The Fiske Center Blog

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

May 16, 2016
by John Steinberg

Four MA thesis defenses in May

A lot of scholarship being presented in the next week or so:                                               

Drew Webster

“Ceramic Consumption in a Boston Immigrant Tenement”

Wednesday, May 18 @ 1:00 pm in M-1-503




Katherine Evans

“Chase Home for Children: Childhood in Progressive New England”

Thursday, May 19 @ 10:00 am in M-1-503



Janice Nosal

“‘Improvement the Order of the Age’: Historic Advertising, Consumer Choice, and Identity in 19th-Century Roxbury, Massachusetts”

Thursday, May 19 @ 1:00 pm in M-1-503




Richard Roy

“The Martha’s Vineyard Experience: A Zooarchaeological Analysis of Diet and Environment”

Monday, May 23 @ 12:00 pm  in M-1-503

May 13, 2016
by John Steinberg

Plymouth 400: Story Map

The story map for Plymouth 400

The story map for Plymouth 400

We have been working on additional ways to present the results of the research in Plymouth to the public and are happy to share a StoryMap, a web-based virtual exhibit, that we have developed.   You can find the webpage here:

StoryMap presents a sequential, place-based narrative in the form of a series of geotagged photos and captions linked to an interactive map
The link is

April 9, 2016
by John Steinberg

GPR-Slice animation from 72 Dale St. (Malcolm X’s boyhood home)

Brian Damiata and I put together a quick slice animation of the GPR results from our joint project in Roxbury with the City of Boston. The GPR readings help mapped the subsurface in the yard around the house, therefore the house, carriage house, and dirt pole are in white.   The house is the central white block and the dirt pile extends out  of the carriage house in the southwest.   If you look closely, there are many pipes running east-west.  The block to the north, in the neighbors yard, could show a circular feature that may be a well. The deepth of the slice is listed on the upper left (in cm).  Areas that reflect GPR energy (microwaves) are in red.  Where there was not reflection, the map is blue.  Based on these results  the excavations can be interpreted with better accuracy.

April 7, 2016
by John Steinberg

Brown Bag Talk (Tues April 12@12:30) Sigríður Sigurðardóttir – From Text to Trowel: how a local rural heritage museum thrives in the 21st century

Coring in the ash midden outside the turf house museum

Coring in the ash midden outside the turf house museum

Sigríður Sigurðardóttir, Director of the Skagafjörður Heritage Museum will give a Brown Bag talk on  Tuesday, April 12 at 12:30 t UMass Boston in McCormack 1/503. The talk is  titled “From Text to Trowel:  how a local rural heritage museum thrives in the 21st century.”

The talk will describe the diverse portfolio of activities that the Skagafjörður Heritage Museum conducts that make it a vibrant center of cultural life for a valley in northern Iceland that has 6000 people and is located 60 miles south of the artic circle.  The Museum mixes local and international projects with traditional and cutting edge approaches to work in areas that require knowledge of hard science and local legend. The museum embraces 40,000 or so tourists every year but has a café frequented by locals. The Museum also offers international courses that take advantage of the regional knowledge of the traditional craft of turf house building.  Finally, she will describe how the small archaeological department has become one of the largest recipients of Icelandic government grants.

The Skagafjörður Heritage Museum is UMass Boston’s Partner in the National Science Foundation funded Skagafjörður Church and Settlement Survey (SCASS).  That project will run for 3 years and has received well over $500,000 in grants.

March 31, 2016
by John Steinberg

Geophysics at 72 Dale St – Malcolm X’s boyhood home


Brian Damiata and Katie Wagner using the GPR at 27 Dale St in Roxbury


Jared Muehlbauer, Brian Damiata, and Joseph Trebilcock running a GPR transect

Our joint project with the City of Boston Archaeology Program has been getting a lot of press. You can see some of the articles using a google news search.  One of the more in depth articles is by Sylvia Cunningham for NBCBLKJoe Bagley, the City Archaeologist, has been posting many pictures on Twitter, Instagram  and Facebook.

We have now finished the geophysical portion of the project.  Excavations, will begin next week.  We will post some of the results soon.

March 10, 2016
by John Steinberg

How Chocolate Came to Be – first Brown Bag talk Thursday, March 10 at 12:30

2016 Sampeck Chocolate

How Chocolate Came to Be

Dr. Kathryn Sampeck


Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 12:30

McCormack, first floor, room 503


Chocolate is a fairly unremarkable part of daily life today. We have fairly clear ideas about what color it is, how it should taste, and what kinds of foods it should be part of. All of these qualities seem natural, unremarkable. Little would you suspect that chocolate has a colonial past that involved some of the greatest horrors of colonialism in Spanish America. The fascinating journey from these early colonial encounters with chocolate to the more modern experience of it had much to do with who produced chocolate, where, and when and for whom–in other words, labor relations in Latin America, local politics, and Atlantic World trade. It is a story of struggles against abuse and marginalization, covert and overt resistance, victories both small and large despite changes in the political economy designed to thwart those very efforts.

Dr. Kathryn Sampeck who is a visiting scholar at Harvard this semester will be coming to talk about her archaeological and ethnographic research on chocolate and the people who produced and consumed it.



February 22, 2016
by John Steinberg

Thesis proposal mini-course

booksThe second meeting for the thesis proposal mini-course will be today at 3.  Today we will focus on developing research questions using a rubric to better understand middle range theory in historical archaeology.

The schedule for the thesis proposal mini-course has been changed (due to the snow-day loss on February 8).  Here is the new schedule:

February 22 (3 PM, Room 503): Developing research questions, part 1
February 29 (3 PM, Room 503): Developing research questions, part 2
March 7 (3 PM, Room 503): Understanding the process and reasonable timelines

March 14: Spring Break
March 21 (2 PM, Room 503): Examples of successful proposals

February 17, 2016
by John Steinberg

Steve Mrozowski on WABC Here and Now talking about Sylvester Manor

Steve Mrozowski Sylvester Manor on Here and Now on WABC

Steve Mrozowski talking about Sylvester Manor on Here and Now on WABC

On Feb 14 the Fiske Center’s Steve Mrozowski, along with Dr. Georgette Grier-Key of the Eastville Community Historical Society, were featured in a segment of Here and Now talking about Sylvester Mannor. The show was hosted by Emmy Award winning  journalist Sandra Bookman.  Here and Now is a  weekly one hour program,  that is dedicated to covering the issues and interests of the African-American community in the New York tri-state area.  The video clip is about 8 minutes long.

the link i :

Alice Fiske, our benefactor, contributed to the understanding of slave life in colonial New York by opening her 350-year-old  Sylvester Manor estate on Shelter Island to archaeological study by Steve Mrozowski and UMass Boston.  She died at at the Manor, on April 17 2006 at the age of 88.

February 16, 2016
by Fiske Center

How many boxes?

We have a lot of graduate students working in the labs, but there are always a few undergraduates doing special projects as well, and we’ll be featuring their work in a few upcoming posts.

Steven Williams, a UMB undergraduate, is doing an internship in the Fiske Center this spring to implement a new system — bar codes for our boxes! These bar codes will be linked to the artifact cataloging database and let us know how many boxes we have in total, how many from each site, what is in them, and where they are.

Photographing boxes and scanning bar codes

Photographing boxes and scanning bar codes

In this photo, Steve is using an iPad to photograph each box and to scan the bar code. The photo becomes part of the database record, in addition to a number of fields that are entered by hand.

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