Online Interactive Story Map

Web app graphic

CART has created a Cultural History Tour of the Old Colchester Park and Preserve. This interactive story map is based on historic and archaeological data recovered during investigations on the park.  You can click on map numbers to see a related image and information about what we have learned about various topics.  To see the full image without the text, you can click on the small down arrow in the upper left hand corner of the text box.  Point 6 on the tour takes you to “Virtual Colchester” our data-driven interactive 3-D representation of Colchester ca. 1780 (Requires Internet Explorer 11 or most recent versions of Firefox, Chrome, or Safari to be fully enjoyed).  This map represents years of work by CART in the field, lab, and working with a host of GIS applications.  It is truly a team effort.  Enjoy!

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Biweekly Update – 9 October 2014


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ECLP Outreach in the News!!!

In August, CART’s Megan Veness led the Archaeology Experience, a youth program at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park.  Recently, The Connection gave the program and CRMPB some great press about it!

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The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory: A Model Facility

by Denice Dressel - Lab Archaeologist & Preservation Specialist

Colchester Archaeological Research Team (CART) is part of the Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch (CRMPB) of the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA). One of CRMPB’s responsibilities is to serve as the repository for archaeological collections excavated in Fairfax County, both on parkland and county wide. According to Fairfax County Park Authority’s Cultural Resource Management Plan, CRMPB’s Archaeological Collections now houses over three million artifacts, all from Fairfax County sites.

I recently had the pleasure of touring the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab), part of the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, in Calvert County, Maryland. Similar to CRMPB’s role as the archaeological collections repository for Fairfax County, the MAC Lab is Maryland’s state archaeological collections facility, responsible for the permanent curation of Maryland’s archaeological collections. Dr. Patricia Samford, Director of the MAC Lab, estimates that the facility houses between seven to ten million artifacts, representing at least twelve thousand years of human activity.

MAC Lab’s two-story compactor collections storage system

MAC Lab’s two-story compactor collections storage system

In addition to being the repository for archaeological collections for the state of Maryland, the MAC Lab is a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory, specializing in the conservation of metals and water-logged organic materials, like wooden ships. In fact, the late 18th century ship uncovered at the World Trade Center site was brought to the MAC Lab for conservation. Information about the discovery of the ship and recovery efforts by MAC Lab conservators can be found here:

MAC Lab’s largest freeze dryer used in the final steps of conserving water-logged organic artifacts.

MAC Lab’s largest freeze dryer used in the final steps of conserving water-logged organic artifacts.

Another important function of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory is its role in providing access to its collections for researchers and disseminating information to the general public. A grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training allowed MAC Lab staff to create the Diagnostic Artifacts of Maryland web resource, an on-line identification guide for commonly found artifacts in the Chesapeake region. The Colchester Archaeological Research Team uses this reference frequently. The web site can be found here:

Copper alloy cufflinks with green glass faceted insets set in a plain mount. From Sander's Point 1700 - 1790's.

Cufflinks from Sander’s Point 1700 – 1790’s as seen on Diagnostic Artifacts of Maryland. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Diagnostic Artifacts Project

The cufflinks, shown in the photo above are similar to those found during excavations at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, shown in the photo below.

Cufflinks from Old Colchester Park & Preserve.

Cufflinks from Old Colchester Park & Preserve.

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Biweekly Update – 26 September 2014


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Biweekly Update – 12 September 2014


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Sweating the Small Stuff


by Sheila KoonsLab Archaeologist & Lithic Specialist

I took the opportunity to write this blog post as an alternative to what I have been doing for the last couple of weeks in the lab, mainly picking. Picking is the term we use for combing through soils that have been water-screened through window mesh. We are finding tiny artifacts that would normally slip through the typical quarter-inch screens we use in the field. We are finding hundreds if not thousands of tiny lithic debitage in addition to seeds, ceramics, fish scales, bone, and glass.

For me, the small lithics are an incredibly important piece of the prehistoric tool maker’s chaîne opératoire. As discussed in my last post (see Chaîne Opératoire) , the chaîne opératoire of the prehistoric knapper involves a complex sequence of events that can be interpreted from the different lithic debitage recovered through excavation.

The first step is lithic procurement. One must identify a source for the raw material. If the source is far away, then perhaps the toolmaker (AKA knapper) breaks down the raw material into easy to carry chunks and transports them to the production area.

The next step in the lithic technology chaîne opératoire is the reduction of the lithic raw material. One must reduce the material to produce a stone tool form. That tool form may have a specific purpose or it may be what we call an “expedient” tool (basically producing a sharp edge to perform a task).

The last step is utilization. As the tool’s edges are used, dulled over time, or broken, one might resharpen the tool or rework it into a completely different form. This is called the “Frison effect”. The “Frison effect” is the “metamorphosis of tools through a succession of modifications” (Jelinek 1977). This means the final stone tool form we dig up at Old Colchester may not be what the prehistoric knapper produced at first and may have been recycled into many different forms over time. Additionally, perhaps one might trade or transport the tool away from the production site.

Evidence for each of these steps was left in the ground by prehistoric stone toolmakers. It is our job to tease apart what the inhabitants of Old Colchester were doing through time and space by analyzing this evidence. The small debitage that we are finding in the water-screened fraction presents us with some interesting questions. Are the standard screens that archeologists use in the field inadequate? Is the small debitage simply part of the reduction stage that becomes invisible when using standard recovery methods? Are the small flakes indicative of edge-resharpening activities at the site? If so, were the resharpening activities taking places in specific areas at the site? Or are the small flakes actually fragments of larger flakes and thus indicative of trampling and site disturbance over time? We will take a look at the distributions of the small lithics once the picking is complete to see if we can answer any of these questions.

Debitage measuring millimeters captured using a microscope camera.

Debitage measuring millimeters captured using a microscope camera.

Works Cited: Arthur J. Jelinek 1977 The Lower Paleolithic: Current Evidence and Interpretations. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 6, (1977), pp. 11-32

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