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Spring Break at Sapelo Island

Thursday: March 19, 2015

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I was invited to Sapelo to help a friend collect data for his thesis, so of course I had to go! This was one of those times I was happy my other university classes were cancelled since they are not on the same schedule as his (which is where my current online class is). See, there are benefits of being a lowly adjunct;)

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I’ve only ever been to Sapelo in the thick of summer, so heading down in March was a dream. Of course, getting there always stinks – and this time more than usual: my engine is sitting in pieces, so I had to take a bus to Indy to then have a 15 hour car ride. (Another win for my classes being cancelled since I cannot drive anywhere! Positive thinking, right?)

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The weather was gorgeous. The sky was blue. The only drawback was gnats. Gnats, of all things. Since when are gnats anything other than a mild nuisance? I tell you what – they are on my shitlist with mosquitos, and I have the look of chicken pox to prove it.

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The location was equally amazing. Normally, we are in the thick of a Georgian jungle, spending days just machete-ing palmettos, vines, and small trees. This work was staged in a broad field, with giant loblolly (I think) pines looming over us, casting shadows that made the sunshine dabble-y and delicious.

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Rather than standard shovel test probes (STPs), we did 50x50cm units. Slower, of course, but more rigorous data collection. And quite a great exercise for a rusty someone like me who missed a season of field work – lots of wall cutting and floor leveling to be done!

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The people were awesome too. Our school met up with some UGA students – in fact Zach was tagging onto Brandon’s dissertation work, so Brandon was ultimately in charge. We enjoyed many discussions of Star Trek, video games, and anthropology. I couldn’t have asked for a better group! Plus, I was able to shadow Brandon for a short time to see what fires came up and how to best put them out or prevent them – things I will need to think about for this summer’s HPF granted survey if we are chosen. I also got more experience with the total station, and learned how to resect (rather than backsight)!

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We played a few games – one of the traditional Sapelo games now being the “paper game” (some people call it Illustrations). Have you ever tried it? It is like a paper version of telephone mixed with pictionary. You start with a phrase, pass it to your left to someone who draws it, then it is passed again for someone to guess the phrase, passed again for a new drawing, and so on and so forth until it comes back to you. For instance, my phrase morphed into a stick figure with hairy armpits being attacked by weather. As you can guess, a lot of laughs are born with this game!

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Aside from the excitement of the work itself, and the friendly chatter of the group, the most exciting thing was that several students found a small stingray trapped in a tidal pool and rescued it. I missed it, but I saw the photos. Pretty cool! And I guess last time, there were manatees swimming with everyone!

 

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End of 3rd Semester Update

Thursday: December 13, 2012

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Well, well, has it been another semester already?

I realize that this blog cannot have the priority I wish it could until my work at school is done. Which is ok, considering I am doing so much and it’s thrilling, but I feel like I have so much to say!

Over break, I will try to update some, but no promises. Here are some pics to hold you over:

Pirate me burning GRE study material.

My husband, housemate, and I throw an annual Halloween party. As hosts, the three of us dress similar, and this year we were pirates, arg. My friend Jaclyn and I burned her GRE study materials. It was therapeutic.

My undergrad gang, mascot included.

I think the photobomber was friends with the dude who took the pic, but I am not sure. My cohorter Anna calls these three my “posse” because we hang out a lot, but really I am more like their rescued and adopted stray animal because they are experts at UIndy stuff, and I am always asking them where to go, who to talk to, and what things mean. My husband teases me that I can get along so well with people literally 10 years younger than me, but I can just as easily get along with people 10 years older, so I don’t take offense. Maybe I am an ageless spirit.

Enjoying dinner and drinks at Shallow's.

Minus faculty, the bio department, and about 2 others, the above group is pretty much all the people I hang around with at school. It is a mix of grads and undergrads. It was to celebrate the end of our Theory of Archaeology class, though not everyone in the photo took it; some were there to celebrate Zach’s 21st birthday too. And Amy is graduating this semester. It was just a good time to finally get together and celebrate.

In the trench, cleaning up.

