained to create a reservoir (Fox and Hyde, 1939). Hyde extracted pollen from a film of silty peat coating the objects. These peat brushings contained birch, oak alder, hazel heather and grass pollen. Hyde observed that “the pollen evidence …suggests that the articles composing the hoard were cast either into the lake or into this wet swampy bog.” The date of this event is uncertain.

Title page of Fox and Hyde (1939)


Cauldron from Llyn Fawr


Heather Pardoe is a palynologist in the Botany Section, Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales. She is interested in the pollen-vegetation relationship, vegetation change during the Holocene and various aspects of the history of Botany. A detailed biography of Hyde is currently being prepared (Pardoe and Edwards, in prep.).



Fox, C and Hyde, H.A. (1939) A second cauldron and an iron sword from the Llyn Fawr Hoard, Rhigos, Glamorganshire. The Antiquaries Journal, 19 (4). 369- 404

Pardoe, H.S. and Edwards, K. (in prep) Harold Augustus Hyde: pioneering palynologist (provisional title)

Savory, H.N. 1950-1952. The excavation of a Neolithic Dwelling and a Bronze Age cairn at Mount Pleasant Farm, Nottage (Glam.) 75-91. Cardiff Naturalists’’ Society’s Reports and transactions 81, 75-92. Hyde, H.A. Appendix Report on charcoal from the excavations at Mount Pleasant Farm, Pyle, Glamorgan p91-2.

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.



Współczesna archeologia to złożona i wieloaspektowa gałąź badań naukowych. Jest to nauka, która nieustanie się rozwija, wkracza na nowe pola badawcze, kreatywnie stara się wykorzystywać najnowsze technologie. Mówiąc inaczej, dzisiejsze badania archeologiczne to nie tylko poszukiwania egipskich mumii w cieniu piramid i przekopywanie ton drobnoziarnistego, żółtego piasku.

Jednym z dynamiczniej rozwijających się obecnie obszarów działań archeologicznych jest – choć może to brzmieć jak oksymoron – archeologia współczesności. Taka archeologia analizuje materialne pozostałości oraz zmiany w krajobrazach, które zwykle związane są z pierwszą i drugą wojną światową. Rozpoznanie, dokumentacja i szersza kontekstualizacja takich badań opiera się zwykle o tzw. metody nieinwazyjne. Są to badania archeologiczne, które nie niszczą pierwotnej substancji zabytkowej. Przykłady takich przedsięwzięć to np.: lotniczy skaning laserowy, naziemny skaning laserowy, badania geofizyczne, badania powierzchniowe, zdjęcie lotnicze itd.

Okazuje się również, że wiele reliktów pierwszo- i drugowojennych zachowało się w dobrej kondycji, szczególnie na terenach zalesionych. Słowem, archeologia współczesności w lasach może stanowić ważne poszerzenie dotychczasowych badań archeologicznych. Problematyka archeologii i XX-wiecznego dziedzictwa militarnego na terenach zalesionych jest właśnie tematem grantu naukowego, który mam przyjemność realizować w Instytucie Archeologii i Etnologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk (więcej informacji tutaj:

Oczywiście, tak zakrojone badania polegają na rozpoznaniu w terenie wielu kategorii XX-wiecznego dziedzictwa militarnego. W trakcie dotychczasowych badań dokumentowałem – by wymienić tylko skromny wycinek bogatych i różnorodnych pozostałości militarnych –  okopy drugowojenne (zarówno budowane przez niemieckie, jak i polskie wojsko) (ryc. 1-2).

Rycina 1. Lasy pod Chyciną (woj. lubuskie): system niemieckich okopów drugowojennych widoczny na produktach pochodnych lotniczego skanowania laserowego.


Rycina 2. Lasy na wysokości Zapory (woj. pomorskie): polskie okopy na wschodnim brzegu Brdy miały stanowić linię obrony przed niemieckim natarciem w 1939 roku.

Najliczniejszą grupą są różnej średnicy i głębokości leje po bombach, pociskach moździerzowych itd. (ryc. 3).

Rycina 3. Lasy wokół Gutowca (woj. pomorskie): dziesiątki głębokich lejów widocznych na produktach pochodnych lotniczego skanowania laserowego.

