Sunday, December 23, 2012

Timbuktu mausoleums 'destroyed'

Hello Everyone,

   From the BBC: "Islamists in Mali have begun destroying remaining mausoleums in the historic city of Timbuktu, an Islamist leader and a tourism official said."

Friday, December 21, 2012

'Alien-like' skulls are unearthed in 1,000-year-old cemetery

Hello Everyone,

Archaeologists have known for decades that some native groups practiced skull deformation. I guess the "Alien-Like" is something to grab the attention of readers. Very cool discovery!

'Alien-like' skulls are unearthed in 1,000-year-old cemetery

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Some Post Excavation Thoughts: Snowdon Vulcan Iron and Machine Works

Hello Everyone, 

        Things have been busy for me this past month, so I haven't had time for an update. The John Snowdon and Son's Vulcan Iron and Machine Works excavations in Brownsville, Pennsylvania have come to a close for this field season. I cannot thank the volunteers enough and the students from the WVU Field School who came out to pick through some of the toughest fill material I have ever encountered. We have recovered an incredible amount of data dating back to the turn of the 20th-century. Personal items, industrial artifacts, and a variety of little unidentified items that will keep us busy for a long time. However, we also have the most important artifact, the foundry itself, a mausoleum to 19th-century industrialization in the Monongahela River Valley. It is my estimate that we have excavated 5% of the total structure. We haven't even begun to excavate within its interior except along the foundation walls. 
      In the first three photographs show an air pocket that we hit during excavation. Within it are the remains of a barrel laying on its side. The strapping is just visible to the left of that concrete floor joist support. When the building was demolished by the railroad, the area next to that floor joist created an air gap with brick from an interior wall. No artifacts were found with the barrel that would indicate its contents. the final picture is Erin who came out do some mapping of our foundations!   

Air gap with barrel strapping.

Close-up of the barrel remains.

The Completed excavation unit with exterior wall to south. Barrel removed.

Erin field mapping in the shade!

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Snowdon and Sons: Random Archaeology Pictures

Hello Everyone,

        I thought I'd just post some random pictures from the excavation for some weekend viewing. Hope you enjoy!

Don and Carl

Julz excavating around bottles

Sean cleaning the foundation of debris

Our mascot Riley

A view of the foundation with railroad ballast (fill) on the left (dark Stain)

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Snowdon Foundry: Influencing the Younger Generation to Archaeology.

Hello all,

Zander Harden
 This is a mini post showcasing two of our younger members in the SPA Mon-Yough Chapter #3 who come out to volunteer. We hope that their exposure to archaeology and historic preservation will make them better stewards of our town's history. Because the excavations are public, we encourage children and young adults to come out and get a taste of discovery first hand. As archaeologists, sometimes we become desensitized to history, we ourselves begin to take it for granted. However, for the people, the stakeholders of the communities in which we live, us archaeologists are a bridge into their past. To many people, this bridge to the past is shrouded in a fog of misunderstandings, misconceptions, and often misguidance. We must reach out to the public for interpretation and acceptance of their past, no matter how harsh or contested. It is our job to hold the public's hand and guide them through the fog into a knowledgeable and tangible past. That is what sets us apart from historians, people can actually take the past into their own hands and ponder the artifacts and perhaps make a connection with those who created and used them. Children and young adults are the future consumers of heritage, if we don't educate them on what is valuable then we'll have many many more Rick Savages using a backhoe for a quick buck. Yet if we, the experts, teach the children of our community the societal and cultural value of archaeology and preservation, then perhaps we have justified our existence.  

Chaze Eddings

Chaze Working on Straitening those Walls!

Zander and Carl Exploring the North Foundation of SVIMW

Zander checking out his work.

I found Something!

Julz and Chaze cleaning out the South Excavation Block.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Snowdown and Sons: Field Pictures.

