New York

Maps Lie, and Other Field Survey Finds

Our Day of Archaeology was spent conducting field survey in Kent, New York. We were on properties owned by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and adjacent to the West Branch Reservoir that is part of the City’s water system.

The City’s maps of these properties depict boundaries, some generalized topography, and sometimes trails, roads, or buildings. But archaeological survey generates very different maps of the same places.

For example, today’s units were Adams and Dean Pond. The Adams map suggests that we will find 2 buildings on DEP land at the SW corner then a trail that takes us through the unit. The Dean Pond map suggests that there are no roads, trails, or buildings. Some map readers might even believe the Dean Pond unit is preserved forest.

The official NYC DEP maps of Adams and Dean Pond. Note the depicted locations of building foundations and trails.

Armed with our handheld GPS units (Garmin is our brand of choice) and a high-end Nikon camera, my 3 summer research assistants and I went out to explore these units and document what is really there (or not there).

The Adams Unit had a lot of recent trash (beverage bottles and packages from fish bait and fishing lures) right by the reservoir. There was also a rowboat here, locked to a tree. The two buildings were actually private residences, and therefore off-limits despite what the map suggested. We hiked all through very rough terrain (steep slopes plus boulders) and never found the trails marked on the DEP maps. Our Garmins said we were on the trail. We trust our Garmins more than the DEP maps.

What we will be adding to our own version of the Adams map is a building foundation not far from the private residences and one of the most formal stone walls we have encountered in the forests of Kent. Despite the changing topography, this wall was consistent in size and shape for a long distance. The stones were tabular and shaped, not simply piled. Someone put a lot of effort into this wall, and therefore into this property. We’ll have to do more research to figure out what function it served here.

An undocumented building foundation and formal stone wall then goes on for 0.5 miles.

Next we surveyed the Dean Pond Unit. The DEP map shows a blank space yet there is a maintained road right into the unit (for DEP use only). We always follow roads because roads usually lead to places of cultural importance. This road passed through a few less formal stone walls and ended at a very large pile of mulch and cut tree logs. From there the property turned from forest into a beautiful meadow  (we did some “Sound of Music” re-enactments) and we followed an ATV road (ATVs are not allowed on these properties) until it became a foot trail, then a network of foot trails. (Remember there are no trails at all on the DEP map).

The Dean Pond Unit contained a beautiful meadow…but no mountains or wandering singers.

Far into the unit we followed an average stone wall that had barbed wire attached to metal posts along its length. This was not a beautiful wall yet it certainly was part of controlling animal access to the meadow. Along this wall we documented a trash scatter from the 1970s that contained beverage bottles, glass jars, and a metal bathroom scale. This find ranks right up there with the metal deli meat slicer found on another property. Given the high sugar content of the associated beverage bottles, can we speculate that someone who drank a lot of soda gave up on weighing themselves and tossed everything out together?

A metal bathroom scale found in the woods along with some circa 1970s beverage bottles.

A metal bathroom scale found in the woods along with some circa 1970s beverage bottles.

Next week we will download all the locations of our finds – from walls to beverage bottles – and begin to make our cultural maps of these places. These maps provide a means for discussing how the landscape has changed in the 150-years since New York City acquired lands to create its reservoir system. That program changed the trajectory of many New York towns, destroying some and altering others.

Instead of going on and on about our research project, we’ll leave you with this take away message: Maps show what their makers want you to see. Wherever you see a blank spot on a map of your town, ask what used to be there. Go explore and you will see the past is everywhere, even in the woods. No digging required.

Lastly, our methodology is to take photos and lat/long coordinates of our finds. We DO NOT collect any artifacts. We DO NOT disturb the ground. We simply hike with our eyes open and our GPS devices, cameras, and notebooks record what we see.

