Pamunkey Win Federal Recognition

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe is officially the first Virginia tribe to receive federal recognition. You can read about it here; click on the image below to visit their website.

pamunkey.jpg (770×761)

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CART Biweekly Update!


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Let’s Get to the Point about Typologies

Slide2by Sheila KoonsLab Archaeologist & Lithics Specialist

We had gone over every question we could think of that visitors might ask at the Open House. We wanted to make sure that we were answering the visitors’ questions as accurately and thoroughly as possible. Whether it was the historic or prehistoric component of the site, we thought we had figured out the majority of the usual questions about archaeology and Old Colchester. We were wrong. While we were uber prepared, the visitors came even more prepared with an arsenal of interesting and intriguing questions. They had been doing their homework and following this blog. We were impressed. When it came to the projectile points and prehistoric ceramics, I was at the helm for the discussion of those artifacts we had on display. While we are lucky to have the few projectile points and ceramics that we do as they are not a common occurrence during our excavations, these few artifacts give us great information. The Open House gave us a great opportunity to discuss the park, sites and artifacts.

The very first question I got regarding the recovery of a Savannah River type projectile point from our site was, “Where is the Savannah River?” Of course! Why would the name of the type of projectile point come from 100s of miles away? “So is this Accokeek ceramic from somewhere else?”

It happened time and time again as the visitors floated through. It dawned on me that it might be time to explain typologies for our blog followers and perhaps some of our new friends to the blog via the Open House. Throughout time, different styles of projectile points and ceramics seem to have been popular from trends we see in similar morphological attributes or characteristics (for example, thicker side-notched projectile points are associated with the Archaic period and hard thin-walled quartz-tempered ceramics are associated with the Late Woodland). Over the years, as more data has been recovered from excavations in the Middle Atlantic and published in peer-reviewed journals, we are able to lump certain styles within fairly tight time periods. The first “type” is typically named after the site where it was found. Therefore, the Accokeek ceramic type…you guessed it…found at the Accokeek site. The Lamoka point…from the elusive Lamoka site in upstate NY. When we find one of these artifacts that we can “type” within the currently accepted typology, we can call that artifact “diagnostic”. This is the case with Palmer points, which can indicate that a site was occupied by humans as far back as 8000 BC. The typology is buttressed by radiocarbon dates at different sites around the Middle Atlantic which yield a similar point with similar characteristics as the originally defined Palmer point.

As scientists, we are able to roll with the punches too though…new discoveries disprove old hypotheses and sometimes the date range for typologies changes based on new discoveries (as is the case with the Piscataway points now spanning the Late Archaic through Early Woodland). One of our jobs as archaeologists is to be able to be fluid with new technologies and dating methods. Another is to be honest when we can’t actually get an answer from an artifact. This is one of the most important lessons I learned and one that I try to impress upon other colleagues during lithic analysis training. One of the guiding rules to projectile point typology is that you cannot determine a point type if you do not have the base (remember the side-notched points of the archaic?). That alone rules out typing fractured tools without the base.

One can debate the virtues or pitfalls of typologies for eons. What cannot be argued with is that humans and their ancestral lineages have been utilizing stone for millions of years. It only stands to reason that as humans evolved, there were multiple factors at play when it came to producing the types of stone.


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CART Biweekly Update


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REMINDER: Open House this Saturday!!!

Click on the flyer for details!

Open House 2015_flyer

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Digging through the Little Things

by Emiko Takeuchi Archaeological Laboratory Volunteer

I was looking forward to getting back to work this morning as the bags which I was handling yesterday had some interesting materials: small pieces of glass and porcelain among tiny snails and shattered quartz flakes. The bags came from TU254, Field Specimen #3638 which had three-3 liter bags of  pickings.

When I was almost finished with the second of three bags of picking materials, I saw a tiny green object among the sand and tiny rocks. I picked it up and asked the Laboratory Director, Elizabeth Paynter who was checking the drying racks in the laboratory at that time.

