historical archaeology

PhD(on’t you forget about me): Building a Thesis around the Lunatic Asylum and its Subaltern Lives

My name is Linnea Kuglitsch.

My day opens documentary research at an enviable nine o’clock in the morning. This timing is a far throw from my days in cultural resource management, where six-thirty meant sleeping in. This morning in Manchester, UK, there’s no sun in the sky and that makes it trickier than ever to get moving. That’s another change most Virginian mornings, where I’d lived for the better part of five years. Sun or none, I’m incredibly grateful to be where I am now; beginning the second year of my doctoral research at the University of Manchester, with a growing doctoral thesis that I have yet to loose passion for.

My research focuses on a historic demographic that continues to struggle to be heard, even in the present day; the mentally ill. My thesis will explore what archaeological assemblages can tell us about a series of asylum-based practices known as moral management. Moral management dominated American asylums for the better part of the nineteenth century, and lingered longer to some extent in the western states. It turned the built and material landscape into a mechanism of bodily and mental improvement and cure via an iconic physical landscape that balanced domesticity, occupational training, and diversion with other concerns like containment and control. Ultimately, professionals at these Victorian institutions hoped order, routine, prevention, and respect would rebuild the self-esteem and self-control of the insane, realigning them with rationality. Strained by fiscal limitations and overcrowding, these efforts ultimately fell short; however, the specialized architectural and artifactual record of these sites offers a rich and under-explored historical and cultural context for my analysis. Over the next two years, I will examine how curative encounters mediated by the material world resonated with cultural understandings of madness in the nineteenth century and test whether the attitudes and actions of the patient leave any discernible archaeological footprint.

An image of the iconic stairwell to the rooftop porches  of the Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia. This was taken during field research for an undergraduate thesis on the site, which led to my passion for researching institutional landscapes. Taking the air and viewing the rolling hills of the surrounding landscape was regarded as both a diversion and a way of improving individual health. Photo by author, 2014

I realize, as I type, that my thoughts have strayed to the tiny Virginian town of Staunton, where my interest in the institutional treatment of mental illness originated. To avoid falling too deeply into field nostalgia—which we as archaeologists can be very good at, I think, watching it begin to drizzle—I get down to business. In just a few weeks, I’ll be back in the United states, getting to work on the functional analysis of archaeological materials from two historic asylums that practiced moral management. For now, it’s time to lay the groundwork for my later analysis. I flip open my laptop and get to reading my primary sources. This morning, I continue a content-analysis of the scrapbooks of Dr. John Galt II, superintendent to the Eastern Lunatic Asylum from 1841 to 1862 There are four volumes of these scrapbooks. Each one is filled with newspaper articles carefully cut and pasted together. I run through these articles, with titles ranging “Suicide of a Communist” to “Atheists and Lunatics,” I begin to outline specific themes and categories that tie them together. Perhaps these themes reflect what appealed to and concerned Galt as the head of an asylum that needed to be brought into line with the more fashionable institutions springing up along the eastern spine of the United States. Whether these themes resonate with the physical remains of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum remains to be seen; in just a few months I will be analyzing archaeological collections and (physical) archives housed at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, in hopes of connecting this rhetoric to evidence of actual, material practice. This research, coupled with data from a second case study from the pacific northwest, should provide a solid scaffolding for my doctoral thesis.

My mornings always feel unjustifiably luxurious and relaxed when I juxtapose them with my experience in cultural resource management, even as I struggle through primary sources—some fragments of these scrapbooks are next to illegible. Photo by author, 2017

Around twelve, I pack a lunch, grab an umbrella (predictably, it’s threatening to rain), and hop the bus down to the main University campus. Once arrived, I hunker down in the library and get to editing the first two chapters of my thesis. The main library is labyrinthine, but after two years of searching out books and quiet workspaces it doesn’t take me long to find a quiet corner and get to work.

