Monday, November 12, 2012

Thesis Prospectus and Progress

I presented my thesis prospectus a couple of weeks ago.  It went REALLY well! I'm very pleased. I am developing an artifact seriation and typology of bridle bits for the Middle Atlantic region. I will present a poster on my project in March at the 2013 Middle Atlantic Archaeology Conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia. For my prospectus, I provided an outline of things to come:

-- Theoretical approaches to artifact analysis
-- A review of previously made seriations and typologies
-- An investigation into the significance of the equine during the Contact Period
-- A final analysis of the bridle bit as a tool and witness to the past

I first became interested in horse furniture while I was working at Ferry Farm. I presume my interest stemmed from my passion for equestrian activities. Horse furniture in archaeology evolved from a natural blending of my two passions: archaeology and horses. I conducted a great deal of research at the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia. I believe I mentioned this in a post from the summer but I can't express how wonderful it was to have the opportunity to work with this facility.

I am expected to graduate in May of 2013, so I will need to crank out the chapters as efficiently as possible!  I still have several places to visit, which will be a little stressful. I'm looking forward to viewing the finished product!  I hope that I can add to it in the coming years.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Richard Grubb & Associates Internship

For my second "class" this semester, I will be completing an Internship with Richard Grubb & Associates. This CRM firm is located in Cranburry, New Jersey. I will work eight hours a week with the firm throughout the duration of the semester. While participating in the internship, I will accomplish the following tasks: pedestrian survey, data entry, conduct deed research, assist with PhaseI excavations and I will shadow a PI during a monitoring project. I'm looking forward to the experience!  I have a final project, which is to write up a Phase I report.  Not to worry, I won't be digging.  Instead, I will conduct all of the historical research pertaining to the house I'm living in right now.  I'll have to collect maps associated with the property and chase the deeds as far back as I can go. In addition to completing my internship, I recently started working two part-time positions.  The first is with a local pottery studio, just a little job to make some cash. The second job is with Monmouth University.  I will be working under the supervision of Dr. Rich Veit and I will be cataloging artifacts excavated from a prehistoric site in New Jersey.  The collection was excavated in the 1970's from Turkey Swamp State Park and it appears that a catalog was made at one time.  Unfortunately the artifacts and documents fell to the wayside, I'm not sure of the circumstances.  The park has requested that the artifacts be returned.  Before they leave, I have to catalog the artifacts.  They've already been washed, sorted and labeled.  Most of the artifacts have a detailed artifact tag with them, which should make the cataloging process a little easier.   I'm excited to  work with so many prehistoric artifacts!  New Jersey has many different lithic materials compared to my part of Virginia, so this will be a great learning experience. Can't wait!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A New Semester!

This semester is sure to go by fairly quickly. Over the next six weeks, I will be easing into my last required course- Historical Archaeology. The class is taught by Dr. Rich Veit and is sure to be both educational and entertaining! We will be covering a lot of different topics. I'm excited because two of the books are connected to Virginia, my home state. Go Virginia! We are reading the following:

  • In Small Things Forgotten, by James Deetz
  • A Guide to Colonial Artifacts of America and Martin's Hundred, by Ivor Noel Hume (There should be a symbol above that "O" but I can't find it in blogger... Thank you blogspot. Fail.)
  • Everyday Architecture of the Mid-Atlantic, Looking at Buildings and Landscapes, by Gabrielle M. Lanier and Bernard L. Herman.
  • "I, too, am America" Archaeological Studies of African-American Life, edited by Theresa A. Singleton
  • Archaeological Perspectives on the Battle of Little Bighorn, by Douglas D. Scott, et al.
  • Digging New Jersey's Past, by Richard Veit
  • Laboring in the Fields of the Lord, Spanish Missions and Southeastern Indians, by Jerald T. Milanich
  • The Archaeology of American Capitalism, by Christopher N. Matthews
We have several other articles that will supplement the course as well. I'm looking forward to the reading list- I've only read two of the titles on this list prior to the class.

For my second class, I will be completing an internship with a local CRM firm. (Local as in, the firm is in New Jersey. I actually have to drive about a hour away to get there but that's alright.)

