Writing for Historical Archaeology

by Chris Matthews

As the editor of Historical Archaeology I am privileged to see so much great research come across my desk. HA is the leading source for research on the archaeology of early modern and modern eras worldwide. Yet, despite this global recognition, I have come to understand that the process of publishing in Historical Archaeology is not as transparent as it could be. So, I’d like to go over the process in this blog post.

How to submit an article to Historical Archaeology for review

Articles published in Historical Archaeology go through a rigorous and productive peer review process. To get this process started authors, of course, need to submit a paper. The formal guidelines for submission are available here: http://sha.org/index.php/view/page/for_authors. The following addresses the questions I hear most often:

- Length: manuscripts run on average about 25-30 pages, double-spaced, 12 pt font. This does not include the references, tables, or figures. We usually can be flexible on length, so if you are worried your article is too long or short go ahead and check in with me to get my input.

- Figures: We are able to include several images and tables with your article. We realize these are essential to presenting your research. As a rule of thumb 10 images is about the max number of images. As tables can run from just a few rows to sometimes dozens, the number of tables we publish with an article is closely tied to how large they actually are.

- Formatting: Manuscripts should be formatted to the HA Style Guide which is available on the SHA website (link provided above). As your article will be reviewed and likely revised, I am usually able to accept manuscripts with minor formatting variations.

- Proofread!: Before submitting please proofread your manuscript. Typos or missing words can being distracting to reviewers who may react negatively to your article as a result!

- Submission: Articles should be mailed to me at the address below, though I am also able to accept articles as email attachments. Even if you elect to mail me your manuscript, all files associated with your articles (text, images, and tables) need to be submitted electronically on a CD-ROM. It is smart to follow up with me after submitting your article to make sure I have received it.

Christopher Matthews
Department of Anthropology
Montclair State University
1 Normal Avenue
Montclair, NJ 07043
shaeditor@gmail.com

The Review Process

Once I receive an article I go over it to ensure that the content and presentation are suitable for review. Foremost, this means that article considers materials and contexts that are of interest to the readers of the journal. Because the practice of historical archaeology in some parts of the world refers to any period with writing, we occasionally receive submissions that are not appropriate. At this time I also look over the formatting and the figures to make sure that the article will be workable for the reviewers.

The next step of the process is to assign your article to an Associate Editor. If you look on the inside cover of the journal, you will see a list of those who have volunteered to serve as journal Associate Editors. Associate Editors supervise the peer review process, and they will be your main contact during the review process. I will introduce you to each other by email. The Associate’s job is to read your article and then identify and solicit three readers to prepare detailed comments on your research and writing and to evaluate your article in terms of its readiness for publication. Readers are selected based on their expertise in the specific fields of study your article addresses. You are welcome to suggest possible readers if you would like. The peer review process usually takes about 6-8 weeks. After the reviews are complete, the Associate Editor will send you the results including copies of the peer reviews and their own conclusion, based on these reviews, regarding whether your article is to be accepted for publication. Results are typically one of the following:

1. The article is accepted for publication as is (rare!)

2. The article is accepted for publication after the author completes minor revisions

3. The article is not ready for publication because it requires some revision and should be resubmitted for a another round of review (“revise and resubmit”).

4. The article needs significant rewriting before it can be reviewed again

5. The article is not suitable for the journal

Most articles published in HA come back from peer review as “revise and resubmit” (#3). This result should not be discouraging. Rather, this is exactly what the peer review process should produce since it allows you to revise your work with the input of experts in the field. This is how we have been able to publish such high quality research in the journal now for almost 50 years. However, you are welcome to respond to the peer review comments as you see fit. For example, if you disagree with the comments you might find a way to address this concern in the revised paper.

On to publication!

As many of you know Historical Archaeology publishes four issues per year. Two issues each year are guest edited thematic collections and two are based on individual contributions. I will prepare another blog post on thematic issues as part of this series since the process for these issues is slightly different.

We normally publish 5-6 research articles in each contributed issue, so this adds up to about 10-12 research articles per year. Your article will be put in the queue for publication based on the date it is formally accepted for publication. Right now the journal has no backlog so we are usually able to publish your article about a year after it is accepted.

We are very happy with this turnaround time since it will allow your research to be in print in a timely fashion. Once your article is assigned to a specific issue it will go through two stages of production before publication. The first is copy-editing. Richard Schaffer is the journal’s copy editor. When your assigned issue is ready, he will read through your article to address any formatting concerns and send you queries regarding the changes he suggests. After Richard has completed the copy editing, the issue as a whole is sent to the compositor who will produce printer proofs. I will send you a proof of your article as a pdf file by email. It is expected that you will return your corrections within 72 hours. You can make changes to the article using Adobe Acrobat’s editing functions or you can enter these by hand and either scan the pages for return by email or make a list of change by page, column and line number.

When we have all of the corrected proofs they are returned to the compositor who then makes the changes and the prints and mails the issue out. We also post the articles on the SHA website where SHA members have access to the full run of the journal. You can see these here: http://sha.org/index.php/publications/cart

So, that is how the publication process work for HA. We are always working to improve how we get the job done and are considering now changes such as an online submission and review process. When these changes are made I will use this forum to let you know. This will be the first of a series of blog posts on publishing in Historical Archaeology. In future posts I will discuss Thematic Issues and offer some suggestions and strategies for writing a great article. Please use the comments to let me know if you find these posts helpful and if there are other concerns that I do not address that you think would help. You can also email me directly at: shaeditor@gmail.com.


