Thursday, August 15, 2013

Continuing work at the William Kaulehelehe House Site

 The Queen Anne's Lace is still blooming in the area around the William Kaulehelehe House site and we are still finishing up excavations there, although most of the activity has been at the Little Prouxl site.  I spent a bit of time last week doing some finishing up work to close out the small 1 X 5 meter trench that tested the Hawaiian preachers house (Block K).  I had expected to find a few subsurface post and stake holes like we often encounter in the area beneath the dirt floors of the fur trade houses at Fort Vancouver.  After carefully troweling the floor and finding a few minor stains that had little depth and may have been associated with natural processes, I decided that the western-most unit needed at least one more level to make sure that we had not missed anything.  As often happens, this decision led to an increasingly more complex excavation challenge and some very interesting finds.  The eastern margin of the unit contained a nice gray clay, similar to the house floor at the Little Prouxl site, although this was on the outer, western edge of a shallow pit feature that we had excavated earlier in the summer.  Importantly, this clay seemed to dive to the east.  Following this clay proved to be very surprising as what had been thought to be culturally-sterile sediments below the floor turned out to be a fill with a similar color and texture, but that contained a number of artifacts from the house construction including square nails and window glass.

Gilt ring found at the William Kaulehelehe house site.
Interestingly, on the western margins of the clay-lined pit or trench, a man's gilt ring was found. While not of much real value (the gilt is all but gone), this ring is somewhat more fancy than the typical trade rings found at the Fort.  While far from a priceless piece of jewelry, it is intriguing to think that this may have been the personal property of the Hawaiian minister that was lost one day.  One wonders if it had any meaning to him or if he even mourned its loss.

The clay dipped further east into the hole requiring some time to clear.  Surprisingly, a small ceramic sherd was found that has very
rounded edges.  While the transferprint pattern is quite distinctive, the rounding and the small size of the object suggest that it may be an artifact that was subjected to a unique formation process after it was deposited.  Another site associated with the Catholic Mission that we dug on City of Vancouver property about 9 years ago contained similar objects that we interpreted to be gastroliths, or gizzard stones, probably from chickens or some other domesticated fowl.  Birds don't have teeth and to compensate for this, they injest small rocks and other objects (sometimes glass and sometimes ceramics) to help in grinding down their food.  These gizzard stones have been found on archaeological sites before and give a clue, albeit diminutive in size, as to the presence and sometimes the processing of fowl.  

Gastrolith found at the
William Kaulehelehe House Site

On a related note, the clay beneath the ring appears to contain a great deal of bird shot although it is unknown if this represents an area where birds were processed or simply the loss of many very small objects.  In a small test of the clay, I found nearly 50 pieces of shot.

As we had some cloud cover today, I spent a bit of time cleaning up the features of Block K including the newly exposed clay-lined pit/trench and then took photographs to create a 3D model of the test trench.  I made a short YouTube video that you may access at the link below.
YouTube video of 3D Model of Block K

Monday, August 12, 2013

Working with the Oregon Archaeological Society

Oregon Archaeological Society Volunteers help out at the Little Proulx site. Staff Elaine
Dorset and Katie Wynia are training the volunteers on the first day.
 Well, the field school is now over and we have begun the next phase of excavations with the Oregon Archaeological Society.  This is a less frenetic pace, as the lecture series is now over, the work at the Spruce Mill is completed and we have volunteers out on Wed, Friday and Saturday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we catch up on paperwork and finish work that the volunteers have left us.  We have been working at the Little Proulx site with the volunteers and are completing the removal of the clay-lined house floor.  There is a significant concentration of artifacts in the eastern part of the house and appear to have encountered the western edge of the house floor in units pictured above. Surprisingly we have not yet encountered the hearth.
Key and hardware found at
 the Little Prouxl House Site.

We found a very interesting cupreous fragment that may be part of the lock for a large key found in the adjacent unit.  The size and characteristics of the key appear to match that of a very large door key. This may match the time period when a U.S. Army Surgeon, Levi Holden, occupied the house (early 1850s). The Army rented some of the buildings from the Hudson's Bay Company, including the Little Prouxl house.  Additional information on Holden is listed in an article that was prepared by one of our volunteers last year, Jason Ainsley:

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, found at
the William Kaulehelehe house site.

We are also finishing up work at the William Kaulehelehe house site.  A feature that lines up with the hearth may be a footing feature, which also incidentally lines up nicely with the southern wall of our reconstructed House 1 (the Engage' house).  We appear to be on the north wall of the structure.  On excavation of the area immediately west of this feature, a bit of clay house floor was identified and a curious set of metal fragments.  These appear to be part of a tin (perhaps a tea tin) or the lid to a can or jar.  At first they appeared to have an Irish theme, with a harp and possibly a clover, but on closer examination we have discerned it is the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.  As noted by Meagan Huff from the Fort Vancouver Facebook page, "The top fragment is half of a crown, the second from the top contains part of the phrase "Honi soit qui mal y pense," the motto of the Order of the Garter. The fragment third from the top has two barely-visible lions, which represent England. The bottom fragment has a harp, representing Ireland. The banner below it would have contained the words "Dieu et mon droit," the motto of the English monarchs. Research into what this object was for will be ongoing although its presence at a Hawaiian minister's house is quite intriguing with its statement on colonialism and identity with the British empire.