I spend a little over an hour re-organizing a and editing section of my literature review before the highlight of my day arrives—lab time. In contrast to the time I spent in cultural resource management, where so much of the was down to processing and identifying artifacts recovered during systematic testing (from eighteenth-century cufflink gems to huge pieces of relatively modern toilet cisterns), lab work is a refreshing break from staring at a glaring laptop screen or a scrap of paper in the dimly lit archival work space. I pack up my things and head to Mansfield-Cooper, a sad-looking, linear building that houses the UoM Archaeology Department. In preparation for my doctoral fieldwork, Professor Eleanor Casella has been providing training in functional analysis for me, using finds from the most recent excavations. This level of one-on-one training is representative of the culture of the Archaeology Department at the University of Manchester. Despite being hugely understaffed—it’s the smallest department with top-ten ranking in UK archaeology—the lecturers are incredibly invested in their students and generous with their time. This department is characterized by one of the most friendly and supportive academic cultures I’ve ever been lucky enough to experience.

Photo by author, 2017.

We begin to process and catalogue materials from the 2015 season of the Kerry Lodge Archaeology Project, a community-oriented excavation that centers on convict-era features in northern Tasmania. I began attending KLAP in 2016, so the materials we’re processing are new to me—and despite my previous experience, I learn a great deal with every batch of finds. We sort through all sorts of sherds, shards, and other bits and pieces; shards of glass from square gin cases, the fragmented remains of ammunition and textured scraps of rubber. Artifacts from each context are sorted by fabric and cleaned. This primes these assemblages to be catalogued. Professor Casella and I weigh, measured and record the form, material, and specific function of each artifact. As we move into contexts of interest, I gain confidence in dealing with materials that I never encountered during my time in cultural resources management, from the thick, iridescent glass sherds of a panel mirror to an intact gunflint. As we set to inventorying each batch, the materials are cleaned and set out to dry overnight.

Ceramics and glass from one context, cleaned and waiting until next week. Photo by author, 2017.

Over the next week, the process will continue—and as I clean, catalogue, and photograph, I become increasingly confident in my capacity to gather my own data.  The history I hope to plumb is a delicate and dark one; however, I feel the benefits of my research outweigh its risks. Historical attitudes have shaped current narratives surrounding mental illness. If we can dredge up a bit more of the past, we can contextualize the difficulties, stigma, and challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals today. Perhaps one day I can transform this unique focus into an outreach project with its own therapeutic value. For now, I have to settle for  building the core research from which I may someday be able to build such a project–and really, that feels nothing like settling at all.

To learn more about my research on and interest in the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum and other historic institutions–from penitentiaries to boarding schools–join me on researchgate or twitter.


Unfortunately, the research I’ve outlined today—and many more projects like it, undertaken by aspiring and early career scholars, heritage-workers, and field-archaeologists—is currently struggling to survive. The University of Manchester Administration has recently proposed a massive cut to the to its senior faculty. Among the of 171 senior staff members slated for termination, professors from the archaeology department have been uniquely targeted. Come next July, we will lose four of our eight full-time lecturers, already down from a full twelve the last year. This action (justified under the unsubstantiated rhetoric of “improving the student experience”) cuts an already strained department in half, and will leave use well beyond functioning capacity. Several stakeholders have approached the University, which has now sworn to provide “no further answers” to concerns voiced in protestation of these unjustified cuts from within the institution. However, If you can spare just a moment, please sign on to this petition protesting these actions—if you have more time, the faculty and students would be very grateful if you would send an email or letter of support (or gentle admonishment) to Dame Nancy Rothwell, whose contact details I will list below.  You can learn more about our cause (and other ways to support it) here. If you’re interested in how this process is negatively affecting aspiring researchers, check out this post from another doctoral candidate in our department.

