independent archaeological consultant

A Day of Archaeology from the City of Brotherly Love (And Beyond)

It’s been a typically diverse summer day for me. One of my ongoing projects deals with understanding the initial adoption of pottery technology by the Indian peoples of the Delaware Valley (between roughly 1600 BC and 1000 BC) and subsequent trends in the manufacture and use of pots. Today I reviewed a number of recently published articles on the subject and made arrangements to see collections of pottery from archaeological sites in New Jersey (Gloucester County) and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). I also continued my review and organization of data from an ongoing excavation project I direct, along with graduate student Jeremy Koch, in the Lehigh River Gorge of Pennsylvania. This location is a fantastic layer cake of deposits left by Indian groups beginning around 11,300 years ago and ending in colonial times. The site was brought to our attention by amateur archaeologist, Del Beck, who was concerned about the site being looted. Del remains an important member of our research team along with my old friend and amateur archaeologist, Tommy Davies, and colleagues from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Clarion and Baylor universities. We are currently into our 5th year of investigations at the site and are collecting evidence of native cultures that is rarely seen in buried and undisturbed contexts in Pennsylvania. I’m looking forward to my next trip to the site later this week.

Michael Stewart, archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


For the record, I’m not an archaeologist. I manage the regional historic preservation program for the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. General Services Administration. The regional headquarters is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania although the region covers six states from New Jersey to Virginia. We undertake a number of projects for the federal government that involve ground disturbing activities and I manage the regional regulatory compliance, including archaeological investigations. On June 25, 26, and 27 I reported to a customer agency about the ongoing investigation of two historic archaeological sites at their project site in southern Virginia, sent copies of correspondence and archaeological resource identification reports to a couple of Native American tribes who expressed interest in being consulting parties to a Section 106 consultation, prepared a scope of work to direct an archaeological contractor to undertake a survey to identify whether or not there are archaeological resources present in a planned project area, and worked on slides describing how to incorporate archaeology into project planning for a training presentation I’ll be giving in a few months.

Donna Andrews, Regional Historic Preservation Officer, GSA Mid-Atlantic Region, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA


In the evening of June 25, 2012, I edited a draft of a publication being prepared regarding a multi-component prehistoric site (28GL228) located in New Jersey immediately east of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA). The article will be published in the journal entitled Archaeology of Eastern North America and presented at the 2012 Eastern States Archaeological Federation meeting in Ohio (USA). The data from 28GL228 provides insight into Native American culture in the Philadelphia region. This project is being conducted on a volunteer basis.

Jesse Walker, MA, RPA


I, Poul Erik Graversen, MA (Masters), RPA (Registered Professional Archaeologist), spent most of my Monday, June 25, 2012, doing research for my PhD/Doctorate Degree.  I am currently living and working in New Jersey (USA), not far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I grew up; however I attend the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.  Literature on free African Americans in the antebellum northeastern United States is sparse.  The literature that can be found on this very important topic has had little focus on the placement, layout, settlement patterns, and the archaeological record of these people.  My PhD dissertation aims to fill in the gaps of current scholarship focused on African American archaeology in the northeastern United States by means of an in depth analysis of both enslaved and free African American settlements in not only the northeastern United States, but in the southern United States and West Africa as well.  By analyzing the settlement patterns and socio-economic reasons behind the settlement patterns in other parts of the United States and the world, a clearer and more concise picture of the reasons behind the settlement patterns of free and enslaved African Americans in the northeastern United States will emerge.  Most of the information amassed in this regard up to this point stems from a historical perspective, with archaeological contributions and content lacking.  The new information gathered in this dissertation will shed light on the life-ways of these people via the archaeological record of both enslaved and free African American Diaspora in the northeastern United States of America and the ramifications of their extended exposure to European influence in North America. 

