2012 Spring Archaeology Conference

Simsbury Historical Society

Simsbury Historical Society
Ellsworth Visitors Center
800 Hopmeadow St.
Simsbury, CT

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Periphery of Archaeology: Focuses on Specialty Analysis

9:00-9:25  Registration begins (with coffee and doughnuts)Simsbury Visitor Center
non-members (general public)-$10, members (ASC, FOSA and SHS)-$8, students-$5

9:25-9:30 Welcome, announcements – Dan Cruson, President, Archaeological Society of Connecticut

 9:30-10:00  “A 2006 Field School Investigation: Archaeological Investigation of the Phelps Tavern”
Gerald Sawyer, Central Connecticut State University
In the summer of 2006, Central Connecticut State University led a field investigation into the archaeology of the Phelps Tavern in Simsbury, Connecticut. This presentation is a brief report on that field work and its relation to other investigations into the African Diaspora that have been conducted by the Archaeology Laboratory of African Diaspora Studies (ALAADS) at CCSU. It includes an “in-depth” mention of a particular (or peculiar) look into the bottom of the well.
Archaeologist Gerald F. Sawyer is an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University as well as at Sacred Heart University, specializing in African Diaspora Archaeology. He has researched in New England, New York, the West Indies, and conducted other archaeological research in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Greece.

10:00-10:30  “Paleoindian Mobility in New England: Radiation-Induced Thermoluminescence Used to  Source Archaeological Cherts
Zachary Singer, University of Connecticu
Studying the mobility patterns of Paleoindians requires the proper sourcing of their lithic raw materials. Radiation-induced thermoluminescence is an excellent method of determining the source of the stone used, and thus to trace mobility patterns. Radiation-induced thermoluminescence glow curves were created for cherts collected from prehistoric quarries in the Northeastern United States, and chert flakes recovered from an archaeological context at the Hidden Creek Late Paleoindian site (10,000-9,500 B.P.) on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation. The source provenience of Hidden Creek’s cherts created a mobility pattern which will be compared to the current interpretation of Paleoindian mobility patterns in New England. This research may have great implications for the overall interpretation of the size of the Late Paleoindian interaction spheres.
Zachary Singer is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Connecticut. His research interests include Paleoindian archaeology in northeastern North America, lithic technology, prehistoric mobility patterns, and integrating thermoluminescence techniques into archaeological research. This summer Zach will be leading his second UConn archaeological field school, facilitating student excavation of previously located lithic scatters in order to determine their cultural affinity.

10:30-11:00  “Sandy Hill Plant Microfossil Project: Starch Grains and Potential Early Archaic Plant Residues at the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation”
Thomas Hart, University of Connecticut
This project is part of a larger pilot study to see if botanical remains in the form of phytoliths and starch grains survived on stone tools excavated from the Early Archaic site of Sandy Hill at the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Ledyard, Connecticut. In the first phase of the project, four stone artifacts were sampled for starch grain residues in an attempt to discover if starch grains survived on these artifacts, and if so, what they can say about subsistence practices at this settlement. Starch grains are microscopic starch bodies that can be diagnostic to a plant family, genus, and species level and are becoming increasingly popular as an archaeological tool for context in which other forms of plant remains, such as charred seeds, wood, pollen, and phytoliths are not preserved or present. The results of the project indicate that starch grains do preserve onstone tools from this time period and that at least two of the stone tools can be linked to plant use practices such as root grubbing and leaf and/or stem tissue processing at Sandy Hill.
Thomas Hart received his bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He completed an undergraduate thesis in which he analyzed historically important tree species for comparative phytoliths. He received his training as an anthropologist,archaeologist and plant microfossil specialist at Dr. Deborah Pearsall’s lab at the University of Missouri where he received his master’s degree in anthropology. His master’s thesis involved analyzing ceramic sherds from medieval England for contamination; the results of which were recently published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Currently, Thomas is working on his dissertation at the University of Connecticut where he is reconstructing plant use practices at a 6,000 year old Ubaid period site in Syria using phytolith and starch grain analysis. Throughout his educational career, he has excavated numerous sites from many time periods ranging from a late 19th century abandoned mining town in upstate New York to Middle Palaeolithic sites in Armenia. In addition, he has worked on plant microfossil samples from around the world including North and South America, the Caribbean, England, Serbia, Croatia, Kenya, and Syria.

