The Fiske Center Blog

Weblog for the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

November 28, 2016
by Victoria Cacchione
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Cole’s Hill Memorial Cache: An Introduction

In the course of this summer’s excavations on Cole’s Hill located in downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts, as part of the University of Massachusetts Boston’s multi-year archaeological project, Project 400, a group of archaeologists uncovered a mystery for the ages – a cache of intentionally buried personal items including jewelry, sewing items, and other finds. Some of these objects were mysteries in the field, and the most spectacular discoveries were made during careful conservation work in the lab.

Shell cameo brooch of Venus.

Inscription of "Venere" found on the back of the shell cameo.

Inscription of “Venere” found on the back of the shell cameo.

As one of the five units laid out on Cole’s Hill, excavation unit 3 (EU3) was a 1 by 2 meter unit oriented north-south, placed in an area of Cole’s Hill that emitted a strong signal from the frequency domain electromagnetic (FDEM) survey. Thus, the archaeologists expected to find a large concentration of metal in this unit, which they did in the form of slag or furnace byproduct in the upper levels. However, beneath these top layers excavators Victoria Cacchione, Nadia Waski, and Laura Medeiros found an intentionally dug pit, partially edged and capped with cobbles. It was in this pit, in the northern part of the unit where the mysterious cache emerged.

19th century syringe.

A large, intact 25 cm long glass syringe started it all. Once the archaeologists excavated this unique artifact, they began to unearth more strange and exciting objects, many of them of a personal nature. The most thrilling of these were two daguerreotypes and two ambrotypes in leather cases, all stacked together with a braid of a woman’s hair secured on top with silk ribbon. Associated with these were six glass jewels of assorted colors. From the north wall, the archaeologists uncovered a fully intact buckle with a patent date of Dec. 15, 1885 attached to a rolled leather belt. Other artifacts included a shell cameo brooch, anchor pin, straight pin, a locket, two ebony rings, an ivory brooch, and a complete brooch and earring set. In addition to the artifacts from the north wall, the archaeologists also found that the bottom of the pit appeared to be lined with a number of pieces of fabric (at least three distinct objects) that sat directly above the sandy, light colored subsoil. The artifacts were not isolated to just the north wall; the archaeologists discovered several of the organic objects and personal adornment items below the cobbles, indicting that the cobbles partially covered the deposit but did not extend to the north wall. The artifacts unearthed near the cobbles included a small glass bottle, a pansy brooch, and a pair of spectacles encircled by layers of metal coils. These coils remain another mystery within this already peculiar cache.

Pansy brooch with violet paint and gold enamel.

Pansy brooch with violet paint and gold enamel.

Daguerrotype of an adolescent boy.

Daguerrotype of an adolescent boy.

Ambrotype of young woman.

One would think that all these magnificent, bizarre artifacts would be enough to keep the archaeologists and conservator occupied. Yet EU3 and the mystery cache produced even more artifacts to add to the riddle. Located along the western side of the unit, the archaeologists found more of the organic objects associated with a gold plated thimble, a bone object, and a number of mismatched buttons leading them to believe it was a sewing bag or kit. Upon further investigation in the lab, the conservator and the archaeologists discovered even more buttons, jewelry, and a broken key still attached to its key ring.

Gold plated thimble.

Gold plated thimble.

In total, this mystery cache contains over one hundred artifacts. The conservation and analysis of these artifacts remain on going. In subsequent blog posts, the archaeologists invested in this project will continually reveal more about the people associated with these incredible and unique artifacts. The research will hopefully answer questions regarding whose belonging these were, the identities of the people in the daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, the circumstances that possibly lead to the deposition of these extremely personal objects, and the use and meaning of the artifacts. The posts will also bring attention to the importance of respectfully excavating, conserving, analyzing, and displaying such items of personal meaning.

 

 

 

November 24, 2016
by John Steinberg
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Plymouth Excavations in the News

plymouthThe press release put out by Colleen Locke from the Office of Communications has been picked up by a number of news organizations. The main story is in the Boston Globe by Brian MacQuarrie.  From the Globe, the DailyCaller,  AP and  Archaeology picked up the story. CNN, Fox News, Metro, Cape Cod Today, and the Daily Mail (UK) also expanded the story.   Travel & Leisure also did a write up on the piece.  On TV, WCVB (Chanel 5) aired a nice story and Sue O’Connell on the Take (necn) also has a sit down pieceDave Landon did a great job explaining the significance of identifying the exact location of the Plymouth settlement, which is recreated at the Plantation.

Google has a list of all the items.

 

November 7, 2016
by Christa Beranek
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Deciding Where to Dig: Geophysical Survey and Excavation Unit Placement

Figure 1. Brian Damiata conducting a GPR survey in Plymouth.

Figure 1. Brian Damiata conducting a GPR survey in Plymouth.

A geophysical survey is frequently the first intensive, visible, field component of a project, and photographs of the survey in progress often are shared on social media to announce the start of the field season (Fig. 1). But what about the results of the geophysical surveys? These results, the discussion of how the geophysical survey guides the placement of excavation areas, and an evaluation of the geophysical data and the excavation results in tandem often come much later and are presented in technical reports, if at all. The aspect of the process that we would like to focus on here, using data from our ongoing project in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is one that is often only a part of unrecorded discussions among the project directors: how do we use the geophysical data when making decisions about placing excavation units?

