Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Coffin Handles from the African Burial Ground, New York City

Megan Springate has just published an article in the African Diaspora Archaeology Network, June 2011 Newsletter on identifying a possible British source of the coffin handles excavated at the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan. The article also covers coffin handles from a Philadelphia African-American cemetery. The abstract is here, but there is a link to the full article as well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

St. Augustine, Florida Civil War Shipwreck Documentary Released

Buried in the ocean's sands off St. Augustine, Florida, “the Nation’s oldest port,” is a lost shipwreck, one of the last great maritime mysteries from America’s Civil War. The 150 year old shipwreck had several incarnations—first, that of a commercial trader, then an illegal slaver, and finally a feared rebel privateer. Join underwater archaeologists and forensic scientists in their pursuit to find the missing Confederate privateer, the Jefferson Davis.

One hundred fifty years ago, America was embroiled in a terrible Civil War (1861-1865). Early into that conflict, the Confederate government issued letters of marque, creating privateers that preyed upon Union shipping. Confederate privateers acted in support of an almost non-existent rebel navy. The most successful of those marauders was the brig Jefferson Davis. Lost on the St. Augustine Bar in August of 1861, underwater archaeologists from the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) are engaged in a search for this vessel. The Jefferson Davis started life as a merchant ship known as the Putnam, then slipped into a dark period as an illegal slave trader, and finally ended its career as the Union Navy’s “most wanted.” The quest to find this lost shipwreck is a journey into our shared maritime past.

Pepe Productions, a Glen Falls, New York multi-media company, announces the release of their new DVD documentary: "Search for the Jefferson Davis: Trader, Slaver, Raider."

The Jefferson Davis started life as a merchant ship built in Baltimore, Maryland and was originally known as the Putnam.  The vessel was then used as an illegal slave trader and finally ended its career as the
Union Navy's most wanted,  a privateer that seized nine prizes on its one and only cruise.

Pepe Productions spent two sessions in St. Augustine, Florida in June 2009 and April 2010, acquiring interviews and video footage with LAMP underwater archaeologists.  The documentary team also interviewed people in Charleston, South Carolina, in Baltimore, Maryland, and at the State Museum in Albany, New York.

The documentary also tells the story of William Tillman (also spelled Tilghman), an African-American steward aboard the schooner S.J. Waring.  The S.J. Waring was one of the vessels captured by the Jefferson Davis.  A prize crew was put aboard the captured schooner to sail the Long Island-built watercraft to a southern port.  Tillman, realizing he would probably be sold into slavery, seized a hand ax and killed several privateers.  He then succeeded in sailing the vessel back north and became a hero in the Union states.

The 50 min. long documentary is timely as it is released one month before the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.  The documentary was 25 months in production.

Underwater archaeologists Joseph W. Zarzynski (Wilton, New York) and Dr. Samuel Turner (St. Augustine, Florida) wrote the documentary script.  Peter Pepe directed the production.  Pepe and Zarzynski were also co-executive producers for the documentary.

Pepe Productions is the company that has produced two other award-winning shipwreck documentaries: The Lost Radeau: North America's Oldest Intact Warship (2005, 57 min.) and Wooden Bones: The Sunken Fleet of 1758 (2010, 58 min.).

To view the trailer and to purchase the DVD "Search for the Jefferson Davis: Trader, Slaver, Raider", visit the website . The documentary will also be available for purchase at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum gift shop and at other stores and gift shops around the country. Part of the proceeds generated from the sale of the DVD documentary goes to support the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, the underwater archaeology team of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum.

For more information on the shipwreck search, contact Mr. Chuck Meide (Director, LAMP:  cmeide "at"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Archaeological Field School on Edgefield, South Carolina Pottery Communities

Archaeological Field School on Edgefield, South Carolina Pottery Communities
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Anth. 454-CF and 455-CF (6 credits; 6 weeks), May 23, 2011 to July 1, 2011

This field school will provide training in the techniques of excavation, mapping, controlled surface surveys, artifact classification and contextual interpretation. Students will work in supervised teams, learning to function as members of a field crew, with all of the skills necessary for becoming professional archaeologists. Many students from past University of Illinois field schools have gone on to graduate study and professional field-archaeology positions. Laboratory processing and analysis will be ongoing during the field season. Evening lectures by project staff, visiting archaeologists, and historians will focus on providing background on how field data are used to answer archaeological and historical research questions.