The change in pace has also given me the opportunity to work more closely with the digital forms and iPads to directly explore their use in the field.  A couple of thoughts after a week.  I found the same issues with the glare from the iPads that the students did, particularly when holding them level over the excavation units to attempt to get a plan view of a level or feature.  Even with the brightness increased to maximum, it was difficult at times to get a view of the unit and snap the picture and not lose part of the unit in the image.  This usually required a few shots to get the images I wanted.  Not a huge issue but an aggravation.  The nice thing is that the camera is available at any time for photographing, so I am taking many more images than I would normally.

Another benefit is the ability to use photos to help draw shapes.  Last week I was unhappy with the way in which a mule shoe had been drawn on the house floor by one of the students.  In order to get a better drawing, I took an image of the artifact in-situ, imported it into my level form, then scaled it to the correct size and location, zoomed in and traced the edges of the artifact.  This was done much more accurately and quickly than the hand-drawn method.  I have since tried this method with unit level rocks and the edges of surfaces/floors to improve the quality of the drawings.  I think this has been done to good benefit.  Once the image is traced, the photo is deleted leaving only the line drawing work.

I have been working on some fairly complex levels, with a variety of objects, sampling locations and artifact recording.  The forms seem to take a lot of time, probably longer than a paper form in the field.  The good thing is it is the result is quite legible (a chronic problem for some researchers and students) and the data can be extracted out of the form.  I think I like the annotation  capabilities the best. 

In reviewing the notes from the field school, I have seen that some of the students were quite unhappy with the iDraw program for drawing profiles, and felt they could draw the profiles much faster using paper and pencil (in fact some of them did).  While this may be a factor of unfamiliarity with the program and use of a tablet computer as much as frustration with the speed of entry, there are likely some valid thoughts.  I will explore the use of iDraw to annotate some of these student profiles this week and will report back on its use later.  Regardless, the longest time expended in the field, however, is still the bagging and recording of artifacts, particularly when there are a lot of artifact bags (a typical problem of historical archaeological sites). I will need to think about a means to improve the speed of this process with tablet computers.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Surveying the Spruce Mill Site

Over the past weeks, teams of students have been learning archaeological survey skills at the site of the World War I Spruce Mill, a significant home-front site associated with the processing of old growth Sitka Spruce cut from the forests of the Coast Range of Oregon and Washington and the Olympic Peninsula. 
Besides learning basic pedestrian survey techniques, the crews have also conducted subsurface surveys searching for remnants of the old cut-up mill building, the shops, and tent city for the 3,000 troops that manned the mill. An excellent history of the site by Ward Tonsfeldt helped to guide probing along with remote sensing work by Kendal McDonald reported in an earlier post.
Students excavated probes at locations defined by the magnetometer anomalies recorded earlier in the summer and at locations discovered during monitoring of the removal of some hangars a few years ago. The results confirm that there is abundant evidence of the WWI facility including concrete foundations, concentrations of wire nails and railroad spikes, and even an axe head. Notably, we have been able to see some of the vegetation anomalies associated with the Spruce Mill appearing more distinctive as the ground dries up.

Dry grass in more closely cropped areas suggest where Spruce Mill foundations sit. The ones inside the fort denote where the loading docks to the East and South of the main mill building were located.

The foundations of the sawdust burner are clearly visible as linear dry grass areas adjacent to the reconstructed bake house. 

House Floors, Imaging, and Modelling with Tablet Computers

Over the past two weeks, we have exposed the house floors in both the Little Proulx House and the 1 X 5 m test trench in the WilliamKaulehelehe House.  In both cases, the floors contained evidence of burning consistent with the destruction of both houses by the US Army ca. 1860.  The floors are rich with Hudson’s Bay Company-era artifacts, including beads, buttons, ceramics, vessel glass, window glass, square nails and many other items. There is a very distinctive burnt surface in the eastern half of the Kaulehelehe House site with some evidence of north-south running wooden planks which may indicate a wooden floor that burnt in place or a fallen wall.  In the midst of this rich deposit of artifacts and charred wood and charcoal, a door pintle was found.  This object is of particular importance as it is reported that the U.S. Army removed the windows and door from the Kaulehelehe House prior to torching it on March 20, 1860.  This door pintle and the associated burn layer adjacent to it may be a direct link to the destruction of the house site and the eviction of the Native Hawaiian preacher.
The William Kaulehelehe House site showing the hearth and some preserved planks and charcoal staining.  A door pintle is located in the northern portion of the image.  A water screen sample was previously removed from the southwest corner of the unit and the floor around the hearth has already been excavated.
We had two groups who came to tour the site from the Ke Kukui Foundation.  It was amazing to share these finds with people who have such an interest in Hawaiian heritage and the story of the Hawaiian diaspora.

