Another Fun SPA field trip (by Sarah Neusius)

For the third year in a row Dr. Phil and I have just had a great time participating in the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA) field trip.  This annual road trip over a long weekend in early June is an opportunity for SPA members and their guests to see some of the fabulous archaeology excavations, sites, and museums within driving distance of Pennsylvania, while also getting to know other professional and avocational archaeologists from across the state.  Dr. John Nass of California University of Pennsylvania and I have done the planning and leading of each field trip, while Dr. Phil has been one of the van drivers.  This year we loaded up two vans and headed north to New York state to visit several museums and their archaeological collections. There was an emphasis on the Iroquois Indian nations of New York although we also learned about other archaeological and anthropological topics and research as well as saw some fabulous contemporary Native American art.

This year’s field trip started with an orientation and social time at our hotel in Binghamton, NY on the evening of Thursday, June 8.  Early Friday morning, June 9, we headed for Albany and the New York State Museum.  This is a museum I feel like I know because of research collaborations, especially the Ripley Archaeological Project, which was an IUP/NYSM project in the 1980s and 1990s.  Dr. Phil and I have been to NYSM many times for research purposes and visited the exhibitions several times.  Nevertheless, the tour organized for our SPA group by Dr. John Hart, Director, Research and Collections Division, gave us a much better sense of the vast collections held by the museum as well as of the variety of archaeological research going on there today.  The NYSM holds more than 16 million objects, specimens and artifacts and its research staff is active in the areas of archaeology, ethnology, paleontology, geology, botany, and history.  On this trip, we were privileged to see specimens and artifacts and hear about research on Paleoindians in New York State, on Iroquoian and Algonquian groups, on historical archaeology done in New York City, on the Albany Almshouse cemetery including the facial reconstructions done for skeletons, and more. We saw a great many really cool artifacts as well as some of Louis Henry Morgan’s ethnological collection, but my favorite thing might have been the huge quantity of maize kernels recovered from a single feature (see photo below) because it really underscores how central maize must have been in people’s diets in Late Pre-Columbian times. The only downside of our trip to the NYSM was that the Research and Collections staff gave us such an interesting and thorough tour that there was limited time to see the exhibits.  A more complete viewing of these will have to wait for another visit to this great museum!

After NYSM we went to the much smaller Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave, New York, a private non-profit educational institution that promotes understanding of Iroquois culture.  It was started by an avocational archaeologist and has large archaeological collections, but it also displays a comprehensive collection of contemporary Native art, a children’s area featuring the Iroquois Creation story, and nature trails, which we did not attempt.  We did, however, get an introduction to the museum from their Archaeology Department head, Fred Stevens, who happens to be a long-time SPA member.

Friday evening we stayed in Schoharie, NY and had an thought provoking lecture on New York State archaeology and the limitations of the culture history approach by Dr. Hart of NYSM. The second day of our fieldtrip, Saturday, June 10, was a little less hectic although we did a lot of driving across much of New York State from Schoharie to Rochester, NY.  We did break the trip with a stop for a picnic lunch and a wine tasting at a winery in Seneca Falls, but before mid-afternoon we arrived at Ganondagan State Historic site and the Seneca Arts and Culture Center in Victor, NY.  This museum is at the site of one of the last large settlements of the Seneca, which was burned by the French early in the historical period.  Here we were given a tour by a young Mohawk interpreter of the newly built center which has fabulous exhibits about the site and traditional Seneca culture, before we were taken to tour the bark longhouse reconstructed on this site.  This is one of the best longhouse reconstructions I have seen with the interior as well as the exterior creating a real sense of these multifamily structures.  Saturday evening in our hotel in Rochester, we had an eye-opening talk by Jay Toth, archaeologist for the Seneca Nation of Indians, about recognizing past cultural landscapes through the plants encountered while surveying.

Sunday we wrapped up our trip with a visit to the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC), another New York Museum with extensive Iroquoian collections. Unfortunately, the museum was experiencing a serious water main break when we arrived, and was in the process of closing.  However, our tour went forward in abbreviated form, and we were very ably led by George Hamell, a noted Iroquoian scholar.  George took us through the exhibits of the Rock Foundation collections displayed at Rochester and into some of the laboratory and collection space. Here too we saw fabulous collections representing early archaeological and ethnological acquisitions.  George also shared with us the Rock Foundation’s position that it does not have to comply with NAGPRA because it is a private, non-profit entity. Some of the objects they hold certainly are sacred objects and objects of national patrimony.  Though technically correct, there are ethical issues related to cultural sensitivity posed by our even being able to view these items, and we had some discussion about this aspect of our visit including that we should be mindful of the privilege we were granted.