Relikty wojenne w lasach to nie tylko okopy i leje. Pewną (nie)zwykłą pozostałością po drugiej wojnie światowej są ryty na drzewach (bukach zwyczajnych), które zostały wykonane przez jeńców wojennych i przymusowych pracowników pod Chyciną (ryc. 4).

Rycina 4. To również jest dziedzictwo militarne: stary, zwyczajny buk pokryty rytami drugowojennymi (fot. D. Kobiałka).

W ramach realizowanego projektu udało się zeskanować powierzchnię jedenastu drzew. Dzięki nowym technologiom (w tym przypadku był to naziemny skaning laserowy) rozszyfrowano niektóre imiona i nazwiska ludzi, którzy musieli wznosić fortyfikacje polowe wokół Chyciny (ryc. 5).


Rycina 5. Wizualizacja rytów drugowojennych wykonana na podstawie naziemnego skanowania laserowego (oprac. G. Szalast).

Z kolei jedną z najsłabiej rozpoznanych kategorii XX-wiecznego dziedzictwa militarnego na terenach zalesionych są pierwszowojenne obozy jenieckie. Pozostałości jednego z nich znajdują się w lasach pod Czerskiem (woj. pomorskie). W trakcie badań terenowych dokumentowałem ogrom kultury materialnej używanej codzienne przez jeńców wojennych. Wśród tych przedmiotów były zardzewiałe puszki po konserwach (ryc. 6); emaliowane miski (ryc. 7); butelki po winie, piwie, szampanie, nalewkach czy też medykamentach różnego rodzaju; łopaty; elementy żeliwnych piecyków, przy których ogrzewali się jeńcy w trakcie długich, zimowych wieczorów; sztućce, których używano codziennie; fragmenty drutu kolczastego stanowiącego fragment ogrodzenia obozu; kubki metalowe; metalowe i szklane manierki; elementy munduru; tzw. podkówki itd.

Rycina 6. Zardzewiałe puszki po konserwach (fot. D. Kobiałka).


Rycina 7. To wygląda na śmieci: niepozorne, zniszczone, emaliowane miski. To z tych naczyń jedli pierwszowojenni jeńcy (fot. D. Kobiałka).

To zaledwie mały wycinek rzeczy, które można spotkać w lasach pod Czerskiem. Te – jakby mogło się wydawać na pierwszy rzut oka – śmieci są już obecnie wartościowym dziedzictwem archeologicznym. Podobnie, po obiektach obozowych (barakach, ziemiankach, halach produkcyjnych, stajniach, rampie rozładunkowej, jamach śmietniskowych itd.) zachowały się ślady w lokalnym krajobrazie leśnym (ryc. 8).

Rycina 8. Dziura w lesie: pozostałość po obiekcie związanym z funkcjonowaniem obozu jenieckiego w lasach pod Czerskiem (fot. D. Kobiałka).

Podsumowując, archeologia bada również relikty niedawnej przeszłości. Jednymi z nich są pozostałości wojen światowych, które często zachowały się w lasach w bardzo dobrej kondycji do dnia dzisiejszego. Zatem zawsze warto zwracać uwagę na to, co spotyka się w lesie w trakcie zbierania grzybów, jagód; w trakcie pieszych i rowerowych wycieczek pośród starych borów. Może się okazać, że zardzewiała miska była przedmiotem, z którego jadł jeniec pierwszowojenny a zniszczona manierka mogła zostać porzucona przez polskiego żołnierza w trakcie trwania II wojny światowej. I w końcu, niewyraźny rów może nie być po prostu rowem: może to być częściowo zasypany okop wojskowy. Słowem, lasy skrywają ogrom zagadek przeszłości, które coraz częściej próbują rozszyfrowywać archeolodzy.


DAWID KOBIAŁKA (Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii PAN)



Dziękuję dr Kornelii Kajdzie i mgr Mikołajowi Kostyrko za wspólne działania nad archeologią obozu w Czersku.

Badania są częścią projektu finansowanego ze środków Narodowego Centrum Nauki przyznanych na podstawie decyzji numer DEC-2016/20/S/HS3/00001.