University of Kentucky

Preparing for Living Archaeology Weekend

Living Archaeology Weekend is the oldest and largest public archaeology event in Kentucky. One weekend in the fall, archaeologists, demonstrators, and school groups gather at the Gladie Cabin in Red River Gorge to see and experience how Native Americans and pioneers lived. Living Archaeology Weekend (LAW) is designed to be an educational experience that is linked with the material that students are learning in class. LAW supplements their understanding of Kentucky history and prehistory. Demonstrators also focus on issues of stewardship.

This year we are celebrating our 25th anniversary. So, in addition to the logistics that need to be taken care of every year, we are also planning some special activities that honor those that have made this event a success since 1989. Planning is divided among a steering committee composed of representatives from a several different agencies across Kentucky.

Student using a Blow Gun at the first LAW - 1989.

Student using a Blow Gun at the first LAW – 1989.

So what did the steering committee do during the Day of Archaeology? Preparing for Living Archaeology Weekend is a long detailed process. We have monthly meetings to update each other on progress for different tasks. Emails regarding everything from funding issues to reserving portable latrines are exchanged at all hours of the day. When nearly 3,000 people visit this event, issues like sanitation and parking are critical.

Each member of the steering committee brings a different skill set to the table. The combination of these skills is what makes this event work. To illustrate this, some members of the steering committee volunteered a paragraph describing the things they do related to Living Archaeology Weekend on a typical day.

Mark A. Engler – As Director for the Gladie Cultural and Environmental Learning Center, my focus is to provide logistical planning and coordination for LAW events at the Learning Center, which is located in the Red River Gorge on the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Center’s goal  is to create a quality setting for  LAW attendees including school children, presenters and the general public. I provide for event staffing, presenter booths and equipment as well as various coordination tasks, such as event signage, communication and logistical support.

Darlene Applegate – I represent the Kentucky Organization of Professional Archaeologists (KyOPA) on the LAW Steering Committee. One of KyOPA’s main responsibilities is fundraising for the event, so I coordinate those efforts. I research funding opportunities, submit proposals, prepare invoices, maintain financial records, and prepare annual reports to our sponsors. As the web master for our new LAW web site, I design pages, upload content, and respond to public queries. I also assist with developing and designing content sheets, recipes, posters, lesson plans, scavenger hunts, and other educational resources for the event. In the month preceding the event I coordinate the volunteer force, prepare the event program, reserve hotels, and order merchandise. At the event I volunteer as a demonstrator at the native plants domestication booth.

Gwynn Henderson – I’m one of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey’s representatives on the LAW Steering Committee.  Given that archaeology education is one of the Survey’s missions, it’s within this realm that I make most of my LAW contributions.  My responsibility is to keep track of the educational materials we have developed and make sure the new materials we create or adapt or the workshops we offer are relevant to the LAW mission.  I write some of the LAW educational content and lessons. Through my contacts with educators, I make sure our materials are aligned to the Kentucky Program of Studies for 5th Grade and work with a University of Kentucky colleague to assess and evaluate the educational effectiveness of LAW’s programming and what students are learning when they come to the event. Over the past couple of years, I have spearheaded the evaluation of demonstrators at the event and been responsible for the annual student essay contest judging.

Nicolas Laracuente – I am one of the Kentucky Heritage Council’s representatives on the LAW Steering Committee. On my most active day as LAW ‘social media guru’ I will check the messages that we received via Facebook, twitter and email. Then I will get on Buffer an schedule our social media posts for the week. This year is the 25th anniversary of law so we are tapping into the law archives to remind people of all of the great things that have been accomplished and how far we have come. Social media is a small part of LAW. It wouldn’t even be possible without the work done by the rest of the committee.

These short steering committee bios only cover a portion of the work that goes into making this event successful for the last 25 years. If you want more information on LAW 2013 follow us on Twitter or check out our Facebook page.

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

The Last Day of Digging at University of Kentucky’s Archaeology Field School

I am a research assistant for the Kentucky Archaeology Survey. This means that I help out where I am needed. This week started by teaching groups of sixth graders about archaeology during a day camp (a post for another time). It ended with what I expect is a yearly tradition for most academic archaeologists: the final push during archaeology field school.

The directors of the field school will be preparing a post in the next week, so I won’t steal their thunder. Instead I’ll just talk about my relatively tiny role in the day.

My tent... REALLY early this morning

This year the University of Kentucky field school was held at a Fort Ancient (AD 1000 – AD 1750) site in Northern Kentucky. The site is massive and this year the excavations were focused on a concentration of posts and overlapping pit features. By concentration, I mean hundreds of features in the relatively small area of the site that is exposed. Next week the field school is concentrating on lab work, so for all intensive purposes this was the final full day of excavation, photographs, and documentation. As a result archaeologists from across the state came out help finish the excavations.

My assignment was to clean, photo, score, and draw the profiles of a completed unit.

Today my home away from a home was Unit 92, a cozy 1 x 2 m unit that was mostly 67-72 cm deep with the exception of a series of overlapping pits that extended to 123 cm deep. I found that the unit had a different volunteer working on it for every level of excavation meaning that the notes were mixed and the interpretation of the stratigraphy was based on a lengthy discussion between be and one of the principle investigators Dr. Gwynn Henderson.

The view from Unit 92

Photocleaning the walls required some archaeological yoga. Two bones were sticking out of the wall in such a way that they could collapse everything it I hit them. The basin that made up about half of the unit was steeply sloped with a slick yellowish clay bottom that absorbed every bit of dark soil that fell (requiring another trowel down). Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the awkward poses I had to assume to finish the work, but the profile pictures got taken.

Interpreting the different deposits took a while. Gwynn and I finally concurred that this unit was at least two and possibly three pits that were intruded on by post holes and disturbed by different rodents.

Plowzone, Posts, Edge of Pit Feature

Then I drew the walls (only 31 soil zones… not too bad). Here is a link to a Panorama I tried to make while sitting in the scored unit, the stitching made it look a little weird in places. Sitting in Unit 92.


After closing out the unit I stayed a few extra hours past the end of the day to excavate a few post holes. We’ll be returning to site a few more times in the coming days to finish what wasn’t documented today. Look for updates from Gwynn and Dave in the next week!

Me, shoulder deep in a post hole