Contacts to Protest Cuts to University of Manchester Arts and Archaeology Staff

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL

Professor Keith Brown
Dean of Humanities
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL

Mr Edward Astle
Chair of the Board of Governors
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL

10 Weeks of Excavation: Masters Research & Negative Results

This post could have been written ahead of time, since I was pretty aware of what we were going to do on site today, but I was delighted when I realized that the 2017 Day of Archaeology fell on the last day of my excavation in Ferryland, Newfoundland. Not only the last day of the dig, but the last day of the second (and final) season of fieldwork for my Masters degree!

Sitting at the top of a new trench with my Death Positive shirt. Photo by Ian Petty, 2017.

I’m Robyn Lacy, and I am an MA candidate in Archaeology at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. I am a historic mortuary archaeologist, and sometimes something of a landscape / geo-ish archaeologist as well. Basically, I rarely examine material culture in my research unless it comes in the form of a burial carving or sculpture (gravestones) and spend most of my time looking at maps, aerial images, and stratigraphy. My MA research explores the spatial relationship between 17th-century colonial burial grounds in British settlements in North America, looking at how the burials were situated with relation to the settlement area itself, and structures and spaces that it might be associated with. I used that information build a statistical frequency analysis model to look for patterns in the placement of burials in similar settlements, and applied that information to Ferryland, Newfoundland to aid in the search for the early 17th-century burial ground at the enclosed settlement. The so-called ‘Colony of Avalon’ was founded in 1621 by George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore, and my project was to be the first systematic attempt to locate the burial ground from that first group of settlers.

In 2016, I ran an excavation at Ferryland for 6 weeks over the summer. The excavation locations were guided by the statistical analysis, archaeological evidence from the past decades of research at the site, and a 3 day GPR survey to narrow down areas to put our trenches. While we tested a load of the site, covered much unexplored ground, and learned a lot about how Ferryland was constructed, we didn’t manage to locate any evidence of human burials to the east or the south of the settlement. I resolved to return in 2017, as we didn’t have a chance in 2016 to excavate in the most highly-probable location, according to the statistical model: Inside the fortified settlement itself!

Map made by Robyn Lacy and Bryn Tapper, 2017. Excavation area for 2017 indicated by the circle. Excavation also extended directly south.

This year I once again called for the aid of volunteers, and readied myself for the additional 4 weeks of excavation! This was a big choice to make, since waiting to do another season of fieldwork would delay when I could finish my thesis and push back when I could submit to reviewers by several months. Doing this means I’ll also have to pay continuance fees this fall (which is the really unfortunate part), but I just couldn’t leave those areas untested!!

View from the bastion at the Colony of Avalon, Ferryland, Newfoundland. Photo by author, 2017.

Within the first two weeks of the dig this year, we had already covered all of the areas that I’d planned for the entirety of the 4-week excavation, and with no sight of burial shafts in the subsoil, I was left scratching my head for a while. It would be a long shot, but it was decided that we would sink two trenches into the side of the bastion, the large artificial mound in the southeast of the settlement that once held cannons to defend the area from marauding pirates! This was very exciting, since the bastion itself had never been excavated other than a small portion on one side so we had no idea how it was constructed. What we did know, however, was that stacked up layers of sod were in some way part of the construction. The reasoning was this: If the mound was built from sods and loose soil, it would be easier to bury the bodies of people we know died in the winter in a freshly thawing previously-dug mound than into the hard, rocky ground that Newfoundland has become famous for, right? Fingers crossed??

South wall of unit E88 S23, showing very pronounced layer of sorted stones. Photo by author, 2017.

The trenches we dug were very soft to begin with, nearly no rocks to be found…but that quickly changed. Within a few cm from the surface, my volunteers in the trench west of my unit were coming down on a layer of well sorted, quickly deposited cobbles and boulders. It was a quick deposition, with next to no sediment between the rocks leaving spaces large enough to sink your hand into! This was either part of the fill for the bastion, in which case there wouldn’t be burials in it by a long shot, or something was made of a pile of rock on top of the mound that had later been pushed over, in which case there might be burials underneath it…either way we’d have to dig through to find out!