My Artifact Obsession: Colonial Metals

The following post was previously published in the SHA newsletter as the introductory piece of a new series intended to identify professionals with expertise in particular classes of material culture who can assist others with artifacts in their collections. In light of the SHA’s recent polling of the membership’s comments on the 36CFR79 consultation process, and our Society’s response to the consultation, the issues surrounding collections stewardship and de-accessioning remain very much alive, especially in the domain of collections expertise. The Collections and Curation Committee have been sponsoring a series of blogs and newsletter items on members who communicate their specialist interest to the membership in the interest of sharing knowledge and expertise, which essential to good collections management practice. These posts, titled “My Artifact Obsession”, relate to material classes of artifacts such as metals and ceramics, but also to sources of information for collections assessment. New posts sponsored by the Committee will be released in tandem with publication in the newsletter. If you are interested in or have questions regarding the “My Artifact Obsession” project, please contact Committee member Sara Rivers-Cofield at sara.rivers-cofield@maryland.gov. If you are sponsoring or participating in projects incorporating collections-based components similar to “My Artifact Obsession,” the Committee would welcome your suggestions and recommendations for future blog posts. Please contact Sarah Platt at seplatt@syr.edu. This piece was originally published in the spring 2014 edition of the SHA Newsletter.

Introducing a new newsletter feature: My Artifact Obsession

Historical Archaeologists have finally reached a widespread consensus about professional curation standards and storage conditions. Not everyone is in accord, but for the most part we have learned the error of our brown-paper-bag ways and moved into an archivally enlightened era of polyethylene bags and acid-free everything. We have even adopted preventive conservation techniques and treatment strategies to keep our collections intact forever and ever, amen.

But our work is never finished, and frankly, how we store things is the easy part. Something even scarier, harder to enforce, and yes, even more expensive than proper packaging still looms over the curation crisis. We still, as a profession, have not reached agreement about what is and is not actually worth retaining in those archivally stable time capsules we create.

There is no centralized resource offering guidance on archaeological collection strategies.  Yes, each site is unique and therefore the decision of what to keep should be made on a case-by-case basis, but in practice that leaves the decisions to individual lab employees, repositories, and local regulatory agencies, none of whom are likely to be experts on the value of every artifact type for long-term research. Some might document and discard without much thought, while others could decide to keep it all just in case that fantastical creature, the future researcher, will need it. Neither scenario is desirable. Ideally you’d have people who really know their brick, shell, and glass make those decisions for that specific collection, resulting in collections with a Goldilocks retention scenario that is juuuust right; no future deaccessioning required.

Our default setting should be “think carefully and ask around,” but we need to know who to ask. Who decides how much brick is enough? Which shells to keep? How much window glass should be stored? Unfortunately, there is no directory of artifact specialists we can turn to when we have a site full of little pieces of something we know nothing about. Most of us have a network—someone we call about gun parts, and someone else we e-mail with a mystery ceramic— but most personal networks have gaps.

If there was a curator genie willing to grant me three wishes, I would wish for archaeological yellow pages where I could just look up “brick” or “nails” and there would be a name and number to call for trustworthy advice on how to deal with all of that messy architectural stuff. My second wish would be to ensure that all advisors in my new artifact yellow pages would provide their expertise for free. Finally, I would wish that all metals would stop corroding immediately because I love them. More on that later.

Since there is no curator genie, the only way to make my wishes come true— well, 2 out of 3 anyway— is to lead an effort within SHA’ Collections and Curation Committee to build these proverbial yellow pages.  The idea emerged at the 2012 SHA meetings in Baltimore as I listened to frustrated colleagues  share accounts of closed repositories, whole discarded collections, and lack of guidance on the dreaded D-words—deaccessioning and discard. I thought that if SHA as an organization could get these distressed archaeologists in touch with colleagues who have specific material culture knowledge, it would create a valuable resource for professional consultation on questions of artifact significance. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a small e-mail distribution list for the brick-inclined, the bead people, the button lovers, and so on?

Since then this has become one of the goals of the SHA’s Collections and Curation Committee. Members had already been developing a toolkit to evaluate archaeological collections in terms of significance, potential contributions to knowledge, and worthiness of prime real estate in storage. The toolkit is a thinking exercise that has value even if no action is taken, because awareness of what has already been collected is essential for determining what to collect in future. Still, the assessment tool is of limited value if the people using it lack a strong network of material culture specialists who can help identify the collection’s artifacts and their value for interpretation. The bottom line is that we need these specialists to speak up and identify themselves.

In an effort to bring our artifact enthusiasts out to play, we offer you the newsletter series, My Artifact Obsession. This will be a venue for artifact addicts to explain to readers why their particular beloved category of material culture is so important. In return for granting the artifact-obsessed this space to wax poetical or straight up lecture colleagues about their fixation, each author must be willing to join our network of specialists, receive inquiries, and offer advice to fellow professionals about their favorite artifact category. We don’t yet know what the product of this effort will look like because we need to build the network before we can figure out how to make it accessible. For now we just want e-mail addresses for people willing to help colleagues with one or more of the following:

  • Artifact ID/Dating
  • Appropriate research questions
  • Appropriate sampling strategies
  • Pre-discard documentation needs
  • Books/sources on the topic

This may seem like a lot to tackle— after all, loving artifacts shouldn’t be punishable by unwanted inbox clutter— but ideally we are looking for the artifact-obsessives of the discipline who like getting e-mails about their favorite finds. For example, I will offer myself up first in the following treatise on the importance of metals. Specialties can be more specific though; like looking at oyster shell instead of all shell— that is up to each volunteer. Furthermore, we are NOT asking specialists to offer cataloging advice to untrained lab staff, or provide IDs for the public’s garden/beach/metal detecting finds. The goal is to introduce the SHA membership to material culture specialists through the My Artifact Obsession series, and assemble groups of such specialists to assist professionals with specific collections-based inquiries.

