Day of Archaeology 2017

I gatti e l’archeologia

Come è noto, il rapporto fra i gatti e l’archeologia è molto stretto. Il micione che vedete è uno degli abitanti del sito archeologico di Cecilia Metella, uno dei più belli lungo la via Appia, a Roma.

Altri siti, qui a Roma, dai Fori a largo Argentina, sono frequentati da colonie feline. A volte la coabitazione ha creato qualche problema fra cittadini e chi si prende cura più o meno saltuariamente dei nostri amici, ma la presenza dei gatti nei siti dove lavoriamo non è mai stata messa in discussione.


What we do: reading and writing and writing

Many posts on archaeology will show exciting excavations and groups of people holding up new finds – what people think archaeologists do.  This is, of course, part of what archaeologists do, but as Indiana Jones apparently said: “Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library.”  Which is only partly true, as more than a little is done, now, in front of computers in front rooms, offices, cafes, working on paper work of some kind or another, whether payroll, reports on the field work just done, grant applications for next year’s field work or, and especially if you are an academic, and it’s ‘holiday’ time, thrashing out that book or paper for which the deadline was last month.  Or year.  Or whatever.

Desk photo

Writing Writing Writing

And so it is today that I am placed before the large table in my front room, banging on about some tomb or another for a book I am writing on memorial images and identities in Asia Minor in the first one hundred years after its conquest by the Achaemenid Persians.  If my tone sounds sardonic, that is because we can have the same problems sitting still, not checking email hundreds of times, looking at Facebook and baking unnecessary amounts of pies that other writers experience.  Productive procrastination abounds.  This post is, of course, excluded from that.

A sardonic tone might also imply that my book is boring.  And while many many writers would confess that they find writing itself boring, the subject matter is not: in the period that I am writing about, following its incorporation into the Achaemenid Persian Empire, Asia Minor experienced cultural and social change which is all the more fascinating to unstitch because these changes are not ‘in your face’, archaeologically.  In fact, the impact of the Empire has been considered to be quite low.  But for me, in studying images used on tombs, this is a rich period, since it is around the time of the conquest that burials of differing types start to increase in number, among them some with rich (if often badly preserved) images in paint or sculpture.  (more…)

Kaikōura Earthquake Archaeologists

This is cheating a little as I am going to talk about work we have been doing along the Kaikōura Coast since February, but it is still very much underway today on July 28th!

On 14 November 2016 an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 occurred on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. This and the aftershocks following caused significant damage to land, coastal areas, buildings and infrastructure along the coast and in the top half of the South Island. In some areas there was uplift of around 4m! Massive slips blocked coastal and inland roads and rail cutting the town of Kaikōura off from the rest of the country by land for more than two weeks.

Slip 6 at Ohau Point


Slip 8

The government formed an alliance, the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR), with a large multidisciplinary team including designers, a whole range of engineers, contractors, ecologists, landscape architects, planners, abseilers, helicopter pilots, a large comms team, as well as us archaeologists, dedicated to clearing and reinstating the road and rail. It’s one of New Zealand’s biggest infrastructure projects to date! The NCTIR team have been working tirelessly for months sluicing, scaling and stabilising the slips, building seawalls and realigning the road and rail, repairing and replacing bridges and the series of tunnels located along the coast. Despite the massive task, not at all helped by wet weather and snow, NCTIR has made massive progress with the rail set to open officially very soon!

Archaeologically the Kaikōura Coast is highly significant with (currently) 195 recorded archaeological sites including middens, ovens, pits and terraces, burials, Pa (Maōri fortifications), gardening/horticulture sites, caves and rock shelters, whaling stations and a canal found throughout the area of works. The NCTIR archaeologists have been working together with the wider team and cultural monitors to make sure that any works that may impact archaeology is monitored and any archaeology uncovered is investigated and recorded. It’s been (like the rest of the project) a massive and challenging job with archaeological sites geographically spread apart and difficult to access, helicopters the only way to get to some sites or, for one of our intrepid team, abseiling!

Abseilers at Slip 2


Jean in a services trench at Rakautara


Leah and Cathleen test trenching at the Pines


Busy archaeologists up at the Pines


Jeremy and James with the helicopter puppy


Excavating a burnt feature at the top of Slip 8


Jean, Emily and Leah up at the Pines


NCTIR archaeology mascot Hunter curling up after a long day

As you can see we have uncovered a fair bit of archaeology and as earthworks continue we will be on the job. The NCTIR project is a unique opportunity for us to look at archaeology on such a large scale across so many types of sites, and is sure to generate some excellent archaeological insights into settlement in this part of New Zealand!

A Day of Georgia Archaeology

On a typical day, archaeologists at the Laboratory of Archaeology and Georgia Archaeological Site File at the University of Georgia (UGA) in the United States are busy doing research, training students, preserving and curating artifacts, and sharing information about the important pieces of Georgia history in our care.  We curate 11,000 boxes of artifacts and field records, which means that a normal day at the lab involves many people working on a variety of different tasks “to keep the party going” (to quote Laboratory of Archaeology Director, Dr. Mark Williams). Here’s a peek at just a few:

Professional Research

Dr. Victor Thompson and Rose Parham analyze artifacts from Mound Key, Florida.