Those of us who have been involved with excavations at the Lew Wallace Study were invited to a private sushi dinner hosted by the new owners of Lew Wallace’s house. It was a pretty cool experience – not only to see his house, or to have a personal chef preparing food, but the owners were very friendly. The tornado that blew through and left us in a hail storm? I could have done without that. Anyway, when I got there, Anne told me people had mistaken my photograph for hers. I wasn’t sure what she meant until I saw it on the table: I was in the newspaper. Here is a link to the article: History Beneath Us Returns to Study.

Site survey in a field.

This photo was taken in northern Indiana. While there isn’t much to look at, it captures how unexciting some aspects of archaeology is. Dr. M is using the total station, sighting in the prism that is being held by someone at the copse of trees, far enough away you cannot see them. The purpose was to lock in on the backsight, so that the tripod could record points accurately on a grid created in previous work. We then walked the majority of this field, all the way back to the horizon line of the field, then returning to the street, then moving over a couple feet to return back to the horizon line. We flagged every significant item: broken ceramic pieces, unusual rocks (possible tools), historic brick pieces (there was a brick factory here once), and modern day trash (to do research on how garbage moves across the landscape). Then we went back to each and every flag with the prism, while someone sighted in the points. It was hot and unexciting except for the humor in company. Yet, I would always choose this type of work over my previous job (sorry chicas!).

I have much to share, but alas, I still have responsibilities. Tonight, I will be grading my students’ finals, reading some late submitted papers, and submitting final grades.

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Geophysics at Lew Wallace

Wednesday: November 2, 2011

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I was able to attend another digging weekend at Lew Wallace (bonus – it doubled as extra-credit!). This time, Dr. M worked with a team from IPFW (Dr. McCullough and Colin Graham) to collect geophysical data. I mostly sifted dirt with undergrad Kylie or helped clean up the trench with archaeologist Anne M in preparation for next season. Anna, another grad student, worked with Dr. M taking measurements with a total station. The other undergrads worked with the IPFW team for most of the day.

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The epic study of Lew Wallace. Note the colored flags - they were used to delineate survey areas.

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Dirt sifted through a screen. Ooooo.

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Anne and I in the "reflecting pool" that is unexpectedly deep.

Later, Kylie and I helped Colin take magnetometry readings by creating the path for him to walk along. First, he calibrated the machine above the earth’s surface for a base measurement to be used as a comparison. Then he walked the path as we moved it across the area to be scanned, taking overlapping parallel recordings. Once that was finished, he imported the data to a computer and checked out the preliminary results which I got to see. I tell you, it is much cooler seeing geophysics in action than reading long and dense articles on the subject!

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Colin calibrating the magnetometer.

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Kylie and I setting the path for Colin's next recording. (The excavation unit is seen next to me.)

I was also lucky enough to check out their ground penetrating radar device. It was not at all what I expected – kind of like a stroller with a monitor on it that gives you instant feedback. The feedback takes a little skill for interpretation but Dr. McCullough was super friendly and showed me how to read it.

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Archaeologists at work - excavating and total station.

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Anna holds the stadia rod with the prism on top so that Dr. M in the background can take the measurements with the total station.

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This is what a total station looks like. You may have seen it along a highway during road construction.

Dr. McCullough also brought out the resistivity machine to show me, which was not used due to all the trees. Unfortunately, moisture in the ground will interfere with the resistivity technique and Lew Wallace’s property had many beautiful old trees that ultimately would hold water at their roots.

I’d like to go into more detail about what each technique does, but I must take the small bits of time I have to post when I receive them. If you would like to learn more, check out the articles in my Library (particulary Kvamme’s Archaeogeophysics article) or do a quick web search – there is a lot of information out there to be had.

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Tuesday: November 1, 2011

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Week 7: Intergrating and Interpreting Data

Monday:

Monday’s lecture has been moved to later in the semester. Instead, we walked through how to turn our data collected with the total station into a contour map using Surfer 9. Then we had class discussion over the readings – chapter 17 from the book and I presented with others on three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Darwin Would Be Proud: Bioturbation, Dynamic Denudation, and the Power of Theory in Science
  • Geoarchaeology and the Mid-Holocene Landscape History of the Greater Southeast
  • A Geomorphological Approach to Reconstructing Archaeological Settlement Patterns Based on Surficial Artifact Distribution: Replacing Humans on the Landscape

Wednesday:

Wednesday was a lab day, which was optional if you could find time outside of class to create the contour map, which I most certainly did. Check it:

I made it in pretty orange colors, and chose the Kriging option. The green dots represent all the points where we held the stadia rod. The Smith Mall would be below this image, the library would be above it The rectangular pattern traces the sidewalk edge of the landscaping. Esch Hall is to the left and Martin Hall is at the bottom right. [Basically, in the photos from last week’s post, I was standing just about where it is labeled 102 on the bottom right, just next to 107, looking toward the bottom left corner.]