If you’d like to share your artifact obsession, join the expertise network we are forming, and potentially influence curation policies that affect your data pool, e-mail me at sara.rivers-cofield@maryland.gov

My Artifact Obsession: Colonial Metals

A few years ago one of my co-workers bought me a magnet for Christmas that reads “Easily Distracted by Shiny Objects.” It is true. I am. But in my defense, I also get excited about a nice matte green patina and even rusty iron. I am into pretty much all of the “Little Metal Things” recovered on colonial sites. I revel in the feeling of turning a formerly unidentified metal object (UMO) into an innovative contribution to site interpretation, and I’m getting pretty good at the 17th and 18th century IDs. The industrially-produced 19th and 20th-century stuff mostly stumps me, but still, I hold out hope that someday I’ll see that UMO in a new context and its identity will be revealed.

But that can only happen if the metal is still there to be identified, and thanks to its tendency to corrode, survival is not a given. I don’t worry too much about the little copper and white metal doodads that feed my obsession; these tend to be stable, and even small unidentifiable blobs of copper and lead are usually awarded “small finds” status. But I do worry about what the archaeological world at large is doing about my beleaguered rusty iron. I hope it’s just a rumor, but I have heard of repositories that simply don’t accept iron artifacts because they are heavy and take up space and they’ll just turn to powder anyway; as if the value of an artifact for understanding cultural heritage is somehow tied to its ability to obediently await future researchers without decaying.

If that kind of thinking is feeding our discipline’s sampling strategies, then I can’t help but speak out in defense of iron. Yes, it is expensive to conserve iron artifacts, but there are ways to set priorities and limit costs. For example, it’s not terribly expensive to document and identify iron objects with x-rays.  I can hear the protests now though: “Who has access to x-ray? I suppose I could try to find one, but that would be pretty difficult. Building conservation and x-ray funds into a scope of work could break the budget and it’s a hard sell to clients. Really, how do you justify the expense of special analysis or treatment for a bunch of rust balls that look like a collection of fossilized poo? It’s just too hard, too expensive, and a silly waste of resources.”  My response to such arguments is this: No! This is so wrong! You know what else can look like fossilized poo? Colonoware. I don’t see anyone saying that’s not important enough to care about. And you know what else some clients think is too hard, too expensive, and a silly waste of resources? ARCHAEOLOGY. Every last bit of it.

If we think it’s worth it to spend time and money conducting careful excavations and processing artifacts for long-term curation, then we have to be careful about dismissing any class of artifact without getting as much information out of it as we can. Privileging one artifact class over another because of the expense of conservation or analysis undermines the arguments we use when justifying doing archaeology at all. The whole endeavor is supposed to be about collecting information. Wilfully letting a portion of the information corrode into oblivion without using existing tools to properly document them undermines our credibility. The burial environment already robs us of so many organic and other unstable materials, how can we justify neglecting a whole segment of finds we actually do recover? Imagine saying, “I know a Phase III on that huge 18th-century plantation might reveal a lot about our cultural heritage, but it that would be too expensive. Let’s do a Phase III on the tiny lithic scatter nearby instead and let the plantation get destroyed.” That’s the same kind of argument as limiting curatorial investment to stable artifacts.

Now I am not so obliviously ensconced in the state-of-the art (ca. 1998) Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory that I don’t recognize the financial challenge that iron preservation and analysis presents. I might have an x-ray machine down the hall, but I know most folks don’t. What I don’t quite understand is why everyone doing historical archaeology wouldn’t make that equipment a priority. Total station? Yes. Ground penetrating radar? Yes. X-ray? Apparently not.

I just don’t get that. X-ray is our friend. It magically zaps through all that poo-looking corrosion to show the true artifact inside. Let’s take nails as a case in point. I may love little metal things, but even I find nails boring, and frankly, I don’t see much use in keeping them at all when they go untreated. They just take up space and fall apart. They are, however, highly diagnostic when you can tell if they are wrought, cut, wire, T-head, L-Head, etc. X-rays allow you to see that; they turn unidentified corroded nails into measurable and diagnostic architectural data. Catalogs with nail counts can be dramatically different when all nails are identifiable, and site interpretations more accurate as a result. Furthermore, if you x-ray a box of nails for $350 and discard them instead of paying the $350 box fee to store them, then I say you’re doing the curation crisis a solid.

Scissors discovered in a bag of unidentified iron from a 17th-19th century site aboard the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland (Naval District Washington). X-ray showed that the crusted object with brick adhered to corrosion was in fact a very fancy pair of embroidery scissors. Since the x-ray is to scale, an outline can be made of the scissors even though they have deteriorated.