Dr. Victor Thompson is a Professor in UGA’s Department of Anthropology, and the Director of UGA’s Center for Archaeological Sciences. He and Rose Parham, a UGA undergraduate student employee, are spending the day analyzing artifacts from recent fieldwork on Mound Key, an island in Estero Bay, Florida.





Dr. Jennifer Birch (left) with Co-Director Stefan Brannan and the rest of the 2017 SMASH field crew.

Dr. Jennifer Birch is an Assistant Professor in UGA’s Department of Anthropology. She leads UGA’s Singer-Moye Archaeological Settlement History (SMASH) field school at Singer-Moye, a Mississippian mound site in south Georgia. Right now, she and her students are washing and analyzing the artifacts they excavated during this research season. Next, the artifacts will be analyzed, photographed, put into archival bags and boxes, and placed into the lab’s curation facilities. Check out the SMASH blog to learn more about what Dr. Birch and her students have been up to all summer.

Students from the SMASH Field School wash and analyze artifacts.

Graduate Research

The Laboratory of Archaeology is the centerpoint for graduate research in archaeology, and the lab is currently assisting in numerous graduate research projects. Brandon Ritchison is a Ph.D. Candidate in UGA’s Department of Anthropology, and today he is using the lab’s computers and software to analyze data from Sapelo Island, Georgia, for his dissertation research.  He is using ArcMap, a digital mapping and spatial statistics software, to figure out the distributions of different kinds of artifacts at his site.  Many of these artifacts were found during UGA’s Colonial and Native Worlds field school, which ended last month.

Brandon Ritchison uses ArcMap to analyze spatial distributions of artifacts.

Experiential Learning

Rachel Horton recently graduated from UGA and is volunteering at the lab this summer to get more archaeological experience before applying to graduate school. Today, she is finishing up the analysis on a shovel test survey that was recently excavated during a public archaeology day on Ossabaw Island, Georgia. Undergraduate training is one of the lab’s top priorities, and UGA undergraduate students who work, volunteer, or conduct internships at the lab participate in experiential learning by analyzing and archiving archaeological collections, using 3D scanners and 3D printers, as well as conducting and presenting their own archaeological research.

Recent UGA graduate, Rachel Horton writes provenience information onto an artifact bag for curation.

Georgia Archaeological Site File

Undergraduate student employee, Nicole Oster searches for sites to fulfill a request from a CRM firm.

Nicole Oster is a UGA undergraduate who works at the Georgia Archaeological Site File. Today, she is processing requests for archaeological site data from a local cultural resource management (CRM) firm in Georgia.  The Site File curates all artifacts, paperwork, and site reports that are produced through CRM archaeology (archaeology that must happen before certain kinds of construction projects) in the state of Georgia. Nicole and the Site File team (which includes UGA graduate and undergraduate student employees) supervised by Assistant Manager, Mary Porter, recently completed a massive project where every one of the over 58,000 recorded archaeological sites in the state of Georgia was mapped and recorded into a searchable database of digital records.


Collections and Curation Management

Artifacts from Hickory Log included (left) a steatite hand and foot; (middle) fish remains; (right) glass beads.

Megan Anne Conger is a Ph.D. student in UGA’s Department of Anthropology.  Today she is working on rehabilitating a large archaeological collection from Hickory Log, a site that was occupied periodically for over a thousand years (Middle Woodland through Historic periods).  Employees at the lab spend a lot of time rehabilitating older archaeological collections to make sure that the artifacts and records are in proper archival condition.

Digital Curation

Video of 3D scanned shell gorget recovered from UGA’s Singer-Moye Archaeological Settlement History (SMASH) field school at Singer-Moye.

Amanda D. Roberts Thompson is the Assistant Director of the Laboratory of Archaeology and Georgia Archaeological Site File and today, she’s using a Next Engine 3D Laser Scanner to digitally reproduce artifacts for the Georgia Museum of Natural History’s Science Box.  After scanning the artifact, a copy of it will be printed using one of the lab’s three 3D printers, and the printed replica will be painted to resemble an even more exact copy of the original.  3D scanning and printing are digital curation practices, which give access to the lab’s collections from anywhere in the world. With 3D printed replicas, you can see, hold, and experience artifacts in exhibitions, classrooms, and outreach events without having to worry about the original object being damaged from transport or handling.

Public Outreach

Isabelle Lulewicz holding a copy of the UGA Junior Archaeologist workbook and badge that she helped create!

Isabelle Lulewicz is a Ph.D. student in UGA’s Department of Anthropology.  Today, she is packing up some UGA Junior Archaeologist workbooks and badges to give to children in local classrooms. The workbook is a recent collaboration between UGA’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies (CAIS), graduate students, and the lab. The workbook was designed to introduce kids to the basic principles of archaeology and to teach them a little bit about the history of the Southeast. After completing the workbook, students sign a pledge to protect Georgia’s past, earning themselves an official Junior Archaeologist badge! CAIS and archaeologists here at the lab use these workbooks at public events throughout the state to get kids (and adults!) excited about archaeology.

If you want to keep up with day-to-day happenings around the lab, follow us on Instagram @uga.archaeolab, or “like” us on Facebook. If you want more information about how YOU can get involved with archaeology in Georgia, email us ( or visit our website.