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

IUP at the SHPO, Part 1

By: Hannah Harvey

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Dave Breitkreutz hard at work mapping a report

This fall, IUP’s archaeology program is being well represented at the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). David Breitkreutz and myself, both “third-year” grad students, are currently working as independent contractors helping to process a backlog of archaeological survey reports into PA’s Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS). This work is part of a larger project to design and implement a new SHPO-wide data management system, which is serving as mitigation for the destruction of an archaeological site.

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At the start of the project, a wall of backlogged reports!

The day-to-day work is fairly straightforward: grab a report, enter report data into the CRGIS database, map the survey area in GeoMedia (which links to the report record in the CRGIS web interface), put the report in a folder, slap on a label, file it in the record room… and repeat! Sounds pretty simple, and for many reports it is that easy. However, we’ve been learning that each survey and each report is unique due to the nature of the undertaking, the terrain, the consultants’ reporting styles, and whether or not sites were recorded. Naturally, a few of these reports are problem children and very difficult to process, especially when the report is older than I am and the volume with all the project maps has vanished. Needless to say, the variety keeps things interesting!

Even when the work feels a little repetitive, it is an important part of the SHPO’s task of managing compliance-driven archaeological survey across the state. For every project, after the field and lab work has been completed, the report ends up at the SHPO where a trusty team of archaeological reviewers read the reports to assess the presence of sites, whether or not they’ll be impacted by the undertaking, and in some cases to evaluate their eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places. These folks are responsible for ensuring that significant archaeological sites are given appropriate consideration (whether avoidance or mitigation) as projects move forward. After a report has been accepted by the SHPO, it needs to be recorded and mapped within CRGIS so that we can keep a record of the locations and results of these surveys. That’s where Dave and I come in! As we process reports, they become searchable within CRGIS and available to consultants and researchers. Without this processing, the locations and findings of these surveys are effectively “hidden” from consultants and SHPO staff alike.

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As the reports are processed, they get filed in the SHPO record room.

Many aspects of this job are extremely educational and dovetail nicely with the things we learned in our graduate classes. For me personally, it’s been a fun challenge to work with an unfamiliar GIS application (even if I’m still partial to ArcMap). Plus, reading through all these reports is like a whirlwind course in some really cool PA archaeology! But looking at the bigger picture, it’s been helpful to learn what happens to reports and how they are reviewed. Seeing the tail end of the process helps me to better appreciate the importance of careful work in the field, the lab, and in creating clear and understandable reports. After all, once a site has been excavated, it has been destroyed, but that information will continue to exist within these reports and maps.

The Archaeological Services Center at IUP

By Bill Chadwick

The Archaeological Services Center (Center) is a faculty-led applied archaeology research center that utilizes graduate and undergraduate student workers located in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The Centers’ primary goal is to provide opportunities to both graduate and undergraduate students to obtain experience supervising and conducting field and laboratory archaeological projects prior to graduation. The Director of the Center, Dr. William Chadwick, is the only regular faculty staff member of the Center.

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Ashley McCuistion and Hannah Harvey digging test pits.

The Center offers a wide array of services to public and private organizations to assist in cultural resource and historic preservation projects required by state, federal and local laws or as part of environmental impact assessments. Since 1989, the center has conducted more than $5,000,000 in projects and technical assistance to agencies as diverse as the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Indiana County, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers–Pittsburgh District, the Allegheny National Forest and numerous planning commissions. The services that the Center provides include, but are not limited to, Geomorphological Reconnaissance and Geophysical Surveys, Consultation, Phase I discovery, Phase II evaluations, and Phase III excavations of significant archaeological sites. The Center is focused on those sites and projects located in the Upper Ohio Valley.

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Hannah Harvey and Emily Masters conducting a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey for Pennsylvania DOT.

Archaeological projects through the Center provide students opportunities to have hands-on experience working with some of the technologies that are at the forefront of archaeological research and the Cultural Resource Management (CRM) industry. The Center has access to the latest geospatial technologies including, but not limited to, real-time sub-meter accurate GPS units, a Nikon Total Data Station, a Leica Scan Station C10 3D Laser Scanner, and ESRI ArcMap software. The geophysical equipment and methods used on projects by the Center can include two Ground-Penetrating Radar systems, Gradiometry, Resistivity, Conductivity, Electromagnetic Induction, and Metal Detection. The available laboratory equipment includes an Olympus DELTA Professional XRF, a Nikon Eclipse E200 Polarizing Trinocular Microscope, and a Flote-Tech Flotation System. Geomorphological equipment that can be used during the projects include Edelman and Buck Augers, Gouge Augers, Piston Samplers, and sediment analysis equipment such as a drying oven, electronic scales, sediment splitters, and a set of sediment sieves and a sieve shaker.

Whether continuing on into graduate studies or entering the CRM industry, students who have the opportunity to participate in projects through the Center have a enhanced understanding of the real-world application of methods and technologies that are used to study archeological resources. This knowledge gained through the Center provides students experience beyond the classroom that is invaluable when moving from their academic lives into their professional careers.

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Off to work we go!

Voices from the Field – Hanna’s Town Sixteen Years Later: My Career has come full circle.

By David Breitkreutz

This summer I’ve been mostly keeping up with my thesis research – a spatial analysis of Hanna’s Town using geophysics. The IDS Multi-Array Stream X ground penetrating radar, the FM 256 Fluxgate Gradiometer, and the Syscal Kid electrical resistivity meter were employed to help determine the layout of the settlement, potentially locate evidence of the 1782 raid, and to determine the extent to which geophysical applications are useful in surveying large archaeological sites. The past few weeks I’ve been employed, with TRC, on a historic Phase II near Cumberland, Maryland. After work I’ve been analyzing the results of my geophysical investigations and actually writing the thesis.

