Fieldnotes: News Briefs

Brief news items on the AIA professional membership and newsworthy activities in the field, including links to recently published institutional press releases or articles in the media.

Montpelier Archaeology Blog
January 26, 2016
Since March, the Montpelier Archaeology Department has been hard at work excavating the remains of two smokehouses that served the Madison family and enslaved community during the 1820s and 30s. Smokehouses were a critical component of any plantation, allowing meat to be preserved throughout the year. The evidence for these structures will inform the final reconstructions of the South Yard structures, funded by David Rubenstein's gift. Up until this season's work, archaeologists and historians at Montpelier have only speculated as to the existence of these smokehouses, which appear only on an 1837 insurance map. No other evidence indicates their location, dimensions, or function. The excavations laid to rest pivotal questions such as the nature of the buildings' foundations, their dimensions, and the presence or absence of a central fire box. Sacrificial Sills One of the most unexpected finds of the season were the building foundations. Typically, smokehouses rested on brick or stone foundations, creating a tight seal along the base of the building to keep smoke inside the structure. However, no archaeological evidence pointed towards masonry foundations. Instead, trenches in the shape of aproximately 14' squares were identified on the expected location of the smokehouses. Consultation with Montpelier's Historical Architect Jennifer Glass point towards the use of a buried, sacrificial sill in lieu of a brick or stone base. A second sill, visible and above ground, would have been placed on top of the buried sill, forming a tight seal around the base of the structure, without using valuable masonry materials. Further evidence for this type of construction is demonstrated by the presence of lyme deposits within the trenches on the east smokehouse. Because the buried sills were not visible, these deposits suggest that old timbers may have been used instead. The lyme deposits, which appear to be in place, may have been used to fill mortise holes in these reused timbers to prevent rodent or insect infestation. The presence of these deposits further indicates that these trenches were not used for masonry, but instead for wooden sills. The Smoking Gun While square foundations are good evidence for a possible smokehouse, a central fire pit is the proverbial smoking gun. Archaeologists questioned the likelihood of two smokehouses on the property, wondering instead if one of these buildings had been used for meat storage, while another had been used for smoking. The archaeological evidence, however, spoke differently: each of the square buildings had a firepit located directly in its center, preserving the final fires in place. Neither of these pits were lined with brick, a standard feature in smokehouses. Instead, these firepits were dug directly into the earthen clay floor. Recent botanical analysis, collected from the burnt remains shows a wide variety of wood that was used in the wood. Among them include chestnut, dogwood, hickory, oak, walnut, pine, and persimmon. Such a wide variety suggests that the enslaved individuals who carried out the smoking were creating a variety of flavor profiles on the meat. The Small Things In addition to the discovery of the smokehouses, the archaeology team has uncovered numerous household artifacts relating to the day-to-day life of the individuals who lived and worked in the South Yard. A large portion of these items are the ceramics that slaves purchased at local markets and personal items that were lost or discarded. These artifacts have shed valuable light on the individual lives of the enslaved community that would otherwise never be seen due to the lack of documentary records on the Madisons enslaved individuals. Over the next few months, our team will be at the Archaeology Lab, cataloguing our finds from the summer and generating reports detailing our finds, and you can help! In February, our Lab Analysis Workshop will examine the ceramics that were discovered, and begin to piece them together. You can learn more about this week-long residential program here. In March, our new season will begin, with new opportunities for you to help locate the final two structures in the South Yard! Learn more about all our programs here!   Matthew Reeves Terry Brock
The American Numismatic Society
September 18, 2015
The American Numismatic Society (ANS) continues its mission of providing Open Access research tools to researchers worldwide with its newly unveiled Digital Library. The ANS Digital Library will grow to house three collections of digital material: numismatic theses/dissertations, auction catalogues, and ebooks. Beginning now, the collection of electronic theses and dissertations hosts international doctoral work on numismatic themes. Anyone may browse the collection online, and are welcome to download any PDF or DOC file containing the research that earned their authors their MAs and/or PhDs. The ANS has seeded this space with the work of its own staff, and welcome any/all theses from numismatists, archaeologists, historians, and other scholars worldwide. Andrew Reinhard, Director of Publications for the ANS, discussed the reasoning behind creating the collection. “Many numismatic doctoral theses and dissertations are never published, or they appear only in print that is accessible to very few people. The ANS is already an international destination for Open Access numismatic data, so it seemed logical that we also could be a hub for hosting advanced, groundbreaking numismatic scholarship.” If you would like to have the ANS host and distribute your thesis or dissertation at no charge under a Creative Commons license, email the file(s) or link(s) to Once your work is uploaded, the ANS will publish its link, and will also create an entry in the DONUM library catalogue to aid discoverability. Over the next few months, the ANS will begin to share freely its scanned auction catalogues as well as ebook versions of its monographs and series on this Digital Library platform. For more information, contact Andrew Reinhard, Director of Publications, at 212-571-4470 ext. 111 or via email. The American Numismatic Society, organized in 1858 and incorporated in 1865 in New York State, operates as a research museum under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is recognized as a publicly supported organization under section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) as confirmed on November 1, 1970.
