I Can Munsell That?

By Zachary Fischer

Today I wanted to bring back an old favorite of the blog, the old field school game, Can You Munsell That?  At the beginning of the week, our cohort Janee brought in a few loaves of pumpkin bread that were just lovely.  As the week went on hungry grad students nibbled on the bread.  This left us with the final slice of a slightly crumbly, but still delicious, pumpkin bread.  So, as I was deciding on what to write, bringing up the Munsell idea, Janee joked that I could Munsell the bread.  I thought to myself, “You know what? I will.”

A chunk of pumpkin bread.

 

A well loved copy that has served its time in the department.

So what is this Munsell thing that I keep jabbering about?  I’ll give you a quick background.  The Munsell color system was produced by Dr. Albert H. Munsell (1858-1918) who was known as an artist and inventor. He created this system to provide a descriptive and systematic form to communicate color.  We as archaeologists, and archaeologists in training, use this system to describe the color of soil layers in a profile.  Normally, you take a sample, pack it down, and place it under the color chip on the chart.  Be careful to avoid touching the color chips as colors can fade and these books aren’t known to be cheap.  I would love to talk more about the Munsell system itself but I honestly don’t know all that much about it.  This was something of a refresher for me and a learning experience for myself and a few cohorts.

I attempted to do this alone, going from page to page, comparing the color of the bread and those in the charts.  Frankly, I couldn’t get a perfect match but had a thought on the closest color.  I was thinking something along the lines of 10YR 4/6 (dark yellowish brown), truthfully it is a bit more yellow than any of my pages show. Unsure, I did what all good social scientists should do and found new perspectives.  By found I mean left my office to see Janee and Heather who were nibbling away at their own lunches.  Both could see where I was coming from and partially agreed.  There was the suggestion of 7.5YR 5/8 and this interests me.  We may have this standard system but we do not all see the exact same shade or hue.  What I think belongs on 10YR, someone else might think goes on 7.5YR.  However, there is one piece I overlooked and that was the crust.  After consulting the physically closest cohorts, a few of us agree that it’s 10YR 3/6 (dark yellowish brown).  Again, I find it interesting that some colors we see may look the same or completely different.  This makes me wonder how effective the Munsell system will be in the future of archaeology but that’s a thought for another day.  Maybe if I get to do a Part 2 I’ll ramble on the topic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can learn more about the Munsell Color System at Munsell.com.

IUP Department of Anthropology

I’m Not Old Enough To Carbon Date Yet

Howdy folks, my name is Zachary Fischer but let’s pretend like you know me and just say I’m Zac.  Let me tell you a little about myself.  I like long walks on the beach, gazing at the stars, and… I’ve just been informed that this is not a dating site.  Great! There goes my plan for an archaeological personal ad (on here anyway).  Well this is awkward and I’m no good at transitions so…

This is my face, you're welcome world.

This is my face, you’re welcome world.

I graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Anthropology where I focused on archaeology.  I’m currently a student of the Applied Archaeology MA program at IUP.  I’ll be blunt, archaeology was not Plan A.  I started as a Natural Sciences: Pre-Pharmacy major but organic chemistry blocked that path.  I decided to start looking around for a new venture.  I honestly had no clue what else I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to find something that made me happy.  I remember reading an undergraduate catalog while grabbing lunch and the section that popped out most to me was anthropology.  Something about it took me back to a contemporary anthropology course I took with Dr. Abigail Adams.  It was one of the few courses that I took something away from beyond the course material.  I figured it was worth looking into and took an intro to archaeology course the next semester with Dr. Lara Homsey-Messer.  It stuck on me so I made the switch.  It didn’t take long for me to feel like I made the right decision.  I became more interested with each class I took and field school just cemented that feeling.  I could drag this on and on, and I kind of want to, but I think most of you don’t want my life story and I totally get that.  So I’ll stop this particular line of rambling with this, I consider finding archaeology alongside an incredibly supportive department to be a blessing.  My undergrad years spent with the anthropology department at IUP are something I would never trade away.

 

Dr. Sarah Neusius showing me how it’s done.

 

I really don’t have any archaeological experience beyond field school and a few other focused undergrad courses, unless you count watching a ridiculous amount of documentaries on ancient Egypt as a child.  Anyway, I took some time off after graduation with the intent of working in CRM but ended up working for an insurance company in Pittsburgh.  So after about a year later I decided to apply for graduate school, ready to refocus myself on archaeology.  Besides if I didn’t do it now, well, who knows when I would have?  So here I am.  I hope you’ll join me and follow along as I learn with my new cohorts.

 

IUP Anthropology Department