Yes, it is expensive to own and maintain x-ray machines and certified staff to use them, but isn’t it worth it to dramatically improve the interpretation of historic sites? Don’t we want accurate catalogs? Don’t we want to document our finds before they turn into powder? Don’t we want to identify that amazing never-before-seen iron artifact that changes everything we know about the site so we can conserve it instead of ignoring it? Yes people. We want it. We just have yet to make it a discipline-wide priority.

I submit that we can be smarter about this. We can recognize that iron is a fact of life on historic sites and plan accordingly for some treatment, a whole lot of documentation, and informed discard. It makes a lot more sense than accepting inaccurate catalogs and long-term storage of corrosion powder as standard practice.

Not everyone has to love on the metals like I do, but pretty please let us at least send this message to all of our ferrous utensils, tools, farm equipment, architectural hardware, transportation hardware, cooking vessels, clothing fasteners, stoves, and miscellany: we care about you. We understand the importance of peering through your crusty exterior to the meaningful object inside. We know it’s not your fault you’re unstable, and we don’t think that the thousands of shards of indistinct redware we collect are somehow more important than you just because they don’t fall apart in the bag.  Even if you are dying and we can’t afford drastic measures, we at least think you should be x-rayed for posterity. And if you are a UMO, you should be preserved for a researcher who might someday discover what you are.

In the hope that you readers will take this “love your metals” pledge, I offer my services in helping you identify them if I can. Colonial metals in particular are my favorite and bring joy to my inbox. If you, too, love metals, let’s make a club and have a distribution list! Send me your interest and your UMOs, and all of our reports may be enriched. sara.rivers-cofield@maryland.gov  PS- Don’t show me your nails. Even my love of iron has limits.


Archaeology on a Shoe-String in the District of Columbia: An Introduction to the DC Historic Preservation Office

The District of Columbia is a strange political entity and our unique status has unexpected effects on local archaeology. But that makes it a perfect place to focus on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Historical Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 and the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1916, to be commemorated at the #SHA2016 conference. Why? Because Washington is a “special” federal enclave rather than a state and many District affairs are subject to federal laws. The District has a State Historic Preservation Office, or SHPO, that was established by, and is annually funded as a result of the NHPA regulations. The federal government owns 21.6% of the land in the District, so one-fifth of our land mass is directly subject to Section 106 of the NHPA. And 17% of District land is managed by NPS, making them a major partner in many archaeological projects.

Washington, D.C. is also a residential city with numerous historic districts and its own preservation laws, and procedures. The SHPO also serves as the “local” Historic Preservation Office (DC HPO). The District has a rich cultural history that began long before it was chosen for the nation’s capital which includes both prehistoric and colonial resources. In recent years we’ve seen an explosion of development that has led to dozens of city-funded archaeological surveys in addition to the ones conducted for federal projects. The bulk of these local projects were on city park and school properties, which comprise some of our largest non-federal open spaces. Among the sites identified are significant prehistoric camps and quarries, Civil War-era military and contraband camps, antebellum estates and tenant farms, former cemeteries, and urban row houses and alley dwellings. Archaeology offers a unique perspective – and sometimes the only material evidence — on events that were often ignored or overlooked in documentary sources. As the city’s Archaeology Team, we operate at both the federal and city levels, consulting with agencies on project concepts to ensure locations that merit survey are identified early on in the planning process, reviewing survey work plans, and commenting on draft technical reports. We are also responsible for maintaining and managing the archaeological collections, all paper and digital records, the site files, our Geographic Information System (GIS), and the archaeological survey report library. Any outreach, and education we get to conduct is pure “gravy!” Our efforts are somewhatconstrained because Chardé Reid, the assistant archaeologist, is a limited-term contract. Despite the challenges, we have forged a public outreach program on a shoestring! We have developed strategic partnerships with a variety of groups, and rely on the contributions of our graduate student interns and volunteers. Stipends are sometimes available for our interns, but the real payoff for them is the experience in a SHPO, and mentoring as they enter the job market.

Archaeology has quite a bit of community support in the District and Washingtonians turn out at our events, tune in to radio shows, and email us all the time! Mitchell Park is a great example of this. The park is located on the site of a large farm-house built by Anthony Holmead in 1795, and is a National Register-listed property. When a neighborhood group, Friends of Mitchell Park, raised funds to renovate and improve the park, they also funded an archaeological investigation of the Holmead House site. Community members now serve as site guardians and vigilantly protect the resource, which remains buried beneath their feet. Community support for archaeology may be tied to other concerns, as when groups attempt to use site preservation as a tactic to impede development even before any investigations occur. This is a tricky line for us to walk, since we promote an archaeological preservation ethic, but we also need to be sensitive to public benefits of development. We can’t short-circuit the review process to appease one constituent, because there are many competing needs and perspectives.

We do as much public outreach as possible given all our other responsibilities and limited staff. As the city grows and our demographics change, it becomes increasingly important for residents (especially young people) to understand the city’s history, diversity, and unique neighborhoods. We talk to schools, clubs, community history and heritage groups, and at neighborhood libraries, and we bring along displays and artifacts from our collections. Student interns are a big part of these outreach events and often plan and program them. We have gained the most ground by partnering with local non-profits, such as Archaeology in the Community. They have the capacity to organize annual events like Archaeology Day (in October) and Day of Archaeology (in July). Even NPS has gotten involved at the local level by starting a summer Urban Archaeology Corps program comprising District high school through college-age youth, who learn about local history, archaeology, and NPS careers. While few UAC participants plan to study archaeology, their feedback indicates they like learning about their neighborhood history and regret not getting more of it in school.