Dr. Bob Cromwell and I interpret to the Ke Kukui Foundation tour at the Little Prouxl House Site. 

Following the E'se'get Archaeology Project, I decided to capture the hearth using the Autodesk 123D Capture program with my iphone.  As we do not have a 4G connection or wireless access in the field for the iPads, I did not use the tablets for this experiment.  I was quite surprised at the resolution and ease with which 3-D models could be generated in the field.  I took 36 photos of the feature from different angles and submitted them to the Autodesk server that crunched the data in about 15 minutes.  The results were later converted into a video animation on my lap top that I have posted on my University YouTube channel:

YouTube animation of the William Kaulehelehe House Site Hearth (Feature 406)
 As we use the tablet computers, we have begun to discuss improvements to field recording that are facilitated by the concentration of many tools associated with one device.  An obvious improvement would be to take a photograph of the floor of each level as a background for drawing things like rocks, sediment variation, feature boundaries, etc.  Without tablet computers, this is difficult as there are generally only a few cameras on each project.  As each tablet contains a high-resolution camera, it is much easier to collect photographic data on the floor plans (and profiles).  Both the iDraw and pdf Expert apps can import images, although the iDraw app is more sophisticated.  

One issue has been with correcting the distortion caused by cameras that were not placed directly above the floor.  The use of photo-processing apps that remove the distortion (orthorectify the photo) and create a planimetric view may allow a resolution to this problem.  There are a variety of apps available that straighten and flatten images, including programs designed to capture the text and images from whiteboards.  We will be experimenting with some of these apps to improve the capturing of these data.  Simplifying the drawing process may help to streamline the archaeological recovery of data and allow for more sophisticated data to be collected and processed directly in the field. 

Once the distortion is removed, then the picture can be cropped to the size of the unit floor (usually 1 x 1 m) and then dropped into and registered to the image space on the recording form.  Annotations can be placed on top of the image.  For those annotations that were placed prior to the completion of the plan, a translucent image can be generated that will show the earlier details underneath the image.  Theoretically this will free up time drawing things like rocks that are obvious in images, while leaving the ability to annotate those aspects of the floor plan that are not as easy to discriminate with photography.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More on Battery Life

After a week of use, a few statistics can be developed regarding the average use of the iPad and its battery capacity during archaeological excavation.  Table 1 below identifies my tracking of the battery life used each day for the ten iPads. iPads 5, 9 and 10 were only used for the cemetery survey work which only occurred on Thursday and Friday last week.  In addition, Friday afternoon (7/12) was truncated by a lecture and the water screening demonstration so only represent about a 5-hour day.  Due to a glitch, iPads 1 and 2 were not charged the night of 7/9/2013 and the students started 50x50-cm shovel tests (with traditional paper forms) the morning of 7/10/2013 while the units were charging.  iPad 4 was at 8% at 1 pm on 7/10/2013 when it was recharged, therefore only representing about a 4.5 hour work day.


  7/9/2013 7/10/2013
iPad# Start End Battery Life Used Start End Battery Life Used
1 78 42 36 100 45 55
2 68 3 65 100 84 16
3 100 86 14 86 75 11
4 100 61 39 61 8 53
5 100 100 0 100 100 0
6 81 56 25 100 55 45
7 76 55 21 100 100 0
8 100 59 41 100 67 33
9 100 100 0 100 100 0
10 100 100 0 100 100 0
7/11/2013 7/12/2013
iPad# Start End Battery Life Used Start End Battery Life Used
1 100 73 27 100 97 3
2 100 50 50 100 79 21
3 100 93 7 100 100 0
4 100 42 58 100 82 18
5 99 24 75 100 37 63
6 100 60 40 100 88 12
7 100 37 63 100 50 50
8 100 68 32 100 48 52
9 100 14 86 100 41 59
10 99 22 77 100 38 62
iPad# Start End Battery Life Used
1 100 60 40
2 100 79 21
3 100 99 1
4 100 98 2
5 100 100 0
6 100 40 60
7 100 2 98
8 100 19 81
9 100 100 0
10 100 100 0      

As shown in the Table, the cemetery monument recording work, which generates many more forms and digital images, uses up a lot more battery life.  For the two days in which they recorded cemetery headstones, the student's iPads used between 59% and 86% of battery life.  Because Friday was only a five-hour day, and Thursday was a training day when the new crews were getting oriented to the recording strategy, the average battery use might be a bit more for a fully trained crew over an 8 hour workday.  The average for Thursday of 79.3% is probably conservative.  

