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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‘A Day of Archaeology’ at the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist

Whenever someone asks what the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) does, there’s no quick answer! We have over 20 permanent staff members and numerous seasonal employees in and out of the building, focusing one or more of the following: research, fieldwork, archives, curation, bioarchaeology, technology, education, and making the wheels turn. Five of our staff are pitching in to give you some insight into a “Day of Archaeology” at the OSA!

Mark Anderson – Research Archaeologist:
Today I find myself finishing a Phase I survey report on a wastewater treatment facility expansion in eastern Iowa. I didn’t find any new archaeological sites, but I was able to evaluate and clarify the condition of a previously recorded site. Rather typical work for a CRM project, but I enjoy it. I am also in the process of wrapping up the first stageidentifying and cataloging a projectile point collection of a Historical Resource Develop Program (HRDP) grant project for the Kalona Village Museum. With the help of a high school intern from the Kirkwood Community College Workplace Learning Connection, Isabella Roads and I have been cleaning, sorting, identifying, photographing, and cataloging a 101 projectile point assemblage all collected from the Yoder farm just north of Kalona. There is roughly 12,000 years of Iowa’s prehistoric past represented in this collection. These points will be displayed by culture periods in a case coupled with a large wall mounted version of Iowa’s Archaeological Timeline to tell the story of human prehistory in the Kalona, Washington County, and east-central Iowa area. We also processed a 32 point assemblage, of uncertain provenience, for use as a teaching collection so that the museum will have a hands-on set of projectile points for use in all variety of public programming. It’s great to be an archaeologist!

UI OSA Intern Isabella

High School intern Isabella Roads identifying and cataloging a projectile point collection

John Doershuk – State Archaeologist:
My Day of Archaeology began with explaining to a planner with a local community the mechanics of a conservation easement, an important preservation tool here in Iowa. Conservation easements are a mitigation solution that can be employed in compliance situations such as Section 106/NHPA to support preservation-in-place rather than the often expensive (and inherently destructive) option of data recovery through large-scale intensive archaeological excavation. Conservation easements such as these are legally “in perpetuity” under the Iowa Code and are recorded as part of a property deed. These sorts of easements can be tailored to specific conditions and are a powerful way for a landowner to create a preservation legacy and a cost-efficient way for compliance to be achieved in a federal undertaking, assuming it is physically possible to set-aside and effectively protect a site area long-term. My office then monitors these properties to insure those who grant the easements fulfill their responsibilities. Thus far, seven archaeological sites in Iowa are protected and preserved through conservation easements, and we are actively negotiating easements for three additional sites!

Iowa's State Archaeologist John Doershuk

Iowa’s State Archaeologist John Doershuk

Jennifer Mack – Bioarchaeologist:
Today I am documenting human skeletal remains excavated from an archaeological site. I am recording information that can help determine the number of people represented by the bones, as well as the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and overall health of these people. In compliance with the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Bioarchaeology Program at the OSA uses this information to prepare notices for Native American tribes so that human remains and funerary objects can be returned to the appropriate tribe or tribes. Unfortunately, the skeletal remains I am working on today were illegally excavated from a mound many years ago by a private collector who did not record the location of the archaeological site. Because this important information was lost, it is impossible to identify the present-day community to which the remains should be returned for reburial. In this case, the OSA’s Indian Advisory Council, a group of representative from various tribes, will arrange for reburial of the remains in one of Iowa’s cemeteries designated for this purpose.

UI OSA Archaeologist Jennifer Mack

UI OSA Archaeologist Jennifer Mack

Mike Perry – Research Archaeologist:
The Ulch Archaeological Collection is an important source for north-central Iowa prehistory. The collection was recently donated to the Calkins Nature Area in Hardin County, and I’ve been involved with cataloging the collection to make it useful for curation, exhibit, and research purposes. Excellent examples of lithic, ceramic, and bone artifacts spanning the entire range of human occupation in the state are represented in the collection. Several volunteers from central Iowa assisted archaeologists with the major undertaking of cataloging this collection.

Archaeologist and Volunteer

UI OSA Archaeologist Cherie Haury-Artz and a volunteer

Elizabeth Reetz – Director of Strategic Initiatives:
Every day is different for me. Usually, I’m focusing on developing some great education and outreach initiative! Other times, I delve into communications, marketing, fundraising, and research. Today, I’m mostly creating and scheduling social media posts that promote Iowa’s diverse archaeological past and some of our great upcoming outreach events. I’m also reading background materials and browsing lessons to help develop a 4-hour outdoor curriculum for the University of Iowa’s School of the Wild, where every 6th grader in the Iowa City School District will learn archaeology for one full day, every year! This outdoor learning area is centered around the ruins of a historic farmstead, where students can discover foundations and find some historic surface artifacts while learning about human interaction with the landscape.