The lens of archaeology is our tool for providing alternative perspectives on the District’s long and diverse history. We have the ability to look at groups often overlooked by more traditional history. The lens, while powerful, requires that some remnants of the past remain in the ground. Therefore, continued protection and management of archaeological resources are needed. But our efforts also need support from an educated and empowered public, who embrace and advocate for archaeology because they believe it enriches historical narratives. Identification and preservation of archaeological resources is best done by concerted efforts of preservation partners at every level, including Federal, District, and neighborhood entities. We look forward to engaging more groups as we increase our outreach capacity and visibility through our limited – but successful — “shoestring” efforts.

Chardé Reid, Assistant City Archaeologist, DC Historic Preservation Office

Lois Berkowitz, volunteer at the DC Historic Preservation Office

Ruth Trocolli, City Archaeologist, DC Historic Preservation Office

Photo cred: Jason Hornick.

 


Recommended Links

http://planning.dc.gov/historicpreservation

http://planning.dc.gov/page/archaeology-district-columbia

http://planning.dc.gov/publication/2016-district-columbia-historic-preservation-plan

http://tiny.cc/ArchyTour

http://www.nps.gov/rap/

http://www.nps.gov/rap/archeology/spotlight_ROCR.htmhttp://www.mitchellparkdc.org/history.html

http://www.archaeologyincommunity.com/

http://groundworkdc.org/programs/urban-archeology-corps/

http://ncptt.nps.gov/blog/nps-archeology-program-urban-archeology-corps/

http://www.maacmidatlanticarchaeology.org/


Historical Archaeology at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Greetings from Virginia! Though the #SHA2016 Annual Meeting is some months away, we are assisting the social media committee in presenting the archaeological outlets that the Washington, DC metro area has to offer. Archaeology plays a major role towards interpreting George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and we are pleased to take this opportunity to briefly introduce our program and some of our recent projects.

George Washington called Mount Vernon home for 45 years, and though two wars and a Presidency often called him away from his estate, Mount Vernon was his life’s work. Washington transformed a modest farm house into the mansion we see today, significantly altered the grounds around his homelot to create a formalized ornamental landscape, and successfully farmed an 8,000 acre plantation. A period of estate decline following Washington’s death in 1799 sparked a nation-wide effort to preserve Mount Vernon, spearheaded by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA) who bought the mansion house and the surrounding 200 acres in 1858.

View form the Central Passage towards the Potomac. Photo Cred: Karen Price

While archaeological investigations at Mount Vernon have occurred since the 1930s, the majority of collections are from the professional archaeology program established in 1987 and a survey of the property conducted in 1984 and 1985. Excavations have yielded over a million artifacts providing a rich assemblage to study the intertwined lives of the plantation community: enslaved individuals, hired white workers, and Washington family members. Since the department’s inception we have excavated significant sites within Mount Vernon’s historic core including the south grove midden, a large concentration of trash associated with the Washington family from c. 1735–1765, and the House for Families cellar, the main slave dwelling used from c.1760—1793 located at Washington’s Mansion House Farm. Archaeological excavation and research has contributed to the re-discovery and reconstruction of George Washington’s whiskey distillery, a major operation which may have been the largest one of its kind in the United States by the close of the 18th century.

A visitor to the Estate. Photo Cred: Karen Price

Our archeology team is part of the Preservation Division of the larger Mount Vernon Department of Historic Preservation and Collections. Esther White directs our division, with archaeological fieldwork under the supervision of Deputy Director for Archaeology Eleanor Breen and Assistant Director for Archaeological Research Luke Pecoraro. Karen Price is our lab manager and photographer, and Leah Stricker serves as the field crew chief. Within the division is Deputy Director for Architectural History Thomas Reinhart, assisted by his staff of architectural conservator Steve Stuckey, and preservation technicians Elizabeth Rival and Caroline Spurry. Our staff also includes Eric Benson, who manages our GIS and viewshed preservation efforts. With our small staff we work together to fulfill the goals of our department to maintain, research, and manage the valuable historic resources at Mount Vernon.

The Mansion and Bowling Green after snowfall. Photo Cred: Karen Price

Current fieldwork will return us to the south grove this summer to fully investigate the transformation of the space form a work yard to a formal landscaped area, and we will continue an ongoing program of public archaeology in the estate’s slave cemetery. Our survey of the slave cemetery is an attempt to better understand the layout and number of individuals interred in a plot located just 200 feet south of the Washington family tomb. Our field and labwork keeps us busy year-round, and we regularly post updates via our FaceBook page—Historic Preservation at Mount Vernon—and invite you to follow us. An intensive evaluation of the finds from the south grove midden including high-quality artifact photographs was launched in web form recently and can be viewed here: http://www.mountvernonmidden.org/. Our website provides a great resource for these sites and programs in addition to the other activities going on at Mount Vernon: http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/archaeology/.For those of you who want to join us in the field this summer, check out our field school in historic preservation – http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/archaeology/volunteer-or-intern-with-the-archaeology-team/.

 

Famed 19th-century orator Edward Everett once remarked “A visit to the National Capital is but half made unless it includes the home and tomb of Washington.” When you make the trip to attend next year’s annual meeting, we hope that you will take some extra time for a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


AMDA and APP: Two Training Programs in Archaeological Metal Detecting

Guest post by Christopher Espenshade and Patrick Severts

Our goal here today is to introduce two training programs in best practices in metal detecting.  Many battlefield studies rely heavily on metal detecting as an investigative method, and metal detecting can be labor intensive.  The study of a battlefield can require many persondays of detecting; where will this expertise be found?  The authors have been involved in the creation of two classes designed to provide metal detecting personnel who can apply best practices in metal detecting to professional research.

