Archaeology from the depths of the Delaware River to high atop Philadelphia’s Skyline

Today, I coordinated the activities of two groups of faculty and students working on archaeological related projects at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA USA. One project supervised by Erik Sundquist, Director of the Westphal Hybrid Lab and being produced by Riley Stewart, a Digital Media sophomore is an 11 ft. replica of a cheval de frise, an American Revolution era underwater weapon used to prevent British warships from sailing into Philadelphia. The artifact was recovered in the Delaware River in 2007 by maritime archaeologist J. Lee Cox Jr. and donated to the Independence Seaport Museum. Shortly after the artifact was recovered,  Craig Bruns, Chief Curator, Independence Seaport Museum, asked if my team of faculty and students could make a 3D scan of the cheval as part of the Museum’s effort to preserve it. Then Digital Media faculty member Chris Redmann and Digital Media sophomore Mark Petrovich scanned the artifact and produced a 3D model. Recently, Craig asked if we could produce a replica of the cheval from our scan data. Craig plans to use the replica as a proxy for the actual artifact as the Museum prepares to exhibit the cheval de frise. Before producing the full scale replica, Erik and Riley printed a miniature replica of the cheval to test the integrity of the scan data. Satisfied with the model Erik and Riley plan to produce the replica next week.

For the second project I reviewed storyboards for two Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that will be used in October to alert the public to two archaeology events. The first entitled, “Explore Philadelphia’s Buried Past” is a one day celebration where archeologists explain to the public ongoing archaeological work being conducted in Philadelphia. The free event is held at the National Constitution Center and is sponsored by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum and Independence National Historical Park (INHP) Archaeology lab. The other PSA will announce that October is Pennsylvania Archaeology Month. The storyboards are being produced by Digital Media freshman, Ryan Rasing. Both PSA’s will feature 3D models of archaeological artifacts from the INHP’s archaeology collection. The artifacts were scanned last week at INHP’s Archaeology Lab by Digital Media graduate student Jonnathan Mercado assisted by Ryan. Both are working to produce the PSAs that will appear on the upper floors of the Pennsylvania Energy Company (PECO) Building high above the city of Philadelphia for all to see.

Ryan (left) Jed Levin, Chief Historian INHP (center) Jonnathan (right) examine 3D scan data at INHP’s Archaeology Lab

Ryan (left) Jed Levin, Chief Historian INHP (center) Jonnathan (right) examine 3D scan data at INHP’s Archaeology Lab

Cosmeston post-excavation morning report

Hello everyone,

This is Nicolle Grieve, 20, Cardiff University 3rd year student studying BA joint honours Ancient History and Archaeology.

Although I had originally entered university to study single honours Ancient History, the archaeology modules provided an opportunity to study the ancient Egyptians and a chance to get physically involved in the process of excavation.

Last year I took part in an excavation of a Neolithic site at Brodsworth. It was a brilliant experience and, although the work was hard and the thought of living in a tent for a month wasn’t appealing, I found I really enjoyed my time on excavation. I returned healthy (very tanned), I met a lot of great people and the Wednesday night BBQ was always something to look forward to.

This year however, I wanted to experience the other side of excavation, the post-excavation work. At Cardiff University we are looking at what happens with the material found after excavations. As a group of six students we have looked at material found at Cosmeston.  We have been sorting and marking the pottery found in each context. Each sherd of pottery is marked with the site code and context number (where it was found), so if lost or misplaced it can be reconnected with the area from which it was discovered.

My main job though has been writing up the Cosmeston context sheets, and following this, scanning in the photographs taken during work in the 1980s to cross reference them with the catalogue to build a digital archive. This is very important because post excavation is about organising and ensuring the material and information is preserved. With the completed digital archive it not only makes the work of archaeologists studying the finds of the 1980’s easier but it allows us as archaeologists to find patterns within similar sites and find links in which we can form theories.  The overall process of post excavation is the most time consuming part of archaeology but the final stage, cataloguing the information ready for publication, is in some ways, the most rewarding part in my opinion.