Historic foundation in Iowa

Historic ruins at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, Iowa

As someone involved in public archaeology, community archaeology, and archaeology and heritage education, I cannot stress how important it is to communicate well! I get a lot of blank looks from student interns and volunteers when I tell them to learn skills in technology and communicating science to the public. They want to learn how to do lab work and fieldwork, and don’t look beyond that. You know what’s happening out there though? Funding cuts, anti-preservation legislative proposals, down-sized programs. We’re feeling in, in part because we might not be doing the best job of communicating our value to the public. Could you effectively give a two minute elevator pitch about your research to an 8th grader and know that they understood what you were talking about? I’ve also spent a chunk of my week scheming for a session I’ll facilitate at the upcoming Midwest Archaeological Conference in Iowa City where I’m going to challenge my peers and colleagues to do just that!

Want to keep up with what we do in Iowa? We’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and YouTube! Or get in touch with me,

Experimental Archaeology Rocks

My name is Martin Lominy. I’m a trained archaeologist, a career educator, a self-taught craftsman and the founder of Aboriginal Technologies Autochtones, a Quebec based business with an educational mission aimed at providing the general public with a more practical vision of the past and a better understanding of aboriginal cultures of North America through the reproduction and experimentation of ancient technologies.

Today, I’m doing an inventory of lithic material so for this year’s Day of Archaeology post I’ve decided to focus on lithic technology which basically refers to the art of bashing, cracking, knapping, pecking, grinding or polishing stones of various kinds to manufacture tools, ornaments and other objects whose significance becomes even more obvious through the study of how they were used, broken, repaired, recycled and discarded.

Stone is of all materials the most dealt with in archaeology and stone tools are of paramount importance not only because they are very well preserved in the archaeological record and common to all cultures but also because they are the basic tools with which most other tools were made in prehistory. They not only help us understand the technical skills of ancient people but also inform us on chronological periods, cultural groups, food production, population movements, social organization and trade networks.

Stone tools are in fact a complex technology that benefits greatly from experimental archaeology which is a research method specialized in the reproduction of past objects and behaviours to understand the processes involved in making and using artefacts found in archaeological sites. For decades archaeologists have recognized the value of experimentation and reproduction for the benefit of research but also as an educational approach to share that knowledge with the public in a comprehensive and dynamic way.

I will briefly present here a photo essay of our latest projects aimed at improving our understanding of stone technology and reproducing various artefacts either for scientific objectives or educational purposes.


Collecting cobble stones for the reproduction of axes, net sinkers and grinding stones. It can take many hours of searching a shoreline or a river bed to find appropriate stones.

Collecting chert for knapping. Finding accessible chert can be a tricky operation these days since alot of the ancient stone quarries are now protected sites.

Preparing quartz preforms in the field to bring back to the workshop for tool making. As in ancient times, it’s a lot easier to carry preforms than boulders back to camp.

Testing a stone axe reproduction in the field during a house building project. Using a tool is the only way to learn the about the details of its construction.

Inserting a stone axe head in a live tree to test a hypothesis. According to historical sources, some stone axes were hafted by allowing a living tree to grow around a prepared stone blade.

Stone knapping

Knapping chert preforms for the reproduction of various tools. Similar piles of preforms are sometimes found in archaeological context and are known as caches.

Knapping experiments with quartz and dolomite. Unusual materials for that purpose that were nevertheless used in prehistory because of their availability.

Exercise in knapping very small tools from equally small flakes. In prehistory, people made the most of what they had available and chert was rarely wasted.

Typology of stone points of Northeastern America showing the evolution of projectile points. This display was designed as an educational tool for our public activities.

Polished stone

Reproductions of polished stone tools (celt, grooved axe, adze, gouge) that were used for woodwork in North America between 8,000 and 500 years B.P.

Reproductions of Northwest Coast style fish knives. Such knives made by grinding slate slabs were delicate but very sharp for the preparation of fish.

Drilling stone with stone. Various soft stones like soapstone, slate and limestone were polished and drilled in prehistory to make ornamental or ceremonial objects.

Common polished slate tools (semicircular knife, spear head) used in North America during the Archaic period (8,000-3,000 years B.P.).

Unworked stones as tools

Many stones found in archaeological context were modified by use but not by design. Sandstone for instance was commonly used as a grinding surface to work bone while chert flakes served as disposable blades.