Yesterday, we reached the bottom of the rock layer and in the unit pictured here, E88 S23, we were met with a layer of clay, with black decomposed sod underneath it. And guess what? There was a piece of wood in the middle of the layer too, burned on one end and nearly decomposed, but wood none the less! This was amazing, organic material doesn’t survive well at all in this region because of the acidic soil! That was the highlight of yesterday as we finished up the trenches an prepared them for photography.

Day of Archaeology:
It’s Friday at the dig, and the very last day of my Masters excavation. The trenches on the bastion had gone down as deep at 1.5m in several places with no sign of subsoil beneath the fill; instead we only found layers upon layers of sod and clay, with loose-packed stones between them going endlessly down. It would have been unsafe to keep digging down with such loose walls, and I resolved that we should call it on Thursday afternoon. While this tells us a lot about how the handful of settlers built this massive earthwork in the 1620s, it doesn’t tell us where they were burying their fellow settlers’ corpses. Yes, the bastion was negative for human burials…

Trench 7 refilled. This was the deepest of the trenches dug during my project! Photo (and replaced sods) by author, 2017

Today was spent, instead of madly recording a last-minute find as is often the case in archaeology, by back-filling the trenches on the earthwork in the morning sunshine. This is always the worst part of an excavation. Not only is back-fill pretty physically demanding, but you have to slowly watch all of your progress vanish before you very eyes. I find back-fill a bitter-sweet end to an excavation, but there is definitely a feeling of satisfaction when you did good job (or a mediocre job) getting all of the sods back in place.

With the help of my amazing volunteer team and a few extra hands from around the site, we had the trenches back-filled by lunchtime and after surveying our work with a sigh of relief that it didn’t take any longer than a few hours, headed off to Ferryland’s ‘Tetley Tearoom by the Sea’ for a much deserved Friday lunch!

After lunch, I had some paperwork to do, which isn’t very exciting so I didn’t actually end up taking a photo of it for this post, and my team measured some of the backlog of artifacts from the excavation. There really weren’t very many artifacts to measure though, considering we’d found nearly nothing over the last two weeks. This was due to the bastion itself having been built so early in the European occupation of the area that there weren’t any historic artifacts to find! If we’d found the old ground surface, there may have been potential for very early indigenous artifacts, but we didn’t have that luck!

With that, my 10 cumulative weeks of excavation at Ferryland were finished. While I didn’t location the 17th-century burials, we know so much more about where they are not buried which has removed the questioning of ‘is there a burial ground here?’ from a lot of different places at the site. While of course I’d love this post to be photos of beautifully preserved graveshafts, my results are very useful to our understanding of the site and I’ve learned the true value of the phrase “Negative Results are Still Results” over my time at Ferryland and throughout my MA program!

If you are interested in reading more about my excavation, check out my research blog ‘Spade & the Grave‘ and follow me on twitter @robyn_la

-Robyn Lt

Fighting for survival: PhD student experience at the University of Manchester

This final Day of Archaeology finds me busy and distracted. I am roughly at the half way point in my part-time PhD at the University of Manchester, but as the department falls quiet with academic staff dispersing across the globe to introduce undergraduate and post-graduate students to archaeology as diverse as Convict era Tasmania, Neolithic Herefordshire and the multi-period site of Ardnamurchan, Scotland, senior managers at the University are busy trying to decimate the department by getting rid of 50% of the already small staff of 8.

The M2020 ‘vision’ includes making 171 members of staff redundant, including a spectacular attack on the department of archaeology, which is due to suffer a disproportionate cut to staff numbers. If we are left with just 4 members of staff, the department is likely to merge with Classics, and unlikely to be able to continue running the single honours BA degree. The MA course has already been scrapped from 2018. With 15 PhD students currently enrolled, 4 members of staff are unlikely to be able to offer appropriate supervision, let alone provide the breadth of expertise expected, or needed.