By the time we finished our tour, we were the only visitors remaining and even the lights were shutting down; it was actually slightly spooky.  We had a quick picnic lunch in the cafeteria area and left the museum to struggle with its water issues as we headed home to PA. As you can tell, like each previous field trip we have done with the SPA, this year’s trip was full of chances to see and hear about lots of cool archaeology and artifacts as well as to learn from scholar experts and think about topics relevant to archaeology, anthropology, history, and science.  The part that is harder to convey is the fun and camaraderie that developed within the group.  There really is nothing like a road trip with other people interested in similar things, especially when they are archaeologists!  So we recommend that you keep your eyes open for next year’s SPA trip – destination to be determined.  Even if this is not possible, keep in mind that the museums we went to are great places to visit individually as well, so add them to your itinerary when you are in New York State.

IUP Department of Anthropology

American Grad Students in Canada: Our trip to the SAA, eh.

By: Matthew Bjorkman and Britney Elsbury-Orris

Hello! We are Matthew Bjorkman and Britney Elsbury-Orris, and this is our first contribution to Trowels and Tribulations, and honestly…what took so long! We are both first-year graduate students in the Applied Archaeology program, and we have had the pleasure of attending way too many conferences this semester. At the end of the fall semester, while we were riding the high of turning in our final assignment, we volunteered to become members of the IUP Ethics Bowl team. While we did not fully understand the time commitment we had just signed up for (we blame the lack of sleep), we knew that it would give us an opportunity to flex our ethics muscles in competition at the 82nd annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Beautiful view outside the Convention Center

Despite being poor college students once again , we were able to book our trip. Departing from Pittsburgh at way-to-early in the morning, we had a short layover in the San Francisco airport before finally arriving in Vancouver the day before the conference (Trip bonus: we flew on United on both legs of our trip and neither of us was asked to give up our seat or got stung by a scorpion). After wandering aimlessly in the city for an hour, we arrived at our hotel, Hotel Blu. The hotel was fantastic, far too classy for this duo. Our first day, the day before the start of the conference, was spent figuring out how to get our phones to work in a foreign land, and meeting up with Ethics Bowl teammates and other IUP students. We got together and searched for a spot to grab dinner. After searching for a restaurant that Matt swears was selling a pound of wings for $3, we abandoned our search and settled for the White Spot. Here we tested the local brews, ate exotic poutine, and discussed our up-coming presentations and competition.

IUP Ethics Bowl team!

The Ethics Bowl was on the first day of the conference. Fighting off jet lag and the exhaustion of traveling 3,000 miles, team IUP arrived at the Hyatt hotel at 7:30 in the morning. Practice run-downs of our cases and guidance from our mentor did little to calm our nerves. With friends and fans in the crowd, our team performed wonderfully, crushing the cases that were presented. We solved the issue of the troubled museum exhibit, and we fixed Sandy Melmac’s curation crisis. Sadly, we did not crush the competition, and lost by 1 point to the home town Simon Fraser University.

The Ethics Bowl was over before we wanted it to be, but we were now able to experience all the SAA conference had to offer. At first, the number of things happening at the conference was overwhelming. With over 4,000 attendees, this was the largest conference that either of us had attended. We explored the program and the convention center, highlighting presentations we wanted to try to get to. The beautiful part about the SAA conference is that there are sessions on just about any archaeological topic you can think of. Over the course of the conference, we attended presentations on Classic Maya architecture, isotope analysis of faunal remains, geoarchaeology, territorial behavior and ecology, and more. We vi

Looking across the bay at North Vancouver

sited the poster presentations of our IUP colleagues and explored the projects of archaeologists from around the world. We even networked at a CRM (cultural resource management) expo with other archaeologists who were looking for people to work for them over the summer, part-time, and permanently.

Even though we were in Vancouver for a conference, we made time to have a little vacation for ourselves. We explored the city experiencing its beautiful scenery and the other great things that Vancouver had to offer. We reunited with long lost friends from our undergrad days at Penn State and even met up with those we had already met at IUP over countless dinners and drinks. We also had the opportunity to attend a MLS soccer game featuring the Vancouver Whitecaps and the LA Galaxy. We sat in the supporter’s section and like to think we were the reason why the Whitecaps got their 4-2 upset victory.

Go Whitecaps!