Poul Erik Graversen, MA, RPA PhD/Doctoral Candidate University of Leicester
Principle Investigator/Instructor Monmouth University New Jersey USA


Worked in the morning on several writing projects including my material culture based memoir: “Some Things of Value: A Childhood Through Objects”, my essay with my colleague Julie Steele on Valley Forge and Petersburg National Park Service sites, and some new stuff on American Mortuary practices inspired by my attendance and paper presentation at last week’s national meeting of the Association for Gravestone Studies held in Monmouth, New Jersey (USA). At about 10:30 am left Temple University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and went to Elfreth’s Alley [the oldest street in the USA) and discussed the excavations now underway, directed by my graduate student Deirdre Kelleher, ably assisted by two energetic volunteers and fellow student Matt Kalos. Three foundations have appeared (not the expected two) and need to be sorted out. Lots of stuff to think about there: the growth of 18th century Philadelphia, perhaps the first settlements there, the 19th century immigration and its impacts, all to be read through material culture; especially the remarkable surviving architecture. Greatly relieved not to get a speeding ticket as I journeyed back to Delaware City (Delaware, USA) where I answered some queries and agreed to some talks; including one on the Fourth of July!! My local historical society is busy trying to save a magnificent mid-18th century farmhouse on an imposing knoll surrounded by lowland farm ground and wetlands. Approved a draft to hopefully speed the preservation process along. Also reviewed the National Register nomination crafted by a group of us working at the Plank Log House in Marcus Hook, Pa., another early structure in the Delaware Valley. Regretfully decided that I could not attend the Fields of Conflict 7th Annual Meeting in Hungary this October. The day ended with a group response, led by my next door neighbor, to save an injured Great Blue Heron which found itself in front of our house. By 8:00 pm the heron was revived and taken care of at a friend’s animal hospital!

David G. Orr, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


I spent the day doing fieldwork at Elfreth’s Alley in Old City Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) as part of my doctoral research.  Elfreth’s Alley, designated as a National Historical Landmark, is credited with being one of the oldest residential streets in the nation.  My research seeks to illuminate the lives of the inhabitants on the Alley, especially the many European immigrants who resided on the small street during the nineteenth century.  This summer, I am working behind 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley which house a small museum and gift shop.  During the day I worked with volunteers from the local community who came out to learn about and participate in the excavation.  I also spent time discussing my project with the many visitors who came to the Museum of Elfreth’s Alley.

Deirdre Kelleher, Doctoral Student, Temple University, Department of Anthropology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


I am a Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA) lecturer who teaches in three programs (Anthropology, Art History, Cultural Heritage); I also am a sole proprietor archaeological consultant with 25 years of archaeological experience – every day is always busy, diverse in the tasks and projects I work on, and linked with archaeology and anthropology. Today I: 1. Finished and submitted a review for a textbook on on Native American history and culture to a major publisher of archaeology and anthropology texts 2. Submitted an application to be listed as an independent archaeological consultant for the state of Pennsylvania 3. Gathered material for, and started writing a draft of, a syllabus for one of three courses I will be teaching next fall (“Cemeteries, Monuments, and Memorials: Cultural Heritage and Remembering the Dead”) 4. Wrote a short draft of an invited book contribution on the topic of an Alaskan archaeological site I helped to excavate in 1987 and 1994.

Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer


I just returned from a visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, where I viewed the traveling Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Franklin Institute in which the accompanying artifacts of everyday life illuminate the scrolls themselves. I also was privileged to enjoy a preview of reconstructed transfer-printed creamware pitchers that will be included in an exhibit commemorating the War of 1812.  Curiosity about the images of naval engagements on these Philadelphia artifacts led me to explore similar prints offered on the websites of antique print dealers as well as on the Library of Congress Guide to the War of 1812. Researching Melungeons in aid of a relative’s family history quest, I examined Kenneth B. Tankersley’s work about the Red Bird River Shelter petroglyphs in Clay County, KY.