In addition to class, I will be preparing my prospectus presentation. I'm currently scheduled to present my prospectus in October. The date is still TBA.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

National Sporting Library and Museum

I was one of over fifty applicants who applied for the John H. Daniels Fellowship program. The purpose of the fellowship is to fund a research stay at the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia. I can not go into too much detail about the specifics of my project.  Instead, I will say that this facility houses one of the largest collections of primary documents related to field and equestrian sports. I gained access to books that were published in the seventeenth century! I collected a a significant amount of research that will help me in the upcoming year.  I feel more confident than ever about my thesis project. Thank you National Sporting Library for selecting me as a fellow.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"I dig George!" Archaeology at Ferry Farm

I am a former employee of Ferry Farm, Archaeology Lab in Virginia. I absolutely loved working for this facility and I miss it terribly! The George Washington Foundation held a field school this summer with two universities. When I learned that I might be able to participate as a volunteer, I jumped at the opportunity!  When I worked for Ferry Farm, my duties were usually restricted to the lab (usually). I did not have the opportunity to dig. I volunteered one work-day a week in the field for six weeks.  While volunteering, I recovered a minnie ball, several ceramic sherds and other "typical" historic artifacts. The crew was friendly, outgoing and absolutely wonderful to work with. I had a grand time. A few sherds of Mary Washington's china were recovered from the site, I did not find these sherd but they were still my favorite find of the summer. My favorite modern artifact was the old cassette tape, a little worse for wear. The site was massive and the Virginia summer heat offered no favors.  I would recommend this field school program to any Undergraduate or Graduate student looking for a first-time field school experience.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the final week.  I came to Middleburg a few days ago to conduct my thesis research- something that I will be working on over the course of the following year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Museum of Natural History

Since returning from Nevis, I have been traveling to the National Museum of Natural History one day a week.  I have had the good fortune of obtaining a part-time volunteer/internship this summer.  My current task has been to assist staff in counting and cataloging a variety of glass beads.  These beads have been in the collection for quite some time and will soon return to their original homes.  I’ve read about these beads in previous courses and you can’t learn a thing about the Colonial Contact Period without hearing something about beads!
Glass beads were a popular European trade item during the Colonial Contact Period. Many of these beads came from Venice and they come in a variety of styles and colors. Columbus was the first person to begin trading these bead with Indigenous populations.  So far, I have learned about three varieties of bead:
1. Wound beads: melted glass is wound around a piece of wire, creating a spherical shape. The striations of the glass run horizontal across the holes of the bead.
2. Drawn beads: the melted glass is “drawn” into a longer strand of glass. Some accounts suggest these glass strands could get as long as thirty feet! The glass is then broken into smaller pieces.
3. Pressed beads: the glass is pressed on each side, to create a facet decoration. These beads are usually drawn first.

To carry out the process of cataloging these beads, I have to first separate them according to color. I then separate them according to manufacturing technique, which can be verified by using a microscope. I then measure the beads, a length and width are taken. I have encountered very few true spheres, so this part has not been as difficult. For those that are spherical, I measure the diameter.  I have encountered red, black, blue, colorless and opaque white beads. My favorite bead has been the opaque white variety, they look like little soap bubbles, or sea foam. Very pretty!

The second aspect of my internship has involved working with pre-existing artifact descriptions and ensuring that they thoroughly describe the artifacts.  The documents that I have been working with are from several years ago and the person who assembled them work elsewhere.  This has been my favorite aspect to the project because I have been able to work with artifacts that, until now, I've only read about. I have described bone and antler awls, projectile points, horse furniture, ceramics, glass bottles and a variety of metal objects. This has been both a rewarding and humbling experience.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Horse Furniture Study Group

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was invited to attend a study group session at the end of June. This was a fabulous experience!  As a budding archaeologist, nothing is better than meeting with well-established professionals who are just as excited about artifacts as I am. Topics of discussion included: stirrups, bridle bosses, bridle bits, saddles and horse shoes.

Attending this study group session made me think how wonderful it would be if more regions tried to organize similar events. It is important to clarify that this was not a conference.  This was a small gathering of professionals, sitting around a table in a conference room, engaging in conversation about a shared interest in an artifact type. Representatives from several labs brought examples from their collection to serve as conversation pieces and to gain outside interpretation of objects that could use a little extra analysis. Guests brought their out lunches, although coffee and snacks had been provided by the hosting facility. The setting was casual and the session was extremely informative.