Working a native copper nugget with a stone anvil, a hammer stone and a grinding stone to manufacture a prehistoric knife for a traceology project with the University of Montreal.

Making beaver incisor gouges with various grit stones for a traceology project with the University of Montreal.

Using various types of stones for cutting, hammering and polishing bone for the manufacture of prehistoric tattoo needles as part of a traceology project with the University of Montreal.

Sharing the knowledge

Reproductions of Dorset tools incorporating chert and slate blades commissioned by the Avataq Cultural Institute for education programs in Arctic communities.

Craft workshop on polished stone projectile points with students of the University of Montreal during Archaeology Week.

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The Time Truck: getting archaeology out on the road

By Magnus Copps from MOLA.

My main role at MOLA is the management of the Time Truck project. The Time Truck is a mobile community engagement and event space that we use to share our findings and make the most of the research that we do with our development clients and independently.

Today, I am testing out our dig-boxes in preparation for an event at Earls Court on the 13 August. We use rubber gravel as a (slightly) less messy substitute to real dirt, and in this case, as we are looking at the post-medieval history of the area, this will be filled with animal bone, glass and ceramics from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Magnus Copps laying out a Time Truck dig-box (c) MOLA

Magnus Copps laying out a Time Truck dig-box

Our handling collections see a lot of use in dig-boxes, both at public events like Earls Court and as part of our schools programme. Along with Paige and Steve from our Time Truck Support Team I went out to Kender Primary in Lewisham last week to deliver our Cleaning up History session, sponsored by Thames Water.

Time Truck Cleaning up History workshop at Kender Primary (c) MOLA

Time Truck Cleaning up History workshop at Kender Primary

Repeated excavation and re-burying can be tough on the finds, especially given that for many of the children we work with this is their very first experience of ‘archaeology’, and it takes a while to learn how to dig carefully. Fortunately we can maintain a ready supply of post-medieval material for handling collections simply by visiting the Thames Foreshore once every few months to find as many tobacco pipes, ceramic fragments and bottle necks as we are likely to need.

MOLA's object handling collection

MOLA’s object handling collection

It’s not all hands-on work today, particularly with the busy job of planning the Time Truck events programme for the autumn. My desk-based work can be anything from securing sponsorship to finding a site for the Truck to pitch up for a particular event, or going through monographs, finds lists, and ADS reports to plan content and write captions for finds displays. Running the Time Truck is a really diverse job, and perhaps one of the best things about it is the way that I come into contact with the full range of specialisms that exist in a big archaeological organisation like MOLA, from the field team right through to post-excavation specialists. As well as the amazing finds we uncover, we try to showcase as much of the archaeological process as we can via the Time Truck.

Project Archaeology and Archaeological Education in Arkansas

Because archaeological sites are endangered and finite resources, I spend a lot of my time doing archaeological education encouraging people to care about and protect sites. I teach in a university setting, but I also do youth programs to help teach young people to be stewards of the past. This year, I have spent many of my days of archaeology co-writing a 5th grade (age 10-11) social studies curriculum about archaeology and plant-based foodways in the southeastern United States. The curriculum, which focuses on sites in Arkansas, will be aligned with common core standards to promote and enhance archeological education in Arkansas’s public schools.

Project Archaeology Leadership Academy course materials.

Project Archaeology Leadership Academy course materials.

Like the majority of archaeologists, I didn’t learn how to teach archaeology to the public in college. Fortunately, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This summer, I attended the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy in Bozeman, Montana. Project Archaeology is “an educational organization dedicated to teaching scientific and historical inquiry, cultural understanding, and the importance of protecting our nation’s rich cultural resources.” They are a national network of archaeologists, educators, and concerned citizens working to make archaeology education accessible to students and teachers across the country through high-quality educational materials and professional development. Each year, they offer a Leadership Academy to teach educators (and archaeologists) to use Investigating Shelter, an inquiry-based Social Studies and Science curriculum, and empower them with educating their peers on how to implement the curriculum in the classroom.

Workshop participants visited Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Workshop participants visited Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

It was a fun week of learning new ways to teach archaeology, visiting Madison Buffalo Jump State Park and the Museum of the Rockies, and meeting educators and archaeologists from around the country. The 5-day workshop underscored the importance of working with descendants to learn about the past, how archaeology contributes to inquiry-based learning, ways to connect archaeological education to common core standards, and a lot more.

Dr. Emerson Emerson Bull Chief, Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, talking about Native American buffalo stories.

Dr. Emerson Bull Chief, Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, talking about Native American buffalo stories.

Panorama of the Buffalo Jump.

Panorama of Madison Buffalo Jump State Park.