In conclusion, even though we did not win the Ethics Bowl, we still had a lot of fun on our trip. The Ethics Bowl gave us the opportunity to get an idea of how we should prepare and what we should expect next year in Washington D.C., when we win. 😉 We got to attend presentations in which we learned about various archaeological work being done throughout the United States and even within Canada and other countries and gained ideas for our future research. We got to see old faces in which we talked with them over many dinners and drinks. We even got to meet new ones in prospects for a CRM job in the future and go to our first MLS soccer game. If you get the chance, take the opportunity to attend this conference. It will definitely benefit you in the long run! Hopefully we will see you all next year in Washington D.C. for the 83rd annual SAA meeting and our second Ethic’s Bowl appearance.

IUP Department of Anthropology

IUP at the Mid Atlantic Archaeology Conference (MAAC)

By: Zaakiyah Cua

Hello everybody, if you haven’t met me yet, I’m Zaakiyah Cua and I’m a first-year graduate student in the Applied Archaeology program at IUP. I’m currently barreling through my second semester. The past seven months have been a whirlwind of gaining experiences and building relationships which will last me the rest of my life. I could go on forever about the many opportunities I have taken advantage of at IUP, the wonderful faculty, and my awesome cohort, but I will focus this post on my recent experience presenting at and attending the Mid Atlantic Archaeology Conference (MAAC).

Zaakiyah and Britney with their poster.

During my first semester of graduate school I took Zooarchaeology taught by Dr. Sarah Neusius. One of the class assignments required me to identify and analyze a collection of about 1000 faunal remains from the Johnston Site, a Monongahela village site which IUP had previously excavated at for several seasons. The faunal collection I analyzed was then combined with collections analyzed by other classmates from the same site. We then each wrote an independent faunal report which analyzed the full collection (about 4000 bones). During the semester, Dr. Neusius suggested the possibility that the faunal analysis could be furthered and the results presented at a conference in the spring, either MAAC, SPA, or both. I approached Dr. Neusius at the end of the semester with another member of my cohort, Britney Elsbury-Orris, and expressed interest in working with the faunal collection further.

As the deadline for MAAC submission was quickly approaching and we were now through finals and gone for winter break, we quickly put together a poster presentation abstract and registered for MAAC memberships as well as attendance to the March conference. Our final product was a poster which discussed how faunal remains varied between the village plaza, domestic areas, and village stockade trenches. We found that faunal remains in the plaza were highly fragmented and highly burned while remains in the stockade trenches and domestic area contained more diverse burning and were less fragmented. Additionally, it appeared that the stockade was used to dispose of and burn refuse.

Flint knapping workshop

MAAC was in Virginia Beach during the last half of spring break. I had never been to Virginia Beach and I had never been to MAAC and I was really looking forward to the trip. In addition to Britney and myself, several other IUP archaeology students attended, as well as Dr. Chadwick who presented a paper. The conference did not disappoint. Not only was the conference extremely diverse in terms of research presented, the attendees and presenters were equally split between CRM archaeologists, students, and archaeology professors or university affiliated faculty. Additionally, the MAAC Student Committee scheduled several events throughout the weekend. Some of these events included a flint knapping workshop, a raffle and social mixer, resume reviews, and other social events.

MAAC also offers student scholarships which are provided by sponsors. These scholarships cover conference registration for students presenting and attending the meeting. Volunteering at the registration booth also waives the registration fee. I volunteered and thought it was well worth it as I met many people and networked during the three hours I was at the table.

Overall, the conference was a success. Although there were a few hiccups along the way, our poster turned out well and we received positive feedback regarding our research. I would highly recommend students attend the MAAC meeting in the future. If possible, I recommend presenting either a poster or paper at the conference. Single authored submissions can enter the paper and poster competitions. There are also opportunities for students to become involve with the MAAC Student Committee as a student representative or other officer position. This is a wonderful way to meet other students, become involved, and represent IUP at MAAC.

IUP Department of Anthropology

The Final Countdown for Graduate School – Round 2…..

By: Jared Divido

It’s hard to believe that I’m already mid-way through my last semester of graduate school in the MA in Applied Archaeology program here at IUP.  The saying “time flies” could not be more applicable to the feelings and experiences that come along with graduate school.

I’m currently on spring break working on the data analysis phase of my thesis research, which involves testing the feasible use of 3D scanning technology for constructing comparative faunal (animal) bone specimens.  Three-dimensional technology has been making a lot of headway in the field of archaeology as a method for constructing or re-constructing 3-dimensional models of found artifacts, site structures, and even site profiles.  The 3D scan of a given object enables the researcher to create a fairly accurate digital model, which could then be used in a multitude of ways for things such as digital archival storage, research collaborations via file sharing, 3D printing for educational purposes, etc.  My background research has found that much of the applicability of 3D scanning has largely focused on the 3D printing aspect of the technology, yet there has been little attention given to usability of the 3D scans as raw data themselves.  My thesis research is attempting to focus on an important aspect of zooarchaeology, which requires a well established comparative animal bone reference collection for the identification and analysis of animal bones that are recovered from archaeological sites.