Finding the American Revolution in New York State

New York State was the location of many violent battles and skirmishes during the American Revolution.  Campaigns, such as the British invasion of New York City and Long Island (1776), the Burgoyne Campaign (1777), and the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign (1779) scorched New York’s landscape.  Raids and skirmishes also divided communities pitting Loyalists against American friends and families.  The British and American’s call for Native American groups, such as the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), to choose a side led to a civil war within the Iroquois Confederacy.  The impact of the conflict was felt immediately in the loss of homes and lives; these impacts lasted well beyond the end of the war.

The Public Archaeology Facility has conducted studies of Revolutionary War battles associated with both the Burgoyne and Sullivan-Clinton Campaigns.  These studies have helped to remap these battlefields by determining the boundaries’ of battlefields and identify landscape features associated with the battles.  The ultimate goal of this research is to better comprehend the experience of those involved in the American Revolution in New York State.  We hope that our research can be used to preserve these battlefields and provide the public with an understanding of the conflict.

Our studies begin with extensive research of historic documents.  To identify the location of the battlefield and its landscape features we review the writings or oral histories of a battle’s combatants.  Journals, official reports, letters, and veteran pension applications can all provide valuable information for us.  Although sometimes mentioned incidentally in these documents, references to landscape features, such as roads, villages, mountains, and rivers, provide us with valuable information on where battle related actions took place.  In a way, combatants tell us where they were during the battle and how they used the battlefield’s landscape.

Loyalist John Butler

Letter by Loyalist John Butler

We map this historic data using a Geographic Information System or GIS allowing us to perform various analyses and comparisons of data.  We overlay historic maps and accounts of the battle onto present day maps to determine where the battle occurred and what remains of the battlefield.  We refine the locations of battlefield features using viewshed and range of fire analyses.  This information is used to conduct a military terrain analysis of the battlefield.  We can identify how combatants used a portion of the battlefield- a path to advance or retreat, a place to seek cover or concealment, an observation post, an obstacle that restricted advance, or a post to defend or take.  Taken together, these pieces of the landscape provide us with the battlefield’s boundaries and multi-scale view of how the battle unfolded.

Range of Fire

Range of Fire Analysis

With a GIS map to guide us, we perform a systematic inventory or survey of battlefield features.  The identification of musket and rifle balls and personal belongings of soldiers tells us that the battlefield’s landscape and the material remains of the battle are still intact.  We can also use the locations of these material remains to better determine troop positions and movements.



Archaeologist Conducting Systematic Survey

Rifle balls

Fired and Unfired Rifle Balls and Buckshot

The historical background and the results of archaeological investigation provide a basis for preserving the battlefield.  Working with local groups and descendent communities, we can present the history of the battle to the public with presentations, signage, or digital media.  This information can also help to advise agencies and developers on how best to avoid impacts to the battlefield so that the history of the American Revolution can be seen by future generations.

Pike’s Cantonment, Plattsburgh NY, USA


1812 winter encampment, officer’s cabin. Third season of excavation by Dr. Timothy Abel, students through Clinton Community College, and Battle of Plattsburgh Association volunteers.

I am a “mature” computer information systems major at Clinton Community College, hoping to improve on my old BFA (studio art ceramics, Ohio State) as far as employability. I jumped at the chance to see data coming right out of the ground, and history unearthed right nearby. I hope to return to this project next year as a museum volunteer.

Societies, Chapters, and Clubs: Oh My!

My name is Kurt Thomas Hunt.  I’m a CRM archaeologist based in New York State and I head up an archaeoblog called Sexy Archaeology.  Sexy Archaeology is one way that I provide public outreach within the field of archaeology by sharing the work that I do alongside what I consider excitingly appealing happenings from around the globe.  I’m also the president of the New York State Archaeological Association’s (NYSAA) Thousand Islands Chapter, one of sixteen Chapters within the Empire State.

For this year’s Day of Archaeology, I’ve chosen to share a brief overview of the NYSAA’s history, highlight the work of my Chapter, and attempt to persuade those who are not already members to join their local archaeological Chapter or Society.