Geophysics is often used when a structure or archaeological deposit is obscured by overlying material. A map (or some other visualization) of the variation in the geophysical readings is made. When placing excavation units, we look to places where there is a strong contrast between nearby readings, which are called anomalies. For various reasons (limited resources, preservation ethic) it is not practical or desirable to test all of the geophysical anomalies. Conversely, since not all important archaeological deposits will be detected as geophysical contrasts, excavations cannot ONLY target geophysical anomalies. On the site at Cole’s Hill, two of our five units were placed to test specific geophysical anomalies, one of which was a house cellar and foundation. The fact that the geophysical survey detected and defined these anomalies allowed us to test them very efficiently, then to confidently place additional units to avoid these features, which were not from our target time period. This strategy also balanced the archaeological testing so that it did not focus solely on the types of features that can be detected geophysically, allowing for the discovery of other significant features and deposits.

David Landon and I direct the excavations in Plymouth, and we are fortunate to be able to work with experts in archaeological geophysics, John Steinberg and Brian Damiata. Steinberg and Damiata set up the survey and excavation grid, conduct the surveys, and process the geophysical data. Their high quality surveys, with closely spaced (20, 25 or 33 cm) and accurately surveyed transects make the integration of geophysical survey and excavation data possible. Crucially, Steinberg and Damiata are often also present during and after the excavations to discuss the geophysical results, provide input on excavation targets, and later compare the excavation profiles and geophysical results. In the last 10 years, we have conducted geophysical survey and subsequent test excavations at a dozen sites or properties (some as large as a city block) in the northeast. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is the most common geophysical technique, though it is frequently paired with an electromagnetic conductivity or magnetometer survey.

Figure 2. The Cole’s Hill lot on the 1874 Beers map.

Figure 2. The Cole’s Hill lot on the 1874 Beers map.

Geophysical Survey on Cole’s Hill

In Plymouth, there are three areas where geophysical surveys have been followed with test excavations: an open lot at the edge of Jenney Pond, a block-length area along the edge of Burial Hill on School Street, and an open lot on Cole’s Hill (Fig. 2). This discussion will focus on Cole’s Hill, now owned by the Pilgrim Society (survey 2015; excavation 2016). This lot was the site of a two family house between ca. 1800 and 1920, when it was acquired by the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commission which removed the structure.

Figure 3. The building on the corner lot appears on three different historic maps (1874, 1885, and 1906). While the north-south difference between the different georeferences is relatively small, the location of the west wall varies by 15 meters.

Figure 3. The building on the corner lot appears on three different historic maps (1874, 1885, and 1906). While the north-south difference between the different georeferences is relatively small, the location of the west wall varies by 15 meters.

Georeferenced historic maps (Fig. 3) that show the building’s outline disagree on its location fairly significantly (up to 15 m), and maps provide no information about other features that might have once been on the lot such as other houses, outbuildings, wells, privies, or trash pits. Our primary interest in this lot was to test for any evidence of 17th-century activity, predating all of the features that were specifically mapped on this parcel. In 2015, Steinberg and Damiata conducted GPR and frequency-domain electromagnetic (FDEM) surveys on this lot with transects spaced 20 cm apart (see Beranek et al. 2016: 20-27 for details on the instruments and post-processing software).

The GPR survey showed a roughly rectangular area in several slices between 23 and 100 cm below the surface that contained many strong reflectors (Fig. 4). In the slice at 47 to 73 cm bs, these appear as multiple discrete, linear anomalies. Knowing the history of the lot, we interpreted this area as the cellar and foundation of the ca. 1800 house on the property. Extending west of this area were two linear anomalies leading to two unknown features which we interpreted as possible pipes and cisterns, wells, or cesspools (Fig. 5). The other notable feature from the geophysical survey was an area in the northwest corner of the lot, away from any known buildings, that had a high value on the in-phase component of the FDEM survey (Fig. 6).

Figure 4. GPR slices at different depths: top) 23-50 cm and 47-73 cm; bottom) 70-100 cm and 97-125 cm. The excavation units are also shown, as is the outline of structure from the 1906 map for reference.

Figure 4. GPR slices at different depths: top) 23-50 cm and 47-73 cm; bottom) 70-100 cm and 97-125 cm. The excavation units are also shown, as is the outline of structure from the 1906 map for reference.

Figure 5. The 47-73 cm bs GPS slice with the reflectors that we interpreted as the house cellar, pipes, and cesspools highlighted in white.

Figure 5. The 47-73 cm bs GPS slice with the reflectors that we interpreted as the house cellar, pipes, and cesspools highlighted in white.

 

Figure 6. Results of the FDEM survey showing the in-phase (left) and C3 (right) components.

Figure 6. Results of the FDEM survey showing the in-phase (left) and C3 (right) components.

