NCPTT’s Archeology & Collections program seeks to enhance the preservation of archeological sites, landscapes, materials, and collections through research, grants, and partnerships.
Budget constraints required the A&C program to take a more focused approach to the range of initiatives presented in prior board meetings. The program was obliged to defer the geoarchaeology workshop, the mound chronology project, and the comparative cartography project. The proposed “Technologies of Interpretation” workshop was scaled back in an exciting new direction, as is discussed below. Despite cautionary budget planning for the upcoming fiscal years, the November 2007 to April 2008 interval was a productive one for the program. Highlights include:
- broadcasting its first webinar
- receiving numerous and solid PTTGrants proposals
- co-sponsoring a productive international workshop
- arranging Prospection in Depth summer training in 2008
- revising its PTTGrants research priority
- continuing to increase program visibility through outreach
Disseminating information is an important component of NCPTT’s work:
High Definition Documentation in Archaeology Webinar
NCPTT assisted the Kacyra Family Foundation’s CyArk Network and Texas Tech University with the dissemination of a six-hour webinar split over two days. The webinar focused on high definition documentation methods, focusing principally on 3D laser scanning, high dynamic range panoramic photography, and photogrammetry. Mesa Verde was the test case. Some 90 people from around the globe watched the webinar.
Louisiana Archaeology Week Activity Venue
NCPTT hosted one of the statewide activities celebrating Louisiana’s Archaeology Week. Visitors toured the facility and listened to a lecture on NCPTT’s innovative approach to teaching GIS, GPS, and geophysics.
Prospection in Depth
NCPTT has signed a Project Agreement with the Presidio Trust to host Prospection in Depth 2008. This year’s format is a week in length, and NCPTT is going to explore the efficacy of ground truthing select anomalies in advance of the course, so that the open exposures can be used as teaching objects.
Remote Site Surveillance
Coordination continues with major federal land management agencies to bring together a working group of experts in cultural resources and law enforcement. The planned outcome will be to discuss how to better share information and resources between agencies.
Technology for Archaeological Interpretation
Due to budget constraints the planned 1-week workshop is being redesigned in a cutting edge medium: podcasts. NCPTT is hosting a series of podcasts on technologies of interpretation. Each podcast features a single technology and will be narrated by internationally recognized experts on that interpretive technique. Speakers who have agreed to participate at present include John Loomis (CyArk), who will speak on high definition documentation; Graeme Earl (Univ. of Southampton), who will discuss 3-D modeling; and Ruth Tringham (Univ. of California-Berkeley), who will present Second Life and multimedia approaches to interpretation.
Heritage Values: The Past in Contemporary Society
NCPTT provided critical funding for Hamline University and NPS’ Southeast Archaeological Center to develop an international preservation policy workshop which took place in November at Cumberland Island National Seashore. A session based on the meeting was held in March 2008 at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in Canada. Other expected outcomes include a scheduled session at the summer 2008 meeting of the World Archaeological Congress in Ireland, a website and social media outlet for heritage values issues, the formal creation of a Heritage Values Working Group through SAA, and the publication of the workshop proceedings as an edited volume.
Program visibility continues to improve, as evidenced by the surge in significant archaeological grant proposals witnessed this year. Outreach is one of the key ways in which visibility is achieved, and the A&C program engaged in a variety of outreach activities ranging from fielding public inquiries to professional service. Some of the new outreach highlights include the appointment of the Archeology & Collections Program Chief, Dr. David W. Morgan, to the Register of Professional Archaeologist’s Continuing Education Committee, his participation as a review panelist for a federal granting agency, and the proposed co-hosting of the Heritage Values Working Group website with the World Archaeological Congress.
In-house research is integral to NCPTT’s mission. Major ongoing endeavors include:
Bone Consolidation Techniques
Currently on hold between summers, the A&C program has set the stage to advance this project by seeking out a student intern with conservation experience. Ms. Megan Smith, a graduate student in archaeological conservation at Texas A&M University, will join NCPTT in May. She brings to the project a general background in artifact conservation, as well as familiarity with issues of bone consolidation.
This graphic, by Laura Lilley, illustrates all bone consolidant comparative tests that she could identify last summer. Megan Smith, of Texas A&M, will pursue this research agenda further.
XRF of Colonoware
The A&C and MRP programs have drafted a Cooperative Agreement with St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research (Dutch Antilles) and the College of William and Mary to investigate the utility of portable XRF for ceramic sourcing. St. Eustatius has agreed to provide access to an ideal control sample of low-fired earthenwares, as well as comparative material and samples from island clay sources. William and Mary provide the background case study on sourcing and Caribbean economics of the 18th century, via a master’s thesis project. NCPTT provides the XRF equipment and analytical expertise.
Shown at left is a copper cutout of a hand excavated in 1939 from the Gahagan Mounds site by Clarence Webb. The Louisiana State Museum and the Louisiana Division of Archaeology are concerned about their preservation status and requested assistance from NCPTT. The A&C and MRP programs assisted them by using portable X-ray fluorescence to identify the basic elemental composition of the hand and other artifacts. The museum plans to use the data to develop a conservation treatment plan with a professional conservator.
Revised Research Priority
A Research Priority Committee met in December 2007 to assess and revise several key research priorities. The archaeologically-focused priority implemented in 2006 has been revised. Originally the priority stated that NCPTT focused its grants program by courting proposals to “develop innovative techniques in dating, monitoring, analysis, and remote sensing of archeological sites and artifacts.” This has been revised to state: “investigate minimally invasive techniques to inventory and assess cultural resources.”
Since November 2007 three grants have formally concluded, adding solid deliverables to NCPTT’s repertoire of preservation technology resources. One of the projects is Doug Comer’s work to develop image analysis protocols for commercial aerial and satellite data that make rapid, wide-area survey work more efficient. A second is John Loomis’ and Glenn Hill’s high definition documentation training series, which culminated in a webinar. And the third is Chere Jiusto’s ethnographic case study showing the power of integrating GPS, site forms, and photographs as a documentation method. The latter resulted in a Montana Public Television documentary, available as DVDs. Four grants remain active, with deliverables already appearing in the form of four publications on wooden church steeples. NCPTT looks forward to watching these grantees’ progress. Additionally, the 2008 PTTGrants process yielded 63 complete proposals, 22 of which were assigned to the A&C program for administration. Five of these advanced to the National Panel for review on March 11, 2008. Of those, two were selected for funding, but only one could be recommended to the Director because of budget constraints. Crorey Lawton, of Tulane University, has been recommended for funding to conduct the project, “New Technology, New Opportunities: Development of a National Chert Characterization Database.”