When I was an undergraduate student, if someone asked me: “What does an archaeologist do?”, it never would have occurred to me that archaeologists teach educators (and other people) to teach about the past. This is changing as archaeologists have come to recognize the importance of working with communities and teaching others to think like archaeologists. But I hadn’t thought about how important it is to teach educators to teach archaeology until Courtney Agenten pointed it out during the workshop. As an archaeologist, I have taught an archaeology camp for 10-15 students, which I wrote about last year. The students learned about the process of archaeology from excavation to lab work and from artifact analysis to report writing. In the process, they developed a love for learning about and preserving the past. But if I teach 10-15 educators to teach archaeology in their science or social studies classes, in one year, those teachers have the potential to teach 250-375 students about the importance of archaeology. That’s a huge impact if you think about how many students could be reached in 10 years!

So now as I sit at my desk in front of my computer, like so many of my days of archaeology, I am inspired by my experience at the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy to teach their fun curricula about shelter and nutrition. I am also motivated to continue to develop high-quality lesson plans focused on archaeological sites in Arkansas that teachers can implement in their classrooms. Thanks to the support of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, the Arkansas Archeological Society, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the curriculum should be available this fall. Check out the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s website for classroom materials currently available to teachers and keep an eye out for new things to come.


Kimberlee S. Moran – Whispering Woods Phase II with Rutgers-Camden

Over the past 12 months I have had the privilege of introducing a class of Rutgers-Camden undergraduate students to archaeological fieldwork through a CRM project in Salem Co, NJ. Whispering Woods consists of 9 registered site ranging from Middle Woodland through to 20th century. Over the course of two semesters, students were introduced to key concepts in archaeology through a series of fun, hands-on activities. For instance, we learned about stratigraphy by “excavating” dirt cake in which several features and “artifacts” (gummy bones, candy coins and bottles) had been deposited. We constructed a timeline of human history where 1cm equaled 10 years, resulting in over 30 ft of images of artifacts, archaeological sites, and works of art depicting key events and cultures. We practiced mapping, plan drawings, and analyzed each other through the material culture of our personal affects.

The highlight of the class was the 7 weeks each semester that we spent in the field. Most of our work concentrated on high-density shovel tests, though a small number of excavation units were excavated. The students enthusiastically tackled every weekly session and it was clear that they truly enjoyed class, the physical labor, and each other’s company. Their excitement at finding lumps of rusted metal, broken glass, or fragments of brick was equal to that of finding gold! It was a joy to spend time with every one of them. I was especially proud of the class during our “Open Day” – a Saturday afternoon they freely gave up to host the local community at our site, supervise the public as they excavated two of our units, and share with our visitors what doing archaeology meant to them. A blog of our class and the Whispering Woods project can be found at I am indebted to Ani Hatza, Tovah Mitchell, Alex Denning, and Jennifer Falchetta for their help co-supervising the class.

Kimberlee Sue Moran, MSc, RPA
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice

Rutgers University
311 N. 5th Street, room 352
Camden, NJ 08102

phone: (+1)856-203-0687

Danielle Fischer — A Day Thinking About Archaeology

I graduated from Rutgers University (in Camden, New Jersey, USA) in May where I had the opportunity to learn archaeology in my last semester in a class taught by Kimberlee Moran. My only wish is that I found the subject sooner. I’ve spent all of my time since graduating trying to figure out how to do more Archaeology and this is what I write about today in my ‘Day of Archaeology’ contribution.

I’ve had a great education, but I spent the majority of it searching for the academic passion that motivated my best professors and most talented peers. Whenever I had the chance for an elective, I took it, hoping that underwater basket weaving or neurobiology would light the fire. I loved Anthropology, but that was really about it. Rutgers-Camden doesn’t really offer a degree in that subject, so I majored in sociology and took all the electives I was allowed. This led me to a quiet corner of the course selection where I found a “special topics” class. It grew to be the most absorbing course I’ve ever taken.

Professor Moran and her colleagues were funny, inviting, and easy to learn from. The time we spent in the classroom was invaluable: the new information about history, stratigraphy, and plan drawing prepared me well for my field experience. I had absolutely no concept of the sheer amount of skill it takes to be an archaeologist before I joined the class. Everyone I worked with was so knowledgeable and even more willing to share. They doubled my excitement! My first find was a small piece of glass, seemingly insignificant, but it felt like holding the Hope Diamond.

Whispering Woods is a gorgeous site. The forest is beautiful and enthralling and made me swear to work outdoors for a career. But the mystery is why I want to stay, why I want to learn more and keep studying. Human history calls to me, culture makes me curious, but archaeology is what I want to pursue for the rest of my life.