Ignoring the partial days and charging glitches, the other seven iPads measurements over the five days is 35 observations of battery use.  The average use was 34.0% of the battery with a standard deviation of 24.26.  There was a significant range between no use (the iPad was not used) and 98% of battery use. As iPads are tied to particular excavation units, no use indicates that those units were not excavated that day.  Excavation tasks included filling out the four-page level form, taking images, and some intensive use of iDraw to map the World War I railroad grade. I think a fully trained professional field crew (excavating at a rate of 2 10-cm levels per person per day) will likely generate more forms and perhaps use more battery life depending on the complexity of the site.   Even so, there appears to be plenty of capacity for excavation forms and digital images. This is consistent with the results from other projects, such as the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project on Cyprus and the E'se'get Archaeology Project in Nova Scotia.

Monday, July 15, 2013

House Floors, the Spruce Mill, and Other Excavation Notes

Concentration of beads being discovered at the Little Prouxl House Site.

Hearth exposed below house floor
(about 70 cm top to bottom -- west is up)
Over the past two weeks we have been exploring the house floor of the Little Proulx House Site and clearing more units to expand on these excavations.  There have been a number of notable finds, including a cluster of about 70 white beads (what appear to be small, hot-tumbled tube beads) in the southwest corner of one of the excavation units.  The location of this cluster is mapped using the annotation tool on the PDF Expert program. Just to the west of this, a concentration of baked clay (or "bisque" as it is used in the Pacific Northwest, probably from the house fire when it burned), a charred beam, and concentrations of  bisque and charcoal likely associated with the destruction of the house.  In one area nearby, a nicely-defined hearth with a charcoal-black rim and reddish-brown interior was discovered below the clay floor.  This may be a hearth that preceded the construction of the house or an earlier iteration of the structure before the clay floor was
laid down.

We are also shovel probing the Spruce Mill Area, exploring some of the magnetic anomalies identified by Kendal McDonald a few weeks ago.  The probes are about 40 cm in diameter and are dug to at least 50 cm in depth.  The first week of probing we found many interesting strata tied to fill associated with the World War I mill site and later uses of the property for aviation and other U.S. Army and City of Vancouver uses. We found surprisingly few metal objects or other sources that could be tied to the anomalies.  This past week we used a metal detector to really home in on the magnetic sources and were rewarded with many metal objects, including cast spikes, a likely aviation fuel line, and other objects.
Excavation of a shovel probe at the Spruce Mill cut-up mill site.
Pearson Air Museum, including the repurposed World War I hanger  in the background.
Back at the dig site, we used iDraw to map the top of one of the World War I Spruce Mill spur lines that rest above the Little Prouxl House Site.  Besides being an excellent training excercise, we are troubleshooting the use of iDraw for illustration of plan and profile maps.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Battery Life in the Field

One of the concerns raised by some with the use of tablets in the field was battery life and if the tablets would last through an entire day of field recording. I am happy to report that battery usage during excavation is about 20-40% during the day depending on the number of forms worked on. While the school is digging more slowly than a professional crew in the field, it appears that there is plenty of juice to record excavation data without having a supplemental source or having to swap out units.

In contrast, the cemetery recording project uses up an entire battery each day. One tablet ran out of juice before the final photos of monuments were recorded. This is undoubtedly due to the much larger number of forms created each day during cemetery recording.

By recording battery life each day, we should be able to get some metrics on the number of forms generated contrasted with battery expenditure. This week I will collect some data.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Survey Crew Starts Work at Spruce Mill

As part of the Field school, the students learn skills in field surveying to discover and record archaeological sites, including basic orienteering and gps, pedestrian and subsurface shovel probing, and mapping and site recording.  This week, a quarter of the field school started this portion of the course under the direction of Tony Hofkamp.  The site of this course is the field east of the reconstructed fur-trade fort and west of Pearson Air Museum.  This was the location of the World War I Spruce cut-up mill.

Last week Kendal McDonald (Z-Too Archaeogeophysical Prospection and Applied Archaeological Research) collected remote sensing data from the Spruce Mill area using her gradiometer (see Remote Sensing post from last week).  She was able to get us some preliminary results from the 160 m long north-south by 20 m wide transect we set up across the Cut-up mill. There are some dramatic patterns in magnetic anomalies that the survey crew will explore over the next four weeks.

While we excavated over a dozen probes this week, we have not had good fortune hitting the source of some of the anomalies. Next week I plan to use a metal detector to refine the locations for probes

Kendal McDonald shows Field School the results of the
Gradiometer Survey in the Field Laboratory
Magnetometer Results laid out on the Laboratory Floor.  Some of the strong positive-negative
linear anomalies may be buried cables for aircraft ties from the later airport.