AMDA Field Session, Winchester, Virginia, USA

AMDA Field Session, Winchester, Virginia, USA

Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (AMDA) is a continuing education class aimed at professional archaeologists.  The class is certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA).  We are clear in our belief that improving best practices in metal detecting will improve the quality of battlefield studies.

The second course, Archaeological Partnership Program (APP), is designed for avocational detectorists who would like to work in tandem with professional archaeologists.  Avocational detectorists have great skills, local knowledge, a keen interest, a commitment to history, and a desire to help preserve battlefields and similar military sites.  Through the training of a corps of avocational detectorists, APP is developing a resource that will help in the study and preservation of battlefields.

Taken together, AMDA and APP increase the skills of professional archaeologists and avocational detectorists, and reinforce the bridge between these two groups.  These training efforts will have positive results on quality of battlefield studies, the level of public engagement, and the development of local advocacy for battlefield preservation.

AMDA CLASS

The AMDA class was born in 2011, when several archaeologists recognized the need to teach best practices in metal detecting to professional archaeologists.  We saw that professional archaeologists were finally accepting that metal detecting was a valuable tool, but there was no good source for instruction in metal detecting.  AMDA began as a conference/class hybrid in October 2011 in Helen, Georgia.

Based on the response to the Helen event, and in conjunction with the new RPA program for certifying continuing professional education classes, the founders of AMDA chose to focus solely on instruction.  The founders included Sheldon Skaggs, Garrett Silliman, Patrick Severts, Doug Scott, Terry Powis, and Chris Espenshade.  After formalization of the instructor corps and course offerings, AMDA was certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists.  We were proud to be the first continuing education course to receive this important certification.

The AMDA class recognizes that the three main factors affecting the efficacy of a metal detector investigation are: 1) competency of the operators; 2) appropriateness of the device to the task at hand; and 3) suitability of the research design.  The class includes eight hours of classroom instruction, where we present best practices.  The class notebooks also include a case study CD with examples of successful research efforts.

We also recognize that professional archaeologists need an opportunity for instructor-monitored, hands-on, practical field experience with a variety of currently available devices.  AMDA has created a partnership with several manufacturers and retailers who provide trial models at various price points.  Our fieldwork sessions are designed to contribute to the research needs of our local hosts, and we work on real problems on real sites.

AMDA Field Session, Charles Towne Landing, South Carolina, USA

AMDA Field Session, Charles Towne Landing, South Carolina, USA

We have presented the class five times:  August 2012 in Charleston, SC; April 2013 in Lagrange, Georgia; November 2013 in Winchester, VA; August 2014 in Stone Mountain, Georgia; and February 2015 in Brownsville, Texas.  We currently have a few spaces left for our upcoming class in Harrisburg, PA, April 4-26.  To date, 105 archaeologists have completed our training.  The course has seen a broad mix of graduate students, CRM consultants, and state and federal agency personnel.

APP CLASS

Avocational detectorists have long been a potential source of labor and expertise in battlefield studies.  Unfortunately, many professional archaeologists avoid engaging avocational detectorists.  These reasons for this avoidance include: certain professional archaeologists are suspicious of the ethics of avocational detectorists; professional archaeologists do not want to be seen as condoning relic hunting; and certain professional archaeologists do not feel that avocational detectorists understand how and why professional archaeologists do what we do.  We found ourselves sort of stuck with a paradox.  On the one hand, we (and the profession in general) long for avocational detectorists to embrace a preservation ethos and begin working closely with archaeologists, but on the other hand we have not provided them any guidance or training toward that goal (again, with the exception of Matthew Reeves’ Montpelier program).  The profession sacrifices our right to complain about relic hunters if we continue to ignore the training of avocational detectorists.  In the context of the current professional angst over the reality TV of metal detecting, we could not condone complaining about behaviors without trying to change said behaviors.  We knew from a number of projects and other contacts with avocational detectorists that this community held many with a strong interest in history and a willingness or desire to work with professional archaeologists.

In autumn of 2013, Chris Espenshade, Patrick Severts, Doug Scott, and Matthew Reeves began working with Minelab, a major manufacturer of detectors, to develop the APP course.

APP Field Session, Chicago, Illinois, USA

APP Field Session, Chicago, Illinois, USA

From the onset, we were aware of the risk, mentioned above, that we might be perceived as offering a class to improve the skills of looters (again, not all professional archaeologists appreciate the difference between relic hunters and avocational detectorists).    Instead of focusing on actual metal-detecting skills, we designed the course to emphasize how and why professional archaeologists do what they do.  We hope to make avocational detectorists understand and buy into the professional approach to metal detector research.

The class is offered only to avocational detectorists willing to sign and abide by this ethics pledge:

I will neither purchase nor sell artifacts.  I will not detect on any property without written permission of the land owner.  I will record all discovered sites within 30 days with the state site files.  I will keep records on the location of all materials I recover.  I will not excavate any targets below the topsoil/plowzone.  I will not disturb any human remains.  I will report sites threatened by development or other actions to the state archaeologist or state historic preservation office.  I will share data and knowledge with professional archaeologists.  I will partner, when feasible, with professional archaeologists to assist in the preservation and study of archaeological resources.  I will strive to be a responsible avocational detectorist.  I understand that violation of this pledge may result in my name and contact information being removed from the APP database of responsible avocational detectorists.