Animals bones at archaeological sites are often found fragmented, but they can provide the researcher with a wealth of information about the past, including things such as the human subsistence strategies, tool making/tool use, environmental conditions and changes, etc.  A comparative reference collection can often help identify the bone down to taxon or species level by looking at the surface features on the fragmented skeletal element.  Yet, the accessibility of a well established comparative animal bone collection requires a lot of laboratory space and the availability of wide range of animal species.  This often requires researchers to borrow or loan specimens from other institutions, which can be a rather costly and timely process in the end.  I’m ultimately trying to determine if 3D scanning technology could complete replace this process by using the 3D scans in place of the physical skeletal specimens.

At the end of March, I will be travelling to Vancouver, Canada to present a poster presentation on my research at the Society for American Archaeology’s 82nd Annual Meeting.  This will be a great opportunity to share my research findings with others in the field, while also being there to show support for my fellow colleagues whom are also presenting at the conference.  Furthermore, as Danielle mentioned in her blog post, conferences are a great way to network with colleagues and other respected professionals in the field.

I will admit that my academic and professional career interests have not always been oriented toward archaeology or cultural resource management (CRM).  In May 2012, I graduated from IUP with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with the intent to pursue a career in forensic anthropology.  I worked hard to make that dream a reality by travelling nearly 3,580 miles away from home to attend school at the University of Dundee, which is located in Dundee, Scotland.  While at the University of Dundee, I had the opportunity to study at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, under the direction of Professor Dame Sue Black (a highly respected forensic professional in the UK).  One might wonder how I transitioned from forensic anthropology to the study of archaeology, but there is a rather intricate connection between the two fields.  My thesis research in the UK involved testing forensic methodologies for cut mark analysis, which are actually deeply rooted in past archaeological field investigations and techniques.

Thus, following the completion of my first master’s degree, I travelled to the Spanish Balearic Islands to perform my first archaeological field school, which involved the excavation and analysis of Roman funerary units and human remains, dating from the 14-16th centuries.  Upon my return back to the United States after my field school, I came to the realization that I wanted to gain more knowledge and experience in archaeology.  I was very happy when I discovered that IUP had an Applied Archaeology program because of my past experience with the faulty during my undergraduate program.  In July 2015, I participated in my second archaeological field school with IUP, which was focused on the excavation of an identified GPR anomaly at Historic Hanna’s Town (1773-18th century) in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  I can honestly say that IUP has well prepared me for a career in archaeology or CRM.  I am currently a graduate research assistant for Dr. Sarah Neusius, which has provided me with opportunities to work with the IUP faunal comparative collection, various archaeological faunal assemblages, and faunal databases from numerous prehistoric sites.

The faculty has a real concern and interest for the success of its students.  I have also made some wonderful friendships and created great memories along the way that will last a lifetime.  I look forward to finishing up my final semester and seeing what my future holds upon graduation in August!

IUP Department of Anthropology

How I Survived Grad School So You Can Too

By: Danielle Kiesow

A wise man once told me, “You need to remember what makes you a good procrastinator: confidence!” That wise man is my father, and while he might deny he ever endorsed my habit, it’s that confidence (whether procrastinating or actually getting work done) that has carried me through the Applied Archaeology program here at IUP. I’m now a second year graduate student, just one semester and one completed thesis shy of graduating. I am so happy that I chose IUP to continue my archaeological education: I have learned so much about North American archaeology, laws and ethics in cultural resource management, and about myself.

By far the hardest part of grad school is learning time management. Only three classes (nine credits) are required per semester for this program, and coming out of regular 15-18 credit semesters in undergrad, I didn’t think much of it until syllabi day at the beginning of my first semester. The first year of grad school in this program is more difficult than the second year because you’re adjusting to a new location (in my case, transplanting from Wisconsin and going through cheese curd withdrawal), in some cases getting back into school after a hiatus, getting to know your cohort and your professors, and panicking because you can just see your thesis looming on the horizon.

But don’t worry! By the second year of this program you’ve gotten into the swing of things and you’ve become closer to your cohort (and you’ve realized there’s such a thing as Wine Festivals on campus). Your thesis topic is tackled head-on in the first Cultural Resource Management course, so once you have an idea and a support system in your thesis committee you just have to keep on plowing through, one chunk at a time.

