Wanna Help?

Our interns will become contributing authors on the CART blog soon. Hopefully, we will also begin to incorporate volunteers who are interested in writing. Volunteers, interns and work study students are an invaluable part of our branch. The Cultural Resources Management & Protection Branch often provides opportunities within archaeological field and lab, GIS, office and computer skills as well as archaeological collections. Last month, between vacations and busy summer activities, people donated well over 200 hours of their time.

Volunteers, Interns and Work Study Students

Volunteers, Interns and Work Study Students

If you wish to volunteer, schedule an orientation by sending us an email. As always, volunteers are welcome to join us most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

For an internship with the Fairfax County Park Authority, visit the FCPA county website for internship opportunities and apply online. To intern with our branch, choose one of the archaeological options or cultural resource management. Send us an email as well so we can look for your application.

Work study programs are done through individual programs. We work with a school or program in order to fulfill the parameters of the work study.

We hope to see you soon!

Related:  Day of Archaeology – Interns and Work Study from CART

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Computers & Data Management in Archaeology

by Gregory “Chip” Marshall – Database Programming & Archaeological Lab Assistant

Data management is an important and potentially tedious task that computers are making easier including within archaeology and heritage resources. Previously, most data management was done in a physical format and stored and organized in filing cabinets. Now, computers are making these things much easier. Data can be broken down into three categories; they are stored, organized, and displayed/used.

With data being digitized and stored on servers, it is less susceptible to destruction or damage from environmental causes, such as fire, flood, or mold. Data can also easily be duplicated, reorganized, or manipulated. A prime example for data manipulation is querying. In a database, an inquiry is “run” in order to retrieve information. A query can isolate a subset of desired data from ‘all’ of the data. For example, perhaps someone wants to know where and at what stratigraphic level all the tableware that has transfer printed decoration was found? – No problem!

Transfer Printed Table Wares from the Type Collection for OCPP in NoVA

Transfer Printed Table Wares from the Type Collection at JLC

This ease of data organization also allows programs to interact with each other to make using and displaying data easier, faster, and more powerful. Now that all the data on the transfer print tableware is isolated, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programs can use that data to accurately plot the locations on a map—creating a visual aid for analytical purposes and to more easily disseminate results.

A Simple Query in Access 2010 isolating Transfer Printed Refined Earthenwares for OCPP

A Simple Query in Access 2010 isolating Transfer Printed Refined Earthenwares

While isolating the transfer print, it is also possible to run another query that calculates the total for each test unit. GIS can use the information to show where concentrations of that decoration type are. Based on the period of use for the decorated ceramic found within a site, yet a further query may provide the time period for a unit or an entire site.

Computer software will continue to be developed that will make managing data easier and even more impactful.


For more information on Geographical Information Systems at the Old Colchester Park & Preserve, read the Cartography of Colchester

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11 July 2014 – Biweekly Update


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Day of Archaeology

Day of Archaeology

Find out what archaeologists really do!

Today is the Day of Archaeology when those involved in archaeology take to the Day of Archaeology website to explain their day as it goes along. CART staff, volunteers and interns are participating once again. You can see our posts at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/author/colchestervolunteers/



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A Picture Says A Thousand Words?

by Jonathan BrisendineField Archaeologist

The phrase “a picture says a thousand words” is not always true when it comes to lithics. One of our jobs as archaeologists is to inform the public of the wonderful cultural heritage that sits buried beneath our feet. When it comes to Native American artifacts the first thing that comes to mind are stone tools. These stone tools took a highly skilled and practiced hand to make many years ago. As shown with the quartz scraper below, it is difficult to display how truly intricate these tools are with a photograph.

Photograph of Scraper from Old Colchester Park and Preserve Fairfax County, VA

One of the ways to show the desired details is to draw the artifact. A drawing can better illustrate how material was skillfully removed from the stone to create the final tool. The drawing is done by taking careful measurements of every scar within the tool and taken from numerous vantage points. Each scar represents a tiny piece of material that was removed in order to make the final product. As you can see, the quartz scraper is more complicated than first meets the eye or camera in this case.

Drawing for scraper compared to the photo.

Drawing also by Jonathan Brisendine

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Cartography of Colchester

by Marion ConstanteArchaeologist & GIS Specialist

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is used for the archaeology at the Old Colchester Park & Preserve to create visual representations of geographic data that include data collected from surveys, historic documentation, natural features, and modern cultural. Using computer software this data is translated into maps using a variety of cartographic techniques. Examples of some of these techniques are symbology (i.e. color and symbols) to represent features, labels positioned and sized according to the scale of the map and position of map features, and aesthetic elements that draw the attention of the audience as well as represent the purpose of the map. Maps can be produced to show the location of excavations, features, topography and natural features, artifact distributions, and structures both historic and modern. The most common maps are ones that show the location of geographic features such as the location of Old Colchester Park in Fairfax County as seen from the map produced below.OCPPFCPAThis map uses effects to draw attention to the park and county but also show other important features such as roads, rivers, and buildings. To highlight terrain and elevation a shaded relief can be created and used in maps. OCPPFCPAtopography Cartography does not always need to be in two-dimensions. Using a terrain created from a 1920’s topographic map and mapping the locations and foundations of historic structures in the 18th century town of Colchester, GIS was used to turn the 2D into 3D.

Virtual Colchester is an example of using archaeological and historic data with GIS software and applying cartography to reconstruct the past.

Virtual Colchester is an example of using archaeological and historic data with GIS software and applying cartography to reconstruct the past.

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Context: “Where it’s at!”

by Denice Dressel - Lab Archaeologist & Preservation Specialist

A large storage vessel made by Piercy in Alexandria compared to a base of a similar vessel discovered at Colchester.

A storage vessel of coarse red earthenware with a black glazed interior made by Alexandria’s Henry Piercy compared to a very similar base found at Old Colchester Park & Preserve.

As archaeologists, we derive meaning from context. Context describes where we find an object in relation to other objects on a site. Context can be found stratigraphically, in the soil horizons, or it can be found horizontally, across an archaeological site. Another context we consider is the relationship between sites, the larger geographical region and the rest of the world.

In that vein, we recently brought some pieces of ceramic to Alexandria Archaeology, one of Colchester’s closest neighboring towns, to talk with them about what we were finding.

We were specifically curious about pieces of red-bodied coarse earthenware with a cream slip and clear glaze, similar to ceramics described in Barbara Magid and Bernard Means’ 2003 article published in Ceramics in America on Henry Piercy, Alexandria’s first potter. Piercy arrived in Alexandria in 1792 via Philadelphia, where he apprenticed in his brother’s pottery and learned the style known as ‘Philadelphia slip.’ He brought this style with him to Alexandria. Using a coarse red earthenware clay body and a cream trailed slip, he produced both chargers and bowls in this fashion. He also made large utilitarian storage vessels which were left unglazed externally, and had either a black or brown glaze on the interior, making the vessel impermeable to liquids.

Although we cannot say conclusively that either our red-bodied slipped or black glazed earthenwares were produced by Piercy without doing a comparative analysis of the clays, a visual comparison strongly suggests a great similarity between Piercy’s vessel forms, clays, slips and glazes and the coarse red-bodied earthenware we are uncovering at Colchester. Many thanks to Paul Nasca and the rest of the folks at Alexandria Archaeology for their time and expertise!

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