Another Day in Transportation Archaeology

It’s a rainy day here in Connecticut, but that’s not going to stop me from heading out into the “field.”  Not much has changed since my 2012 post.  I am still employed at the Connecticut Department of Transportation reviewing projects for impacts to archaeological and historic resources, and I am still the Connecticut Archaeology Awareness Month Coordinator.

Working in cultural resource management for a state agency is a balancing act.  There are so many transportation projects in the works and only a few people on staff to review them.  One of the things I find most challenging is keeping all of our engineers happy and their projects moving forward while also preserving as many cultural resources as possible.  Everyone’s budget is tight these days, everyone has their own set of priorities, and it’s my job to remind everyone that consideration of cultural resources is a value to the public (and required by federal and state laws).

Today my job included the review of a Phase I Archaeological Assessment and Reconnaissance survey report completed by one of our on-call consultants, the review of a project area in Pomfret, CT to assess the archaeological sensitivity of the soils around a bridge that is proposed to be replaced, a visit to a construction site in Waterford, CT where a bridge is being replaced, and a visit to Old Saybrook to visit my old friends from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.

The project area in Pomfret abuts the historic South Cemetery.  Though the Cemetery will not be directly impacted by the bridge replacement, a temporary utility pole will be installed on the property.  Because this is a project partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration the eligibility of South Cemetery for the National Register of Historic Places will need to be determined to establish whether or not this is a Section 4(f) property in regards to the Department of Transportation Act.  If the Cemetery is deemed eligible the appropriate documentation of the impacts of the use of the property will need to be completed.

South Cemetery in Pomfret, CT

South Cemetery in Pomfret, CT


There were no concerns about the archaeological sensitivity of the project area.  There was plenty of evidence of erosion, disturbance, and filling around the bridge, likely associated with flooding events of the Wappoquia Brook.

Disturbance along the roadside  at the proposed bridge replacement in Pomfret, CT


I stopped by a bridge replacement project in Waterford, CT that I have been monitoring since I began this job last summmer.  There was a Native burial discovered upstream from the bridge decades ago, and the consulting tribes had some concern about any potentially undisturbed soils in the project area.  I check in with the engineer and contractor whenever there is any kind of excavation on site.  So far the entire project area has disturbed soils with a lot of volkswagon parts.


Bridge construction on RT 1 in Waterford, CT

Bridge construction on RT 1 in Waterford, CT


The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center has funding from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program Grant for the Battlefields of the Pequot War project (  Currently they are surveying in Old Saybrook, CT and finding evidence of a skirmish between the English, who had a fort at Saybrook Point, and the Pequot.  Today Dave Naumec, senior researcher, found a musket ball!  The Pequot Museum is doing fascinating, ground-breaking work!


Dave Naumec finds a musket ball in Old Saybrook, CT

Dave Naumec finds a musket ball in Old Saybrook, CT

Pequot War era musket ball found in Old Saybrook, CT

Pequot War era musket ball found in Old Saybrook, CT


Outside of my paying job I have my volunteer responsibilities.  As the CT Archaeology Awareness Month Coordinator I am once again helping to organize an Archaeology Fair.  This year’s Fair is scheduled for October 19th in Wethersfield, CT (shameless plug).  Fortunately, this year I have a Committee of volunteers assisting in the planning of the Fair.  Today I’m sorting out the logistics of having the Fair flyer finalized, printed, and distributed.

That sums up my Day of Archaeology.  See you next year!

The end of a season: Teleac, Romania

An overview of the trench earlier in the season, when the weather was better!

The end of any excavation is usually an experience outside the normal routine of the dig; this seems to be especially the case in academic excavations, where many of the participants may have left prior to the final day due to other commitments. This was at least the case this year at the site of Teleac; a late Bronze Age hillfort in the Transylvanian region of Romania, run by the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin (DAI). I was taking part in the field school as a PhD student of the Forging Identities project.

Putting the magnetometer together to carry it up to site

On the last day on site we were down to a rather small team, which meant that I was the only student to go up to site, whilst the others stayed at base camp to finish tasks there, such as packing up the artefacts. I got a lift to site with the Bulgarian geomagnetics team; these guys were surveying the site with equipment that can detect differences in the magnetic field of the ground, which means that archaeological features such as ditches can be seen through their difference to the surrounding undisturbed soil. Since we arrived a little later than usual, we had missed the tractor which usually pulled all the equipment up to site; therefore we had to carry everything up the steep hill where the site is located by ourselves. This was facilitated by carrying the magnetometer without its case.

Drawing a section in the rain – hence the use of the beach umbrella to keep the paper dry!

Once I finally made it up the hill along the slippery, muddy track to the site, it had started raining pretty heavily. It was then my job to draw the section of a sondage; this means drawing the vertical face of the small but fairly deep trench we had dug in a corner of the overall excavation area, whose purpose had been to find out how deep the cultural deposits of the site went before reaching the natural, undisturbed soil of the hill below.

Back-filling in action

Once I had completed my drawings, I helped the local workmen (high school students earning a bit of holiday money by helping out on site) with back-filling the excavation area. This means putting back all the soil we removed over the course of the fieldwork, so that the site is protected until used again, and no animals or people can get hurt falling into the deeper parts of the trench.

Almost back at the modern village of Teleac

Thanks to the rain, it was no longer possible for the tractor to safely make it back up the hill to collect us and the equipment, so we had a long, muddy walk back down the hill again, taking great care not to slip or fall.

Back at the home base, various final tasks were being completed in between power cuts caused by the thunderstorm…

Pottery reconstruction in progress; these ceramics were found this year at the site

Artefacts and equipment packed up for transportation

Taking samples for metallurgical analysis, to investigate the composition of the bronze

Shooting the final artefact photos

Trying to interpret the geomagnetic survey results, and pondering the future of research at the site

After at last managing to find enough time between power outages to shower, it was finally time to pack my own things and have a last farewell drink with what was left of the team. The end of another good season, and for me – time to think about my journey to the next one!