University Communications University, MS 38677
March 27, 2015
Honors College Class Explores ‘Who Owns The Past?’ Classics class visits Metropolitan Museum of Art, Christie's and other antiquities sites over spring break
New York Times
September 17, 2014
By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO SEPT. 15, 2014 ROME — Beginning this semester, students at the University of Missouri will get a hands-on opportunity to study ancient artifacts through a pilot project with the Capitoline Museums in Rome. The museums have lent 249 Roman-era artifacts of black-glazed pottery to the university for students to research and catalog. Culled from the museums’ cavernous deposits — the repository covers roughly 150 years of modern excavations in the Italian capital — the as yet unstudied artifacts will give students at the Midwestern university tangible exposure to Mediterranean archaeology. In exchange, the objects will return to the museums with a scholarly pedigree that the Roman institution could not afford on its own. The initiative is a novelty in Italy, a country that has traditionally kept a tight hold on its cultural patrimony, and also marks a new outreach effort on the part of the Culture Ministry, which facilitated the export of the artifacts. Crucial sponsorship came by way of Enel Green Power, the clean energy unit of the Italian utility Enel, which financed the initiative. “Our primary interest was in creating highways of knowledge between countries, because it’s a way to give back to the community,” said Francesco Venturini, the chief executive officer of Enel Green Power, which developed the project as part of the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. The university had plenty of material to choose from. Only a part of the nearly 100,000 artifacts in the Capitoline’s deposits have been properly analyzed and cataloged. “What’s exciting is that these are unstudied or inadequately studied pieces because they’re part of a backlog created in the 19th century,” said Alex W. Barker, the director of the university’s Museum of Art and Archaeology. The project is a “huge opportunity,” he added, that permits the university to “engage students with primary materials that they might otherwise not have access to” and that delivers results “of benefit to our Italian colleagues” and to scholarship in general. The materials arrived in Missouri at the beginning of the month and are being stored at the museum. The formal analysis of the pieces — a detailed examination to determine class, typology, manufacture, period, style and context — will be undertaken by senior graduate students in concert with professors. “It’s the one-on-one training that is important in Ph.D. programs,” Dr. Barker said. Supervised undergraduate students will assist the museum staff in analyzing the artifacts using various techniques available at the Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Missouri Research Reactor. The lab is considered one of the most advanced of its kind in the United States, and has helped analyze more than 145,000 archaeological specimens from around the world over the past 25 years. Students and professors will decide how best to structure the data gleaned from the analysis, adhering to standards used by both American and foreign scholars. “These are costly tests that we would have never been able to afford on this side of the ocean,” said Antonella Magagnini, a senior curator at the Capitoline Museums who helped develop the research project. “This kind of large-scale loan for research purposes is unprecedented” in Italy, said Claudio Parisi Presicce, the director of the Capitoline Museums, noting that the sheer volume of unstudied materials — whether in bronze, glass or marble — meant that “the potential of this project is enormous.” The museums, he added, hold countless examples of objects used in daily life, “so it’s a rich font of information about the ancient world.” Once studied and returned to Italy, the objects could go on display in a long-awaited, but yet to be built, municipal museum about ancient Rome. Formally, the collaboration between the museum and the university is to last two years, although it seeks to be open ended in spirit. “Hopefully we’ve made things simpler for other projects and other universities,” Dr. Barker said. Several institutions have expressed an interest in initiating similar exchanges. Enel Green Power is sponsoring a project at the Rhode Island School of Design that will start in October, while collaborations will begin next year at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin. Enel Green Power is also in preliminary talks with the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford, New York University, Yale and Harvard. Enel Green Power will invest about 100,000 euros, or about $130,000, in each project, and will choose universities with innovative ideas for studying the artifacts, Mr. Venturini said. “Our objective is to extend the exchange to different institutions. We don’t see this project ending if it works,” he said.
March 9, 2011
Zooarchaeology Short Course Understanding zooarchaeology: a short course for archaeology and heritage professionals When: 13th to 15th April 2011
 Where: University of Sheffield, Department of Archaeology Cost : £150 (£100 concession) Sheffield has a long history of zooarchaeology teaching and research, and today it is home to one of the largest and most active zooarchaeology research teams in the UK. Our members work throughout the UK and Europe as well as contributing to projects in Asia and Africa, and have research interests that span the period from the Palaeolithic to the recent past. The course aims to provide an understanding of the basic theory and methods which
zooarchaeologists use to understand animal bone evidence. The course will include lectures, discussion and hands on practical classes. Participants will begin to develop the skills necessary to: 

 • Recognise special/unusual faunal deposits and understand the principles of excavating animal bones.
 • Care for and store bones after excavation. • Identify different species from their bones and teeth. • Age and sex bones. • Recognize taphonomy, butchery and pathology. • Understand how zooarchaeological material is analysed and quantified. • Interpret site reports and zooarchaeological literature. For additional information and registration please visit website below.