After courses this spring, I will be heading back to the Midwest to northern Minnesota to work with Grand Portage National Monument on the Grand Portage Reservation as an archaeological technician for about a year and then after that, we’ll see what happens! Interning for the National Park Service over the past two summers and learning how and why archaeology is done in North America through this program has made it possible for me to find a job right after classes. There are also some things I learned outside of classes that I thought would be useful for those considering archaeology or for those in the program here:

  1. The archaeological community is smaller than you think and a lot of job opportunities boil down to who you know, not what you know. If you say anything negative about another archaeologist or if you don’t have a good attitude or good work ethic out in the field, that will travel and future employers will know.
  1. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions in class. Make all those student loans worth it!
  1. Grad school can be overwhelming and it’s easy to get caught up and work on projects or your thesis 24/7. At the very least, take 2-3 hours out of your week and get together with your cohort for trivia at Twisted Jimmy’s from 7-9pm on Friday. Take a deep breath, grab a drink, share a few laughs, and don’t think about any work that needs to get done.
  1. Make sure you are passionate about your thesis topic. If you are lukewarm about it from the start, you will hate it all the more when you’re trying to motivate yourself to write it four months down the line.
  1. Whatever Dr. Ford says, looking at pictures of puppies and watching cute puppy videos are not a waste of time.
  1. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities you can get if you just ask. I got an internship at Isle Royale National Park in 2015 just by introducing myself to the park archaeologist over some ice cream and asking if there were any projects that he wanted to farm out to students for theses. This in turn snowballed into internships and theses for both Isle Royale and Grand Portage, a job this summer at Grand Portage, meeting and networking with other archaeologists, and trainings and certifications. There is always someone out there who needs another field tech or who has a dream project just waiting to be realized.
  1. If you’re feeling discouraged and stressed, remember that everyone else in your cohort is probably feeling the same way. You are not alone. Reach out to others!
  1. In these two years, your cohort and the cohorts above and below you will become your colleagues and your closest friends. Another reason to go to all the archaeology conferences once you graduate!
  1. You can answer every question in class with the phrase “It depends.” But don’t do that.
  1. You will doubt yourself from time to time, but this program sets you up to succeed. You need to remember what makes you a good archaeologist: confidence!IUP Department of Anthropology

Attending My First ESAF Conference!

By: Cheryl Frankum

1st

Looking at artifacts in the Snyder Complex

The conference experience for a typical graduate student can range from total exhilaration in meeting and connecting with new people and discovering new work being done to terrifying bouts of stage fright if you need to present. Luckily for myself and the crowd- I was not presenting, and I attended my first Eastern States Archaeological Federation (ESAF) conference solely as a care-free attendee! This allowed me the focus and ability to attend almost all of the conference, so please enjoy my synopsis of a wonderful meeting.

2nd

Snyder complex- Jen Rankin showing Paleo stratigraphy

ESAF offered an incredible fieldtrip on Thursday November 3, 2016 that visited two of the most notable Paleo-Indian sites in New Jersey: the Snyder Complex and the Plenge Site. The tour was well attended, and began with a caravan of our vehicles that arrived to the Snyder Farms location. Jen Rankin (Temple, AECOM) and Michael Stewart (Temple, NJHPO) took visitors through an imaginative journey of what the site would have looked like then and now. Their study has partly focused on examining and understanding the past Paleo environment along the Delaware River, and how this changed through time. Guests were treated to a special look at Jen’s current excavations and were offered a hands-on experience with the artifacts that were recovered from the site!

3rd

the Plenge Site- tributary to Delaware River

4th

Plenge Site- everyone gathered to look at surface where most fluted points were found

The Plenge Site tour was led by Joe Gingerich, with a special visit from Leonard Ziegler (SPA) who has been instrumental in collecting and recording the site since its discovery in the early 1970s. The Plenge site is one of the most important Paleo sites as it has produced 226 fluted points to date. The tour consisted of your everyday corn fields along the riverfront, and what a view it was!

The Friday sessions I attended delved into Pennsylvania quarries and discussed where Native Americans were obtaining their toolstone. If you went to the SPA meeting this past spring- Friday was a repeat of that. A real treat was when Peter Leach from GSSI gave the IUP crew a special demonstration of the new GPR model SIR 4000! We all did some transects right there over concrete and disturbed areas, and of course he showed off the instruments new bells and whistles. Friday night was the Canadian-American Friendship party, and while I went with the intention of meeting Canadians, I actually met archaeologist from SUNY and UCONN! I did ask Kurt Carr where I could find some Canadians to introduce myself to, and he jokingly replied to find the people holding the green beer bottles!