Tiny Glass

Tiny Glass “Seed” Bead Recovered from Excavations at the Old Colchester Park and Preserve

Elizabeth said excitedly, “a bead,” but for me, it was difficult to comprehend that it could be a bead. Mr. Christopher Sperling, a Senior Archaeologist with the Fairfax County Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch, came to the table. He attempted to take the photo with his iPhone, but it was too small. Elizabeth said that she would use the microscope and asked me to come with her.

Under the microscope, the bead was one millimeter in diameter, and I could see the hole in the middle. I was amazed again to see how tiny the bead was. Elizabeth explained to me that the bead was from Europe, around 1600-1800.

I wondered how such a small object was made and how one would thread a one millimeter bead. Chris explained the way beads were made. I was sure this bead would be used with many different sized beads, but they must have needed hundreds of such beads to design one object.

Emiko at her picking station!

Emiko at her picking station!

Update: Emiko found another bead while working on a different Field Specimen number! This one is definitely bigger at over two millimeters.


Another, slightly larger, tiny glass bead.

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Collection Inventory and the Stories behind the Parks

By Alexandra Parker – Archaeological Collections Assistant

“We were not allowed to have lights. The windows were covered with quilts and blankets to prevent our signaling to the Confederate troops…my mother was warned that if a single ray of light was seen the house would be burned…”[i]

My name is Alexandra, and I am a museum collections technician with Fairfax County Park Authority’s Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch and the above quote is from one of the many exciting stories I learned about since I started here in February. My work has focused on inventorying the archaeology collection, files, and reference library to assist with our pursuit of the American Alliance of Museum (AAM) accreditation. This work included compiling a record of what we have, checking that information was correct if we had already recorded the inventory, and rearranging the resources so that it was organized and could be easily located. While it is extremely important to have an accurate inventory of our collection and resources it has also been fun to discover the history of many of the Park Authority’s sites.

One of the more interesting stories I learned about concerned the Civil War history of Mount Air. This story springs from the records like a gripping novel. The Landstreet family, owners of Mount Air during the Civil War, was suspected of aiding Confederate troops. For some time Mary Landstreet was under arrest, and when brought home she and her children were watched closely, as mentioned in the opening quote. In an act of rebellion one of the daughters cut up the flag the union troops had there into ribbons. Although she was not found out, it was a much discussed act that angered the soldiers. Eventually the family would go to Baltimore during the army’s occupancy of the house, but their life and the house was forever altered by the experience.[ii] As late as the 1910s, there was still talk of the disrepair of the house which had been incurred in large part to the Civil War and the struggle to restore it in the years after the war ended.[iii] Devastatingly, and somewhat ironically considering its Civil War history, the house was consumed by a fire in May 1992.[iv] In 1997, Mount Air Historic site was conveyed to the FCPA.

The front of the house at Mount Air in Fairfax County, VA

Mount Air

When inventorying the records and files housed here I not only learned about the history of the historic sites but also get a behind the scenes look at all the hard work Fairfax County Park Authority has done over the years! My work involved reorganizing our files kept here relating to Sully Historic Site so that information about different aspects of the site are kept together and easily identifiable. For instance, all the documents we have concerning the slave quarters on the property are now in one file. “How was the decision made to put the representative slave quarters where it is?” and “what interpretation was planned for the site?” are just a couple questions answered in the files I reorganized. It was very interesting to see the ins and outs of such a project. Our parks are always progressing and these documents not only show the work done in the past but these records also pave the wave for the future.

The park file cabinets at Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch in Fairfax, Virginia.

Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch’s Park File Cabinets

A long term project, the inventory of the collections, files, and records will continue until completed. I am looking forward to learning more about our parks, collection, and history of the Fairfax County Park Authority. Bibliography: [i] Edith Moore Sprouce, Mount Air (Fairfax County: Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning, 1972), 40. [ii] Sprouce, Mount Air, 43. [iii]Sprouce, Mount Air, 40 -41. [iv] General Management Plan for Mount Air Historic Site, Fairfax County. Accessed May 18, 2015,, 1998.

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