Hello Everyone,

 Things have been running on overdrive at the Snowdon Site! We are in the process of completing our first field season there at the end of this week, although it looks like we may be there next week as well. We've made a startling discovery as well, that I will elaborate on in my next post. For now, here are some great photos of this past week's field work. Enjoy!

Julz and Kyle

Outside North Foundation Wall

N116-120 E100-108 Excavation Block

Volunteer Chaze Excavating around the remains of puddled iron

Kyle holding the remains of a leather sack! (We also have the contents!)

Carl Mapping a portion of the exterior North Foundation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

History Unearthed

Hello Everyone,

      Here is an interview I did for the Herald Standard newspaper from Uniontown, Pennsylvania. It was a little short notice and off the cuff. Over all a good description of what is going on in Brownsville!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Snowdon and Sons Vulcan Iron and Machine Works: Day 9

Hello Everyone,

        Today we had a reporter from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review out on the site today. He asked me an interesting question, one that I hadn't given much thought. "Out of all the places you've worked, in the forests [Allegheny National Forest], the plains, and in urban environments, which one do I like the most? I was taken aback by this question. Usually I would say that I love working in the woods, excavating sites hidden by nature and in areas that are far less traveled than most places. However, urban archaeology has really caught my eye. The urban environment. Here the sites aren't obscured by trees or shrubs (not always!), but here they are hidden in plain sight. Often times we walk past them everyday, an old building, an empty lot, a field by the river. What was there? Our limited ability to measure time in our own life cycle leaves enormous gaps in our historical record. Take the Snowdon and Sons foundry. Many have said, "I thought this was just an empty field!" or "Wasn't this only used by the railroad? I remember the railroad ran through here." The urban environment allows the archaeologist to peal away like an onion the many layers of time and present an ever present population with their own history. Everyday I get to shock someone into thinking about the past in a novel way, not a static past, but one that gets evolve and incorporate their memory. In urban archaeology I get to demystify my field and bring it out of the esoteric and into the tangible world. There is nothing like seeing a retired steel worker holding a tool from the foundry and perhaps wondering if their experience was similar to that of their 19th-century counterpart. How cool is that?      

Juls, Sean, and Liz. Looks like a Penndot road crew!

Pattern Shop Wall extending 6.5 feet below ground surface. The original ground surface was at the bottom of the unit.

Same unit as above, notice the brick debris from the Pattern Shop wall.

Hopefully this is where the foundation turns a corner eastward.

Same unit as above from a different angle looking east.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Archaeology useless? Not in educated society

Hello All,

        Here is an interesting article from the Columbus Dispatch. I believe that the author, Bradley T. Lepper from the Ohio Historical Society explains it well. To discourage bright, intelligent minds from archaeology, let alone any subject is wrong in our society. The very thing that makes the United States stand out, is that everyone has a choice in what they want to study and what career to follow. Granted, barring socio/economic standing! This article reminds me of the use rant that Governor Rick Scott from Florida went on about not needing any more Anthropologists in his state. What the hell is wrong with these people? I feel that as an archaeologist, part of these notions fall directly on myself and the archaeological community. I think we should be more visible in our places of residence and conduct more excavations at the community level. Thus Brownsville Archaeology Month. I couldn't tell you how many visitors reacted to the site as if I had just performed a magic trick, or revealed a hidden object from under a cloth. I guess that's what I did. Except my cloth is 3 feet of railroad fill and my hidden object is a 600ft iron foundry. to my fellow archaeologists, let's be more visible in our communities and more interactive with the very people who appreciate our finds. If we could all just give a few talks a year to a bunch of 6 year-olds or bring a bus of screaming kids out to our sites once in a while, maybe we can secure our own future.   

Archaeology useless? Not in educated society
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Snowdon Foundry Weekend Work Day 7-8.