The class teaches avocational detectorists how professional archaeology differs from hobby collecting, and why professional archaeologists do things as they do.  We let students know how they might find opportunities to work with professionals.  We stress that there is an over-riding concern among both the professional archaeology community and the avocational detectorist community to stem the flow of site loss.  We emphasize that avocational detectorists and professional archaeologists can work together to study sites that would otherwise be lost (i.e., that fall outside Section 106 or similar protection).

We also recognized the risk that the APP class might be seen by certain skeptics as a pay-to-dig opportunity.  When a real archaeological site is used in training detectorists, the situation can be viewed as the participants paying for the opportunity to detect on a neat site.  To avoid this, APP classes are held only on test gardens (site proxies created only for the class, using modern replicas of key artifact classes).  None of the APP class work occurs on actual archaeological sites.

We also wrestled with the question of policing the behavior of our graduates.  These are not professional archaeologists and cannot be held to RPA/SHA/SAA ethical standards.  There is no threat that they will lose their registration or membership for ethical lapses.   We instead created an ethical standard for avocational detectorists who wish to undergo APP training and become part of the APP program.  Those graduates who take the pledge and abide by it will be placed on an internet data base of responsible avocational detectorists willing to work with professional archaeologists.  Many avocational detectorists are willing to spend a week or two of their vacation assisting on the study of an interesting battlefield.  If we learn that a graduate has broken their pledge, they will be removed from the database.

In creating the pledge, we recognized the need for a compromise between our strict professional ethics and the desire of avocational detectorists to be able to pursue their hobby in the absence of a professional archaeologist.  We felt that this is a reasonable compromise.

APP Class, Chicago, Illinois, USA

APP Class, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Our goals with APP are: 1) to create a legion of responsible avocational detectorists with an understanding of how and why professional archaeological projects are undertaken; 2) to provide a resource to professional archaeologists who might need assistance on their projects; and 3) to create partnerships between professional archaeologists and avocational detectorists to help preserve archaeological data.  With the backing of Minelab, the first class was presented in Chicago in September of 2014.  Registration filled quickly and the student feedback from the course was overwhelmingly very positive.  APP will be working closely with Minelab to present the class many times a year in different parts of the country.


Meet a Member: Jodi Barnes

Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

Jodi A. Barnes received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from American University in Washington, DC. She is currently a Station Archeologist and a Research Assistant Professor with the Arkansas Archeological Survey, a unit of the University of Arkansas system. Her research interests include the archaeology of the African diaspora, the U.S. Home Front, and public archaeology. She recently published the edited volume, The Materiality of Freedom: Archaeologies of Post-Emancipation Life.

What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)?

The first field site I worked on was the Kolb Site in South Carolina with Chris Judge and Carl Steen. They hold a dig at the multi-component site during spring break each year and volunteers and students come from all around to participate. I loved getting my hands dirty, the sore muscles and the excitement of touching the past. It was the first place I saw public archaeology in action and the start of great friendships. Currently, as a public archeologist with the Arkansas Archeological Survey, I am working on two projects, a World War II prisoner of war camp and a plantation. I try to make those projects fun and welcoming learning experiences similar to the Kolb site.

Fieldwork or labwork?

I’m not an either/or person when it comes to lab and fieldwork. I think they are both important and I enjoy doing both. When I was looking for a Ph.D. topic, my advisor, Joan Gero, encouraged me to do a project that built upon previously excavated collections. I was afraid that I might not be as marketable if my dissertation didn’t include fieldwork, so I opted to do fieldwork in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. But the importance of working on collections that have not been written up has stayed with me and I am currently trying to develop public programs that emphasize both the lab and the field.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Laurie Wilkie’s (2014) new introduction to archaeology, Strung Out on Archaeology: An Introduction to Archaeological Research. I am using it in my class this spring. I am also reading a collection of short stories by Ron Rash. I love his storytelling and the way he draws the southern Appalachian landscape.

 What did you want to be when you grew up? 

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a fashion designer. This is difficult for most people who know me know to believe. I still think about it in terms of stylish, fashionable and versatile clothing for women who move between the field and the office or conference presentation. But the world of fashion design was not for me, so I switched to journalism. At that time, my ideal writing assignment would have been an article for National Geographic. That’s where I found anthropology and it is a good thing I wanted to write.

At what point in your career did you first join SHA? Why are you a member of SHA?

I joined SHA as a Ph.D. student. I attended my first conference in 2007 in Williamsburg, Virginia and I have been a member since then. I‘ve continued to be a member because of the collegiality, knowledge sharing, and community. I look forward to seeing my colleagues each year, attending symposiums, hearing about their ongoing projects, and learning new things, but also as importantly talking about our work over beers.

Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial?

