The Chickaree Hill Pictograph

On March 3rd we held our second Graduate Colloquium of the semester! We invited Archaeologist Kenneth Burkett to come in-person and talk to us about the Chickaree Hill Pictograph (36CB8), currently the only known prehistoric pictograph site recorded in Pennsylvania! Kenneth Burkett is the Executive Director of the Jefferson County History Center and Field Associate Archaeologist with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. He recently was awarded the Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) Crabtree Award, and soon he will be partaking in a 2-year grant study investigating the recorded petroglyph sites in Pennsylvania for their conditions and National Register eligibility status.

The Chickaree pictograph is located on private property in the town of Chickaree in Jackson Township, Cambria County, on a north-sloping upper bench of Laurel Ridge. It was first recorded in 1975 by Dr. Virginia Gerald who was a professor at IUP at the time, and also recorded several other times throughout the eighties and nineties before Burkett began to explore it more in depth in 2017. Advancements in technology and GPS systems have allowed for a more accurate recording of the pictograph’s location.

The pictograph itself is located on the ceiling of a small rock overhang facing north, on a large, sandstone rock tor. It does not appear to somewhere where people would have ‘camped out’ as it faces directly into the wind. What appears to be a test unit was opened up sometime in the past directly in front of the overhang, and the soil beneath the overhang was removed too. The place the rock art was drawn in is a well-protected spot, away from the dripline from rain, in a depressed surface away from weather effects, and also difficult to reach without something to elevate one’s height.

The red, circular pictograph is very small, measuring around 14 cm in diameter. It depicts a bird-like figure with orientation of the detached head facing east and the feet facing west, with what has been interpreted as a tail, and with the body and wings spread out as lines forming a horizontal hourglass pattern. Image digitalization aids like DStrech have been useful in making the patterns more visible.

The pictograph was not painted on with something liquid, rather it was applied by abrading something hard over the stone. A hand-held digital microscope and a portable XRF spectrometer were used to learn more about the pigment and how it might have been applied. The red pigment had a high iron content, which was determined to be the mineral hematite. Burkett used experimental archaeology to determine how siderite could have been heated with an open wood burning campfire to be converted into hematite. He placed a sample of siderite in embers and coals for 2 hours. This allowed the siderite, which prior to firing produces a brown color on a streak plate, to convert to hematite, which produced a more reddish-brown color that was consistent with hematite samples from regional prehistoric sites and the Chickaree pictograph itself.

Burkett then discussed similarities with other sites where hematite traces have been found and sites with similar figures, such as the Indian Cave Petroglyphs aka the Harrison County Pictograph site (46HS1) in West Virginia, petroglyphs within the Upper Ohio and Susquehanna river basins, or the Browns Island site (46HK8) in West Virginia. He questioned why there have not been recorded pictographs in Pennsylvania, besides the Chickaree pictograph. He suggested that perhaps they did not survive as the use of hematite and other natural pigments made them easy to be eroded or degraded from the weather and climate, as well as vegetation, which would both obscure and chemically deteriorate the images. Records from the Sullivan Expedition in 1779 stated that Native American iconography was found on trees or logs, which might be connected to the lack of pictographs found in Pennsylvania, as well.

Although Kenneth Burkett concluded that it is impossible to confirm whether the figure is an authentic prehistoric Native American pictograph or not, there are several considerations he pointed out. For one, the pictograph was put in a place that was naturally protected which contributed to its’ survival over the many years. It is also small and concealed, which is opposite of modern graffiti or vandalism which is typically large and visible to attract attention and was not present at the site. The figure itself is stylistically similar to known prehistoric figures including regional components, however the encirclement of the figure is questionable as it is not common within known styles of other Pennsylvania rock art. And finally, the hematite that was used is expected as the correct pigment.

Burkett also discussed other sites that included large rock landforms that show the importance of these landforms, as well as other parts of the landscape, to prehistoric communities. The Parker’s Landing site in Pennsylvania, popular for the 179 petroglyphs carved into a group of rocks by the Allegheny River, was one such site. He also emphasized that although we are archaeologists, we need to look around at sites in different and new perspectives, such as how the sun might hit parts of the site, or even if it is not a place where people might have settled, they still could have buried someone there or created rock art at the site if the area was important to them.