 

Unit Placement

Local tradition, which has not been confirmed archaeologically, is that parts of Cole’s Hill were used as the burial place for the English settlers who died in the winter of 1620-1621. Because of this possibility, however remote, we decided not to excavate any shovel test pits on this lot but only to excavate 1 x 2 m units. This larger unit size helps ensure that we see enough of a feature to understand its type. Given our time and crew size constraints, we decided to place five excavation units on this lot. Our primary interest was in finding out if there were any features or deposits that predated the ca. 1800 house, so we wanted to target yard area outside the house and to avoid the house footprint.

Figure 7. Foundation wall in EU1 with the 47-73 cm bs GPR slice.

Figure 7. Foundation wall in EU1 with the 47-73 cm bs GPR slice.

To confirm the location of the house, we used the GPR results to place a single 1 x 2 m excavation unit oriented N-S to cross the north edge of the reflector that we interpreted as the building foundation (EU1). If we could pinpoint the location of the foundation, we would be able to concentrate our excavation efforts outside the building, rather than spending additional time on deposits in the cellar filled after 1920. We frequently use this method of placing a single unit to cross a long linear reflector, allowing us to test the deposits on both sides and to determine the nature of the anomaly causing the reflection. Here, the reflector did indicate the location of the wall of the house (Fig. 7). Also of note is that the general location of the house’s cellar is also visible in the deepest bulk conductivity (C3) map of the FDEM data (Fig. 6). The GPR results plus a single excavation unit allowed us to be more specific about the house’s location than any of the historic maps, thus making the remainder of our excavation, targeting the yard spaces, more efficient. This also confirmed which maps show the position of the north wall of the 19th-century duplex most accurately.

We also placed a single unit (EU4) to test the northern of the two presumed wells, cisterns, or cesspools so that we could determine the feature type. We uncovered a dry laid cobble cesspool with a stone cap that was still unfilled for 1.6 m below the cap. This unit helped us to interpret the two anomalies visible in the GPR results of the west yard as a pair of pipes and cesspools, one connected to each side of the duplex. Although the house was constructed ca. 1800, the land that the cess pools are on was owned by another household until 1843 (PCRD 207: 232), suggesting that these features were added after that date. Systematic testing might have encountered one of these features, though probably not both. Again, GPR survey and a single excavation unit proved to be a very efficient way to learn about and interpret the property’s waste and water management system. Getting a comparable amount of information by excavation alone would have entailed much more time, likely without providing much additional information.

Figure 8. Edge of a filled cellar in EU5 with the 47-73 cm bs GPR slice (left) and 97-125 cm slice (right) with the edge of the cellar outlined in white. Note that although the georeferenced 1906 building corresponds with this cellar location, the cellar was filled by the mid 19th century and is from a different phase of the building than that depicted in 1906.

Figure 8. Edge of a filled cellar in EU5 with the 47-73 cm bs GPR slice (left) and 97-125 cm slice (right) with the edge of the cellar outlined in white. Note that although the georeferenced 1906 building corresponds with this cellar location, the cellar was filled by the mid 19th century and is from a different phase of the building than that depicted in 1906.

Since the GPR data allowed us to predict where the rear (west) edge of the house’s main cellar was located, we were able to place EU5 west of the cellar to test the area for trash deposits behind the house. The GPR was crucial in placing this unit because there was a 15 meter difference between where different georeferenced historic maps placed the rear wall of the known house, so we could not have used the maps alone to confidently place a unit outside of the house’s cellar. Note that the GPR did not rule out the possibility that this area was under an un-cellared portion of the house; it just maximized the possibility that it was not in the main cellar itself. EU5 was not placed to test any specific reflectors, although there are some non-patterned strong reflectors visible in some of the slices. This unit encountered the edge of a cellar hole of a previously unknown building filled with material from the first third of the 19th century, including a faunal assemblage suggesting that the deposits were part of a kitchen midden. The reflector visible on the 47-73 cm bs slice corresponds to a deposit of clay and displaced foundation stones slumped against the inside wall of the filled cellar. Knowing this, we went back to the GPR-Slice data and were able to trace the outline of this cellar which abuts or is truncated by the main cellar of the house (Fig. 8), and was clearly filled and sealed over while the house was still in use.

The final two excavation units (EUs 2 and 3) were deliberately placed in areas that did not have reflectors on the GPR slices. For these two units, we used the GPR data to help us avoid areas that definitely had 19th-century features. Many feature and deposit types do not appear as GPR reflectors, especially in urban conditions, so we wanted to ensure that not all units targeted reflectors . EU2, in the north yard of the house, contained dense kitchen midden layers dating to the 19th century, contemporary with the house, and a post hole and still partially intact wooden post, but no other features. EU3 was placed in an area where the FDEM showed an area of high value in the in-phase data (indicating high magnetic susceptibility) but again nothing in the GPR. The high FDEM values are probably explained by a concentration of slag in the upper strata that was not present in other units. Below these was a very rich and significant deposit, an intentionally dug pit into the subsoil filled with late 19th-century personal items, but not visible on the GPR slices.

