prehistoric site

Day of Archaeology with the Archeological Society of Virginia, Board of Directors

As readers of the Day of Archaeology (DOA) blog have realized, there are many aspects to what goes on within the field of archaeology. Throughout much of the U.S., many states have archaeological societies. Typically, these non-profit volunteer organizations bring together those involved in archaeology as a unified voice and force for the archaeology of that particular state.

Since 1940, Virginia archaeology has been promoted by the Archeological Society of Virginia (ASV). Yes – the society uses the “eo” spelling variant of archaeology in its title. For the past 74 years, the ASV has been a dynamic and active voice for Virginia archaeology.

During its quarterly meeting, the Board of Directors of the Archeological Society of Virginia was divided into small work groups.  The board participated in a Value Exercises to discuss and better understand the mission and objectives of the society.  Photo courtesy David E. Rotenizer.

During its quarterly meeting, the Board of Directors of the Archeological Society of Virginia was divided into small work groups. The board participated in a Value Exercises to discuss and better understand the mission and objectives of the society. Photo courtesy David E. Rotenizer.

View of the Board of Directors of the Archeological Society of Virginia at its quarterly meeting 12 July 2014 in Bridgewater, Virginia.  Photo courtesy David E. Rotenizer.

View of the Board of Directors of the Archeological Society of Virginia at its quarterly meeting 12 July 2014 in Bridgewater, Virginia. Photo courtesy David E. Rotenizer.

It was perfect timing that the ASV Board of Directors held its quarterly board meeting that coincided with the DOA event. I felt this was a unique opportunity to participate in DOA and help bring to light the fact that archaeology is often supported by organizations such as these. The meeting was held in the Town of Bridgewater, which is situated within the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia. Being a statewide organization, the meetings move around the state.

Responsibility for directing the activities of the ASV is vested in a Board of Directors that consists of the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, immediate past President, six elected Directors, chairs of Standing Committees and the President of each Chapter. Yes, it is a large board, but it is functional.

With this blog entry, I’ll discuss some of the topics and items brought up during the meeting.

View of one of the Batteaux Boats recovered with ASV support in 1983.   The ASV is seeking funds to help with the proper conservation and study of the remains.   The have been stored in fresh water the past 30 years.  Photo courtesy Lyle Browning.

View of one of the Batteaux Boats recovered with ASV support in 1983. The ASV is seeking funds to help with the proper conservation and study of the remains. They have been stored in fresh water the past 30 years.   The ASV Board of Directors voted to allow the boats to be submitted the Virginia Association on Museums’ annual Top Ten Endangered Artifacts Program.  Photo courtesy Lyle Browning.

Listing for Top Ten Endangered Artifacts

In 1983, during a construction project in downtown Richmond, Virginia a number of historic bateaux boat remains were recovered. Batteaux were rapids running craft, invented and patented in 1765 by the Rucker Brothers. They were up to 70 feet long and 7 feet wide, pointed at both ends with sweep oars and a hearth for the tiller man to tend. They carried tobacco hogsheads and other cargo downstream and any cargo needed was poled upstream.

Prior to the excavation, we had limited knowledge how the craft were constructed. The boats were built by master craftsmen with individual boards tapering over 40 feet to the bow. This is in contrast to later boats that were basically industrial constructs with straight boards that had pre-constructed nose-cones nailed to a rib. In order to complete the report, we need space to conserve the boats and we need the chemicals to preserve them. This boat and others have been sitting in fresh water for 30 years and are in danger of deteriorating without proper conservation and the information regarding them needs to be reported to fill a large gap in the history of Virginia history.

The ASV Board voted to approve having the boats submitted to the Virginia Association of Museums’ annual Top Ten Endangered Artifact listing. This is a program designed to help bring attention and awareness to many of Virginia’s artifacts at risk. It is our hope that awareness for the boats will lead to funding for much needed treatment and research regarding this collection.  I hope you can go on-line to help vote for our candidate.