** Historical Significance and Project Background

The first innovation and development of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery in America occurred in the Edgefield District of South Carolina in the early 1800s. It remains an enduring mystery as to how these new ceramic methods were developed in that place and time, and how the techniques of clay choice, temper, and glaze developed over the following century. These potteries employed enslaved and free African-American laborers in the 19th century, and the stoneware forms also show evidence of likely African cultural influence on stylistic designs. Edgefield potteries thus present fascinating research questions of understanding technological innovations and investigating the impacts of African cultural knowledge and racial ideologies on a craft specialization during the historic period in America. This project entails an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and archaeological study of the first development in America of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery forms, the development of tha
 t South Carolina industry over time, and the impacts of racism and African cultural influences on those processes.

The technological innovation of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery was introduced in North America by potteries operated by Abner and John Landrum in the Edgefield, South Carolina area in the first decades of the 19th century. These technological developments by entrepreneurs of Scots-Irish heritage played out in a landscape shaped by racial difference. Numerous African-American laborers, including "Dave the Potter" who added inscriptions to his vessels, worked at these production sites. Advertisements in local newspapers in the early decades of the 1800s listed enslaved laborers with skills in pottery production. African Americans most likely participated in all phases of the production process, such as: building and maintaining the kilns; digging and transporting clay; working and grinding raw clay in "pug" mills; chopping wood for fuel; preparing glaze mixtures, tempers, and clay pastes; turning the pottery wheels and shaping the vessels; and loading and unloading the kiln

As local historians Holcombe and Holcombe (1989: 22) observed, the "District's ceramic entrepreneurs would never have been able to manufacture such large quantities of Edgefield wares without the slave participation." Indeed, in the period of 1800-1820, the recorded number of enslaved African Americans in the surrounding area had increased to comprise half of the Edgefield District's population. An illegal transport of enslaved laborers on the ship Wanderer delivered 170 newly-captive Africans to the Edgefield District in 1858. The production of remarkably shaped "face vessels" at local potteries have also been analyzed as presenting evidence of the influence of stylistic traditions from cultures of West Central Africa.

This project seeks to undertake detailed archaeological investigations of principal sites in Edgefield, conduct archival research, and start a multi-year community engagement and education program related to these subjects. Archaeological field schools and research teams at such pottery sites can explore both the production facility remains and the residential sectors for the enslaved and free African-American laborers. Primary research questions include: (1) examining the distribution of work areas and residential locations in each pottery site and analyze the degree of spatial segregation due to the impacts of slavery and racism; (2) understanding differential uses and development of those work and residential spaces, as reflected in archaeological features and artifact distributions, and the degree to which variations correlate with different racial categories associated with the occupants; (3) analyzing faunal and botanical remains to explore and contrast dietary and heal
 th patterns between residential sites and the degree to which variations correlate with different racial categories associated with the occupants; and (4) understanding the development and changes over time in the technologies of pottery production at these three manufacturing sites.

** Field School Overview
This six-week archaeological field school will focus on the site of Pottersville, where Abner Landrum started the first stoneware production facility in the Edgefield district in the early 1800s. We will excavate the kiln and related production areas and conduct surveys to locate the house sites of the craftspeople and laborers who created the Pottersville village surrounding that manufacturing facility. Instructors will include Prof. Fennell, U. Illinois doctoral student George Calfas, and archaeologist Carl Steen of Diachronic Research Inc., among others. The instructors and students will stay in local housing in the Edgefield area during this six week field school, and visit nearby archaeology sites and museums on weekend trips.