Conclusion

The geophysical survey and excavation on Cole’s Hill illustrate the complimentary nature of geophysical and excavation data. The GPR survey on this lot was very successful in mapping anomalies that proved to be large features associated with the 19th and early 20th-century house and utilities on the lot. Defining these through excavation alone would have been labor intensive and unnecessarily destructive to the archaeological record. The GPR data enabled us to place units very specifically, and the combination of GPR and excavation data makes it possible for us to map and understand these large features. Armed with this information, other units could more confidently be located outside of the 19th-century house to investigate the yard space and look for earlier deposits. These units were placed based on the absence of GPR reflectors both because we wanted to avoid the 19th-century structure and to make sure that our excavations were not unduly biased towards the kinds of materials that appear best in GPR surveys.

References

Beranek, Christa M., David B. Landon, John M. Steinberg, and Brian Damiata, eds.

2016   Project 400: The Plymouth Colony Archaeological Survey, Public Summary Report on the 2015 Field Season, Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research Cultural Resource Management Study No. 75a.

Davis, William T.

1899   Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth, 2nd edn. A. Williams and Company, Boston, MA.

Plymouth County Registry of Deeds

207: 232        William Cashwell to Henry and Edwin Jackson, 1843.

November 7, 2016
by Fiske Center
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Alum Profile: Lindsay Randall

Lindsay Randall, graduated from UMB in 2009
Curator of Education and Outreach at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, Andover, MA
For more about the Alumni Profile series, look at the inaugural post here.

Lindsay with collections from Pecos, New Mexico, excavated by Alfred Kidder and curated at the Peabody Museum in Andover.

Lindsay with collections from Pecos, New Mexico, excavated by Alfred Kidder and curated at the Peabody Museum in Andover.

What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Given that in my undergraduate career I was a History major with a focus on secondary education, many of my cohorts joked that I wasn’t a Historical Archaeologist, but an Archaeological Historian. This combined with my ever present interest in education ensured that I would not follow the typical career path of someone with a Masters in archaeology.
I am currently the Curator of Education and Outreach at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology at Phillips Academy (PA) in Andover, MA. PA is a boarding high school and the only high school in the United States to have an archaeology museum on its campus.
My main responsibility is to come up with creative and innovative ways to integrate archaeology education into classrooms through hands-on learning in a meaningful and realistic manner. Given the multidisciplinary nature of archaeology, I work with a variety of departments such as art, biology, English, foreign languages, history, music, and physics. I also co-teach a term long class, Race and Identity in Indian Country.
Our strategy is to not teach archaeology, but instead to teach WITH archaeology. Since we have important collections from sites such as Boylston Street Fish Weir, Etowah, Pecos Pueblo, and the Tehuacan valley, we are adamant that our students are given the opportunity to handle and work with these objects (with proper handling procedures beforehand!). We believe that it is important to instill appreciation and respect for stewardship in our students and that trusting them with such objects is vital to accomplishing this.

What is the most interesting project (field, lab, academic, or community) that you have worked on recently?

One of my favorite aspects of my job is how varied my responsibilities are. While working with the PA community is a significant part of what I do, it is also important to the school’s mission that I work with the broader community.
Recently I have partnered with Dr. Bethany Jay at Salem State University to offer a graduate level Summer Institute class, Preserving the Past: Using Archaeology to Teach History.
The class focuses on how archaeology can be used in middle and high school classrooms as a way to talk about minorities, who are often left out of the historical record. The class runs for five days and focuses on Native Americans, women, enslaved people, and free blacks, using local examples. During each day lesson plans are modeled for participants that focus on archaeology, yet utilize the resources available to all teachers.
One of my favorite lessons to come from this partnership is Little Spots Allow’d Them. It uses Dr. Alexandra Chan’s archaeological and landscape investigations at the Royall House and Slave Quarters to discuss how the concept of “otherness” was physically manifested in the landscape and the implications it has for us today. This type of activity forces students to think in a completely different way about the landscape and buildings they see every day. Plus I let them use lots of red string, which is always a win in teaching.

Students attaching yarn sight lines to model of the Royall mansion as a way to help them understand historical landscapes and uses.

Students attaching yarn sight lines to model of the Royall mansion as a way to help them understand historical landscapes and uses.

What is one thing that you remember specifically about your time at UMass?

One of the main things that I remember from my time in the program is how close my cohort was and still is, really. I truly do not think I would have been as successful in the program without their help and support.
Our closeness however has not ended since our graduation. We still call upon each other to help with various projects – I recently worked with one person on archaeology activities to do with his daughter’s elementary class. And sometimes I get together with a grad school friend and hang out at the beach during a “staycation.” And it is always fun to catch up with someone at the SAAs or at another conference.

What is the best advice you got (or wish you had gotten) in graduate school?

The best advice I got was from Dave Landon when he told me that “Done is better than perfect.” This motto has really helped me keep things in perspective in both my professional and personal life.

October 4, 2016
by Fiske Center
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Alum Profile: Katie Kosack

Katie Kosack, graduated from UMB in 2010
Currently a Laboratory Supervisor at a CRM firm
For more about the Alumni Profile series, look at the inaugural post here.