Hello Everyone,

             Updates didn't occur these past couple of days due to a lack of Internet service. Anyhow, I'm back to report on this weekend's activity at the Snowdon and Sons Vulcan Iron and Machine Works. This weekend was the Market Street Arts Festival in downtown Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Like last year, this is a time when we coordinate Brownsville Archaeology Month to coincide with the festival. After all, isn't archaeology an art? Sure it is, we paint and sculpt the past as well as any artist! So to say the least, we had quite a few visitors to our site to check it out. Although we have been excavating for over two weeks, we still have yet to see any Brownsville Council person, the mayor, or any Brownsville Historical Society official at the site, let alone anyone from the Fayette County Historical Society. A shame really, as these are the people who we expect to advocates for the town, but really only care about the limited world views that they have. Anyhow, here are the pics from the weekend!  
Pattern Shop Wall

Pattern Shop Wall Excavation Block with Security Fence

The Pattern Shop Foundation extends 6 feet below ground surface

Interior Pattern Shop Excavation Block

Liz taking elevations

Left to right: Jonathan Crise, Kyle Norman, and Marc Henshaw (Archaeology Dude)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Archaeologist laments razing of house in Brownsville - Local News

A nice little article based on my rant here on this blog.

Archaeologist laments razing of house in Brownsville - Local News

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Vulcan Iron and Machine Works: Day 6

Hello All!

        Yesterday was busy, and today will be no exception. It was hot out at the site, no shade out on the old brownfield. Discoveries keep turning up at every scrape of the trowel and shovel of dirt. I have some great photos to show you and I'll leave at the moment, the interpretation to you. Remember, this part of the foundry was converted into a tenement apartments!

Remnants of a crawl space filled with brick from foundry walls.

Julz and Liz holding a comb they found.

The Comb!

It's a horse shoe with "Good Luck" stamped on its front/

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Snowdon Vulcan Iron and Machine Works: Day 5

Hello Everyone,

       Sorry for such a late post, things have been, as always busy. Today was no exception. I missed half a day of fieldwork due to some aggravating personal matters. And I locked my camera in the field equipment shed, so no pictures tonight. I was visited today by Scott Beveridge, who works for the Washington, Pa Observer Reporter newspaper. You can follow his blog on my blog list. We are trying to get as much coverage on the Snowdon and Sons Vulcan Iron and Machine Works as we can, after all, it is the foundry that patterned and casted the parts of this nation's first cast iron bridge.
      Yesterday we began finding the remains of a knob and tube electrical wiring system. I knew the foundry had not been electrified during its operation as the Brownsville Electric Company didn't start running until the late 1890's and the mill was out of work for several years before. I decided to return to the documentary evidence, and examine the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps once again. Here is what I found:
      If you'll notice in the area circled in RED in the second image, the pattern shop was converted into tenement apartments! (Even in the 19th century they understood to adaptively reuse day we'll learn) Anyhow, the first image is from 1891 the second is from 1901. If you examine the 3rd image closely, there is a power/telegraph pole in the far left corner. The conversion of the shop to apartments would explain the blue painted plaster we are finding, the bones from livestock, and the broken whiskey bottle. Perhaps these aren't evidence of workers, but of tenants?    
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map

1901 Sanborn Insurance Map
Photo courtesy of Donna Jordan

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Snowdon & Sons Vulcan Iron and Machine Works: Day 4

Hello Everyone,

A volunteer and Jonathan Crise cleaning the foundation.
       Today was a rainy, overcast, and dreary day in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Most archaeologists would have called it a rain-day and went home. Not us. The well drained soils of the concrete and railroad fill makes digging in the rain possible. Besides, does wet concrete make it any easier to dig through? NO! But a good maddock does. I only have two photos today of some archaeologists at work in their trenches. The foundation of the foundry seems largely intact with a sharp break for about 3 feet. The it turns into a pile of bricks, and then back into a cut stone foundation. From a photograph we have, it might represent where a crawl space was located. Only more time and more exploration will tell. Right now, I have to get back to transcribing oral histories from river workers here on the Monongahela, take care. 

Carl Maurer excavating the layer of brick at the bottom of his unit.

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