Outreach Committee

An objective for this committee is the capacity to maintain a public presence for the sharing of both organizational and scholarly information. Current vehicles for this mission include a quarterly newsletter, a quarterly journal, special publications, a website, and an emerging social media presence. It was almost a year ago that the ASV launched its first Facebook page, which has continually grown.  Please visit our page.

Research Committee

The ASV directly and indirectly supports archaeological research in Virginia. Some chapters of the society are currently collecting slag samples from historic iron furnace sites. The slag will be chemically analyzed for sourcing purposes. As a result, iron found on archaeological sites could be traced back to where it was manufactured, thus giving insight on past economic trade patterns. Another survey activity is the documentation of Civil War earthworks at risk to loss.

A number of field schools recently took place this spring that included the ASV, in partnership with other stakeholders such as the Virginia Department of Historic Resources; James Madison University, and the United States Forest Service. These projects touched upon a range of site types, including testing of a Woodland Period shell midden eroding into the Chesapeake Bay, a low artifact density, yet stratified prehistoric site in Northampton County and a nearby 17th century historic site, and the testing around a circa 1760 house in western Virginia.

Virginia has a unique program that helps to address important archaeological sites and collections at risk. The Threatened Sites subcommittee works with the Threatened Sites Committee of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to help target a small amount of available funding for its best use. During 2013-2014, the nine projects funded by this program included the study of the effects of maize horticulture, the testing of the Nelson County Courthouse, the analysis of a Gloucester County 18th century artifact assemblage, side-scanning sonar of 1812 British Fort Albion as well as a 17th century church site, a listing of Civil War shipwrecks, a survey of sites on the Eastern Shore, the evaluation of an Atlantic Archaic site, the dating of a Prince George County shell midden, and final analysis of an occupation at Maycock’s Point. The Threatened Sites Program is important to Virginia archaeology.

Education Committee

This committee is charged with developing and implementing instructional programming, encouraging scholarly development, and promoting best uses for archaeological collections. The committee reported that two field schools had been conducted since May. An annual “field school,” with a focus on lab work, will be hosted at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Richmond. Many of the committee’s activities are held in conjunction with the Archaeological Technician Certification Program.

The ASV maintains a research library which is currently being cataloged. It was reported that nearly 4,000 items have now been cataloged. The library recently obtained collections from the estates of Cindy Dauses and Ed Bottoms. The committee strives to develop and award scholarships to students, primarily in support of student paper presentations at the ASV annual meeting.

As part of our commitment to the original deed of trust for Kittiewan (granted to the ASV from Mr. Bill Cropper in 2006), we must read the requirements of maintaining the property each year at an ASV board meeting. This year, Martha Williams read the Will.  Photo courtesy of David E. Rotenizer.

As part of our commitment to the original deed of trust for Kittiewan (granted to the ASV from Mr. Bill Cropper in 2006), we must read the requirements of maintaining the property each year at an ASV board meeting. This year, Martha Williams read the Will. Photo courtesy of David E. Rotenizer.

Kittiewan Committee

In 2006, the ASV was bequeathed from Bill Cropper, the 18th century Kittiewan Plantation and its 720 acres containing evidence of 6,000 years of occupation. This facility functions as the ASV’s headquarters and base of operations. The property also operates as a historic site and hosts the ASV collections and research library. Kittiewan recently hosted a festival event to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

74th Annual Meeting of the ASV

Each year in October, the society holds its annual meeting. This conference is perhaps the highlight of the society. The meetings are always held in October. The locations move around the state. This year (2014) it will be held in Richmond. Meetings are held on a weekend, with Friday being a day of meetings and presentations hosted by the Council of Virginia Archaeologists (COVA) – an organization of professional archaeologists working in Virginia. It was reported that the meeting is on track and the Call for Papers has gone out.

Certification Program

Archeological Technician Certification Program is designed to give individuals the opportunity to obtain recognition for formal, extended training in the techniques and goals of archaeology without having to participate in an academic degree program. Certification students are provided technical training in both the field and laboratory in conjunction with rotational lectures and workshops and required readings.

The program is sponsored by the Archeological Society of Virginia (ASV), the Council of Virginia Archaeologists (COVA), and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR). There are currently 115 participants enrolled in the program.


