• Name: Paul McLerran
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wenas Creek: Life in 16,000 B.P.

If you were to walk along the terrain near the small town of Selah, Washington, you would see a hilly, desert-like landscape, reflecting the dry climate that is characteristic of the eastern half of this Pacific Northwest state; however, during Pleistocene times (1.8 million to 10,000 years B.P.), you would see a wetter, cooler landscape, consisting of a greater abundance of vegetation, water sources, and fauna long ago extinct. Mammoths roamed this ancient ecosystem. Isolated examples of their bones have been found scattered across this, the Columbian Plateau area. Rare, however, is the instance where an assemblage of associated bones from a single specimen can be found in one location. Such a site is the subject of ongoing investigations being conducted by a research team under the direction of Dr. Patrick Lubinski of Central Washington University. Known as the Wenas Creek Mammoth site, it has thus far revealed hundreds of bone elements, including nearly complete mammoth leg bones, vertebrae, toe bones and shoulder blade, as well as the remains of bison, dated to approximately 16,000 years B.P. Additional bones remain partially exposed from the 2009 excavations and are awaiting removal in 2010. Equally intriguing, human artifacts (cryptocrystalline flakes) were discovered in proximity to, and 15 centimeters above, a mammoth bone, suggesting a human presence at the site. Were there humans in the midst of these ancient creatures as early as 16,000 years ago? More work needs to be done to answer that question. The goals of the project are to recover additional mammoth remains and associated fauna and paleo-environmental data, and to place these into the geological context. Additionally, it is hoped that the research will reveal the taphonomic relationships between the finds, as well as more evidence of human presence.

Individuals interested in being a part of this exciting work of discovery will have the opportunity to participate either as field school students or in other volunteer capacities, learning the tools and techniques common to BOTH paleontology and archaeology. The Wenas Creek Mammoth Project Field School will be conducted during the summer of 2010 and will offer a full agenda of practical learning experiences.

The Field School

The Field School is open to anyone eligible to register for college credits (college students or not) and may be audited by those not wanting college credit. There are no prerequisites, but some background in archaeology, geography and/or geology is strongly encouraged. For the first week (beginning June 21), students will be training with lecture, lab studies, field trips, and perhaps hikes. They will acquire some background in archaeological field methods, sediments, mammoths, maps, and the regional environment. The first day will be entirely on campus, but they may be in the field or on campus thereafter. Primary field tasks will be recovery of mammoth bones and any artifacts, and collection of stratigraphic and geomorphic information to place the finds into context. To do this, a number of 2 x 2 m units will be excavated, mapping all encountered bone and artifacts with a total station theodolite. Students may use shovels, wheelbarrows, trowels, brushes, and/or fine bamboo skewers for excavation, and shake the recovered material through 1/8" screens. As bone is recovered, the team will make use of a consolidant to stabilize fragments and prevent them from disintegrating. As they excavate the 2 x 2 m units, they will also carefully record the stratigraphy of each, and link this to the already-described stratigraphy of the backhoe trench excavated in 2005. Ultimately, the recovered bones will be linked to the stratigraphy and associated geomorphology of the site.
Students may also gain experience with pedestrian archaeology. As part of an exchange program, they may spend up to a week on a survey crew working through central Washington. This exchange is with a parallel CWU archaeology summer field school under the direction of Dr. Steve Hackenberger. Transportation is provided. Students may choose their level of participation in this exchange, up to five days. Additionally, participants will also take several field trips elsewhere, such as the Yakima Valley Museum in Yakima and the Qwu?gwes "wetsite" archaeological excavation in Olympia.

Join the Team!

If you are interested in learning more about how to join this effort, go to the website at
www.cwu.edu/~mammoth.html for more detailed information about the project and how to apply. Not interested or ready for the full Field School experience? You can volunteer to participate and get a taste of the action by registering for their ongoing volunteer program. Information about this program can also be found at the website.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Excavate a Roman City and Necropolis!