K. L. Brauer, Maryland, USA


June 26, 2012

Today, at Drexel University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), I met with two Digital Media undergraduates developing digital assets representing the James Oronoco Dexter House, the site of which was excavated in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.  The 3D model will eventually serve as a virtual environment in which users interact with avatars and take part in “possible” conversations that led to the formation of the African Church, later known as, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which are known to have occurred in this home. Jason Kirk, a junior who received a Steinbright Career Development Center Research Co-op Award to work on the project, is completing the latest digital model.  Jason and I met with freshman Joseph Tomasso who received a Pennoni Honor’s College STAR (Students Tracking Advanced Research) Fellowship to work on the project. Today is Joe’s first day on the summer term Fellowship. He will develop digital 3D models of appropriate furniture and furnishings that will be used to populate the house.  Virtual artifacts will include ceramics recovered from the archaeological site that are believed to be associated with Dexter’s occupation.  The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for a session with Independence National Historical Park representatives on Wednesday, June 27th.  At that Park meeting we will review the house model and will discuss appropriate virtual furnishings with Park experts.  The model has been prepared with advice from archaeologists Jed Levin and Doug Mooney (who excavated and interpreted the Dexter House site) and guidance from Public Archaeologist, Patrice Jeppson and Karie Diethorn, Chief Curator Independence National Historical Park.

Glen Muschio, Associate Professor, Digital Media, Westphal College, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Doing archaeology today has entailed a wide range of activities, some not always associated in the public’s mind with archaeology.  I work for a cultural resource management firm. Today’s work has included such mundane activities as reviewing contracts to perform archaeology in Bucks County and the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, USA; firming up logistical efforts to meet with a geomorphologist tomorrow in Delaware County (Pennsylvania); and checking time statements. Fortunately, the day also included putting the finishing touches on an archaeological monitoring report for work in Bucks County. This required nailing down dates for two artifacts found in association with a house foundation. I learned that Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 1930s stamped out automobile license plates with the year that they were issued. I also learned, through a historical marker database on the internet, that the Trenton Brewing company was incorporated in 1891 as a side line business of an ice company and stopped using the name by 1899. These two objects helped to bracket the date of the foundation that had been encountered.  In comparison to the mundane business aspect of doing archaeology, the historical information about the two artifacts, brightened my day.

Kenneth J. Basalik, Ph.D. Pennsylvania USA



I work for an engineering company in Pennsylvania (USA) and serve as the Vice President of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). In the course of the day I went over plans for field and laboratory work for a Phase II bridge replacement project that will be starting shortly outside of Philadelphia. I spent time researching the status of industrial archaeological sites in the city for an encyclopedia article. Indications are that in some neighborhoods in the city, between 1990 and 2007, as many of 50% of the documented and listed industrial archaeological sites were completely or partially demolished, or were abandoned or fell into disrepair. In other neighborhoods with higher property values, more sites were preserved by adaptive reuse. In addition, I spent a portion of the day reviewing and proofreading comments on a visit to a laboratory for a major urban archaeological project in Philadelphia.  In the evening, I attended the monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF), an organization that works to promote archaeology in the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia).  After the meeting, I began reviewing the report summary for Phase IB/II testing and the data recovery plan for a major highway project in the city. The goal will be to prepare comments on the documents for submission to the agency that is sponsoring the project, on behalf of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum.

Lauren Cook, Registered Professional Archaeologist, Philadelphia, PA

Just Another Day, Sort Of

Well this is my first year of joining in with Day of Archaeology, (and first time of writing a blog); being an independent archaeological consultant (posh name for a small company), I thought I would actually give an idea of how the day panned out, the good the bad and the ugly, rather than a more bland “we do this, we do that” report.

The Morning Session

This morning I was on a watching brief, which can be highly exciting or highly frustrating, and sometimes darn-right odd.  At least on this brief, I was only going to be needed for about three hours as long as nothing was found as the site was in a small backyard.  Now though it is commendable that a watching brief was added as a building condition, the desktop and local knowledge indicated that there would be nothing to find.

However, it was also somewhat complicated by the building contractor, who is obsessive when it comes to health and safety, full and complete personal protective equipment will be worn at all times whilst on site, and that applies to everyone, with no exceptions…….and that included the dog!

Now very much as expected on this site the trench went in, and all that was exposed was previous disturbed ground, dating from the days the estate was built (1960’s), so measurements taken, photos taken, quick drawing made, and then homeward bound.  I’ll write this on up this evening, as it will be very much a ‘template’ job.

Don’t get me wrong, I like those with absolutely nothing in, but I love those that yield finds, or give indications to our past, that is when I come into my own and have no compunction into taking as long as I can, which can miff a builder off.