The New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA) is composed of professional and avocational archaeologists primarily within New York State (though residency is not a prerequisite to join). NYSAA exists to promote archaeological and historical study, and research covering the artifacts, rites, customs, beliefs and other phases of the lives and cultures of the American Indian occupants of New York State up to their contact with Europeans and beyond.

The NYSAA was founded in 1916 and there are currently sixteen regional chapters of the NYSAA throughout the State. Each of the chapters holds monthly meetings where they present programs related to New York archaeology. Some of the chapters conduct their own fieldwork with the assistance of both members and volunteers.  The NYSAA also publishes a bulletin and journal and sponsors an annual meeting in the spring of each year.

The Thousand Islands Chapter of the NYSAA was founded in 1994 and hosts over thirty members with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

Photo: Kurt Thomas Hunt

Our Chapter recently finished hosting a summer dig for its members along the shores of the Indian River, long known to be an essential byway for indigenous peoples through Northern New York.  While a complete understanding of the site is still a ways off, a rough interpretation dictates that the two-acre area was most likely a seasonal Iroquois occupation site.

Photo: Kurt Thomas Hunt

This rough interpretation is derived primarily from surface finds and excavations performed over the past couple of years.  During this year’s dig, 298 pieces of pottery were unearthed within the first five centimeters of a single 1m x 1m unit.  Other evidence has included flakes of locally sourced chert, projectile points, and just this year a post mold.

Photo: Kurt Thomas Hunt

Aside from fieldwork, the Thousand Islands Chapter has, in the past, hosted lectures and discussions from a wide range of professionals, organized tours of historical sites, and has provided educational outreach programs for both children and adults across several counties within Northern New York.

Local or regional chapters of your state archaeological society provide exciting opportunities and come with numerous benefits.  Society’s allow the chance for professional individuals to network, avocational archaeologists to hone their craft, and students the opportunity to garner experience from more seasoned individuals.  Regional societies or chapters also afford members of the community the opportunity to better familiarize themselves with the history and archaeology of their area.

I invite you to join your local Chapter and Society.  Not sure where to get started?  The AIA website is a great place to turn, but a simple Google search or an email to your State Historic Preservation Office will also help further your search.  Good luck, and make the most of it!