For additional information about this field school opportunity, please contact Chris Fennell by email at, by cell phone at 312-513-2683, or check his faculty web page for background information on the multi-year archaeology project in Edgefield, South Carolina. You can also contact George Calfas at

To apply for participation in this field school, please download and complete a short application form, available at Archaeological Field School on Edgefield, and submit it to Chris Fennell by April 8, 2011. Accepted students should register for the related course numbers (listed above) for the summer session. Please note that all students must register for both courses (a total of 6 credit hours). Students from colleges other than the University of Illinois can register through our exchange program and receive transfer credits.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Isles of Shoals Archaeology Project, Maine

The Shoals Marine Laboratory (Cornell University /University of New
Hampshire) is offering its 4th season of a field school in archaeology on
Smuttynose Island, Maine, May 30, 2011 - June 20, 2011.
Session Dates: One week sessions from May 30 to June 20; sign up for 1, 2 or 3 week combinations

Application Deadline: May 23, 2011
Project Director: Dr. Nathan Hamilton, University of Southern Maine
Project Description
The rugged Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine (New England) have a long history of human settlement dating from the late 16th century. Early communities were economically based on fish processing. Students will take part in ongoing archaeological research on the site of a fish processing station on Smuttynose Island, located adjacent to Appledore Island's Shoals Marine Laboratory. In this course you will learn about the past human communities that lived on the island (prehistoric to the late 19th century) and about organisms (fish, bird, shellfish) that were present in the marine environment during those periods. Students live at the Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island and commute to Smuttynose Island by boat (10 min) each day. Three meals a day are prepared by the Shoals Lab kitchen; students live in comfortable double dorm rooms. The Shoals Lab island campus is shared with other students studying marine science, marine biology, oceanography and ecology. Course work will include documentation, reporting and completion of architectural, historic and prehistoric site survey and excavation forms suitable for historic preservation submission. Training in field logistics, scheduling, ethics, and public relations are also part of this course. The Register of Professional Archaeology Standards and Practice will be used as a guide.
Period(s) of Occupation: prehistoric through 1900
Project Size: 1-24 participants
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 7 days
Minimum Age: 16
Room and Board Arrangements
Room and board is included in the weekly fee and students live very comfortably in dorms at the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, Maine. All meals prepared by a chef; SML is famous for its delicious meals.
Cost: No added cost
Academic Credit
Name of institution offering credit: Cornell University
Number of credits offered: Optional 1.5 credits/week 
Tuition: $1351 / week
Contact Information 
Robin Hadlock Seeley, Ph.D 
Shoals Marine Lab - G-14 Stimson Hall - Cornell University 
Ithaca, NY 14853 
Phone: 207-956-0815 
Fax: 607-255-0742

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Michigan Technological University Fieldschool in Industrial Archaeology

Copper :: Locality: Keweenaw peninsula, Michig...Image via WikipediaThe 2011 Michigan Technological University Fieldschool in Industrial
Archaeology will be back at the Cliff Mine and Clifton townsite for
the second year.

Join the Industrial Archaeologists from Michigan Technological
University, documenting an historic copper mine in the heart of the
Keweenaw Peninsula.  The Keweenaw is famous as one of the few places on earth where humans found abundant formations of "native" copper, ranging in size from pebbles to record-breaking boulders of pure
metal.  This will be the second season studying the ruins of the Cliff Mine and Clifton (1845-c.1870), the region's first profitable copper mine.  The site sits atop and below the 200-foot greenstone bluff that runs along the spine of the Keweenaw Peninsula, about 30 miles northeast of Houghton, Michigan.  We will be reconstructing the evolution of the industrial process using clues left by workers as they built, worked, and reworked the site's shafts, mill, engine house, kilns, stacks, shops, houses, and offices.

During the 2010 season, the research team completed a site survey,
gathering data using a Topcon Total Station and Digital Collector and
handheld Trimble GeoExplorer GPS units, supplemented with LiDAR
surveys of the ruined architecture.  During the past year, researchers
built this data into a GIS framework that also included historic maps
and photographs, aerial photographs, and multispectral satellite
imagery. Discussion, images, and films of the research were posted on
the project blog:

The 2011 field school participants will continue research in these
areas.  Project members should anticipate learning and working in the
following areas:

1. Conducting excavations in the Stamp Mill Complex, investigating
work areas and processes in this well preserved and early example of a
mill.  In addition, student researchers will use excavation and shovel
test probes to better define the extent, functions, and state of
preservation of other buildings throughout the mine and community,
including in areas near the Avery Shaft.