ASV Facebook Page

ASV Website (Changing to:

Blog for Virginia Archaeological Technician Certification Program

Kittiewan Plantation (ASV’s Home): Facebook, Website

Survey, Shell Middens, and Ceramics: Pensacola’s Prehistory

Day of Archaeology 2012 falls in the middle of the University of West Florida’s (UWF) 10 week long field school season. The university offers four archaeological field schools—three terrestrial (Campus Survey, Colonial Frontiers, and Arcadia Mill) and one maritime—and I am fortunate to serve as a supervisor at Campus Survey. Under the direction of Dr. Ramie Gougeon and graduate student supervisors, university students transform classroom knowledge into real world experience. Campus Survey teaches students about archaeological methods and techniques related specifically to cultural resource management (CRM). Students learn how to use a compass, read maps, and develop other field techniques while also sharpening their digging skills. After completing the survey portion of the field school, students also excavate a prehistoric site—named Thompson’s Landing– on UWF’s campus.

Campus Survey begins with students learning about archaeological survey techniques by digging countless shovel tests.

To begin this summer, we surveyed a portion of campus near Thompson’s Landing. Campus growth and general improvements may place a road within the survey area. As the students learned how to dig shovel tests, take notes, complete paperwork, and successfully navigate the woods, they also encountered what most people consider the most interesting part of archaeology—the artifacts!

Within the first three weeks, the students discovered and defined the boundaries of four separate lithic scatters. Two shovel tests revealed interesting features—one of shell and the other a burnt pit—that led to the first units of the summer. Unfortunately, the shells appeared modern and the other feature is likely a burnt tree. Despite these faux features, the survey portion provided great information about larger research questions relating to Pensacola’s prehistory. The lithic scatters suggest information about prehistoric peoples’ behaviors and activities while also providing information about site formation processes.

A completed shovel test– proof that a round shovel can dig a square hole 1 meter deep!

Research questions and excavations at Thompson’s Landing, however, focus more specifically on shells and ceramics. Last year, field school students unearthed a substantial shell midden with complicated, ill-defined chronology. This year we hoped to identify discrete shell deposits to better outline periods of use, to understand subsistence patterns, and to improve our knowledge of ceramic differentiation through time within the region. With the aid of auger test results, the completion of five units, and the use of student manpower, the site began to provide answers.

We exposed the shell midden in its entirety before bisecting it and excavating in levels.

Of these five units (three of which included shell midden), one proved essential to answering some of our questions with ease. The shells present included rangia and polymesoda, two different types of clams. Between the two, rangia usually serves as the dominant species, yet the midden primarily yielded polymesoda shells. The dietary shift caused new questions to arise: Did food preferences change? Did environmental factors affect the shells availability? Perhaps changes in salinity or water temperature affected the shells and enabled polymesoda to dominate?

Volunteer, Lianne Bennett, sits next to the exposed shell midden.

As we contemplated the significance of the shells, ceramic sherds began to appear in the midden. The sherds recovered were shell-tempered, consistently dating the midden to the Mississippian period. Despite modern trash, such as glass and iron fragments, resting a few centimeters above the shell midden, no modern artifacts appeared within the feature. The first half of field school enabled students to learn, provided a feature comprised of an intact artifactual assemblage, and the beginning of a fantastic answer to one of our research questions!

The material culture associated with the shell midden– from one level of one half of the unit from one day.

A shell tempered sherd with the incised and punctated decorations suggesting a Moundville Incised variety Bottlecreek. The small handle likely enabled people to hang the vessels while preparing the food.

Shell-tempered ceramic sherds recovered from the shell midden consistently date the midden to the Mississippian period. The sherds pictured above are identified as Moundville Incised variety Bottlecreek.

The archaeological process often follows a pattern in which the discovery of new information leads to new questions. I hope the next year fuses the information we have (or have unearthed) with the data and knowledge that archaeology helps to uncover. If you’d like to know more about our field school, like the UWF Campus Field School Facebook page.