Katie Kosack picture

1. What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
Currently I am the Laboratory Supervisor and Historic Analyst for a Cultural Resource Management (CRM) firm. My tasks vary depending on the projects I’m assigned to, where our crews are working, and the time of the year. One of the best parts of my job is it’s something new all the time. The collections I’ve worked on, for example, come from all over. It could be a 20th-century site in Ohio, an urban site in New Orleans, or a colonial period site from Maryland. Daily, I manage the processing (washing, sorting, labeling, etc.) of artifacts, complete the cataloging and analysis of historic period artifacts, photograph artifacts, help to write portions of reports, and arrange for final curation of collections with curation facilities. Database management and data manipulation are large parts of my day. Part of working for a CRM firm is being flexible, so I also complete site file and background research at state archives for upcoming projects. One of the highlights of my current position is organizing our internship program and working with college and high school interns in the lab.

2. What is the most interesting project (field, lab, academic, or community) that you have worked on recently?
Most recently I was part of a team from our firm that completed the analysis of thousands of artifacts from a large scale urban archeology project in New Orleans. We completed the cataloging and focused analysis of late-19th and early-20th century artifacts, particularly ceramics, glass bottles, and small finds, to explore consumerism and themes related to ethnicity and socio-economic status. One of my favorite parts of the project was the analysis of the collection of patent medicine bottles.

3. What is one thing that you remember specifically about your time at UMass?
The people — professors, my cohort, and staff at the Fiske Center are what I remember most about my time at UMass. Whether I found myself sorting through hundreds of redware sherds from the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, MA, in the middle of the woods excavating (and dodging ticks & poison ivy) at the Sarah Boston Farmstead at Hassanamesit Woods, or just having lunch in the lab lounge, I always remember being surrounded by great people with an infectious passion for archaeology. At UMass I made great connections and friendships that continue to make me a better person and archaeologist to this day!

4. What is the best advice you got (or wish you had gotten) in graduate school?
The best advice I got in graduate school was that a PhD program wasn’t a “requirement” and to think about it. I’ve learned that getting a PhD isn’t for everyone and isn’t necessary for every position. I’m glad that I decided to pursue a laboratory position out of the program and continue to use skills I learned at UMass everyday! Two other small pieces of advice to graduate students: 1. Just start writing! My thesis adviser, Christa told me this one afternoon after I had organized my outline for the 3rd time. It’s true just starting the writing process is half the battle and, 2. Don’t ignore 20th-century material culture…I never thought I’d be cataloging battery cores, light bulb parts, or so much white earthenware, but it’s everywhere!

September 7, 2016
by Fiske Center
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Alum Profile: Miles Shugar

Miles Shugar, graduated from UMB in 2014
Program Coordinator, Anthropology Department, UMass Boston

Miles in his new UMB space, next to the main Anthro Department office.  Stop by and say hi!

Miles in his new UMB space, next to the main Anthro Department office. Stop by and say hi!

1. What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am the Program Coordinator for UMass Boston’s Anthropology Department. My duties are split between grants administration and internship coordination, though I have a host of related responsibilities. On any given day, I spend a good portion of my time attending meetings with faculty and staff regarding upcoming projects, deadlines, budgetary issues, and various other administrative situations. Another large chunk of my time involves helping to develop our nascent Public Anthropology Masters program (PAMA), specifically the mandatory internship portion during which our students will lend their anthropological skills to a community organization or institution. My role is to start conversations and grow relationships with community partners who would benefit from (and, in turn, be of benefit to) UMass Boston anthropology interns, and to act as a liaison between our students, the faculty, and the community. These tasks could take me all over the UMass campus as well as greater Boston on any given day, which altogether contributes to a sense of action and passion that I have fostered for this new position with my alma mater.

2. What is the most interesting project (field, lab, academic, or community) that you have worked on recently?

My time working for the Anthropology Department has been short thus far, as I only began my position at the beginning of July. Despite that, I feel as if I’ve experienced an exciting flurry of activity related to grants and the new PAMA program in my short two months. The Anthropology faculty have come together in a creative and collaborative way to usher in the PAMA, which will be the department’s second graduate program (the other being the Historical Archaeology MA). Related to that, a number of the faculty are actively engaged in or are planning to propose ambitious research projects with federal sponsors and results that will gather practical knowledge about how various social, political, health, and environmental factors tangibly affect health outcomes and quality of life for Bostonians and the greater Massachusetts population. I have had the privilege of sitting in on a few of the meetings related to PAMA and burgeoning research projects, and I have even had an opportunity or two to contribute input to the conversations in which they are being developed. For example, I recently participated in a meeting regarding an upcoming proposal to a federal health research institution where an interdisciplinary, inter-University team will gather ethnographic data from a spectrum of Boston’s Latino and Asian-American communities to determine what effects ethnic categorization has on public health outcomes. Since I became a resident of Boston five years ago, I have felt a need to become embedded within and familiar with a broader swath of the community than I would normally interact with as part of my daily routine. I began to achieve that goal in small part by volunteering with community organizations such as the Haley House, but more broadly, it is my hope that I can use my role as Program Coordinator to help connect the talents, skills, and research of UMass Anthropology to the publics that could benefit so much from them.