Excavating an Archaeologist’s Desk

In honor of the Day of Archaeology, in which we endeavor to display the “wide variety of work our profession undertakes day-to-day across the globe” (Day of Archaeology 2012 [archaeologists cite things]), I’m throwing this together as an archaeologist who embraces three different roles within the profession, has worked across 10 states and 3 foreign countries (Mexico, Cuba, and the British Virgin Islands), and still hasn’t finished graduate school (much to the chagrin of many, including myself).
To convey this complex existence, I’m choosing an archaeological metaphor and excavating my desk. My workspace is, to no surprise, a reflection of the many things that occupy my time, pique my interest, and, I hope, lead to some insight into the pasts of the common people of history, a group that counts my ancestors, German and Welsh immigrants, among its numbers. I have imposed a classification system on the contents of my desk, by which I will unpack the contents and, in turn, my life as an archaeologist working in the SAU Research Station of the Arkansas Archeological Survey.
Indiana Jones once told a student (while running from the KGB) “If you want to be a good archaeologist, you gotta get out of the library.” While I fully endorse this sentiment, you must realize that a lot of archaeological research involves bookwork. We read a lot about the work of our forebears as a way to help orient our own research, building on and modifying that which came before, and to avoid scientific dead-ends. The books on my desk include those oriented towards:
Dissertation: I am a doctoral candidate at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, the cradle of historical archaeology in the United States. I am trying to knock out a dissertation that will be the final step in my formalized education. This requires both books on epistemological issues relevant to the way I do research, such as Tim Murray’s Time and Archaeology or Anders Andrén’s Between Artifacts and Texts: Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective. Combining the clarity of thinking derived from such sources with the results of fieldwork are then combined with the insight derived from other books, such as D.W. Meinig’s The Shaping of America and Kenneth Lewis’s The American Frontier to produce a document that will add to the historiography of southwest Arkansas and the American West… and earn me a diploma (please please please).
Teaching: I just finished teaching two classes at Southern Arkansas University, one a survey of world archaeology and the other a criminal justice research methods class. The detritus from preparing the lectures, including Catherine Hakim’s Research Design and Henn et al’s A Critical Introduction to Social Research still haven’t left my desk. They’re actually checked out from the University of Arkansas (5 hours away), so the next time I get called up to the coordinating office in Fayetteville, I’ll drop them off.
Methods: We demonstrate our competence as archaeologists in the field, showing each other and the cosmos that we can dig properly (carefully and fast), map precisely, and document our findings appropriately. I’ve got Hester et al’s Field Methods in Archaeology on my book rack for reference, and the bookshelves surrounding my desk are full of books on aerial remote sensing and LiDAR research.
Conference preparation:  One of the high points of any archaeologist’s professional year is a conference. For me, that usually means the Society for Historical Archaeology meetings, though in my current position the Arkansas Archeological Society conference is important as well. I’d like to go to the Fields of Conflict conference this year, but Budapest is a bit out of the range of my wallet (my truck needs work…). This week, I’ve been pulling together a session for the SHA with colleagues and classmates at William & Mary, and I’ve been using the abstract books from past conferences and De Cunzo and Jameson’s Unlocking the Past to write abstracts and encourage the session to take form.
Fieldwork Papers
As mentioned above, proper note taking is an integral part of archaeology. Documentation of context is key. It separates us from looters, provides a basis for scientific work, and is a backstop for ideas and information that might otherwise get missed. If ideas were baseballs, an archaeological dig is like being a catcher behind home plate, facing a battalion of pitching machines. Even if you’re Johnny Bench, you can only hold so many of those baseballs at once. Paperwork is like having a canvas bag to put those ideaballs (I’m liking this metaphor less and less) in so you don’t lose them. On my desk may be found
–        A green 3-ring binder from Area B of the 2012 Arkansas Archeological Society Training Dig, directed by my boss/friend/mentor Jamie Brandon. See his post here on the dig itself. The stack of papers inside is probably 2 inches thick. All of that came from two weeks in the field. It’s a lot of stuff to sift through, but every sweat-stained word is archaeological gold.
–        Field books. I see three, though there may be more buried in there somewhere. These nifty little books, usually with yellow covers, have waxed pages, making them resilient in rainy or sweaty conditions, and are the place where we jot our notes about the project we’re working on. My field book from the Society Dig contains the shot log for our surveyor’s total station, so we have a redundant copy of all that information. I also have my field book for site visits done on behalf of the Survey. The notes I take in the field can then be transposed into either a site form, which I submit by way of report to the Survey, or included in subsequent publications on that research. Writing notes, particularly under hot or busy conditions, is one of the disciplines that archaeologists must learn. As with so many other things, when it comes to notes, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. In some positions, such as federal jobs, field books are part of the paperwork associated with a project and subject to subpoena and other legal strictures, so don’t draw too many cartoons about gophers in them.
The final big section of research-related equipment can be classed as technology.  Technological advancements in computing, remote sensing (Johnson 2005), data sharing (Kansa 2012), and numerous other fronts in the past twenty years is revolutionizing archaeology. The very fact of this blog post, the internet, and personal computing is evidence of this. Hallmarks of this advancement are, of course, found on my desk.