The Ecomuseum of the Cape of Cavalleria on the beautiful island of Menorca, Spain, is offering the opportunity for students and volunteers to excavate a Roman city and its associated necropolis together in one field experience from March 29 to October 31, 2010. The field season will be divided into a number of three-week sessions from which participants may choose. This particular opportunity will allow the participant the option to work half of the time among the urban remains of the Roman settlement, and half of the time in the necropolis, excavating and investigating tombs and their human remains. See the more detailed postings below for information about the options of participating in the excavations at the city or the necropolis separately. You may also go to www.ecomuseodecavalleria.com for more information about these exciting opportunities.

Underwater Archaeology in the Mediterranean

When most of us think about archaeology, we imagine digging on dry land through layers of soil and stone under a variety of weather conditions. But much of our history can be learned by exploring what humanity has left beneath the surface of oceans and lakes. A wealth of information still lies waiting to be recovered underwater.

In 2010, the Ecomuseum of the Cape Cavalleria will be exploring the Roman port of Sanitja and the coast of the Cape of Cavalleria, identifying structures of the Roman city of Sanisera (a part of present-day Spain) as well as shipwrecks. The port of Sanitja was not only occupied by the Romans. There are also ruins on land of a Muslim mosque and English defense tower which suggests that underwater evidence from these periods will be found, as well.

The course is designed to provide practical experience in underwater archaeological field work, from site discovery to lab analysis. Participants will gain experience in various activities such as surveying methods, site reconnaissance, recording, drawing, mapping, position fixing, photography, and laboratory processing. Students will also attend lectures on Roman archaeology. The course runs six hours a day, six days a week. The day will be divided between diving in the
port of Sanijta, lab work, exercises, lectures, videos and excursions. The course schedule is designed to be flexible because this program is dependent on weather and conditions at sea.


In addition to daily research activities, participants will learn about the history and culture of
Menorca through organized excursions. The course is taught in English and Spanish.

Participants will be able to choose between Group 1: No open water diving certificate, or Group 2: Possession of an open water diving certificate from an internationally recognized organization.

This is a perfect opportunity for those interested in developing a career in underwater archaeology, or for those simply interested in a unique educational adventure that can be found through relatively few other venues. Find out more about the project and how to join by going to www.ecomuseodecavalleria.com.

Meeting Romans Up Close and Personal


Are you interested in excavating ancient human remains? Understanding our past is not complete without a direct examination of the actual people who created it. Here is a chance to literally meet some Romans up close and personal.

In 2010, a research team of scientists and student volunteers will be excavating a cluster of Roman tombs belonging to a cemetery located on the outskirts of the Roman city of Sanisera that was occupied from 123 B.C. to A.D. 550. The excavation is directed by Fernando Contreras, director of the Ecomuseum of the Cape of Cavalleria, and Thaïs Fadrique with the collaboration of specialists in physical anthropology and conservation.


The course runs seven hours a day which is divided between excavation of the tombs and laboratory work; studying and conservation of the human remains and other materials recovered during the excavation (The amount of time dedicated to lab work may vary each session depending on the state of the tombs excavated). Students will also participate in lectures, classes, exercises and excursion.

Participants will learn and apply excavation techniques used in physical anthropology when excavating tombs. In the laboratory, participants will follow guidelines set by an anthropologist and other specialists for the classification, study, and conservation of human remains and other related material found. Participants will also be given lectures on methodology, roman archaeology, physical anthropology, and conservation of archaeological materials. Participants will visit other archaeological sites on the island through organized excursions. Academic courses will be offered in both English and Spanish.

If you're interested in joining the team, go to www.ecomuseodecavalleria.com to find out more. You may be surprised about how much can be learned about ancient lives by just studying their bones and how they were buried!