Burkett emphasized that there are most likely more pictographs out there, but indifference and ignorance might play a role in their inability to be found. However, with public education, hopefully more rock art sites can and will be discovered.

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3D Archaeology: Tech, Techniques, and Applications for Artec3D Scanners

On October 5th, the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council held their first in a series of four programs in honor of 2021 Virtual Archaeology Month. This session was titled 3D Archaeology: Tech, Techniques, and Applications for Artec3D Scanners, and was led by Lisa Saladino Haney, Ph.D., assistant curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Josh Cannon Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College.

The Artec Space Spider.

Haney started by describing the types of 3D scanners that she is using and that could be applied to future field archaeology projects. These Artec3D scanners are the Space Spider and Eva. The Space Spider is a handheld, portable scanner that uses blue light technology that works best when scanning smaller objects or finer textures or details. It also works well with complex geometry, sharp edges, and incised ceramics. It has internal temperature stabilization, meaning it works well in the winter and summer. The Eva works better with larger objects and is also portable. It uses structured light scanning technology to capture its images. Because of its larger field of vision, it can capture more in less time. Combining both scanners allow for the collection of even more details. The presenters stated that these scanners work much better with shiny surfaces than photogrammetry. Overall, the scanners capture reflective surfaces, have a higher level of accuracy, and work faster in post-processing than photogrammetry.

The Artec Eva.

Dr. Haney and Dr. Cannon are working with University of Pittsburg honor students in a museum internship program to instruct them on how to use this technology, and once trained can hopefully send them to other sections of the Carnegie Museum where needed. Projects the scanners are being used for right now include an exhibition titled From Egypt to Pittsburgh, in which the team are scanning small fragments from a 1922 excavation from an Egyptian city called Amarna, in the hopes that the pulverized royal statuary pieces can be reconstructed and used for future research. Another project, Egypt on the Nile, plans on scanning a model of a Dahshur funerary boat to create both a virtual and physical model. They also plan to use the scanners to scan broken pot pieces to then create magnetic replicas that can be used to “put the pot back together” in a sort of puzzle, increasing accessibility and the chance to interact with ‘artifacts’ for the public.

The 3D models created from the scanners are extremely accurate, with precise and detailed measurements. This allows the data from the models to be of high quality scientifically, making them great for sharing to researchers around the world, especially in times of covid where travel and use of collections is limited. The models also aid with conservation efforts, allowing pieces to be brought out, scanned, and then put safely away, with the data being used for study and public engagement. Aligning pottery sherds with the Artec3D software that are difficult to glue together, was also illustrated as a positive example of the scanners’ possibilities.

The application for scanners to be used in the field during an archaeological excavation is promising. The scanners could be used to record small finds quickly and could also be used to scan things in situ. The models produced are more detailed, more accurate, and can be done faster than hand drawings. For archeological field surveys, battery packs can be attached to belts to make the light scanners portable and give archaeologists the ability to scan in real time. However, a laptop is needed to be attached as well, to upload the scanned data. The scanner captures images instantly, the Eva can do a square meter at a time. Josh Cannon predicted that it could scan a hearth in about ten minutes. While the scanners can handle temperature changes, it might not fare well with elements like sand or dust, but if taken care of can last a long time.

The files of data from the scans are large, and therefore external storage sources are required to remove data from laptops. If files are kept on laptops, processing times will be slowed as the hard drive fills up. The presentation ended with the viewing of a scan of a wolverine skull. It took eight different scans over an hour to create the entire skull. Even the smallest details were visible, and it took up over 1 GB of data.

The presentation was incredibly interesting, and hopefully this technology will be used to aid archaeological excavations in the future. Please consider registering for the other three programs being held throughout the month of October!

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https://sourcegraphics.com/3d/scanners/artec/eva/

https://www.javelin-tech.com/3d/3d-scanners/artec-space-spider/

 

Working At the Carnegie Museum: A Love Affair.