–        Computer: Shocking, I know. Nowadays, computers are everywhere and used in most pursuits, but mine is special, consarnit! First, it’s a laptop on a dock, which is necessary given the high mobility of many archaeologists. Since you can’t bring sites to you, we have to go to the sites, often for extended periods of time. We just finished two weeks at Historic Washington State Park, and in the last year, I’ve spent weeks at Toltec Mounds, Wallace’s Ferry, and Prairie Grove, all in Arkansas, as well as making numerous trips to the Coordinating Office in Fayetteville. My Army job was just like that, as was my time with the NPS, just that in the federal gigs, the projects are usually spread over greater areas. Laptops are essential in taking our computing power along with. Crucial to that computing power is the software held on the machine, particularly, in my case…
–        Geographic information system (GIS) software. I do a lot of work with spatial documentation and analysis, so I need mapping software. Being able to document the location of sites and areas within sites is an important part of the documentation process.
–          Scanner: I scan lots of things, primarily to make back-ups (hard to lose all copies of a document) and to share them with colleagues. Information sharing is a big part of the research process, as those who share your interests and expertise are not likely under the same roof as you. This is partly why conferences are so important. Information exchange stimulates, as Poirot liked to call them, “the little grey cells” and advance the discipline. Scanners help make that possible.
–        Telephone: Again, rather mundane, but an important part of my job. The Arkansas Archeological Survey does a lot of public outreach work for people of all walks of life from across the state. My station covers 11 counties in southwest Arkansas, and I get calls to come out and look at sites or assist colleagues at museums and parks in the area with public outreach work (come to the Red River Heritage Symposium at Historic Washington State Park on the 28th of July). Much of that begins with a phone call.
As this all should indicate, I spend a LOT of time working, well more than 40 hours a week. As a result, I spend a lot of time in the office or in the field, and my desk contents reflect that.
–        Coffee mug and empty Coke/Diet Coke cans: I am a caffeine addict, plain and simple. I often get little more than 5 hours of sleep a night, and with as stacked of a to-do list as I have, it’s rather unavoidable. I can’t keep up with a friend, who runs on five cappuccinos a day, but there are times when I wonder how awesome that feels. I’m guessing “pretty.”
–        Mulerider Baseball cup: Our host institution and my erstwhile employer, Southern Arkansas University has a great baseball team, and the Muleriders just won the GAC Championship… again. Great job, guys! One of the ways I avoid having the pressures of all of these jobs and responsibilities burn me out is by having a mental outlet. For me, that’s baseball and hockey. We don’t get much of the latter down here. However, the baseball stadium is right across the parking lot from the office (really, I can see it from my desk), and those evening games are a nice break from the grind.
–        Yellow duct tape: Why yellow, you might ask? Because every station in the Survey system was allocated a color to mark their equipment with so that we could tell whose stuff is whose when we collaborate on projects. Our station’s color is yellow, Henderson State’s is orange, Toltec’s is blue, etc. etc. etc. Marking things as ours helps avoid confusion and trowel fights.
–        Field hat: I saved this for last because it’s one of my favorite things. For archaeologists, the attachments we form with crucial bits of equipment can be very strong. Many people still have their first trowels, and carefully guard them (think of a mitt for a baseball player). They’re things, but they’re things intimately tied up in the art of our discipline, and that makes them special. For me, there are three things that fall into this category. My trowel is the first, and I keep it distinct from all other trowels by wrapping the handle in hockey stick tape. The second is my Brunton pocket transit (think a compass on steroids with neon flames shooting down its hood), which is not only a very useful bit of equipment, it was also my father’s when he was doing his dissertation, and that carries great meaning to me. Finally, there is my field hat, a mid-crown cattleman with a 4” brim from Sunbody Hats in Houston, Texas. No matter how hot it gets, it’s always a little cooler under this thing, and it was a wedding gift from Jimmy Pryor, the owner of Sunbody and a childhood friend. It’s a link to home and my wife all at once, and it cheers me up when I’ve been out on a project for a couple of weeks and starting to get a little barn sour.
Now, having looked at these piles for a few hours while writing this, it may be time to do some cleaning…
Andrén, Anders
1997     Between Artifacts and Texts: Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective. New York: Plenum Press
Day of Archaeology
2012    About the Project. Electronic resource (, accessed 29 June 2012).
De Cunzo, Lu Ann and John H. Jameson, Jr.
2005     Unlocking the Past: Celebrating Historical Archaeology in North America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Hakim, Catherine
2000     Research Design: Successful Designs for Social and Economic Research. New York: Routledge.
Henn, Matt, Mark Weinstein, and Nick Foard
2006     A Critical Introduction to Social Research. Los Angeles: Sage.
Hester, Thomas R., Harry J. Shafer, and Kenneth L. Feder
2009     Field Methods in Archaeology. 7th edition. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Lewis, Kenneth
1984     The American Frontier: An Archaeological Study of Settlement Pattern and Process. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
Meinig, D.W.
1988     The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2: Continental America, 1800-1867. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Murray, Tim, editor
1999     Time and Archaeology. New York: Routledge.

