The Fiske Center Blog

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

January 24, 2017
by John Steinberg
0 comments

Archaeological Organizations Concerned about Funding for National Endowment for the Humanities

The Hill has published an article describing the Trump Administration’s plans for the 2017 budget.  They explain that the plan is close to the Heritage Foundation’s “Blueprint” (summary and full document).  The author, Alex Bolton, cites “Staffers for the Trump transition” as the source of the information on using the “Blueprint”  for the new administration’s plans.   On Page 79  of  the blueprint , it outlines eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), stating that “the government should not use its coercive power of taxation to compel taxpayers to support cultural organizations and activities.”

This concerns us greatly since NEH funds spectacular archaeology, including our Plymouth excavations.  The recent discoveries at Plymouth have received substantial media attention.

The Hill’s article has received widespread attention from lots of outlets (e.g., Time, Salon, Art News, Huffington Post, Snopes, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Independent, Fortune & Chicago Tribune) and the Hill has published a follow-up.

Most of the professional archaeological organizations and societies have sent letters  (SHA, SAA) to members, or posted on webpages (AIA, AAM), or Facebook (AAA) describing this threat to NEH (as well as NEA & CPB).  All of them direct to the National Humanities Alliance which describes the efforts and has a page that allows you to send an email to your officials.

There is also some petitions (and here), at whitehouse.gov, but they do not appear to be accepting signatures.

January 18, 2017
by Fiske Center
0 comments

From Pine Cone to Gilded Ivory Brooch

By Dennis Piechota

Image of the object before cleaning.

Most objects encountered in the field are easily identified. But the identity of some, like this artifact from Coles Hill in Plymouth MA, can unfold slowly for the archaeologist and conservator.
When still partly covered with the soil of the excavation pit in the summer of 2016 this object looked like what is sometimes called an ‘eco-fact’, a natural product, in this case apparently a fragment of a pine cone. Then when freed from the soil its metal base and mounting pin were noted identifying this as a jewelry form, a brooch. During initial cleaning it looked like a delicate wood carving of a compound flower head composed of seven six-petal florets all mounted on a copper alloy base.

Detail after cleaning.

In the laboratory microscopic inspection showed the decoration was made not from one carving of a single block of wood, but from a complex of 15 separate miniature carvings that were assembled to form a flower.
Looking into the centers of each floret, away from the weathered edges, we see the carvings are actually translucent and white indicating they are not wood, even though their tips appear brown and opaque; the florets are all carved of ivory!

Detail of the base with evidence of gold leaf.

And the metal base of the flower held one more surprise. While we knew it was a copper alloy, probably brass, we could see a yellow finish here and there through the corrosion indicating the remnants of gold leaf.

While basic processing is now finished the research goes on with questions like what type of flower was this meant to be and what symbolism might it have held for the wearer?

January 9, 2017
by Fiske Center
1 Comment

Alum Profile: Bill Farley

Bill Farley, graduated from UMB in 2012
PhD candidate in Anthropology at University of Connecticut

Bill Farley, while teaching at the University of Connecticut

Bill Farley, while teaching at the University of Connecticut

1. What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
Since graduating from UMB in 2012 I have been a graduate student at the University of Connecticut. I’m now in my last year so I’m a “doctoral candidate” – otherwise known as ABD. Let me start off with a bit of advice though – I got accepted to a PhD program before I finished my thesis and spent my first semester at UCONN while I wrote my MA. That was so stressful – finish your MA BEFORE you go to a doctoral program, if you can! Thanks to my experiences with teaching at UMB, including TAing for a field school, I moved into teaching my own classes pretty quickly at UCONN. Teaching is my passion and I’ve sought every opportunity to do more of it as I have gone along. So much so that I now usually teach three courses a semester in addition to field school and intersession courses. I teach at UCONN as a part of my assistantship, but I also teach as an adjunct instructor at the University of Hartford and Connecticut College. I’m very happy to say that I will be starting as an Assistant Professor at Southern Connecticut State University in the Fall!

2. What is the most interesting project (field, lab, academic, or community) that you have worked on recently?
My research is focused on early 17th-century sites. For my diss, I’m comparing a 1630s Pequot village in Mystic, CT, to a 1630s-40s Puritan house in Marshfield, MA. These projects have given me the opportunity to work on ongoing field and lab projects. I also regularly collaborate with a number of communities including the Native American community in CT, CRM firms, and even avocational metal detectorists. I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work on these two rare and exciting sites, and they have opened up some amazing opportunities to explore cultural change and continuity during the earliest years of Euro- and Native American interactions.

3. What is one thing that you remember specifically about your time at UMass?
I will never forget my first class at UMB. I was terrified and felt very sure that I did not belong with my new and obviously brilliant classmates. So I’m sitting in theory with Steve Silliman who started the class by going through a list of famous archaeological theorists, asking who we were familiar with in order to assess where we stood in our training. The only name I even recognized was Binford. This experience did not change my impression that I was woefully unprepared to be there. Every week after that class, with our heads full of new names and ideas, my classmates and I trekked to The Banshee to drink $2 shocktops and begin to unpack and unwind. With the help of my brilliant classmates and professors like Steve I learned more than I thought I could fit in my head when I started. Over my two and a half years at UMB I transitioned from an unsure undergraduate to a real archaeologist.

4. What is the best advice you got (or wish you had gotten) in graduate school?
Take every opportunity offered to you, if at all possible. Both the job market and the graduate school application process are fiercely competitive so be prepared to think outside the box and make your opportunities. Network! Being well-liked by people is still the best way to find out about and be offered opportunities. So few people find their dream job by cold-applying for it nowadays. Also, don’t be too reliant on advisers and senior scholars for providing you with ideas and research goals. The earlier you start pushing yourself to be creative and complete projects, the stronger you will be in the long run. Lastly, try to be zen about the whole thing. Graduate school is grueling and there will be times now and in your future when it will be soul-crushing. Practicing a degree of self-love is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself on this journey. If you do not learn to love yourself, you will get burned out. There are sadly very few outside sources providing you with positive vibes in graduate school. You must learn to produce those vibes from within.

5. Anything else you would like to add?
Graduate school can be painful. It can be thankless. As the years go on (and if you pursue a doctorate you can expect to add between 5-8 years to your stay, on average) it can be a challenge to stay motivated. You’ll watch many of your contemporaries in “normal” jobs, making decent money and having decent health insurance. My advice is to try and remember that you love doing this. And you’re good at it too. They wouldn’t have let you into grad school if you weren’t the cream of the crop. Your impostor syndrome can and will attempt to sabotage both your success and your happiness. Don’t let it! You are smart and wonderful and amazing – it can be difficult but try and remember that. Surround yourself with people who will honestly remind you why you can accomplish your goals. Love yourself!

December 6, 2016
by Fiske Center
0 comments

Alum Profile: Kathryn Catlin

Kathryn Catlin, graduated from UMB in 2011
PhD candidate in Anthropology at Northwestern University

Kathryn Catlin finishing up a test unit in 2016 at Hendilkot on the farm Hamar in Skagafjörður, Iceland.  Katie Wagner took the photo.

Kathryn Catlin finishing up a test unit in 2016 at Hendilkot on the farm Hamar in Skagafjörður, Iceland. Katie Wagner took the photo.

1. What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I got my MA in Historical Archaeology from UMass Boston in 2011. Now I’m a PhD candidate in Anthropology at Northwestern University, and this year, thanks to grants from the Fulbright Program, the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation, and the NSF, I’m living in Iceland doing research for my dissertation, in which I investigate marginal medieval household sites and their relationship to social and environmental change.

I can’t really say I have a typical day, which I think is one of the great things about being in academia. Life as a grad student at Northwestern is fairly similar to UMass Boston: reading papers, writing papers, attending seminar classes and guest lectures, working on research for my own project or my advisor’s, and in many quarters, serving as a teaching assistant. It also involves a lot of grant writing. At NU, I have gotten involved with graduate student advocacy groups, something I never did at UMass and which has been very rewarding.

Here in Sauðárkrókur, Iceland in November, my day starts well before sunrise even if I sleep in (sunrise now is after 10 am). I have a desk at my flat as well as at the museum in town, so I might work at either place on data analysis or writing part of a report, article, or chapter for my dissertation. In September, I spent most days floating the macrobotanical samples we collected this summer, in preparation for mailing them to Boston. Some days I go to the archives or the library, where I am reading and translating records about the region that date from the late medieval period to the early 20th century. Twice a week I attend an Icelandic class aimed at foreigners, and this month I’ve been going to a book club where we are reading Sturlungasaga in Icelandic. In the evenings I come home and cry about the US election fallout while I practice knitting, or have dinner with friends. In January I plan to move to Reykjavik, where I will be in residence at the University of Iceland and my life will change again, and then in April I’ll come back north to start my final summer of fieldwork as the days start to get longer and warmer.