I will bookmark this experience in my mind in the hopes of implementing similar events when I become a seasoned archaeologist.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nevis Heritage Project

I recently returned from my field school abroad in Nevis. Nevis is an island located in the West Indies and is commonly referred to as the "Queen of the Caribbean." The people are wonderful and the island is beautiful. I spent four weeks working with Monmouth University students and faculty on the Saddle Hill Fortress.  This fortress was constructed in the early eighteenth century and was reportedly never put into operation. Each morning the crew hiked from the guest house to the site, approximately a thirty minute hike- uphill. We excavated a few test units and shovel test pits. Our crew cleared much of the fortress of overgrowth so that a total station could be used to take measurements of the fortress. We spent a day assisting the Horatio Nelson Museum by creating an inventory of the contents in their storage container. This container houses artifacts that have been collected from previous excavations (led by other institutions).  This was a dynamic project and I was happy to have been apart of it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Research Grant and Study Group Invite

I was driving home yesterday and I receive a much-anticipated phone call from the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia. I was informed that I was one of a hand full of scholars selected to receive a research grant for 2012. I am so excited!  I was told that my proposal was both "dynamic" and "appeals to many scholarly fields." I am scheduled to visit the facility for two weeks this summer to collect information relating to my M.A. thesis project.  I can't wait!  As soon as I hung up the phone I received an email invitation to attend a study group session in Maryland.  I have been invited to talk about my thesis research at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory in June.  I'm looking forward to both of these opportunities.  The study group session will be focusing on horse furniture and numerous interpretations of these objects will be shared amongst several researchers. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

AES Visit

As you know, I traveled to A.E.S. for a conference. There were less people than I was expecting, which I found to be a blessing in disguise.  The location was conveinient and the topics were quite interesting.  There was a panel that focussed primarily on the OWS movement and I attended another session that focussed on Indigenous issues.  I also spent a great deal of time book shopping.  If you're a student and you've never attended a conference before, I think A.E.S is a good one to attend if you're in the NYC/NJ area- simply to get that first-time conference "feeling."

Friday, April 20, 2012

American Ethnological Society & Nevis

This week I purchased my plane tickets to Nevis, with a bit of finagling.  It seems that all of the flights I originally wanted have since sold out.  These flights were not direct flights- they each had connections in Miami. The planes which were due to arrive in Miami were full, not those which would be flying from Miami to St Kitts. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise- as myself and a friend were able to book a direct flight from New York to St Kitts.  From there we will take our two-hour ferry boat ride to Nevis. I will actually need to travel from DC to New York to catch this flight, which is frustrating- but I'm saving about $50 in gas and tolls by going this route.  I will then be catching a train back from Jersey to Fredericksburg after our return from the island.  My friend and I will be staying overnight in a hostel near the airport, which will provides free airport shuttles.  At the end of the day, I'm spending the same amount of money as I would if I were driving to and from Jersey- except I don't have to do the driving and I don't have to put the miles on my car.  The trade-off is worth it. I'm so excited to be getting back into the field that I've already packed my bag!  No, seriously.  It's at the foot of my bed, full of toiletries, clothes, camera and an assortment of other travel things...

I am an officer for the History and Anthropology Club, which was recently resurrected at Monmouth University.  A few students and I decided that it was time to come up with our own way of paying for conference travel expenses AND to encourage students to participate in these conferences. We want to find a cultural, archaeology and history conference to start with for next year.  The archaeology students have already decided that the Mid Atlantic Archaeology Conference (MAAC) is the best "starter" for students who have never presented before. Our history students are investigating their option and tomorrow, I will be traveling to NYC to check out the American Ethnological Society (AES) conference.  Two of our cultural MA students is also traveling- if the conference is of interest- we may return next year!  I will do my best to participate as well-- my professional interests lie in archaeology but I am a cultural convert...  I'm interested in cultural revitalization movements and it might be nice to churn out a paper related to such a topic. We shall see!

I'll be sure to update within the next few days, informing you of my experience at AES...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Middle Atlantic Archaeology Conference 2012

I have recently returned from the MAAC.  This year the conference was held in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  I presented a paper entittled: "For Want of a Bit, the Bridle was Lost: Horse Bit Typology Across Historic Landscapes."  Sadly, I did not win the student competition.  The conference was not without success-  several individuals approached me after my session, telling me that they felt I had given both a strong and informative paper.  This paper demonstrated the preliminary stages of my thesis project, which is to develop a dating strategy for archaeologists via historic horse bit.

I am currently on the hunt for horse bits from a variety of archaeological collections in the Mid-Atlantic region.  If you happen to know of any with tight contexts, please contact me! 

I would also like to thank Mike Madden, the salesman who provided the students of Monmouth University with spectacular book deals over the weekend to supply our Archaeology Lab Library with some rich research texts!