Hello World!!! From the University of Kentucky’s Summer Fieldschool in Archaeology

Hello Everybody!!

The last day of our eight-week field school was July 29th: Day of Archaeology Day!!!  And as everyone knows, sites always ALWAYS throw you a curve on the last day.

Excavating the last level in a 1 x 2 meter unit we had excavated at this site in 1984 did, indeed, throw us a curve (we should have just let sleeping dogs lie), but our REAL problem this year was that we had bitten off a little more than we could chew the week before: about four 2 x 2 meter units’ worth!

We couldn’t help it. This summer is the last, the very very LAST in a three-year excavation program at a very challenging, very interesting, and very complex prehistoric site where village farming peoples lived on and off from about A.D. 1200  to the early A.D. 1600s.

Our eight University of Kentucky undergraduate students, three instructors, and several devoted volunteers were at the site on July 29th, and all of us could have gotten into the act.  But we reserved our Day of Archaeology contribution for the students.

We asked each of them to tell us (to tell YOU), in a word or a sentence, what field school meant to them. The video you are about to see, courtesy of Nick Laracuente, says it all: about why we do archaeology and why we HAVE fieldschools.

So… here is our Day Of Archaeology posting.

Three cheers for archaeology! Hip Hip Hoo-RAY!!

Gwynn Henderson

Coffee and assorted bones

I’m starting off this morning in the lab, cup of coffee by my side, working with some borrowed museum collections.  This picture shows what I’m looking at right now:

Bones from the Navajo project

Photo copyright Emily Jones, 2011

These bones are from a site in northwestern New Mexico; the site was occupied (we estimate) around 1660 A.D., by historic Navajo (or Diné) peoples.  This is just one of a suite of sites I’m examining, all Navajo-affiliated, and all from the 16th and 17th centuries.  Most archaeologists think Athapaskan-speaking Native Americans (including the Navajo) entered the southwestern US in the 15th century, though some argue for earlier or later arrival.  Early on, it seems, the Navajo were mostly hunter-gatherer, maybe with a little agriculture, but at some point they adopted sheepherding with great enthusiasm.  I’m interested in learning about this transition in subsistence, which is why I’m analyzing the zooarchaeological remains from these sites.

So far, I’ve been really impressed with the diversity in subsistence strategy represented.  Many of these sites seem to be evenly split between agriculture, hunting, and gathering of wild resources…and there are a few domestic sheep/goat sneaking in to the record in the 17th century, as well.  Earlier sites seem to have been used for more activities than later ones; it seems like the later sites are more often either hunting-specific or agriculture-specific.  I’ll have to wait to see if this pattern holds up when I get to the statistical analysis!

Archaeology on the Puccini Lake

Sun is shining in Massaciuccoli, Tuscany! We’re diggin’ this interesting Roman building, it’s 5 professionals, plus many students from Pisa, Florence, Cardiff & Aberdeen Universities!

The excavations in Massaciuccoli started long ago with the digging up of the thermal bath covered by beautiful I century A.D. mosaics in 1934. Today the Team of professionals and students is immersed in the excavation of the rest of the building, just across the road. This more recent excavation started in 2006 and it will finish in the next year, 2012.

Because of the display of the building and its surronding, initial therories categorised it as a Roman Villa, but due to new finds such as a pottery stamp with the image of two gladiators and pieces of a furnace, new theories have arose. One of them  is the possible use of the building for pottery production, and the area 4000 may have been a market place open to the public. In the area next to area 4000, there was also found a holy room containing an altarpiece and in front of it a base for a statue. In this room the walls are covered by a mix of mashed bricks, clay and a kind of mortar that draws them together.

It is an interesting site which offers new challenges and experiences everyday. Young archaeologists and students from around the world are invited to join our excavation!

Click here for a brief video about these last months of excavation (Febr-June 2011), and here for a video and interview (the latter in Italian), or follow us on Facebook!