A Day with Field Archaeologists in the Republic of Macedonia

6:00 am
I wake up. My colleague who came from the Archaeological Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia is my guest these days. We drink our first cup of coffee and exchange opinions about today’s trip. We have a really busy agenda and we begin slowly to sort out and prepare all the equipment we need for the field.

Prospecting St. Atanas site, Macedonia

07:00 am
We are on the highway from Skopje to Eastern Macedonia. The road to the small town of Kochani takes no more than 1 hour and 15 minutes. Our colleague, archaeologist Ilinka Atanasova is already waiting for us. Together we leave Kochani towards the archaeological site of St. Atanas located a few miles from this city. The prehistoric site of Eneolithic period with outstanding findings of female figurines has been attracting the attention of the scientific community for several years, since it was prospected and excavated in 2008. But we are more focused on the chipped stone material that is my subspecialty in archaeology. While our colleague is explaining the artefacts of the site, we are observing profiles of the trenches where in the soil there are still embedded flint tools.

Eneolthic figurines from the Republic of Macedonia, St. Atanas site

10:30 am

The stone collection from mine Opalite

Our visit to the mine “Opalit” is scheduled before. This mine for non-metals (opal, agate, chalcedony, opalized tuffa) is located 1 km from the site of St. Atanas. Several years ago this mine was my topic of interest as a possible location where prehistoric communities of the region and beyond obtained raw material for their stone tools. The same goes for my colleague from Bulgaria, who tests the assumption that some raw materials for stone tools found at prehistoric sites along the Struma in Bulgaria came from this deposit. We walk around and observe the surface deposits in search of possible quarries made by prehistoric communities. We take photos and document the information for my doctoral dissertation.

13:30 pm
We arrive at the Institute of History and Archaeology at the University of Stip, my home institution. A meeting with prof. d-r. Blazo Boev, my mentor for the thesis, is very useful. The long talk covers all my notes from today and personal opinions on the subject of local resources for stone in prehistoric Macedonia. Any information fills in and shapes my thesis towards this topic.

14:45 pm
Driving to the city of Vinica, our final destination for today. In a local “Terracotta Museum” there is a small collection of ground and abrasive stone tools from the archaeological site ‘Vinica Fortress’. I feel a moral and professional responsibility to help with this topic, since I’m the only archaeologist in Macedonia working with stone artefacts from prehistory. While I am getting all information about the field notes and stratigraphy, I am thinking about possibility to come again with my mentor. We could work together and process this collection for scientific publication. In the meantime we managed to visit the site ‘Vinica Fortress’, the fortification from the time of Justinian I, which is a trademark of the town of Vinica.

Ground and abrasive stone tools vrom Vinica Fortress (Eneolithic)

We get back to Skopje. We are home and I began to check and answer emails, facebook and twitter messages. My archaeological day has not yet been completed. I need to sort all impressions, notes and photos from the past day in the folders to be usable in the future for me or for someone else.

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This article was written as part of the action for ‘Day of Archaeologists’ (June 29, 2012). The goal is to raise public awareness of cultural heritage and the responsibility that archaeologists have about it.

Hello World!!! From the University of Kentucky’s Summer Fieldschool in Archaeology

Hello Everybody!!

The last day of our eight-week field school was July 29th: Day of Archaeology Day!!!  And as everyone knows, sites always ALWAYS throw you a curve on the last day.

Excavating the last level in a 1 x 2 meter unit we had excavated at this site in 1984 did, indeed, throw us a curve (we should have just let sleeping dogs lie), but our REAL problem this year was that we had bitten off a little more than we could chew the week before: about four 2 x 2 meter units’ worth!

We couldn’t help it. This summer is the last, the very very LAST in a three-year excavation program at a very challenging, very interesting, and very complex prehistoric site where village farming peoples lived on and off from about A.D. 1200  to the early A.D. 1600s.

Our eight University of Kentucky undergraduate students, three instructors, and several devoted volunteers were at the site on July 29th, and all of us could have gotten into the act.  But we reserved our Day of Archaeology contribution for the students.

We asked each of them to tell us (to tell YOU), in a word or a sentence, what field school meant to them. The video you are about to see, courtesy of Nick Laracuente, says it all: about why we do archaeology and why we HAVE fieldschools.