Being that I have a great interest in Historical Archaeology, I was ready for the Saturday session that consisted of multiple presenters5th who worked on the I-95 project- Urban Archaeology in Historic Philadelphia! This was exceptionally entertaining for me as I am going to begin excavation on my first privy next week, and many of the AECOM presenters spoke about the privies excavated on this project, over 400!

I always try to make the very most of every conference, and ESAF was no exception. I was able to learn many new things, meet new people, and reconnect with the ones I admire! I would call this meeting a success, and encourage all of you to attend as many of these types of events as possible.

PCSS Conference

By: Genevieve Everett

This past weekend I drove out to Harrisburg for the 63rd annual Pennsylvania Council for Social Studies (PCSS) conference. The conference theme this year was “Creating Global Citizens Through Issues Focused Instruction”.

Part of my public archaeology assistantship is to go to this conference to present to social studies teachers from all over the state. My contribution to the conference was a presentation on “The Crisis in Archaeological and Cultural Heritage in the Middle East”. The first question I asked my audience, “have any of you taught arpcss-conferencechaeology in your classrooms?” was received with side-glances and heads awkwardly turning to look at their neighbor to see if they had taught the subject. I took that as a resounding, “NO”. From there I began to discuss cultural heritage destruction, and back that up with several case studies. I began with two based in the Middle East concerning the Giant Buddha’s of Bamiyan Province in Afghanistan and Palmyra in Syria. These are two examples of religiously motivated destruction of cultural resources and heritage, but I didn’t want my audience to think that this only happens in the Middle East. I wanted to drive home that the destruction of cultural resources and heritage is a global issue. Not all destruction is religiously motivated, we also see looting and selling of antiquities on the black market in economically depressed countries, and individuals that loo

giant-buddhas

Giant Buddha of Bamiyan

t sites for their own personal collections. I continued to explain context and its importance in archaeology. When artifacts and features are looted, broken or completely destroyed, they lose their meaning and interpretive value. I ended the discussion by talking about Sarah Parcak, the satellite archaeologist that is using satellite imagery to compare maps over time that show increased looting, especially in Egypt. Parcak hopes to use these maps to prevent further looting of sites worldwide. Did I mention she is my hero? To read more about her research follow the link below!

looting

Two satellite images depicting increased looting holes at a site in Egypt between 2009 and 2012

My main goal at this conference was to get these teachers interested (and excited) in incorporating archaeology into their curriculum by providing resources that they can use in their classroom. One such lesson plan called, “Trash Talk” has students examine modern trash the way that archaeologists look at trash pits to make inferences about the people that were using the objects, and how they were used. I even found a lesson plan pertaining to context, which I will provide a link to below. I had fantastic social studies and history teachers growing up, but I do not recall being taught archaeology at all. I hope that my presentation opened the eyes of some of these teachers, veterans and newbies to a new way of presenting the past to their students.

Links:

Sarah Parcak- National Geographic fellow and satellite archaeologist

Context exercise

 

Another Kind of Summer Project

By Sarah Neusius

Summer is often the time for academic archaeologists to do fieldwork, but this summer my energies are focused on something different, and certainly not less important: the preservation and use of archaeological datasets. Most archaeologists know that there’s a lot more to archaeology than fieldwork, but even after the cleaning, cataloging, and analysis of materials, archaeologists still have a responsibility to the data they have generated. Articles and reports allow us to present our interpretations of what we have found, and curation facilities care for and make accessible the actual artifacts we recover. However, the observations we make about artifacts, in other words, the data we generate, also are important to curate. Keeping our data accessible to future archaeologists so they can reevaluate our conclusions in the light of new information and new theoretical perspectives is an archeological obligation, but one on which our discipline is just beginning to focus. The digital age provides both greater possibilities and greater challenges for us in this respect.