Investigating the Roman City at Sanisera


As early as 123 B.C., the Roman army had reached and conquered Menorca of the Balearic Mediterranean islands. Now a part of Spain, Menorca became at that time a part of the vast Roman empire. It was ruled by Rome for at least 600 years. On one of those islands, they had established three cities, one of which is known today as Sanisera. Built around the port of Sanitja, it flourished as a commercial maritime center, receiving ships traveling from present-day Spain to Italy and from present-day France to Africa. The impressiveness of Sanisera can be appreciated in the present by the quantity and quality of the amphoras and other roman artifacts that have been found in recent excavations. Sanisera is situated in a spectacular natural reserve next to the Ecomuseum of the Cape of Cavalleria, which, along with the Sanitja Association, is sponsoring archaeological excavations at the ancient site.

Under the direction of Director Fernando Contreras, a team of archaeologists, students and volunteers with be conducting systematic excavation and research at the site from March 29 to October 31, 2010 to uncover more of what made this city such an important Roman settlement and center of maritime activity. Students will learn and gain experience in excavation using the Harris Matrix. Various instruments and tools will be used to record stratigraphy and document the plans and photographs of the excavation. In the museum laboratory, students will study excavated material and learn basic techniques of artifact recording, focusing on Roman pottery. In addition to the daily excavation and laboratory work, students will also participate in conferences on methodology and Roman archaeology, and will visit other museums and archaeological sites on the island. Academic courses will be offered in both English and Spanish.


If you are interested in expanding your mind and learning some first-hand field archaeology in a Mediterranean setting in 2010, you are invited to join the team by going to the website at www.ecomuseodecavalleria.com to learn more about the project and the application procedures. Who knows? This could be a life-changing experience!

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Uncovering the Glories of Hippos


The relatively small area of this little city detracts nothing from the impressive architectural remains one beholds as the casual observer traverses its ancient streets. "Monumental" is the best word that comes to mind when describing this fortified Hellenistic-Roman style space and its commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

Known as the ancient city of
Hippos-Sussita, it is located on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, on top of a flat, diamond shaped mountain, 350 m above the lake. Sussita, or as it was known by its Greek name, Antiochia-Hippos, was founded after 200 BC, when the Seleucids seized the Land of Israel from the Ptolemies. During the Roman Period Hippos belonged to the Decapolis, a group of ten cities which were regarded as centers of Greek culture in an area predominantly populated by Semitic peoples such as Jews, Aramaeans, Ituraeans, and Nabataeans.The cities of the Decapolis had much in common. Most were founded during the Hellenistic period and were given the encouragement and support of the Seleucid kings, who saw them as a counterweight to the kingdoms that lay to the west (the Hasmonaean Kingdom of Judaea) and to the east (the Nabataean kingdom). Most of the population in the cities was Hellenised and the citizens saw themselves as citizens of a polis in every respect.


The Project

The research of Hippos-Sussita is an international Israeli-Polish-American project collaboration co-directed by: Professors Arthur Segal and Michael Eisenberg from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa; Professor Jolanta Mlynarczyk from the Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, Polish Academy of Sci­ences; Dr. Mariusz Burdajewicz of the National Museum, Warsaw; and Profes­sor Mark Schuler from Concordia University, St Paul, USA.
The objective of the expedition is to uncover the entire ancient city, the street network, the main public secular and religious buildings, as well as the domestic quarters. The expedition also hopes to sur­vey and excavate the two necropoleis located to the south and south-east of the city. The relationship between the city and the surrounding country­side will also be examined in future sea­sons, especially the area stretching between the city and the lake. Further, they plan to conduct a detailed survey of the lake's shore to establish the exact location of Hippos' port.


The 2010 Goals

During the summer of 2010 (July 4 --July 31), the team plans to excavate and investigate the:

  1. Early Roman Period Basilica;
  2. Early Roman Period Odeion;
  3. Insula by the North-East Church (including preservation work);
  4. Roman-Byzantine Bath located between the Forum and southern city wall;
The expedition also plans to continue preservation treatment of all of the sites that have been exposed thus far.


The project directors are inviting students and volunteers from all over the world to come join them in this exciting long-term expedition. If you are interested, go to http://hippos.haifa.ac.il for more detailed information and to find out how to apply.

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