The staff at Manchester have been vocal in their opposition not only of the plans, but also the way in which they have been implemented. In correspondence the M2020 project team have insisted that the changes will ‘improve the student experience’ yet it is difficult to see how slashing staff numbers will achieve this. The Archaeology department has an unparalleled reputation for positive student experience and at the moment is the only subject in the University to have 100% student satisfaction. It is also the only Archaeology department in the UK to achieve this figure. In recent years, our staff have won four University wide awards for teaching excellence, in the fields of Social Responsibility, Mental Health Champion, Best E-Learning Experience, and Best Communicator. From the perspective of the PhD students the proposed cuts will do nothing but irreversible harm to the department. 

So on this day of archaeology I urge you to please sign our petition against the planned redundancies and have a look at the letters of support for University of Manchester staff and in opposition to the proposed staff cuts at https://resistrestructuringmcr.wordpress.com/

In other news, my day has also involved the more normal activities of a PhD student. I’ve been reorganising my methodology chapter, written a bit of book review and been trawling through some 1891 Census records. I am looking for the people who lived close to the Chelsea Embankment shortly after its construction. I’m interested in the differences in the socio-economic make up of the community in the pre- and post-embankment periods, trying to work out how the Embankment construction and associated removal of working class housing and waterfront businesses affected them. I’ve been creating maps, based on historical maps and documents, to visualise where people lived and worked, looking for the places they may have moved around, between and within. The map below plots out residential buildings-coloured according to Booths Maps of London Poverty, blue = poor, red=well to do/comfortable, yellow=independently wealthy. In addition the multi-coloured blocks on Royal Hospital Road, formerly Queens Road, indicate a variety of businesses and shops, whilst the coloured areas on the foreshore relate to archaeological remains I surveyed last year.


2017 OS map with 1891 residential buildings, businesses, parks identified. 19th century archaeological remains on the foreshore as surveyed by H. Steyne 2016.

Whilst I’m unable to make any conclusions yet, I’m encouraged by the diversity in the population close to the river front, and to the co-location of archaeological remains with former businesses on the waterfront. The impact of losing these sources of employment must have been enormous for this community.

So, whilst on the one hand I despair and worry about the future survival of my department, I am steadily plodding through data for my own research. All the while wondering whether I’ll still be a Manchester University student this time next year. Let’s hope so.

Please sign our petition. Thank you.

You can find more about me here and my research here


Digging into a A Project Archive

by Karen Lind Brauer
Maryland, USA

Today I spent time reviewing the excavation records and administrative archives of the Baltimore County Center for Archaeology. BCCA served as the field component of an elective high school course, “Exploring Our Buried Past”, taught in as many as 18 high schools in the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), a large, suburban, kindergarten-through 12th grade-school district located in the US state of Maryland.

The Center involved high school students with first-hand, real-life experience undertaking primary research at the site of a 19th century, iron-producing, company town. During the winter months, in the middle of the school year, the Center presented Grade 3 school visitation programs serving as many as 100 classrooms per year. There were Summer school camps and multiple Teacher-in-Service programs that also took place at the Center which was located in a Baltimore County Recreation and Parks property called Oregon Ridge.

The archaeological education in the BCPS was part of the essential, or taught, curriculum (as opposed to being extra-curricular, ‘outside’ the formal instructional offerings). In operation for more than two decades, the Center closed down in the mid-2000’s due to changing academic requirements that constrained social studies educational offerings and the retirement of the project’s creator and leader, Social Studies Curriculum Specialist and Teacher Archaeologist for the BCPS, George Brauer.

I am picking through the Center’s archive of files today because I recently learned that a fellow archaeologist, Stephen Israel, is attempting to gather information on the Center’s programs and on its teacher participants. I know this archive should contain information that could be of help to him. Israel is preparing profiles on individuals who have contributed to Maryland Archaeology for a project entitled, Maryland Archaeology: Past Portraits. Looking over these files today I happily recall my time in the 1980’s and 90’s assisting with this enriching, educational opportunity that was experienced by almost 10,000 students being raised in our county.