Of course it is now standard to record archaeological data in digital format. Everything from artefactual datasets and images to field notes and geophysical data can be stored digitally reducing concerns about  storing paper records and images so that they will remain stable. On the other hand we all know that both software and hardware evolve at a lightening speed, rapidly making the formats we use obsolete and our data inaccessible. Nowadays archaeologists also are increasingly interested in the new ways to share their data that the internet provides. Along with web publishing there are many efforts to provide open access to archaeological data.

tdarmap7616

The Worldwide Distribution of Resources stored in tDAR (from www.tdar.org, accessed 7/6/16 )

tdarbreakdown7616

Types of Data Stored in tDAR (from www.tdar.org, accessed 7/6/16 )

Among these the Digital Archaeological Record or tDAR, which has been developed by archaeologists and computer scientists under the auspices of Digital Antiquity now affiliated with Arizona State University. tDAR is an international repository for digital archaeological data, images, and documents that provides open access and includes integrative tools for analysis and has a core mission of helping archaeologists be better stewards of the data they generate. tDAR promises to keep these resources accessible in perpetuity by migrating to new digital formats as they become standard, and it also provides some powerful tools for integrating datasets created in different formats by different archaeologists so that comparison among site assemblages, settings, regions, and time periods is possible. These integrative aspects of tDAR allow archaeologists to address macro level questions in ways the published record does not because we can use and combine the original datasets rather than just the published summary data.

All of this is why my main project this summer is working with other zooarchaeologists who are part of the Eastern Archaic Faunal Working Group (EAFWG). Together and with funding from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1430754)   we are preserving and integrating more than 50 Archaic Period (ca. 10,000-3,000 BP) faunal datasets and associated documents in tDAR. Eventually these datasets will be publicly accessible for students and other researchers in the EAFWG collection within tDAR.

EAFWGJan2015B (2)

The Eastern Archaic Faunal Working Group

These datasets were generated over the last sixty or more years by Kosterphotosarchaeologists working on sites located in the interior parts of the Eastern North America. Because of a strong interest in human-environment interactions among American archaeologists during this period, recovery and analysis of animal remains as well as of bone and other artifacts was standard in these excavations. This tradition of emphasizing zooarchaeological analysis continues today among Midwestern and Southeastern Modocimages.archaeologists interested in all of the Pre-Columbian periods. Good preservation has meant that large amounts of animal bone as well as mussel and snail shell often are recovered and significant faunal datasets have been generated for this region. Some of the better known of these sites are emblematic of the Eastern Archaic including Modoc Rock Shelter and the Koster site in Illinois, the Green River shell middens such as Carlston Annis in Kentucky, and Dust Cave in Northern Alabama, but there are many other Archaic sites as well. Some of these Dust Cavedatasets were recorded on paper only, and some of the earliest digital faunal datasets were also created as a result of these excavations. Moreover archaeologists in this region continue to generate significant faunal data today. Unfortunately, these data have remained dispersed across a wide variety of institutions and inaccessible to the larger archaeological community because they are recorded in a variety of formats and curated by individual researchers, some of whom are now deceased or no longer actively involved in Archaic period scholarship.

The EAFWG includes zooarchaeologists from IUP, the Illinois State Museum, the University of Kentucky, Florida State University, the Illinois Archaeological Survey, State University of New York at Oneonta and the University of Michigan at Flint. Besides meeting at professional conferences and staying in touch through email and conference calls, we have held formal workshops. In fact, our most recent workshop was hosted here at IUP in mid-May and included my GA, Scott Rivas as well as myself.

EAFWG@SAA 2016

EAFWG at SAA 2016. Scott Rivas is at right and Sarah Neusius is second to right.

Our goal is to use tDAR to preserve significant Archaic period faunal datasets and to bring them collectively to bear on research into the Archaic Period in Eastern North America. Not surprising traditional explanations for Archaic period variability and change, which have seen environment and demography as causal, have been questioned by contemporary researchers arguing that cultural identities, sociopolitical interactions, and ritual practices also explain some Archaic phenomena. In essence today’s archaeologists seek to understand Archaic period hunter-gatherers as more than participants in the ecosystem, and this raises new questions about the way Archaic data has been interpreted over the last half century or more. We think zooarchaeological data has much to contribute to these debates. Ultimately we have some macro-level questions about the variable use of aquatic resources by people who lived in this area during the Archaic period, which we believe will contribute meaningfully to better understanding of the Archaic period. However, we aren’t there yet, and instead are immersed in a long process.

Over the past year and through this summer I have been involved with myriad details, most of which would be far too boring for a blog such as this. However, I hope you can see why there are many steps in the EAFWG project. These have been accomplished with the help of several IUP undergraduate students and graduate students, and have included 1) creating digital databases from paper records in the first place, 2) finding and removing errors from digital datasets, 3) uploading digital datasets to tDAR, 4) providing metadata about what is in each dataset and what variables it contains, and 5) relating datasets created through the use of tDAR ontologies. We also have been exploring how comparable our Archaic datasets are in terms of taphonomy and contexts sampled, and working on measuring environmental and demographic variation during the Archaic period. By the end of the summer, we hope to begin to consider our research questions concerning the use of aquatic animals more directly.