Bag Catalogs and the Field Laboratory

Yesterday we started our field laboratory portion of the course.  Students will cycle through the field lab to gain basic skills in organizing, cleaning, and error-checking the collections and archival materials. When we were designing the digital forms we made the conscious decision to only maintain a bag catalog tied to the level and feature forms and to not have a separate bag catalog for artifact bags collected from each unit.  While this removes an aspect of redundancy which is designed to avoid errors, it was thought that the digital forms would facilitate the creation of a bag catalog in the field laboratory to assist in error checking, and building a site-wide artifact catalog.  On Monday, while the Field School rested, I explored how to go from the adobe forms to excel to create a usable bag catalog. The pdf forms can be extracted to an excel spreadsheet with ease and it is simple to extract the data from each level form as a row (single line on a relational database) tied to individual units.  To then use these data to create an inventory of bags collected, I wrote a short macro using Visual Basic which primarily uses a For Next routine to collect the six variables collected for each bag, including its bag number, type of artifact (e.g., beads, transferprint ceramic, etc.), the field count of artifacts in the bag, and if it was point-provenienced, the northing, easting, and elevation of that object.  The routine simply copies these data for each level form listed on the excel worksheet as a line to a new bag catalog worksheet.  At this point there is still a bit of cleanup necessary to sort the bags to remove blank spaces between levels and I had to add a "level" field that we are adding by hand in the lab during error checking.  When I get a free moment I will work on the macro to attempt to further streamline these processes.  We are starting to use these "bag catalogs" in the field lab to create lot and specimen numbers to track the collections through the cleaning, analysis, and cataloging process.  Stay tuned for how it will work out!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Remote Sensing

Today Kendal McDonald will finish a magnetometer survey of the World War I Spruce Mill site east of the reconstructed fort. On Wednesday, Kendal conducted a workshop with the students on the main parade ground and then collected data from a 20 X 20 m square on the suspected site of the original US Army flag pole. Kendal's magnetometer is a Geometrics G-858 dual sensor cesium magnetometer configured as a gradiometer. She records the magnetic signature of the sediments she walks over and contrasts it with the magnetic "noise" of overhead power lines, solar radiation, and other intrusive magnetic disturbance. The resulting magnetic gradient between the two is used to look for changes in the sediment magnetic signature tied to metal objects, old pits, hearths, and foundations. 
Besides the flag pole location, we hope to find foundations, rail lines and other remains of the spruce mill. The mill cut spruce logged from the coast range into pieces suitable for making aircraft during the Great War.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Upon us all a little rain must fall

Today we started our second week in the field at the Fort Vancouver Village. It rained quite a bit over our Sunday-Monday "weekend" and continued off and on with showers today. While there was never a steady rain, there were lots of drips off the shelters and students got to try out their rain gear.
The iPads held up nicely in moist conditions and we verified that it is possible to use them inside a clear sealable plastic bag. On Monday I updated the form templates to correct a glitch in the other materials observed but not collected category. I also developed a simple photo log form to collect the information we need for each iPads photo images.
The crew on Block L (Little Prouxl's House) started removing 5 cm of the house floor. They are finding some Hudson's Bay Company artifacts and some larger animal bones tied to the house. Some remnants of the gray clay floor remain from last year and the students are removing these patches. 
In the morning we had a visit from some Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) campers who are learning about the science of archaeology for 1/2 a week and then heading out to John Day fossil beds for 1/2 a week.
The campers helped screen and the students helped to explain some of the common field tasks like excavation and plan mapping. The students also showed the use of the iPads in field recording.

Friday, June 21, 2013

First Day in the Field

Excavation Starts at the William Kaulehelehe House Site (Block K) with
the Reconstructed Village Houses and Silver Star Mountain in the background.
 Today we started excavation in the Village at the William Kaulehelehe House site and started removing fill from the Little Prouxl House.  After setting up a 1 x 5 m trench, near a 1980s test unit excavated by Bryn Thomas and Chuck Hibbs, we began using the iPads as a means to enter data.  So far the data entry seems very easy and mimics the success that Matthew Betts had at the E'se'get Archaeology Project in Nova Scotia, Canada. The forms follow the paper forms quite well and while we have not yet used them in the rain or dry dusty conditions, the four completed level forms and two in-progress forms for today were entered with minimal issues.  This evening, the level record forms for the two iPads that were used today were downloaded via lightning connection and backed up very quickly. We will undoubtedly have more iPads in operation tomorrow once the fill from Block L is entirely removed..  The weather outlook suggests that we will likely have some rain next week to test wetter and more muddy conditions.  Tomorrow however, we should have nice weather again.

Some of the students are learning to excavate shovel tests (50 x 50 cm tests) along the southern border of the South Barracks portion of the Village.   These tests are using paper and pencil forms. So far we have barely penetrated some fill deposits from the 1980s.