My Day of Archaeology in photos

I work archaeology, study archaeology, volunteer archaeology.  Each day my archaeology is everything from reminders of the First World War to traces of Stone Age life.  Here is a little collage of some of the things I was thinking about on 29 July 2016.

Bringing archaeology to life through public interpretation at Montgomery Parks

Henson portrait line drawing

Josiah Henson

This week, volunteers and staff of Montgomery Parks Archaeology Program worked through the latest blistering heat wave in Maryland to continue excavations at the Josiah Henson site and progress towards the eventual goal of our work here – public interpretation of the past through a museum dedicated to the life of Henson and to slavery in the county. Henson led a remarkable life; he lived on this plantation for more than two decades, eventually escaping to Canada to start a new, free existence. After publishing his slave narrative, Henson became a role model for Harriett Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom” character in her best-selling novel. To say this one slave’s experience had an influence on the arc of history in the United States during the mid-19th century would be no exaggeration! Montgomery Parks has committed to making that story as widely accessible as possible – many people have heard of Uncle Tom’s Cabin but many fewer have heard of Josiah Henson.

tooth and WW

Recent artifacts



photo 55

Volunteer Fran sharing the latest finds with a school group

Other than continuing our excavations on the plantation where Henson was enslaved – we continue to find the typical trash and features of a 19th century farm – this week we also welcomed an independent filmmaker on a mission to create a documentary of this largely unknown man’s life. The filming team, comprised of two Canadian gentlemen, are following Henson’s travels around the country and we were happy to have them visit us and share our findings as well as the place where Henson experienced life as a slave.

Paul profiling

Volunteer Paul profiling a finished unit

This week also marks the start of next stage in the design process for the Josiah Henson Museum – both for the outside landscape design and the indoor exhibit spaces. This upcoming year will see designs finalized and I expect it to be a fantastic and exciting way to bring so much of what we’ve learned to the public. As archaeologists, we love to find the bits of the past that survive in the ground, but making them meaningful to non-archaeologists is how we can share our particular focus on reconstructing that past. It makes the past alive again and that is what public interpretation is all about!

henson portal

Preliminary design plans for some of the museum exhibits




Anthroprobably 2015

Hello again, all, it’s Matt Tuttle! I’m a little late to the party this year but better late than never, right?

It has been an exciting and productive year in the field for this archaeologist. I worked on a number of projects around the historic Hampton Roads, Virginia area (U.S.) over the past year. Most recently, for the past 7 months, I have been excavating in Isle of Wight County at a 17th-18th Century colonial site that has been yielding very impressive finds. Underneath and amongst standing structures at the site there are forgotten objects and architecture that hint at what daily life was like for the sites inhabitants. These signatures of early colonial occupation have been my focus lately after the initial archaeological survey I completed during winter.

Excavating in Isle of Wight County, VA.

Excavating in Isle of Wight County, VA.

Among the most interesting and important features of the site is a root cellar encased in a brick foundation associated with an early structure. The preservation of the objects inside the cellar is better than anywhere else I’ve seen in the southeastern Virginia; usually conditions in this region are not conducive to artifact preservation as it is often tidal, has a very high water table, volatile weather, and temperature fluctuations from 0 to 100+ degrees F within a season.

When the cellar was no longer in use, probably sometime in the late 1700’s based on the artifacts, it was filled in and leveled off. We expect to learn a lot about the early colonial Virginians who closed this cellar by analyzing the refuse we found among the dirt, ash, bricks, and clay. The cellar is so well protected from the elements that fish scales, bone, teeth, metal artifacts, and even some wood have been preserved. Articles of clothing, tools, and recreational objects have also been turning up inside the cellar. This truly is an archaeologist’s dream and I am very fortunate to be working at such a unique colonial site. We hope to continue excavating the early structures and the remainder of the cellar over the next couple of seasons. One of the best parts about the site has been the outpouring of support and interest from the local community where the site is located. Once we are finished with research, we would like to establish an educational public archaeology park featuring the archaeological structures’ footprints to accompany the existing public historic site. See you next year!