For me personally, this summer project has meant little chance to be outside as much as I would prefer or to develop the muscles and fieldwork tan that I often do. Regardless, because the Archaic period was my first love in North American archaeology and this project is giving me an opportunity to revisit my dissertation research on the Koster site, it also is pretty exciting for me. Both collaboration with other zooarchaeologists, and looking at data I know well with new perspectives is a lot of fun. So if you encounter me this summer and find me slightly glassy eyed from staring at the computer screen, rest assured that I’m still absorbed in archaeology!

 

IUP at the SHA

SHA Meeting SignIt’s a new year and a new semester here at IUP and I, like many archaeologists, kicked off 2016 by attending the Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.  This was my first international conference, so I was very excited to see some presentations, network with other archaeologists, and reconnect with old friends and colleagues.  I have always felt that attending professional conferences is an important aspect of being an archaeologist, especially as a student.  Conferences are a place where professionals come together to share their research and build professional relationships with one another.  These meetings are particularly valuable for those who are just starting their careers, as they not only help you expand your knowledge of the field, but they allow you to meet potential employers or other individuals who can help to guide you through the somewhat unique process of becoming an archaeologist.  For instance, I met a group of students and their advisors, Dr. Neusius and Dr. Chiarulli, at my first regional conference in 2013.  They spent half an evening telling me about the graduate program they were affiliated with, which I had never heard of before, and gave me their business cards to hold onto until it was time to apply to grad school.  The program sounded great, so I kept it in mind as I finished up my degree.  Three years later, here I am at IUP.

Conferences are great for a number of reasons.  In addition to the professional advantages I just mentioned, they tend to be a lot of fun.  Everyone is excited and happy to be there, and they are all raving about the latest archaeological news and making silly archaeological jokes that no one outside of this bizarre little world would understand.  You also realize, especially at a conference the size of the SHA (attendance was approximately 1,400 people), how small a community this field truly is.  Everyone seems to be well acquainted, and if they aren’t, they become acquainted.  In my experience these meetings have always seemed to be about 50% business, 50% family reunion.  I love it.

Me, dropping some knowledge about the black powder industry in western Pennsylvania at the 2016 SHA.

Me, dropping some knowledge about the black powder industry in western Pennsylvania.

The SHA was similar in many ways to the smaller conferences I’ve attended in the past, but there were also a number of differences.  First of all, this conference was much bigger and had an incredibly diverse set of symposiums and forums.  There were a lot of talks on North American archaeology, but also a number of presentations on work done in Europe.  There were also a lot of symposiums and posters on underwater archaeology, which I very much enjoyed.  In relation to that, one of my favorite new experiences at this conference was the way people often introduced themselves:

“Hi Ashley, I’m ______.  So, are you terrestrial or underwater?”

That’s not a question I would expect to hear in any other setting.

Despite the size of the SHA, I was very happy to see so many familiar faces there, including a number of people from IUP.  Our little graduate program was well represented, with a number of students (past and current) and faculty in attendance.  In fact, Dr. Ford calculated that approximately 1% of the population of the SHA this year was affiliated with IUP, which is not bad for a young program this size!  Most of the faculty and students presented in various formats, including posters, symposiums, and forums.  I was very impressed by everyone’s work, and I’m glad we were able to share what we do with the larger archaeological community!

Second year student Jay Taylor presents on his thesis research at the 2016 SHA conference.

Second year student Jay Taylor presenting on his research at Hanna’s Town.

My classmates enjoyed the conference as well, and all of them felt it was beneficial to them professionally.  I asked a few of them what their favorite part was, and these were some of their answers:

“My favorite part was the sheer energy of being surrounded by so many archaeologists coming from diverse backgrounds and interests, coming together to share ideas.” – Hannah

“Seeing old colleagues and friends … I was genuinely excited this year because I can share my thesis research with people I have known for years.” – Dave

“One of my favorite sessions was on European Archaeology. While the two chairs couldn’t make it, the remaining speakers’ talks were interesting and really broadened my thoughts on field work across the world.” – Kate

Spring is conference season for archaeologists, so we’ve got a few more meetings coming up that many of us will be attending and presenting at.  These include the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference in Ocean City, MD (March 10-13), the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting in Orlando (April 6-10), and the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Annual Meeting in West Middlesex, PA (April 15-17).  Now, as I and my cohort enter our final semester of graduate school, is the best possible time for us to participate in these events, as they provide us a place to network with other professionals and share the hard work we’ve done for our theses with our peers.

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Dr. Ben Ford (far left) and an assortment of past and current IUP students at the SHA!