We plan to have the students visit Pearson Air Museum tomorrow to help celebrate the 76th anniversary memorial program of the Chkalov landing in Vancouver.  This is an event we visited with the field school last year that was quite touching for the students.  Participation in a "history program" will help demonstrate the significance of historical sites tied to events (or Criterion A of the National Register of Historic Places significance criteria) and how place-based history is tied to significant archaeological sites through the United States National Register. I hope to show that the significance of archaeological sites must also address other criteria of significance than Criterion D (transcending their ability to serve primarily as scientific data stores), but can embody remains tied to important events, people, and other aspects tied to National Register eligibility.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 3

Today we conducted interpretive and cultural sensitivity training.  We were joined by a number of the park rangers and conducted a number of exercises that challenged our understanding of race and racism in the United States.  This program helps to sensitize the students to other cultures and makes sure that the Rangers and students are on the same page in terms of interpreting the multicultural community and other aspects of cultures to the public.  While some of the exercises are difficult and there is always a variety of opinions and perspectives, it is good to build a culture of understanding and courtesy to address the needs of visitors that come from different countries, different ethnic and  economic backgrounds, and to try to connect with the visitors.  Our goal is that everyone coming to the Village and Fort this summer will feel welcome and have the best chance to understand and appreciate the amazing history of this national park.  Perhaps the best message is that the national park belongs to all Americans and should be enjoyed by all Americans in perpetuity.  This sensitivity training helps us to do that very difficult job.
Public Archaeology Field School, Chkalov Cultural Exchange Committee members,
and National Park Service Rangers at the Chkalov Monument at Pearson Air Museum.

We also had the unique opportunity to visit the Chkalov Monument just on the outside of Pearson Air Museum where we will have our lectures.  Jess Frost, of the Valery Chkalov Cultural Exchange Committee provided some valuable information on the historical significance of the Chkalov flight, the first transpolar flight that left from Moscow on June 18 and arrived in Vancouver, Washington at the Army Air Corp field (Pearson Field) on June 20, 1937. The Russian aviators were met by Gen. George C. Marshall, who was in command of the post then and ran the local Civilian Conservation Corps (a depression era program that put young men to work in the 1930s and early 1940s).  Mr. Frost explained how Chkalov had compared the United States and Russia to the two great Rivers, the Volga and the Columbia River and how both flowed into the same waters of the seas of the world.  A brief history by Frost is at the Committees web site.

The monument dates to the time of D├ętente in 1974 when there was a thaw in the cold war.  It has been at Pearson Air Museum on National Park Service property since the 1990s. On Saturday, students will attend a bilingual presentation (Russian and English) on the significance of the Chkalov flight.  Today, some of the students joined Committee members and National Park Service Rangers in laying flowers on the monument in honor of the 76th anniversary of the flight.
Members of the Chkalov Cultural Exchange Committee,
National Park Service Rangers, and field school students laid
flowers at the Chkalov Monument.

Preparations for Fieldwork Day 2

Classroom work on the use of the iPads for collecting Excavation
and Feature Level Record data
Yesterday, we introduced the Field School students to the use of the iPads for the collection of data.  This year, in addition to the Vancouver Old City Cemetery monument recording forms, we are using the iPads to collect data from general Excavation Level Record and Feature Record forms.  The students had a presentation where they were introduced to the use of the iPads and the way in which the forms were set up.  This closely followed our training schedule in the past, with the exception that we are using the iPads instead of paper forms.

Some of the benefits of using the iPads include the ability to add the research design and field school manual as files to the iPads so they are readily accessible. We also provided these to the students in hard copy and we will track whether the hard copy versions are used for convenience or if the students make more use of the digital reference versions.  We also instructed the students in the use of the digital photo capabilities of the iPad and have developed a digital photo log sheet to track images for each iPad.  Each iPad is given a unique identifier and files will be tracked for each iPad.  Each iPad will be assigned to a set of excavation units and they will stay with the excavation blocks to assist in coordination and tracking of the equipment and forms.

Dr. Bob Cromwell talks about ceramics identification in the Classroom.
We also conducted basic artifact identification work to ensure that the students are familiarized with the types of material culture found at the site and the way in which we segregate artifacts in the field, including labeling, tracking, and recording.  Dr. Bob Cromwell gave another excellent introduction to ceramics covering many of the important attributes of ceramics identification, amusing anecdotes, and the most common types of Chinese and Staffordshire ceramics commonly found at Fort Vancouver. At the end of the day we conducted a sediment identification workshop and ended up at the blacksmith shop.
Volunteer Lee Pisarek demonstrates the manufacturing steps in making a
wrought nail in the blacksmith shop at Fort Vancouver.
One of the benefits of having a living history museum at Fort Vancouver is the ability to have students observe the traditional technology associated with blacksmithing.  Because there is a very active volunteer trades guild that operates the blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, bakehouse, and kitchen, there is the potential for students of material culture to see living history and museum exhibits tied to the manufacture and use of a variety of the types of material culture that are found in Hudson's Bay Company contexts.  We are very fortunate to have a number of blacksmiths who have mastered many of the skills of 19th century blacksmithing and that can show some of the complete ferrous metal artifacts that sometimes we find only in fragments.  Mr. Lee Pisarek, one of our highly skilled blacksmith volunteers, was able to describe and demonstrate the art of wrought nail making, a very humble artifact, but one that is commonly found at Fort Vancouver.  Meris Mullaley's M.A. Thesis explored the distributions of fasteners, like wrought nails, and window glass, among other things to explore the architecture of the Village.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Public Archaeology Field School Starts!