Danielle Fischer

Hard Work Pays Off!

This is my third year of doing this. In the previous years I had wrote about the desire to go back to school and then when I actually went back. On June 26, 2015, I graduated from my community college, Foothill College, with double honors, two Anthropology certificates, and my AA in Anthropology. This was a huge accomplishment for me because I am a mother of five and my (soon-to-be-ex-) husband recently left my children and I out of the blue… and homeless (my parents have been kind enough to allow us to stay with them until I can find a place of my own, which I’m hoping will be soon). To say things have been easy is a huge understatement. I will begin work on my BA in January 2016. The original plan was to begin in August 2015, but some things have come up that are preventing me to do that, so January it is.

I may not have any exciting stories to tell yet but I am sure as I move on to my BA and things get going –maybe even some volunteer work thrown in there- I’ll eventually have stories to tell. But for now, I leave you with this: FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!!!! Don’t let anything stand in your way. Hard work DOES pay off! And if you are a parent… don’t be discouraged in thinking that you can’t be a parent and a student, it IS possible and doable!

Making a Future for the Past in the Virtual Curation Laboratory

by Bernard K. Means, Director

Today was a busy one for the Virtual Curation Laboratory. I worked to finalize our move of the lab from its old, crowded location to a new, not quite as crowded location. I also set up two of our 3D printers to print artifact replicas for an exhibit opening at the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) in less than two months.  The artifact replicas will add an interactive component to their new archaeology exhibit entitled Exploring Virginia, which is not confined to displaying artifacts just from Virginia.  For this exhibit I printed today a Japanese porcelain hand grenade, which dates to World War II, two copies of a scarab bead from Egypt, one copy of bomb fragment from Nathaniel Bacon’s attack on Jamestown, and an 1861 gun lock from a Springfield rifle dating to the Union Army’s occupation of George Washington’s Boyhood home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the American Civil War.  All of these objects were 3D scanned by the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

World War II porcelain hand grenade from Japan. 3D scanned at the Virginia War Memorial

World War II porcelain hand grenade from Japan. 3D scanned at the Virginia War Memorial

These objects will be shipped to the VMNH on Monday for painting and inclusion in the aforementioned archaeology exhibit.  Brenna Geraghty, a Virginia Commonwealth University student, details this process and her role as a summer intern at VMNH in her Day of Archaeology post. A few artifacts were also printed at VMNH yesterday and the day before when I met with VMNH’s Curator of Archaeology Elizabeth Moore to talk about final exhibit needs.

Newly printed Aztec dog figurine replicas "watch" a panel of rock art.

Newly printed Aztec dog figurine replicas “watch” a panel of rock art.

I also prepared the lab today for a visit from the Urban Archaeology Corps, a group of Richmond-area high school students who are spending the summer learning about all aspects of archaeology, from field to laboratory, and helping make their community aware of the archaeological resources that exist below their feet.

I hold up a wig hair curler replica from George Washington's Ferry Farm. It was used by an enslaved servant to style a wig worn by one of George Washington's brothers.

I hold up a wig hair curler replica from George Washington’s Ferry Farm. It was used by an enslaved servant to style a wig worn by one of George Washington’s brothers.

This visit was arranged by the incomparable Courtney Bowles, who was one of the original staff hired when the Virtual Curation Laboratory was established in August 2011.

The Urban Archaeology Corps. Courtney Bowles is in the first row of standing individuals, second from the left.

The Urban Archaeology Corps. Courtney Bowles is in the first row of standing individuals, second from the left.

I was able to discuss with these budding archaeologists why and how we 3D scan artifacts and how I incorporate them into various public programs, such as the July 18, 2015 Day of Archaeology event hosted in Washington, D.C. by Archaeology in the Community, which is directed by Dr. Alexandra Jones.

A young visitor plays chess at the Day of Archaeology event hosted by Archaeology in the Community.

A young visitor plays chess at the Day of Archaeology event hosted by Archaeology in the Community.

Just days before, I also had a display for the Germanna Foundation‘s Day of Archaeology celebration, thanks to the invite of their archaeologist, Dr. Eric Larsen.

Inviting visitors to see 3D printed artifact replicas at the Germanna Day of Archaeology.

Inviting visitors to see 3D printed artifact replicas at the Germanna Day of Archaeology.

In the upcoming months, I will expose a new generation of students to the cultural heritage the world offers through 3D scanned artifacts made by cultural heritage institutions across the globe (including India, where I will travel to next week on a 3D scanning mission).