By: Kristina Gaugler

The Carnegie Museum and I have a long history.

Early photograph of the Hall of Architecture

I was born and raised in the North Side of Pittsburgh, and like many a “city kid” I was shuttled by school bus to and from the Carnegie Museum throughout grade school, middle school, and high school. I have vivid memories of sitting at the long wooden tables in the museum cafeteria, under enormous glass windows, scarfing my brown bag lunch so I could get back to exploring. I was the kid who shushed classmates who were interrupting the docents, who asked a thousand questions, read every single word on the exhibit displays, and who didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. When I was an angst-ridden teenager, I would hang out at the museum after school, moping around the hall of architecture or sitting alone in the replica Egyptian tomb. Visiting the museum now, so many years later, I still have the same feelings of comfort and wonder as I did when I was younger. As an archaeologist and general history enthusiast, I love all museums, but the Carnegie definitely holds a special place for me. It feels like my museum.

My purpose in writing this post is to share some of my experiences working and volunteering at the Carnegie. I hope that I also highlight the notion that outreach programs and education within public institutions is valuable, worth our efforts, and fun for people of all ages.

I went to the University of Pittsburgh for my undergraduate in anthropology. While attending Pitt I had a work-study position through the Carnegie at the “Bone Hunters Quarry,” where I taught visitors (mostly school groups) about extinct animals through the excavation of a fake site. I learned that if you gave a small child a chisel and told them to dig wherever they wanted, you were very likely to ignite a spark within them that excited their curiosity in the past. Although, on occasion a spark was ignited within them to throw the chisel, sometimes narrowly missing your own head, those times were fun too. Either way, this was the first time that I really began to discover how much I enjoyed talking to visitors about archaeology and history.

Talking with visitors during Artifact I.D. day at the Carnegie

After graduating from Pitt, I found work as an archaeological field technician. Eventually though, I decided that I wanted to take a break from full time field work to prepare to go back to graduate school. Through a series of fortunate events I began, once again, to work for the Carnegie Museum. This time I volunteered at the Edward O’Neil Research Center, which is the Carnegie Museums off-site collections facility. My supervisor and friend, Amy Covell, allowed me the freedom to work on projects that interested me in the lab. When I started volunteering at the annex, the building was in the process of being renovated and many artifacts were going to be moved to new locations. Thus, I began my time there by helping to build permanent supports for fragile materials, including prehistoric pottery, stone tools, and glass artifacts. I learned proper handling of artifacts in accordance with the most current curatorial procedures, and I learned conservation techniques used in cleaning objects, including removing old plastics, adhesives, and ink that were used in the early days of museum storage and curation.

My favorite task at the museum however, was to be a part of the educational outreach programs. Last June I had the opportunity to speak with visitors about archaeology during the Carnegie’s “After Dark Program,” a monthly series where guests can come to the museum in the evening to explore, eat, drink, and hear lectures on various subjects. Another one of my favorite programs at the museum is “Artifact Identification Day.” This event gives visitors the opportunity to bring in their heirlooms and artifacts to have them identified by staff. It is always amazing, and sometimes humorous (see photo of me holding a Lodoicea) to help identify the items that people bring.

Holding a Lodoicea, or sea coconut, during Artifact I.D. Day. Lodoicea is the largest seed in the world! (And yes, it does look like a butt)

 

I have often thought of the Carnegie as being a museum of a museum. The Carnegie began acquiring artifacts and creating exhibits over a hundred years ago, and many of those early exhibits and artifacts are still on display. Working and volunteering at the museum gave me the opportunity to be a part of the team of people who were helping to conserve and protect these cherished items for future generations. To me, protecting artifacts and archaeological sites begins by showing people why they should care about them. For this reason, programs and institutions that promote stewardship of the past are incredibly important. History is made up of millions of stories. One of those stories is bound to pique the interest of someone! I’m very thankful for my time at the Carnegie, and I look forward to many more years of learning and visiting!

Photo of “Early Hall of Architecture” from: http://carnegiemuseums.org/about-us/our-history/

IUP DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY