• Name: Paul McLerran
  • Locations:Virginia, United States
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center Programs

When we think about going on an archaeological dig, most of us perceive it as a largely adult or college student activity. But it may surprise you to know that there are many programs out there that invite youth participation. Indeed, there are programs that are specifically designed for people well below "college age". Perhaps one of the finest examples can be found with the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. It offers programs for teenagers (high school students), children and families. Using the example of ongoing site investigation in the Mesa Verde area of the American Southwest, this program gives young people at a very early age a chance to learn what it means to undertake systematic excavation and research.......and have fun at the same time. Moreover, you will see when you visit this site that it caters to ALL ages and experience levels. Check it out!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Excavating Tel Kabri: The Aegean Connection

Did the Minoans walk the ancient land of Canaan? No one can say with certainty, but new evidence is emerging that further supports the possibility. Directors Eric Cline of the George Washington University and Assaf Yasur-Landau of Haifa University, will be leading an excavation this summer that will shed new light on this, and many other questions about the ancient inhabitants who once occupied the site of Tel Kabri.

Located in the western Galilee region of modern Israel, Tel Kabri was the center of a Canaanite polity during the Middle Bronze Age. Excavations conducted by Aharon Kempinski and Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier from 1986-1993 revealed the remains of a palace dating to the Middle Bronze period (ca. 2000-1550 BCE). Tel Kabri has now been revealed to be a large site (more than 200,000 sq. m.) with a continuum of strata from the Neolithic Period to the Iron Age. Most significant are the Middle Bronze Age remains, which include massive fortifications, residential architecture and tombs, and a large palace, as well as an Iron Age fortress with imported Greek pottery and additional evidence for the presence of Greek mercenary soldiers which was partially excavated at the highest part of the Tel.

A rare discovery was made within the palace at Tel Kabri: a floor and walls decorated with paintings done in Aegean style. The painted floor was found within a ceremonial room and was decorated with floral and marbled motifs. The thousands of fragments from one or more wall frescoes included boats, griffin wings, and houses that bore much resemblance to the miniature frescoes found on the Greek island of Santorini. Kabri is one of only four sites in the Eastern Mediterranean to have such Bronze Age Aegean-style paintings and may well be the earliest. Such evidence for artistic connections between the Aegean culture of ancient Crete and the Cyclades with the Canaanites and other inhabitants of the ancient Near East is unique in Israel. It is also very rare elsewhere, existing outside the Aegean only in Egypt at Tel el-Dab’a, the capitol of the Hyksos, and at the sites of Alalakh and Qatna in Syria.

The 2011 Season

The 2011 season will focus on continued excavation of the palace, with the goal of investigating its life cycle, from its humble beginnings to its destruction three centuries later.

Directors Cline and Yasur-Landau are now calling for students and volunteers to help continue the discovery process this summer. If you are interested in being a part of this cutting edge research, go to digkabri.wordpress.com for more information. It may well be an experience you will never forget.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Montpelier From the Ground Down

For those familiar with the historical foundations of the U.S. American experience, James Madison figures very large among the country's founders. In fact, among his peers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and according to most present day scholars, Madison is widely regarded as the "Father of the U.S. Constitution", reflecting the prominent role he played in it's inception. His famous wife, Dolley Madison, for her part, figured no less prominently on the early American stage. What is less known about the Madisons is the fact that they owned and operated one of America's greatest early plantations, matching those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason. Known as Montpelier, the plantation, including the great mansion house, has been preserved for public touring and education and continues to improve what it has to offer to the visiting public through well-organized programs and research. Public participation factors as a major component of the Montpelier experience, and nothing could be more hands-on than the activities designed by the Montpelier Archaeology Department to let the public really get their hands dirty by excavating history in the plantation soil.


Beginning in the spring of 2011, the Montpelier Archaeology Department will be conducting investigations of the "South Yard", an area immediately to the south of the mansion and location of the domestic slave quarters. During the 2011 excavations, archaeology team members will be looking for the structural remains of the quarters, smokehouses, work yards, and the pathways that link them into the broader plantation community. The objective is to examine and interpret the cultural data to help piece together a picture of how the South Yard related to the plantation, and how it helps in developing a more complete understanding of slave life on the plantation and the plantation operations in general.



The Archaeology Department is currently seeking volunteers who would be interested in becoming an integral part of the research team. The season will be divided into nine 1-week programs or sessions (called expeditions), beginning March 27 and ending October 29. With a staff of 8 archaeologists, volunteers will enjoy significant personal interaction with the research team professionals, who will walk the volunteers step-by-step through the entire excavation process, including lab work. The experience includes lectures and tours of various archaeological sites on the property, including the mansion house. For a tax deductible fee of $650, participants will get all of the above for each 1-week expedition, including two group dinners and lodging at the Arlington House, a historic antebellum home located on the estate's historic grounds. All in all, this program ranks among the best for those interested in a practical, hands-on introduction to American historical archaeology.
More detailed information about the research, opportunity, and application procedure can be found on the website at www.montpelier.org/archaeologyprograms. For general information about James Madison, Dolley Madison, Montpelier, and the archaeology program, go to www.montpelier.org.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What is it like to be on a dig?

Never been on an archaeological dig? Read what others have to say about their experience:

1. Who -- me? A Volunteer on a Dig?
2. What Happens on an Archaeological Dig?
3. Digging Old Scatness