Students were first oriented at the Visitor Center at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Students began their 3-day orientation to the site and excavation techniques today with a variety of introductions, presentations, volunteer applications, tours, and classroom work. While there will be some rain showers over the next few days, we will be mostly indoors. 

Last week the crew leaders and instructors set up the iPads with the digital excavation and feature record forms. We have decided to create a bag catalog entirely from the digital forms. This will lose one level of redundancy but will streamline the recording. Students will still need to enter data on the level or feature forms and on the bags. Bag catalogs will be generated on the project computer from the digital forms.
Meagan Huff shows the students artifacts from the Museum Collection.  Jacqueline Cheung works on a collection in the foreground. 

We taught old school recording for the 50x50-cm shovel tests on paper forms with pencils and the basics of field notes. Tomorrow we will introduce the students to the iPads.

At the end of the day we walked the site on an archaeology focused walking your of the Fort and Village. We also visited the Museum where Meagan Huff showed off the artifacts and explained museum public outreach. The public can access this space on one of our museum open house tours:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Safety First

As part of our training for the Crew Leaders of the field school, we usually conduct CPR and first aid training with the other NPS staff. We typically use the Red Cross. This is very useful to put the emphasis on safety and to help the staff (and me) to remember all of the potential sources of injury in the field. It is also a great way to start building a team.

This first day helps to guide our training of the students and ensure a safe working and learning environment for all of us. Also given the large numbers of visitors we have, first aid and CPR/AED in case of a visitor mishap is only prudent. Over the 12 years of the field school, the worst case has been exposure to poison oak. We are prepared though!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

IPads for Fieldwork at Fort Vancouver

Last week we purchased 10 iPads with Retina displays, 16 gb with wifi for use by the students this summer. As we will have over 20 students this year, we will have to work in teams. This is typical of archaeological excavation where teams of two often conduct excavation. Usually one person excavates and conducts paperwork while one or more screeners collect artifacts and fill out bags. We have enough iPads for excavation of a test trench at the William Kaulehelehe house and the continuing excavations at the Little Prouxl house. Teams will also use iPads at the Old City Cemetery site where we will continue recording in the northwest quadrant (the Masonic quarter by fate). Other testing work using 30-cm round shovel probes (for subsurface survey) and 50x50-cm shovel tests (subsurface survey/testing) will use old fashioned paper forms. We will also have the students take old-fashioned field notes with paper and pencil. Photographs will include those taken by students with the iPads and "old fashioned" Nikon digital single-lens reflex cameras which will be used for feature and profile recording. I am perhaps the last person to give up black and white film but no BW film this year. We will just have to deal with digital archiving for the long term (see among others,  Kintigh and Altschul 2010).

For cases we are trying Griffin Technology military grade Survivor cases in a variety of colors (colors more a case of availability)
and Otterbox Defender series cases 

The weather is currently wet, typical of this time of year in the Pacific Northwest and we are expecting some moist conditions next week when we start. Should be a good way to test use under more muddy conditions. Later it will become dry and dusty.

We are also tweaking and testing the pdf forms. We will have the crew leaders test them on Thursday before finally loading them onto the iPads. Forms are a level form, feature form, and bag catalog. Lab Director Elaine Dorset is editing the level form mockup I made and translating them into the other forms. We have gone from a traditional 2 page form to a 4 page form with a more error proof sediment description form. The elevations will be less error prone too. I am putting together instructional materials for the students to go with the field manual that can live on the iPads. Being able to have access to digital instruction manuals and reference materials in the field should be quite novel. I wonder that it may be overwhelming given the nature of fieldwork although access to critical information in the field may improve decision-making during fieldwork. We will see.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Field School Lecture Series

Here is the announcement for our 2013 Speaker Series:

"Planes, Mills, Factories, and Forts: Exploring Technological Heritage in the 21st Century"

WHEN: June 27, July 11, July 18, July 25,August 1. All lectures take place at 7:00 PM.

WHERE: All talks will be held at the Tex Rankin Theater at Pearson Air Museum, located at 1115 E 5th Street, Vancouver, WA 98661

VANCOUVER, WA – Fort Vancouver National Historic Site’s 2013 Speaker Series, part of the annual Public Archaeology Field School, will bring together experts in the field of archaeology to address topics of technological heritage. Lectures in the series will discuss the preservation of aviation crash sites in National Parks, the Kaiser Shipyards, the Brimstone Hill Fortress on St. Kitts in the Caribbean, the underwater archaeology of the World War II Midway battlefield, and more.