Archaeology of Historic Houses

My Day of Archaeology began with a trip to the local historical society. I delivered two boxes of artifacts and a report that detailed the weekend excavation conducted with my Intro Archaeology class right in their back yard.

Grammes Brown House in Tiffin, Ohio – Headquarters of the Tiffin Historic Trust

As usual, the historical society folks were a bit skeptical that we would find “anything” but we sure did.

Some of the artifacts recovered from the Grammes Brown House. Ceramics, bones from steaks, a doll leg, and the corner of a toilet bowl tank.

After I left the historical society, I made a similar delivery to the archives of the college where I have been teaching for the last four years. The oldest building on campus is an 1852 octagon shaped house and I spent three days excavating there with an honors course called “The Power of Place.”

Octagon House – located on the campus of Heidelberg University

Again we uncovered a lot more than anyone imagined, including the remains of a greenhouse that was attached to the octagon around 1900. The artifacts here were very different from those at the Grammes Brown house, which makes sense. Although both houses were built and occupied around the same time, the people living in the Grammes Brown house were wealthier than those who lived at the Octagon.

Some of the artifacts recovered from the Octagon House. A metal thimble, two buttons (glass and shell), a fragment of slate pencil, a plastic checker piece, and a fragment of a large milk pan.

The archaeology of historic houses helps to bring community history to life. The students who worked on these excavations learned as much about their new hometown as they did about archaeology.

Anyone interested in learning more about these excavations can find a copy of the full report here. Paper copies of the report will be on file at the Ohio Historical Society, the Tiffin Historic Trust, and Heidelberg University.

The rest of my Day of Archaeology is being spent preparing for new projects in New York. I already have  the remains of an entire town waiting for me.


Shawangunk Archaeology 2012

This summer we are surveying and testing sites on and around the Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York State. Today, actually, we are in the lab, despite it being a beautiful day, because we are between sites, waiting for permission to work at the site we next wish to visit. Our testing at the first rockshelter we worked at this summer involved griding out the space in the shelter and then digging, very carefully, 5 50×50 centimeter squares to determine what sort of remains were in the shelter. Once this was done we decided to dig a number of additional pits in order to fill out our understanding. The cultural materials we found have been brought back here to the archaeology lab at Vassar College to be cleaned and analyzed. They will then be either a) returned to the landowner with a report, b) donated to the Daniel Smiley Research Center at Mohonk, with a report or c) donated to the NYS Museum in Albany, with the report. This will be at the discretion of the owner of the property, but we hope that he will donate them to the Mohonk research center.

Yesterday, after the excavation was complete, we returned the dirt to the squares so that the site integrity would be maintained. Today we are cleaning and recording the artifacts. Next week we will start the process all over again at another site.

Our major aim in this project is to understand how the prehistoric people of the mid-Hudson Valley used the Shawangunk Ridge in their annual round. It seems like most of the sites were used as winter hunting camps during the Archaic or pre-agricultural period in the area, around 6-3,000 years ago, but very few sites on the ridge have been professionally excavated, so we are collecting more data to verify or amend this picture.

We are me, Professor Lucy Johnson, and 4 student Undergraduate Science Research Institute interns from Vassar College. You can follow us on our blog,

Egypt at Its Origins – conference day!