2. Research teams will ground-truth the CliffMAP GIS predictions of
landscape features and transportation infrastructure.  They will base
testing on multispectral satellite images and historic aerial
photographs.  Students will learn multiple documentation techniques,
such as digital and optical mapping, use of ground-based, aerial, and
satellite-based remote sensing in survey- including LiDAR and perhaps
ROV aerial photogrammetry, Underwater Acoustic and Sonar survey,
measured drawings, photography, and artifact analysis.  The crews may
also have an opportunity to use a kite-based photography system.

3. Teams will continue to document the settlement of Clifton,
including more detailed mapping of the town and exploratory
excavations to assess research potential in this historic community.
The research focus includes attention to the food supply network, so
students can expect to learn archaeobotanical sampling strategies as
part of efforts to locate and understand the garden plots.

4. Michigan Tech's Industrial Archaeology research teams will be
collaborating with the the Nautical Archaeology Society's
International Field School at Northwestern Michigan College in
Traverse City, Michigan.  The NAS Divers and students will join us to
begin exploratory acoustic and sonar mapping of the Cliff dock at
Eagle River and other maritime industrial features.

All participants in the Cliff Mine Archaeology Project become public
archaeologists, collaborating with community members and other guests
to the site.  Along with fieldwork, there will be field trips,
lectures, and discussions devoted to the history and technology of
early copper mining in the Keweenaw and the communities and landscapes it produced.  These public lectures are further supplemented by public days at the site where all research team members show site visitors around the Cliff, its community, and landscape, while discussing
connections between the story of copper and the Keweenaw's communities today.

The course is co-taught by Timothy Scarlett and Samuel Sweitz. Both
Drs. Scarlett and Sweitz are published anthropologists and
archaeologists with experience in North American hardrock mining
history and archaeology, in addition to the industrial and historical
archaeology of the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Course Details:

Students will live in Houghton. Michigan Tech will help guest students
to find accommodations in town for during the field school. Project
participants are encouraged to explore the Keweenaw during their time
off, and many will choose to bring outdoor recreation gear for
mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, and road biking,
and the many water sport opportunities provided by Lake Superior.
Students are also encouraged to attend the 2011 Annual Meeting of the
Society for Industrial Archaeology in Seattle, Washington. Both the
Keweenaw National Historical Park and Isle Royal National Park are a
short walk or bike ride from Houghton (To be clear, the NPS boat that
goes to IRNP is walking distance from Houghton, not the wilderness
island itself).

This is an equal opportunity course, and students with disabilities or
special needs should contact Dr. Scarlett to discuss accommodations
during the registration process.

Monday, February 07, 2011

United by Water: NEH Workshop in Lake Huron

Lake HuronImage via WikipediaUnited by Water: Exploring American History
through the Shipwrecks and Maritime Landscapes
of the Great Lakes

July 17-23, and July 24-30, 2011

The National Endowment for the Humanities is partnering with Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Alpena Community College to host a dynamic workshop for 50 community college faculty and administrators from across the nation. The workshop centers on one of the most important and well-preserved collections of historic shipwrecks and associated maritime landscapes in America.

This challenging and exciting workshop offers hands-on contact with history above and below the water's surface. Dynamic week-long explorations will take participants to museums and archives, lighthouses, beaches, industrial waterfronts, and to the actual shipwrecks. Workshop guides are an experienced team of historians, archaeolgogists, and educators who study, manage, and interpret this nationally significant collection of shipwrecks and landscapes.  Community college faculty in US history, western civilization, world history, political science, anthropology, archaeology, literature, fine arts, other humanities-related disciplines, as well as scientific and technological fields are encouraged to apply. Adjunct faculty are eligible, as are librarians, administrators, and other appropriate staff members. Although no scuba diving or swimming is required, every participant will have on site experience studying Great Lakes shipwrecks.

Application deadline is March 1, 2011. Application info is here.