I took a meandering path to get to NU, which began well before I started at UMass. My undergraduate degree and my first Master’s are in engineering. After working in that field for a few years, I decided I needed to make a switch, and began taking archaeology classes at my local community college. From there, I applied to graduate schools and came to UMass. I got my MA in two years and then worked for a year in the GIS department at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which gave me great experience in GIS and web map programming, and also meant I was able to focus on PhD applications without worrying about my thesis at the same time. I would recommend that for anyone who wants to go on to a PhD – finish your thesis quickly, then take a year off of school to gain more practical experience and to write applications.

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

I think my dissertation is the most interesting! However, in the interest of diversifying this post, I’m going to talk about something else. (For my dissertation, I’m working in association with the Skagafjörður Church and Settlement Survey, of which John Steinberg and Doug Bolender at UMB are PIs, so I will assume many readers are familiar with the broad outlines of that project. Feel free to ask me questions in comments though, or read this interview I gave to Polar Field Services last spring.)

My advisor at Northwestern is Matthew Johnson, and I’ve been working with him on the recently concluded Elite Landscapes of Southeastern England project, jointly run by NU with the University of Southampton Archaeology department and the National Trust in the UK. Through geophysics, landscape survey, standing building survey, historical research, and other techniques, we studied the evolution of the prehistoric through modern social and environmental landscapes at Bodiam Castle, Scotney Castle, Knole House, and Ightham Mote in Kent and Sussex Counties in SE England. I assisted with the surveys and led an effort to locate and synthesize grey literature, reports, and artifact finds from excavations and mitigation work at Bodiam over the last two centuries. I’ve learned a lot through the course of the project, especially about the traditions of medieval archeology and landscape analysis in the U.K., which has helped me to put my work in Iceland and on historic sites in the US into a broader international perspective. I’ve gotten to work with British stakeholders, professionals, and graduate students, as well as several teams made up of both American and British undergraduates, and the perspectives, experiences, and friendships we’ve shared have been very rewarding. Also, what can I say, working at medieval castles is every bit as fun as you might imagine! We have an edited volume coming out very soon in which I co-authored a few chapters.

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

One thing about UMass that I appreciated while I was there, and appreciate even more in hindsight, was the way everyone in the Fiske Center gathers together for lunch or for Tea @ 3 with Dennis (I hope you still do that!). It was a lovely change to take a few minutes out of the day to relax with students and professors and talk about something other than school, and I miss that.

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

The best advice I got at UMB (and I think this holds true for grad school and for life in general): take full advantage of your opportunities. If you have a chance to learn to float, develop your GIS skills, assist with a geophysical survey, apply for a grant, talk at a conference, dig at a new site, or teach a class, TAKE IT, even if it doesn’t seem directly related to your thesis. I learned so many new skills and worked on so many projects while I was at UMass just because I stepped up when the opportunity arose – sometimes I don’t know how I had time to do so much, but somehow, it all fit. In particular, the labs and collections and UMass and around the Boston area are fantastic; take advantage of them while you can. Conversely, if you see an opportunity that WILL help with your thesis, take it! One of the best decisions I made at UMass was to take an independent study in anthropological theory and Icelandic history instead of that semester’s elective seminar; it set groundwork that helped me to write a better thesis, and put me in a better position to succeed at NU.

The second best advice I got is to stop stressing about the thesis and just write it. It´s not an end in itself but a means to an end, and your most important work is going to come later (and I think that is true no matter what you intend to do after graduation). My current advisor puts it this way: Q: What do you call the author of the worst dissertation in the world? A: Doctor.

5. Anything else you would like to add?

Just two more pieces of advice! Be open to change. I came into UMass with a clear idea that I would write a thesis on the excavation and social context of ferry landings on the Potomac. But I took the chance to go to Iceland, and now I’m living here, and I wouldn’t trade it. Relatedly, if you have the desire and the means, it is never too late to completely change the course of your life — you just have to do it.

I´m happy to answer questions in comments about any of this or any other topic, and you are also welcome to email me at kacatlin@u.northwestern.edu.

For more about the Alumni Profile series, look at the inaugural post here.

November 28, 2016
by Victoria Cacchione
0 comments

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
0 comments

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
0 comments

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
0 comments

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
0 comments

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
0 comments

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.

Skip to toolbar