So… here is our Day Of Archaeology posting.

Three cheers for archaeology! Hip Hip Hoo-RAY!!

Gwynn Henderson

Indoors on a rainy day

Even a rainy day in the field can be more exciting than a day indoors. But as every professional archaeologist knows, the vast majority of your time is spent indoors – doing research, in the lab, or writing reports.

Today’s weather in upstate New York is scattered showers. As Mike J. and his crew work outside in the rain at the Throop Site, the rest of archaeologists from the Public Archaeology Facility are indoors working on reports. getting ready for future field work, or blogging about our jobs as archaeologists for the international Day of Archaeology!

Project Director Andrea Z-K finishing up the final edits on a report.

Andrea has been writing a report based on a site examination of a prehistoric site in upstate New York.  Today, she will send a copy of the report with her recommendations out to the client.


Some words from an italian student

Hello everyone,

This is Lucia, 22, Italian student, attending classes at the Faculty of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, in Pisa’s University.

My love for Archaeology started at the age of 5, while watching a documentary about Egypt on the TV.

During years my tastes changed a bit, I’m not so much into Egyptian culture and history; instead, i’m very interested in Ancient Greek  Archaeology and Anthropology.

As a student (and obviously as a going-to be archaeologist), I have to do an apprenticeship, working in excavation campaigns or in laboratory.

Last year I worked in Matera (, taking part in an excavation campaign on a prehistoric site, near ”Trasanello Cementificio”.

Digging for the very first time was hard, but at the end of the day very rewarding.

A beautiful experience shared with people I can’t forget for sure 😉

This year I wanted to try something different from what I’ve experienced, so, between digging or working in a laboratory, I chose laboratory.

In the specific, I’m working in a pottery analysis laboratory, located near the Massaciuccoli Romana excavation site ( :

-during the digging process, different materials were found,put into plastic bags and taken to the laboratory, where we wash them very carefully,with water and a soft-bristle brush

(here you can see me washing a tiny piece of pottery: )

-then the materials are exposed to sunlights for a safe drying

-when they’re dry they’re ready to be catalogued,and eventually restored. From little spare pieces can born treasures 😉

Hard work, sacrifices ,passion, tears & blood…all for art’s sake 🙂

A Day in the Life of… a PhD Student!

Hi folks!

There are all kinds of contributors to the day of arch and I feel extremely proud to be one of them.  This is just an introduction to me and setting the scene for what I will actually be doing tomorrow.  My name is Rachael Reader and I am currently writing up my PhD thesis, hopefully handing in within the next three months.  My interest in archaeology began when I was eight (no, really!) when I was introduced to Time Team.  It seems a little cliched, but it is the God honest truth! My parents were more than happy to fuel my interest and let me dig up the back garden of my house in a little town, just outside of Barnsley (my best find to date is a 1980s ten pence piece…).  My parents found out where digs were happening and took me along to them, including one in York where I learnt the real truth about archaeology.  I had an illuminating conversation with someone working in the museum gardens who told me that archaeology was poorly paid, nothing like Time Team and definitely nothing like Indiana Jones (which meant little to me as even to this day, as I have still not seen the films!).  I asked the archaeologist why they still did it and they replied simply “because I love it”.  The enthusiasm he had, even when describing the negatives, sealed it for me and off I went to university to pursue my career.  I studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University before doing my Masters at Cardiff, where I developed my current research interests in the later prehistoric period and particularly, the landscape approach to archaeology.

Whilst writing my Masters thesis I was pondering over what to do next.  I had spent several weeks here and there, excavating with the University but also community digs, including SHARP at Sedgeford in Norfolk.  I loved digging but had yet to know how commercial archaeology worked, so I began putting my CV together and waiting for jobs to come up at units.  However my supervisor directed me to an advert for a PhD position, at Bradford University and it involved two of my favourite things: Iron Age stuff and landscape! I could not resist and I eagerly put together my application, was offered an interview and ultimately the position, which I was thrilled to accept.  I began my current position in October 2008 and I feel a little sad that I am beginning to wind down and *gulp* hand in.