Getting involved with the SHA committees is one of the most valuable benefits of being a member of SHA. In 2007, Linda Ziegenbein told me she was going to the Student Sub-Committee meeting. This is a sub-committee of the Academic and Professional Training Committee (APTC). Immediately, I was recruited to manage the student listserv. I got to know students around the country who were interested in topics similar and different from me. We co-authored articles for the SHA Newsletter and organized panels. Later, I became more involved with APTC and helped with a number of projects including the syllabus clearinghouse project and the student paper competition. Later I got involved with the Gender and Minority Affairs Committee. It has been great to be involved in the work committee members are doing on mentoring, anti-racism, and developing fellowships. Being active in SHA committees, I have developed great friendships, but I also feel like I am playing an active role in shaping the future of historical archaeology (and I will always be grateful that I read the 1983 edited volume by Joan Gero, Michael Blakey and David Lacy about the socio-politics of archaeology, for making me realize how important this is).

Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you?

Selecting one article that has been most influential is very difficult. But Carol McDavid and David Babson’s 1997 thematic issue, “In the Realm of Politics: Prospects for Public Participation in African-American and Plantation Archaeology,” (1997, Issue 31, volume 3) ranks high on the list. The authors underscored the fact that archaeology should be “useful” and that public archaeological practice is inherently political, especially when it deals with the archaeologies of disenfranchised peoples.


COME TO PRESERVATION ADVOCACY WEEK IN WASHINGTON, DC!

Society for Historical Archaeology members are invited to join the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) and Preservation Action for Preservation Advocacy Week, March 2-4, 2015! Preservation Action and NCSHPO organize Preservation Advocacy Week each year, bringing over 250 preservationists to Washington, DC to promote sound federal preservation policy and programs. Active participation from SHA members will ensure that historical archaeology is an integral part of the preservation discussion.

Highlights:

  • Programming on Monday afternoon, March 2.
  • Hill visits on Tuesday, March 3.
  • Reception on the Hill on Tuesday evening, 5:30 pm.

The preliminary program is available at http://www.preservationaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/preservation-advocacy-week-prelim-program-2015.pdf.

Cultural Heritage Partners, SHA’s governmental affairs consultant, is planning to take SHA members attending Advocacy Week to the Hill to visit Congress. This is a great opportunity to meet with your Congressional representatives and to discuss the value of historic preservation and historical archaeology!

Please email Marion Werkheiser and let us know if you plan to attend!

marion@culturalheritagepartners.com

 NCSHPO has secured a room block at the Fairfax Embassy Row hotel. Rooms are $239/single, $259 double and you can book by calling 1-888-627-8439, code 7266. More competitive rates may be available at other hotels in Dupont Circle (check out www.hotwire.com or www.kayak.com). We encourage you to stay in the Dupont Circle neighborhood for convenient access to Preservation Advocacy Week events and Metro transportation.

Please register at: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1663726


Who Digs in D.C.?

What do you know about the D.C. area, archaeologically? What institutions, organizations, nonprofits, public agencies manage and help preserve our dc archaeological heritage? In upcoming posts, we will be highlighting some of the major D.C. (and surrounding MD and VA) area organizations, who diligently work towards safe-guarding, interpreting, and disseminating our the historical heritage of our Nation’s Capitol City.

These organizations have only expanded in reach, especially since the passing of the NHPA in 1966, a major movement for historic preservation and the field of archaeology. Some of these organizations advise and help guide policies, while others help generate public interest in specific issues. Some make major contributions to areas of study, and others help promote studies through outreach programs. In this way, D.C. manages archaeological heritage on a national but also local scale.

Take a peek, below, at some of these D.C. area organizations!


Comments Sought for New Proposed Rule Concerning the Deaccession of Federally Owned and Administered Collections

By Giovanna Vitelli

Chair, SHA Collections and Curation Committee

The subject of deaccession, or the permanent removal of an object from a museum or historical collection, has long been of concern to historical archaeologists. The SHA has highlighted the issue in recent years and has held workshops and conference sessions on the subject in an effort to bring the topic into the mainstream. We now draw your attention to a proposed amendment to Federal regulations on curation, and are soliciting your comments.

In the United States, regulations known as the “Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections,” or 36 CFR Part 79, were issued in 1990 to address the responsibilities of Federal agencies and others holding Federal collections to archaeological collections in their custody. These regulations did not address the deaccession of archaeological materials, an issue that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is now proposing to remedy through an amendment to 36 CFR Part 79. The proposed amendment will “establish definitions, standards, and procedures to dispose of particular material remains that are determined to be of insufficient archaeological interest.” The proposed amendment (or rule) is expected to “promote more efficient and effective curation of these archeological collections.”

The proposed amendment has been published in the Federal Register (you can access that notice at http://www.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/Proposed_36_CFR_Part_79_Amendment.pdf). DOI is soliciting comments for its consideration in adopting the amendment. Comments are due on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 and can be submitted electronically, by mail, or by hand delivery to DOI.

SHA also plans to submit comments for DOI’s consideration. To prepare comments that best represent the Society’s membership and its diverse views on this topic, SHA’s Collections and Curation Committee (CCC) invites your input on this important topic. The CCC will collect members’ input and use this input to prepare SHA’s formal comment over President Charlie Ewen’s signature.

CCC member Julie King will be collecting and collating this input for the CCC’s consideration.

Regardless of whether or not you work in the United States or with Federal collections, all SHA members are invited to help shape the Society’s thinking about this important international issue.

The CCC has asked for your comments to be received no later than Tuesday, February 10, 2015. This is a strict cutoff point in order to allow the CCC to review all of the input received and prepare a formal comment that best represents the Society’s membership. Your comments can be sent to Julie by email at jking@smcm.edu.  You can of course comment individually directly to the DOI but we would appreciate your input to the SHA’s formal reply.

Thank you in advance!


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