The Fiske Center Blog

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

March 12, 2012
by Kathryn Catlin
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Final Days of Survey

Happy Commonwealth Day! We here in Dominica have contrived to miss the Daylight Savings Time swichover, so we’re once again keeping the same time as you East Coasters.

On Saturday, our “day off,” we finished up the last few bits of Total Station and survey work at Bois Cotlette, stopped work early and went into town for dinner.

Up north at Sugar Loaf, with the help of a couple of local guys, we cleared a 40×40 meter area of rain forest along the steep mountain slope.  (Don’t worry, the undergrowth will grow back quickly, and we left all the trees.)  Over the last two days, we’ve completed several GPR, magnetometry, and EM surveys over various parts of the shady, gecko-filled parkland we’d carved from the jungle.  Shooting into the grid with the TotalStation was a bit of a challenge, and remote sensing up a 45-degree hillside was downright difficult!

John, Brian, and Doug manoeuvering the GPR up the slope. Note uncleared jungle in the background.

Mark gets a turn dragging the GPR back and forth.

We wrapped up fieldwork at Sugar Loaf this afternoon, getting home just as all the massive cruise ships were leaving port.  We hope to spend the next couple of days tying up loose ends, working on the final report, and exploring a little bit more of Roseau, Dominica’s capital city.

Geckos are everywhere in our survey area. Like squirrels, only cuddlier!

March 9, 2012
by John Steinberg
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Sugar Loaf Works

The jungle around what is probably the enslaved laborer village at Sugar Loaf needed to be cleaned up before doing some GPR survey.  The less space between the antenna and the ground, the better reading we get.  Brian and Doug got to work clearing the leaf litter and marking out the grid with flags.

Brian & Doug clean up the jungle

Mark, Doug, & Brian look out over the ruins of the great house at sugar loaf. Brian is eating from the seeds of a cocoa fruit.

After the GPR survey , we walked around the ruins of the plantation.  We looked at the great house, at the top of the hill.  Mark found some cocoa fruits for us to suck on as we walked around.   At the bottom of the hill, we saw the massive sugar works where the cane was crushed, and boiled to make sugar and molasses.  The gear Mark is pointing to was turned by a water wheel.

Mark Hauser describes how the sugar mill worked.

March 7, 2012
by Kathryn Catlin
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Out of the Valley of Desolation

I realize you’ve had no word from us since setting out on our 14.2 mile hike this past Sunday.  Never fear – thanks to Elvis, our guide, we made it through the Valley of Desolation to Boiling Lake and out again slightly wetter and none the worse for wear (barring some very, very cranky leg muscles).

The hike to Boiling Lake is uphill and downhill - both ways!

John, Doug, Ken, Brian, and Kat in the Valley of Desolation - after our sulfur mud treatment, and just before eating eggs boiled in the steaming vents!

Over the last few days we’ve nearly completed work at Bois Cotlette.  We’ve finished magnetometry, GPR, and EM surveys at several house sites and spent a lot of time plotting points with the TotalStation.   Meanwhile, John and Ken have set up a grid and collected GPS points at Sugar Loaf (the northern site).

Brian and Doug preparing for a magnetometry survey

Tomorrow we plan to finish the last GPR survey at Bois Cotlette, and start EM-31 at Sugar Loaf!  More on that later …

Mark (center) showing us around the landscape at Bois Cotlette

March 3, 2012
by Kathryn Catlin
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EM, GPS and waterfalls

As it turned out, the goats did not eat all our flags overnight, and we were able to complete a few surveys using the EM-38, EM-31, and GPR.

Back and forth!

John, Brian, Doug, Mark, and Ken took care of that while I sat around at a site down the road and watched the GPS, to set up some base stations for our next survey grid.

I had a great day hanging out with my friend the cow. (The roof of a reconstructed coffee mill is next to her.)

GPS points and flagging the new site didn’t take as long as the EM survey, so Doug, Ken, and I took off at 3 and headed to Trafalgar Falls for some “ground truthing.”

Not Grettir's Pool, but I'll take it!

Tomorrow we’re taking a break from survey to do the famous hike to Boiling Lake.  Monday it’s back to the first site for a magnetometer survey, then we’ll start on the second survey area!

March 2, 2012
by John Steinberg
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Running The GPR in Dominica

We completed our first grid and ran the GPR with the 400 MHz antenna.  It was sunny and hot, and the surface had lots of stones, which made the going a little difficult.  The Radargrams look good.  Saturday, we will try the EM-38 on the same grid (assuming the cows and goats did not eat all the flags).

Brian & Doug running the GPR

March 1, 2012
by Kathryn Catlin
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Dominica survey, Day 1

John at Bois Cotlette

John collecting GPS location data at Bois Cotlette, Dominica

Today we started our survey at one of the village sites near Bois Cotlette (see map in previous post).  The first stage of a survey – after we walk around the site and get an idea of what kind of features are there and where the grid should be placed – is to make sure that we know the precise location of at least two points near the survey grid, so that our final survey grid is as accurate as possible.  This means setting up the GPS antenna on a level tripod visible from the survey area, and leaving it to collect data for several hours.

While John was taking care of that job, the rest of us began clearing the site of stray rocks, metal, sticks, and other detritus that could interfere with our geophysical instruments.  And drinking coconut milk.

Coconut milk in Dominica

Doug and Brian enjoying coconut milk at Bois Cotlette

Tomorrow morning we’ll set up the grid and start our survey!

February 29, 2012
by John Steinberg
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To Dominica

 A few of us are off to the Caribbean island of Dominica to test out some Geophysical methods and techniques.  Mark Hauser of Northwestern is running the operation consulting with Ken Kelly of the University of South Carolina.  The  expedition is funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation. Flying down with me is UMass Boston Historic Archaeology Program graduate Kathryn “Kat” Catlin and we will meet long time collaborators Doug Bolender  (Field Museum) and Brian Damiata (UCLA) in San Juan before flying to Dominica.  We plan to test out conductivity using the EM-31 and EM-38,  try a little GPR, and some magnetometry.   We are planning to test this equipment out at two sites:  Sugar Loaf and Bois Cotlette (marked by pins in the map at the top left) . We will be looking at the geophysical contrasts left behind by the household remains of enslaved laborers.