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IDS Multi-Array Stream X GPR at Hanna’s Town.

While conducting background research, on previous archaeological and geophysical investigations at Hanna’s Town, I reminded myself that I worked at Hanna’s Town in the summer of 2000, while employed with Christine Davis Consultants, Inc. out of Verona, Pennsylvania. Enviroscan Inc. was sub-contracted to conduct geophysical investigations using magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar. This was the first geophysical investigation conducted at Hanna’s Town. Also, the project was my introduction to geophysical techniques and public archaeology.

That summer the Westmoreland County Historical Society sponsored their first archaeology day camp for children and teenagers, between the ages of 11-15. The students were treated to demonstrations by re-enactors, they screened dirt from our excavations, a few were allowed to “play” with the GPR, and the students were given field trips to Bushy Run. The most rewarding aspect of the project was teaching the students that had a genuine interest in archaeology. The most frustrating thing for me was debating, with the chaperons, why it’s unproductive to have the students collect cigarette butts at a Colonial site.

Over the course of the next sixteen years I became less condescending towards volunteers, avocationalists, students, and supervisors. I had learned that interest in archaeology can greatly aid in site preservation. Public archaeology/history can also generate a pride in local history. During my resistivity survey, earlier this summer, a WCHS volunteer re-enactor approached me asking me “can I help you.” I jokingly informed him that his help will be “greatly appreciated” and that I needed the “electrodes placed in 50cm intervals.” In the end he really didn’t want to help and only wanted to know if I had permission to be on the property. The re-enactor was there to guide students, from local elementary schools, around the site. There was at least six bus-loads of children per day at the site during the early summer days. It was great to see these field trips.

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Syscal Kid Electrical Resistivity Survey at Hanna’s Town

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Article dated July 5, 2000.

While researching the Davis project I found an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, dated July 5 2000, titled High-tech ‘dig’ aims to find Hanna’s Town buildings . Unfortunately, the pictures from the newspaper article were too black to distinguish a younger and thinner Dave. Nonetheless I was seized with a sense of nostalgia. The “trip down memory lane” made me realize (or fear) that my entire career in archaeology has come full circle. Sixteen years later I am working on the same site, arguing with the same volunteers, while asking the same research questions using geophysical techniques. Within the article former WCHS Director James Steeley stated that the goal of the project was to locate where the houses and buildings “really were.” This is exactly the same research objectives as my thesis. In fact this dilemma has stifled all archaeologists that have conducted research at Hanna’s Town. The biggest lesson I learned here is that the results, and methods used, from an archaeological or geophysical investigation may not answer the research objectives set forth. Even if the research objectives weren’t accomplished it is still important to interpret the results from the data collected. I won’t divulge my preliminary results from my thesis research. But I will say that I keep on telling myself “a good thesis is a completed thesis”.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Fort Necessity 2016

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Fort Necessity 2016 field crew. L to R: Mike White head (supervisor), Eden VanTries, James Miller, Hannah Harvey, Samantha Jacobs, Dwayne Santella (Cal U), and Cheryl Frankum.

This week we will finish excavations at Fort Necessity National Battlefield. It’s been a good seven weeks, but all good things must come to an end. This is actually our second season at Fort Necessity. Last summer we conducted a large-scale geophysical survey using ground-penetrating radar, gradiometry, and resistivity. This summer we tested more than thirty geophysical anomalies, as well as completed a shovel test pit and metal detecting survey. We’ll be back out at the site in August to do another metal detecting survey as part of a class taught by Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (check back later in the summer for more on that). All of this work is funded by a grant from the National Park Service (NPS) through the Cooperative Ecosystem Study Units Network.

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Gradiometer results from the 2015 geophysical survey at Fort Necessity National Battlefield. The the fort itself, with its earthworks, palisade, and storehouse, is situated near the center of the image.

The Fort Necessity partnership between IUP and NPS has the dual goals of providing good real-world experience for archaeology students while providing the park with high quality research that will help them interpret and manage this nationally significant cultural resource. For those of you not familiar with Fort Necessity, it is the most recognizable landmark from a young George Washington’s foray into western Pennsylvania, during which he helped touch off the French and Indian War, and by extension the Seven Years War, which is arguably the first world war…kind of a big deal. But back to the project goals – this has certainly been a great opportunity for students. A total of 11 graduate and undergraduate students have honed their archaeological skills over the past two years, while making some money, and living in exotic Uniontown. For some of these students this is their first taste of CRM life and nearly all of them have loved it.

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Buried 18th century A Horizon.

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Clay pipestem (photo by Cheryl Farnkum).

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Hannah and James hard at work.

We’ve also fulfilled our objective of providing the park with updated archaeological data. We’ve been able to identify nearly all of the geophysical anomalies. Most of the features date to after the George Washington period, however. Much of what we’ve found relates to the roughly two centuries between the battle and the establishment of the park. We’ve uncovered field drains, old roads, reenactor campfires, and fill episodes. But there have been highlights as well. Near the fort we uncovered a buried A horizon containing 18th century artifacts. We’ve also uncovered pieces of shot that may help us reconstruct the battle and several artifacts that date to the time of the fort. And we’ve still got a week to go.

If you are in Fayette County next week, stop by and see us.