Fun! This is a conference day – I love those! One of the best bits of being an archaeologist is sharing ideas and finding out more and more! Lots of stuff to get my head into and to get thinking about. And best of all… being at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. So the day started with leaving the family with the relatives and heading into Manhattan. And then a nice American coffee to perk me up! Predynastic Egypt and what is going on research-wise. It’s all about Hierakonpolis before lunch (ancient Nekhen). Some absolutely great talks – definitely things that link in with my research into the Predynastic population there. And definitely some people that I want to invite to give research talks to us in my department in Southampton. I particularly enjoyed that by Xavier Droux from Oxford – relating the symbolic burials of animals with power, control, annihilation of chaos. Wonderful! And then Sean Dougherty! Obviously great talk – cremated humans! And he’s such a wonderful presenter of material. I think Sean is probably the only pyromaniac human osteologist! One of the most dynamic talks ever!
Lunch was a quick trip for good old NT pizza slice and a sit in Central Park. Gotta do these things and get some fresh air before heading back into the museum. The afternoon started with the eastern Nile Delta. Alice Stevenson had the last talk of the day – always hard to be just before the official conference reception – especially when it is in the Temple of Dendur! But she did a fab job – it’s amazing what we can still do going through past excavation records and material. There’s so much to do – and so much potential. Can we link the records with the human skeletons? I do hope so – and it would be great to do it!
Then it was great – the family came and joined me briefly for the reception. Nothing like the reaction of a toddler to the monumental nature of Egyptian architecture – even if it is Roman! And baby was well-behaved too. Made it out to the roof of the museum – but then it started to rain. We’d planned to walk to the subway but instead it was a flag-down-a-taxi frantically end to the day with 2 wet kids! Great day! Reinvigorated in archaeology and Egyptology! Bring on the skeletons!

notes from an archaeology webmaster

Couldn't do this every morning without COFFEE!

It’s 5:00am here at my house in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, USA. The baby is sleeping, the house is blissfully quiet, and the first pot of coffee is on. I sit at my computer and begin work on updating an archaeology website I’ve been maintaining in one form or another for the past 16 years. This early morning ritual of job postings to is well-known amongst my colleagues (and the poor souls I’ve had to share a hotel room with on projects).

I’ve been working as a field archaeologist longer than the website has been up, but over the past few years, my employment has been sporadic. I have two young children, and I can count the archaeology projects on one hand that I’ve participated in since becoming a mom. Being a field archaeologist and working within cultural resource management in the U.S. usually means a life of travel. In the past, a new archaeology project may have found me in Frostproof, FL, Wilmington, DE, or Penn Yan, NY. Quite often a phone call was received on a Thursday or Friday with the news that I would be somewhere across the state, or several states away on Monday morning. I used to spend so much time on the road that I rarely bothered to unpack my truck. Once I went nearly 5 months without seeing my apartment.

Fieldwork for me is on hold for the time being, and I must be content with running The most popular part of the website is the forum for daily employment postings. Sometimes employers come to the site and post their own jobs, and often they are mailed to me to post on their behalf. However, the bulk of job adverts are forwarded from elsewhere on the internet. Each morning and throughout the day as time allows, I laboriously search employment aggregators, government websites, archaeology groups, company websites, e-lists, RSS feeds, and have mastered the art of incredibly targeted Googling. On a good day I’m able to find 20 or 30 new jobs, and on a slow day or a holiday weekend it may only be a few. Through the years I’d guess that tens of thousands of job adverts have been posted to In a way, finding and sharing this information appeals to the archaeologist part of me that I’m still reluctant to give up.

Once you get archaeology in your blood and find yourself doing something else (whether it’s an office job, or being a stay at home mom), you miss it like crazy. I look forward to the day when a local archaeology position may manifest, or the kids are old enough and I may have the opportunity to be a shovelbum once again. In the meantime, running helps me to feel connected to the archaeology community. I’m not actively “doing archaeology” on a daily basis and getting my hands dirty, but by running the website I feel like I’m giving something back to my colleagues. The truth is, is helping me as much as it is helping others, and without this connection to the world of archaeology I would probably miss it even more.

I still have my archaeology dig kit in the closet, though. Hopefully it won’t be gathering dust for too long.