UIndy contour map

University of Indianapolis campus contour map generated from data collected by a total station and processed in Surfer 9.


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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Tuesday: November 1, 2011

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Week 6: Lab Methods & Stone Sourcing Techniques

Monday:

On Monday, we went outside to use a total station in order to collect data for a contour map. We chose a corner by the library, then pushed a pencil into the grass to mark our Datum 1 and told the computer it was at coordinate 1000, 1000, 100. I was chosen to set up the tripod and level it since most others had, or were introduced to it the prior week. The steps are easy but I didn’t weigh enough to push it into the ground, and leveling a triangle takes skill so it took me a while. Then we set Datum 2 and each student had to take 50 points and hold the stadia rod for 50 points so that we had a total of 400 measurements. By the time class was over, we only had 250 points taken.

Wednesday:

We went outside to finish taking the measurements, and I took some photos of campus while this was being done, so I will share those with you. (Boy had just given me a new camera he purchased off my brother: a Canon PowerShot S95 which I know nothing about because he got it in Hong Kong and it did not come with an English booklet.) I did not take any photos of the total station but I do have some from another dig I participated in which I will share in a later post.

Before the measurements were completed, Dr. M realized it may take us a while so we held our normal discussions out on the lawn until it got dark and went inside. We talked about chapter 16 and covered these three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Raw Material Utilization in Carroll County, Indiana: A Small-Scale Analysis of Diachronic Patterns in the Usage of Attica, Kenneth, and Wyandotte Cherts
  • Sourcing Lithic Artifacts by Instrumental Analysis
  • Macroscopic and Microscopic Analysis of Chert. A Proposal for Standardisation of Methodology and Terminology
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University of Indianapolis campus, looking at Smith Mall (the "quad" area). The lower half of this image is a large portion of our contour map.

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University of Indianapolis campus, looking at Esch Hall. The foreground is a large portion of our contour map.

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Fall colors hiding Martin Hall at the University of Indianapolis.

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Class Notes: Geoarchaeology

Tuesday: November 1, 2011

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Week 5: Field Methods & Geophysics

Monday:

Archaeologists often use a total station to record the site topography and artifact locations. A total station records X, Y, and Z coordinates by shooting a laser situated in a fixed place at a prism on a stadia rod at other locations around the site. It calculates some wicked math (probably basic trigonometry actually) and creates a digital file which can then be inputted to other programs for analysis. We went outside to see how this is done, setting up the total station tripod over a water drain for our Datum 1 point. Because most of the students were experienced with a total station from field experiences, it was a quick introduction for those of us without prior knowledge of it.

Archaeologists also employ Google Earth, using their database of aerial photos and historic imagery to locate possible locations of archaeological sites. These can be seen by discolorations of the soil, particularly along floodplains which were magnets for ancient populations.

Archaeologists also need to know how to read a topographic map, so we took some time to go over an old map of the school’s area, back when it was known as Indiana Central. Archeologists work with maps primarily at 1:24,000 scale. This means that it is 7.5 minutes latitude by 7.5 minutes longitude. Also indicated are northing and easting units. One section is a square mile, or 640 acres. You can get a small plastic card to further break down the sections, into quadrants and smaller – down to 1/8 square miles.

Wednesday:

We went over how to use Surfer 9, which is a mapping program that the total station file can be imported into, allowing creation of a contour map.

We also talked about the upcoming field trip to Lew Wallace, where geophysics would be seen in action.

Then we went into class discussion on chapter 15 and I presented on these three articles (see the Library for bibliographic information):

  • Current Practices in Archaeogeophysics: Magnetics, Resistivity, Conductivity, and Ground-Penetrating Radar
  • Situating Remote Sensing in Anthropological Archaeology
  • Palaeotopography: The Use of GIS Software with Data Derived from Resistivity Surveys and Stratigraphic Profiles to Reconstruct Sites and Past Terrains


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