3. What is one thing that you remember specifically about your time at UMass?

I treasure my time as an MA student at UMass, both in terms of my professional and personal development. Being surrounded by a holistic department full of faculty, staff, and students collectively working towards the common goals of archaeological education and research was formative, and helped me realize what I wanted to do contribute to the field of archaeology, rather than what I wanted to gain from it. More specifically, I got the strong impression that the Fiske Center and the Historical Archaeology program were steering their projects towards a collaborative, community-based framework. With that sort of intention, the conversations that would occur throughout the labs and over meals throughout long days of cataloging and artifact processing were eye-opening. There was this sense of, “If we aren’t doing it for the public, or with our results and analyses accessible to and beneficial for the public, then what is the practical point of it?” In other words, it seemed that public archaeology was a given, and that the mindset of community as stakeholder and collaborator was entrenched.

4. What is the best advice you got (or wish you had gotten) in graduate school?

I remember how much anxiety I felt over picking a thesis topic—would it suit me? Could I finish it in time? I overheard someone saying, “It’s just your thesis—you don’t have to be in love with your topic, you just need to ask a question about a set of data and answer it to the best of your ability,” and that was sort of freeing. So in the end, I decided to pick one of the most arcane sites I had come across: a 19th century horse railroad depot in Roxbury, Boston, that I knew nothing about; generally, in terms of horse-drawn streetcar railroads of the 19th century, and specifically, in the ways that they helped structure the Boston that we have grown into today. I eventually fell in love with the topic anyway, as you might have guessed, but I’m glad I got out of the comfort zone of what I initially thought I was capable of being interested in! I think that as a new graduate student, I was worried that if I didn’t reinvent the discipline, I’d perish. But eventually I realized that we are stewards of the data, not the other way around, and that part of the fun of archaeology is playing with scale and the anthropological toolkit to see how different sites and data can be seen to have interesting and sometimes unintentional repercussions down through the years.

August 22, 2016
by Fiske Center
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Alum Profile: Katherine Howlett Hayes

Katherine Howlett Hayes, graduated from UMB in 2002
Associate Professor of Anthropology; Chair, American Indian Studies
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

This is my best "If you don't do what I say I will assign you to a committee" look.

This is my best “If you don’t do what I say I will assign you to a committee” look.

1. What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I am an associate professor of anthropology and currently chair of the American Indian Studies department at the University of Minnesota. Seemingly most of what I do on a day-to-day basis is email and meetings! Though I still try to spend at least a day per week focusing on my research and I teach two courses per year, my administrative work right now takes up most of my time. In AIS, that means supporting our faculty and teaching specialists, creating or expanding curricular programs that benefit our American Indian students, and coordinating community relations. Much of the latter is centered on our two language programs, Ojibwe and Dakota, because the number of first-language speakers in both is dangerously low. The language teachers are amazing, but that is the hardest job of all, saving languages.

2. What is the most interesting project (field, lab, academic, or community) that you have worked on recently?
I have been working on the archaeology and public memory of Bdote/Fort Snelling, a local heritage site with a very troubled history. As a public site run by the Minnesota Historical Society, it was created to focus interpretation on the “original” 1820s military fort. But a multitude of stakeholders and the historical society wish to bring more attention to the more complicated history, including episodes of war, mass incarceration, and genocide of Native people; the presence of enslaved African-Americans at the fort; and the later military history that brought Japanese-Americans to the WWII language school. I’ve been working with the historical society and some of the descendant communities to create new perspectives on those histories, by focusing on landscapes and material culture beyond the 1820 view visitors get now. It’s a huge project, but really fascinating.

3. What is one thing that you remember specifically about your time at UMass?
I learned an awful lot from everyone, but I especially enjoyed working with Dennis Piechota because he thinks so expansively and creatively about how to answer our research questions. I remember one year we were planning the field season at Sylvester Manor, and he was asked what he would like to do there as part of his own research, and he got a totally mischievous look on his face before saying, “I want to bring a chunk of the site back to my lab so I can excavate it there.” And ultimately, he did exactly that. He taught me to always voice your crazy ideas, because sometimes you say it to people who know how to get it done.

4. What is the best advice you got (or wish you had gotten) in graduate school?
Barbara Luedtke gave me a little printed sheet that said “Done is better than perfect” – useful advice even now. If you don’t get your work out there, people can’t engage with it.

5. Anything else you would like to add?
Come to the AAAs in Minneapolis this year!

For more on the alumni profile series, click here.

July 20, 2016
by Fiske Center
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Alum Profile: Craig Cipolla

Craig Cipolla, graduated from UMB in 2005
Associate Curator of North American Archaeology, Royal Ontario Museum
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto

The Mohegan Archaeological Field School excavates an eighteenth-century domestic site, July 2015. This photo is from a forthcoming article by Craig Cipolla and James Quinn that will appear in the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage.

The Mohegan Archaeological Field School excavates an eighteenth-century domestic site, July 2015. This photo is from a forthcoming article by Craig Cipolla and James Quinn that will appear in the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage.

1. What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I just started a new job as Associate Curator of North American Archaeology at the Royal Ontario Museum and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. My day-to-day consists of my own research, collections management, exhibits, and teaching at the University.

My research focuses on North American archaeology, particularly New England and the Great Lakes. My main interests include archaeological theory, material culture, the archaeology of colonialism, indigenous collaborative archaeology, heritage, and fieldwork. I direct an annual archaeological field school in partnership with the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut and I look forward to the possibility of developing a field project here in the Toronto area at some point in the future. For now, my Toronto-based research will focus on the Royal Ontario Museum’s extensive collections.

Collections management consists of organizing and maintaining our North American archaeological collections, a large portion of which come from southern Ontario. I am responsible for working with outside researchers and First Nation groups who have interests in our collections. Essentially, I am responsible for archaeological assemblages amassed over more than a century. It is a huge responsibility.

Before joining the ROM, I was Lecturer in Archaeology and a Marie Curie Research Fellow in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester. There, I directed a Master’s Program in Historical Archaeology and the Centre for Historical Archaeology, an interdisciplinary research center devoted to the archaeology of the last 500 years. I taught courses in historical archaeology, North American archaeology, the archaeology of colonialism, and archaeological theory. I am excited to bring similar courses to the University of Toronto through my new position in the Department of Anthropology.

2. What is the most interesting project (field, lab, academic, or community) that you have worked on recently?

I love my work with the Mohegan Tribe. The project that I now direct in partnership with the Tribe is actually 20-years old (I began in 2010, just after finishing my Ph.D.). I truly believe that we have established an equal partnership that allows us to explore important new directions in collaborative indigenous archaeology and pedagogy. We are just beginning to publish some of the results so it is a very exciting time.

I’m currently finishing a book on contemporary archaeological theory (co-authored with Oliver Harris). It explores archaeological theory from about the year 2000 in language that is accessible to multiple audiences, including undergraduate students. We developed the project while teaching theory together at the University of Leicester. Generally speaking, it is a book that I’ve always wanted to write, so I will be thrilled to see it in print soon and use it in my teaching. The book is important because it will help to bring some of the more intimidating recent directions in theory (symmetrical archaeology, new materialism, material semiotics, and the ontological turn) into classrooms.

3. What is one thing that you remember specifically about your time at UMass?

This is too difficult a question. There is certainly much more than one thing! I suppose the most important skill set they offer at UMB is a holistic understanding of the research process. Their MA students really benefit from designing their own projects, implementing them in the field and laboratory, and writing them up. (This is the opposite of some “fast food” MA programs that exist in the world out there.) For my MA, I worked with a faunal collection from the Eastern Pequot Reservation. Within that one project, I delved into practice theory, faunal analysis, experimental archaeology, and even a bit of soil science. I eventually developed the project into conference papers and a few publications. I feel that my time at UMB—thinking through and experiencing the research process—allowed me to really hit the ground running when I began my Ph.D.

4. What is the best advice you got (or wish you had gotten) in graduate school?

Make sure you stay on schedule, but also take the time to enjoy your status as a graduate student. I did a terrible job at this, but I recommend building strong relations with your cohort and learning from them. Also, appreciate all that time you have to read!

For more alumni profiles, look here!

July 13, 2016
by Fiske Center
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We Came, We Saw, We Cored

This post looks back to one of the specialized activities that we did at the outset of the Plymouth field school this year.

We Came, We Saw, We Cored
By Anya Gruber

At the beginning of field school, a small group of professors and students (led by Dr. Heather Trigg) set out to core the sediments at Brewster Gardens, a public park on the waterfront, just down the street from Cole’s Hill. Since we’ve never excavated in this area, we were interested in coring so we could get an idea of what the stratigraphy of the soil looks like under the sod. It seemed like the best way to peek into the stratigraphy since coring works well in wet, marshy soil, just like the banks of the stream in Brewster Gardens. Wet deposits can also trap and preserve pollen, so we also wanted to find a place to take a core to look at changes in the local environment over time.

The coring rig in Brewster Gardens.

The coring rig in Brewster Gardens.


There are several ways to go about taking a core sample; you can use a hand corer, which is a short metal tube that you push into the ground by hand and then pull out, trapping in soil that can then be pushed out and analyzed for sediment, artifacts, and other clues into the chronology of soil layers in a particular area. This method can be difficult in Plymouth, though, because there are so many rocks that block the core from smoothly entering the soil. The alternate coring method uses the same basic ideas, but with bigger, heavier equipment. At Brewster Gardens, we used a full-size vibracorer, which has many more moving parts to it: a 10 ft. metal tripod, a motorized head powered by two heavy marine batteries, several-meters-long plastic and aluminum tubes, and all sorts of screws and different kinds of tape to keep everything in place. The heavy head generates vibrations that help push the coring tubes into the sediments.
The vibracore in use.

The vibracore in use.


Before we could turn on the machine and take the sample, we had to choose exact locations to core. We wanted a marshy but not super soggy, relatively flat surface far away from large tree roots and utility lines. We decided on three different locations: behind the Pilgrim Maiden fountain, between the stream and the benches, and next to the rock wall. The head hangs from the tripod, which was hoisted up by a pulley. The tube (the plastic one broke the first time we used it, so we switched to using only aluminum) was screwed onto a platform at the bottom of the base and carefully lowered into place, exactly where we want it to enter the ground. We then switched the machine on, and with some help from Blaine Borden, Professor Landon, and Professor Trigg pulling the head down, the tube goes straight into the ground. Luckily, we did not have much trouble with the tube getting blocked by the ubiquitous Plymouth rocks. However, the core was driven into the ground so tightly that we had to turn the vibracorer on again to shake it up so we could pull the tube out again.
We took four samples in total, one of which we kept in the tube to bring back to the lab, and the other three we looked at in the field. The one we kept will be taken out and analyzed in the fall; I’m hoping there’s some seventeenth-century pollen in there! The three we looked at in the field appeared to be mostly fill, from when the whole area was filled in to create land, as Brewster Park had been a tidal pool when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 – but we did find a few artifacts, including a red rhyolite flake and some redware. There were also different layers of sediments in the core, including dark, organic silts and yellow coarse sand. The process of filling this area, which transformed it from a tidal inlet to a park is one of the landscape changes that we are interested in documenting. Additionally, since the process of filling can cap, bury, and preserve older layers, areas where there are buried ground surfaces could be archaeologically interesting.

June 23, 2016
by Fiske Center
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Cole’s Hill Week Three Review

By Victoria Cacchione

Our excavation units near Cole’s Hill in Plymouth were placed because this lot may be near the original northern edge of the 17th-century settlement. The lot had a building on it from 1800 to the mid-20th century, but the large back and side yards around the building meant that there were areas where early deposits might be preserved. Prior to 1800, the lot held a house and a blacksmith shop, and earlier there was a lime kiln in the area.

Slightly displaced foundation wall in EU1.

Slightly displaced foundation wall in EU1.


Each of the three excavation units on Cole’s Hill presented its own challenges and questions that required decisions about excavation strategies and provided numerous teachable moments for the student archaeologists. From the beginning, Excavation Unit 1 (EU1) proved to be a complex unit with its multiple contexts each full of distinct artifact types. The student excavators, Kerri, Kerri, and Meredith, have continued to diligently document and carefully remove each layer of soil. In doing so, they uncovered the northern-most limits of the previously known 19th-century dwelling on the property. This foundation wall consists of a jumble of coarse stones that appear to have been dislodged into unstable positions when the structure was demolished after 1920. Knowing this, the archaeologists were faced with deciding how to proceed with their excavations. Do they continue excavating the southern half of their unit that includes the interior of the foundation filled with 20th-century debris? Or do they confine themselves to the northern section of the unit? Ultimately, they decided to continue with excavating solely the northern portion of EU1, the outside of the building. This decision had already yielded a find in the form of a French drain and possible remnants of the cellar bulkhead entry. This find adds to the overall understanding of the occupation and use of Cole’s Hill while also exposing new questions.
Belt buckle with rolled belt still attached.

Belt buckle with rolled belt still attached.


Over in Excavation Unit 3 (EU3), the student archaeologists (Victoria, Nadia, and Laura) continually unearthed mysterious and complex artifacts from the beginning of the week until the end of the day Friday. Monday brought the first of many preservation challenges when the students discovered possible preserved organic material (mainly leather and wood), a surprise given the rare instance of such a find archaeologically let alone in New England with its acidic soil. The rarity of such a discovery provided challenges of knowing how to preserve the organics in the summer heat once the excavators removed them from the soil. We quickly became experts in making tin-foil packages of various sizes, wrapped around dust pans, clip boards, and lunch trays in order to create sealed, stable, protective surfaces for these fragile artifacts. Once excavated, the organic materials were whisked away to the nearest refrigerator to keep them from drying out and then taken to UMass Boston and turned over to Dennis Piechota for conservation and examination in the lab. Even when some of the organic objects are not preserved intact, he will be able to provide information about the materials that they were made of. Associated with the organic materials are small finds of female personal adornment pieces and sewing equipment dating to the late 19th century. However, these findings again prove to present more questions than answers. How and why were these artifacts deposited? Archaeologists hope to answer these questions with continued excavations and research.
Jared excavating EU5 in a possible older cellar cut.

Jared excavating EU5 in a possible older cellar cut.


Not to be left out, Excavation Unit 5 (EU5) also exposed the challenges of urban archaeology and provided a lesson in excavation safety. Professor David Landon described this unit as the epitome of urban archaeology as the unit measures three feet deep and is still full of destruction rubble. For instance, one moment the archaeologists shared their excitement over uncovering 17th-century ceramics; the next, the presence of a mid nineteenth century sherd of ceramic dashes all traces of celebration as it indicates the context is a fill layer. It seems that the units crosses the line of a filled cellar from an earlier, previously unknown building on the site that was filled after the new house was built in 1800.
One of the potential 17th-century artifacts recovered in EU5.

One of the potential 17th-century artifacts recovered in EU5.

Nevertheless, the finding of 17th-century artifacts is an exciting indication of possible earlier occupation of the site. In addition to its lessons on urban archaeology, EU3 also provided the student archaeologists with an example of how to navigate voids in the soil. Voids in the soil could be the result of burrowing animals, or small air pockets between loose rubble, or large air pockets in an incompletely filled structure. In instances where soil disappears into these abysses, it is always wise to be aware and carefully determine the depth of such voids. Luckily, the voids in EU5 were small gaps in the rubble fill and did not pose a threat to the archaeologists. The archaeologists working on Cole’s Hill hope to answer some if not all of the questions this week’s excavations presented as they wrap up this session of the Plymouth Field School.

Victoria Cacchione is a student in the MA program in Historical Archaeology at UMass Boston.

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