The Afternoon Bit

Well this afternoon was going to be a bit unusual anyway, as I have picked up a commission to produce eleven consolidated information sets for Iron Age sites in the county I live in.  The sites are small, some have been excavated in the past, some have not, some have been written about, other have not, but what all having common is that they are never accessible by the public, as they all lie within a restricted military training area.

OK I hear you saying this is just a standard desktop assessment, but in this case it is more much more, it is a consolidation of all known archaeological, environmental and historical information on the site, from the time it was first recorded through to modern times, which unfortunately due to the location of the sites, means the damage to them.  I am lead to understand that if I get these right then I will get a lot more, it is not about condition reporting it is about producing a ‘log book’ for each site, a sort of living document

On the plus side there is no invasive or non-invasive investigation required, it is purely based on previously recorded information. However, no matter how laudable that may sound, I still visit the sites, I still look at the landscape, and more importantly I still try to feel and understand why the site is located where it is.  I do this so that when I correlate the facts, I can give them some degree of life by emphasizing the more important aspects.

So this afternoon I toddle off to visit one of the sites, I have been there before and it is one where information dates back to 1810, thanks to William Cunnington, but I just need to absorb an aspect of the landscape and to check the current condition, as the latest report has indicated some damage to the site since I was last there.

Sure enough I arrive at the site and yes there is some minor damage, thankfully nothing that rings major alarm bells, but is is man made, caused by one of the tracked vehicles that train in the area.  This will need emphasising in the report, as despite begin protected, damage is still being permitted, and somehow I feel that the damage could have been avoided by the simple expediency of moving one protections post.  Even though not rewired in the report on the site I decide that I will add this as a non published addendum to that particular report.

Now due to the environmental issues of the area that theses sites are located in a degree of sense is applied to those that train there to prevent further damage, and in areas where training is undertaken mobile loo’s are to be found, but sometimes I do smile at the instructions…….


But enough of the flippancy I hear you say, but to me that is part and parcel of what keeps us sane, keeps us focused and drives to to produce excellence all the time, irrespective of if you are in a trench studiously working on a section, you will be chatting laughing and joking, or if you are writing a report for Day of Archaeology, you will think back to find what warms your heart and makes you smile.

Right I will concede for now, and get back to the seriousness of the day……..

On the way home I drop into the local museum, as I am honoured to live so close to Devizes Museum, and spend a short time in the library, extracting yet another report from the archives of the Wiltshire Archaeological and natural History Society magazine, this time form 1917, which will be used in one of the reports I am writing.

From there homeward I head, knowing that this evening will be spent writing reports.

On to the evening

The Watching Brief doesn’t take long, well there is only so much you can write about nothing, then I get on with the commission work, finally I start to reflect on the day, the past week, what has worked and what has held me up, and one fo the things that holds me up time and time again, is that old issues of local archaeological groups reports are not available on line, such as in ADS, and today was a good example, the excavation report dated from 1917, is it not about time that was available on line, as I know that work is being and has been duplicated because there is no virtual repository.

Yes I know it our responsibility to seek the information, but times are changing, and I do get annoyed when I phone a society to obtain an extract only to be told that if I want it I must travel 200 miles to view it in their library.  We are in a time when information should be easily available, OK I am NOT saying digitise the latest information, but after 25 years then digitise it, that way if a society owns it they can still charge a few pounds for the digital copy,where as if they dont it will eventually get copied on to the t’interweb in a way they loose out and for heavens sake why cant they at least maintain a digital on-line index, that alone would save hours and hours of work…….. Sorry Rant over.

And finally the night

So to finish the day off, I write this, from the heart without to much planning, the good the bad and the darn right ugly.

Next year I promise to try and have an interesting day, but that will depending on who I am contracted by, and more importantly what I am doing work on.  Now had this been a week ago I could have discussed the Saxon remains I was dealing with and the issues with builder when they were found!

So until the Day of Archaeology 2013

Tim Darch
AKOT Heritage

[All images are owned by myself, if you wish to use them please feel free to do so]