Technological heritage is found at industrial and military sites, and forms an important part of many communities’ local identity and history. The preservation of technological heritage occurs in many forms, including museum objects and archives, antique and replica aircraft, ships and equipment, industrial structures, and archaeological sites. Together, these tell the story of industrial experiments and undertakings and the people and communities associated with them.

The lectures are open to the public and free of charge.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, including a full schedule, visit

Monday, May 13, 2013

Data Entry in the Lab

Volunteer Patty Tuller data enters lab analysis data from paper forms in the clean area of the Fur Store Archaeology Laboratory. While lap top computers have streamlined this step in some of our lab situations, the use of volunteers and the sometimes dusty conditions in the "dirty lab" makes direct digital recording using laptops difficult. After the field school, we hope to continue to use the weatherized IPads for routine collections labeling processes and direct analysis recording.

Field School Preparations

Just finished preparing a presentation for tomorrow's Western States SHPO (State Historic Preservation Conference) meeting, which is being held at the City of Vancouver's Artillery Barracks, part of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve (the affiliated area adjacent to the National Park Service's Fort Vancouver National Historic Site).  The lunchtime talk is will focus on our Public Archaeology field school and introduce the SHPOs and their staffs to our experiment with mobile recording technology.

A few weeks ago I tweaked our Level Record Form and marveled at its potential to reduce mathematical errors associated with elevations, make routine the use of standardized categories, and streamline data collection in the field.  I had hoped to use this with a little project associated with a single 1x1-m test unit, but the timing didn't quite work out.  A screen-shot of the first page of our form is shown -- I'll post the entire form once I have troubleshot it a bit more.

We had a large number of field school applications this year and it looks like it will be a big group.  Am still working out the public lecture series (although almost have it nailed down) and working through the many processes that we run through every year to coordinate between three big organizations -- two Universities and the National Park Service.  So many details . . .

Screen shot of the first page of the Level Record Form.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cemetery Digital Data Entry Form -- Testing with The Historical Archaeology Class

The groups are finishing up using the new template to enter field data into digital format.  I am linking it to this blog along with the original recording assignment and some tips on data entry.  Most of the students have finished and only a few minor issues are emerging.  An obvious issue is how to translate hard-to-read forms.  This is common of all paper and pencil forms that are translated to digital.  Use of this form in the field will make this problem obsolete.  Another issue is hand-drawn figures on the paper and pencil forms.  We are simply recording that a figure was drawn in the digital form.  In the future, perhaps I will include a drawing platform for use in the field to augment the text-based form, much as the level form I plan to develop soon.  Stay tuned.

By the way, there was a lovely article by Alexis Madrigal in the Atlantic Monthly today on a very special artifact from the Fort Vancouver collections.  The story speaks for itself -- it is in the most humble artifacts that sometimes we find amazing connections!

Last, our web page for the Public Archaeology Field School at Fort Vancouver is live.  Applications are due no later than May 3.  Early notification deadline is April 5.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Digital Cemetery Headstone Recording

“There is no better place to stand face-to-face with the past than in the old burying grounds . . .” 
James Deetz 1996

My Anthropology 355 class (Historical Archaeology and the Origins of the Modern Pacific Northwest) will help me to test the use of digital recording forms, compiling data from cemetery headstones previously recorded in Vancouver, Washington by the 2011 and 2012 field schools.  

Field school students recording gravestones at
the Old City Cemetery in Vancouver, Washington
The Old City Cemetery (45CL887) in Vancouver, Washington, represents one of the oldest cemeteries in the City.  It was established in July 1867, and is directly tied to Fort Vancouver though the Hudson’s Bay Company Cemetery (the first colonial cemetery in the City) and the U.S. Army Post Cemetery, the latter of  which allowed civilian burials to be interred in it until July 1, 1867. The Old City Cemetery contains many of the early historical figures of the City, like Ester Short, who filed the town plat for Vancouver, Washington;  Charles Slocum, a local businessman who helped to lay out Boise, Idaho; and even former Hudson’s Bay employees, like Joseph Petrain, the baker at Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Vancouver.  The headstones of the Old City Cemetery reflect the changing styles of the mid-19th and early 20th century.  The cemetery has been subject to recent vandalism, and the field school project is designed to collect baseline information on headstone condition while collecting data on the forms, decorations, and inscriptions of the headstones.

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, archaeological field school students from Portland State University and Washington State University Vancouver recorded headstones from the eastern half (southeast and northeast quadrants) of the cemetery.  The Clark County Geneological Society has been repairing some of the damaged headstones and has collected a prodigious amount of geneological information on the cemetery: Other groups have also taken an interest in preserving and protecting the cemetery, including Project Youth.

As part of the their assignment to explore patterns in cemetery headstones through time and across space, groups of students in my winter term class will use a new digital form to input data previously collected by the field school students on cemetery headstones.  Not only will this give them a feel for historical archaeology data collection, but also test the form for eventual use in the field.