Cellar excavation.

Cellar excavation.

Carol Nickolai – My Day in Random Archaeology

The house just after the gas explosion.

The house just after the gas explosion.

The only archaeology I planned for the day was the one I barely touched. I’ve been working on a book review for Historical Archaeology, but I couldn’t bring myself to stay inside — and stay hungry — all day so I went out for lunch at my favorite cafe. My errands took me past a place where a gas problem caused a house to explode and burn and destroy the house on one side and part of a condo complex on the other (no injuries! thankfully the people smelled the gas and started evacuating their neighbors before it exploded). I stopped to see how the re-construction on the condo complex is coming along and to look at the mounds of earth and rock where the two houses were demolished after the fire. I wonder what happened to the things it wasn’t safe for people to retrieve, are those things buried here or were they separated for the residents to go through during demolition? Sometimes I find little bits of things, some not surprising like pieces of ceramic and some almost tragic like half of a flip-style cell phone. And I try not to think about what my apartment would look like if this happened; what’s the point of a fireproof box if you can’t get to it? Sometimes I’m tempted by a little experimental archaeology excavating the houses, and think about what it means for future archaeology that the places we live and work will be almost devoid of “stuff”. At the cafe, I read a magazine article about the use of pneumatic tubes in the late 19th and early 20th century — I remember my Mom using these at the drive-through windows of banks, though I don’t know if banks still use them. A couple of technology companies want to use these to build high-speed transport for people between major cities. Considering how often it seemed the bank containers got stuck somewhere in the system, I’m not ready to ride in one myself! Finally I checked on the repair work going on in my new apartment, a 1915 building which might have some original woodwork under all the paint, and went back to my early 1970s apartment building to work on that book review — my friends have always laughed that in 20 years in Philadelphia this historical archaeologist has never lived in an old building!

Carol A. Nickolai, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, Community College of Philadelphia
Adjunct Instructor of Anthropology, Rowan University

Ray Sarnacki – My Day of Archaeology

This week, and for an additional two weeks in August, I have the privilege of digging as a volunteer at the Lake George Battlefield Park with Dr. David Starbuck as part of the State University of New York (SUNY) – Adirondack Campus field school. Located at the southern end of the lake, the Lake George Battlefield Park preserves the sites of major battles and encampments from the French & Indian War through the American Revolution, making it a prime site for conducting archeology. Many of the events that inspired James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, The Last of the Mohicans, actually occurred here. Among the features found in the Park are the ruins of a stone bastion from Fort George, which General Jeffery Amherst authorized and began building in 1759, but later, abandoned after the British took control of Fort Carillon, now known as Fort Ticonderoga.

Digging at this site is made possible through the cooperation of the New York State Museum and the agency that operates the park, the Department of Environmental Conservation. The overall objective of this multi-year dig at Lake George is to provide information that will allow the State to improve signage and create an interpretive center to house some of the artifacts uncovered, giving visitors a greater appreciation of the park’s historical significance.

This is second year I have traveled from West Chester, PA to dig at the Battlefield. Last year I dug several test pits in open areas within the park and wrote an article about the experience, Digging a Battlefield of American History, that Popular Archaeology published in their Winter 01/01/2015″>Winter 01/01/2015 issue. My assignment this year, along with five other volunteers, is to dig test pits inside the bastion ruins with the goal of defining the walls of a barracks located within the bastion. The assignment is somewhat tricky as we are working on a steep incline. In addition, reconstruction of part of the original bastion took place during the 1920s and 1930s, likely disturbing portions of the site and adding to its complexity. If we are successful in uncovering at least a portion of the wall, stabilizing it would create a new point of interest within the park for tourists to visit.