11:00-11:30  “Focusing on Connecticut’s Past: Analyzing Local Artifacts with an Electron Microscope”
Maria Parr, Trinity College
This presentation is based on the results from an interdisciplinary project designed to introduce non-science majors, first year students and chemistry majors to archaeometry. As part of this course, a scanning electron microscope equipped with an X-ray energy dispersive spectrometer (SEM-EDS) was utilized to explore the surface characteristics and elemental composition of a variety of metal objects. Locally excavated artifacts on loan from the Office of the State Archaeologist, including a set of copper beads, a trade spear and a spoon, and World War II era metal fragments, were analyzed. Students learned about sample preparation techniques for SEM-EDS analysis, studied the morphological characteristics of each sample, and also collected elemental composition data.
Maria Parr, Ph.D., is an associate professor of chemistry at Trinity College with research interestsin oxo, hydrido and carbonyl complexes of rhenium and molybdenum. She teaches introductory chemistry and inorganic chemistry courses and has also developed an archaeological chemistry course which focuses on the analysis of archaeological materials by SEM-EDS and other instrumental techniques.

11:30-12:00  “Ground-Penetrating Radar and Archaeological Investigations”
Deborah A. Surabian, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is a non-invasive geophysical method that uses radar pulses to produce an image or record of subsurface features. On radar records, the depth, shape, size, and location of subsurface features are used as clues to infer buried cultural features. Interpreting these radar records requires a skilled GPR operator with field experience to accurately determine the findings and pick out anomalies. With a skilled user, GPR has the ability to detect differences between excavated and unexcavated soil zones as well as detect burial sites and artifacts below ground. This talk will discuss how GPR works and show multiple GPR investigations completed at the request of the Connecticut State Archaeologist.
Deborah A. Surabian, CPSS, is an MLRA Soil Survey 12-6 Office Leader with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) serving Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and parts of New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. She is experienced with ground-penetrating radar and identifying soil characteristics of natural and disturbed soils.

12:00-1:15  Lunch
(On your own – you can brown-bag it; restaurant suggestions will be provided)

1:15-1:30  ASC Business Meeting

1:30-2:00  “Beyond Stones and Pots: Analyzing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites”
Tonya Largy, Consultant in Zooarchaeology & Archaeobotany
Archaeologists rely on specialists to help them understand the various types of materials recovered from excavations. These materials often include animal bones. This presentation is about how modern reference collections of animal skeletons are obtained, prepared and maintained in the Zooarchaeology Laboratory of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. These collections are used by Zooarchaeologists in the identification of bones from archaeological sites. Discussed will be the method of skeletal preparation, the types of information are gained from the analysis of archaeological bones, and how this information assists the archaeologist in interpreting their sites.
Tonya Largy received her master’s in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is an archaeological consultant specializing in the analysis of plant and animalremains from archaeological sites. She is also on the staff of the Zooarchaeology Laboratory, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Tonya also has field experience in the broader northeast and as far away as Pakistan. She is Past President of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society.

2:00-2:30  “Forensic Anthropology and the Application of Archaeology to Forensic Contexts”
Diana L. Messer, Mercyhurst University
Forensic anthropology was once considered merely an application of physical anthropology to forensic contexts. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that the role of a forensic anthropologist also includes the recovery and documentation of human remains, which can best be accomplished using archaeological methods and techniques. A recent forensic recovery will be presented as an example of the application of archaeological methods.
Diana L. Messer is a former student of Daniel Cruson and former employee of Ernest Wiegand. She is currently a graduate student at Mercyhurst University (formerly Mercyhurst College) studying forensic anthropology. Her research interests include Andean bioarchaeology, forensic taphonomy, skeletal trauma analysis, human rights, paleopathology, and, of course, forensic archaeology.

2:30-3:15  “Preliminary Analysis of Human Skeletal Remains Recovered from a Mid-nineteenth Century Cemetery in Downtown New Haven, Connecticut”
Gary P. Aronsen, Department of Anthropology, Yale Univ. and Nicholas F. Bellantoni, CT Office of State Archaeology
In July 2011, construction at Connecticut’s Yale-New Haven Hospital was interrupted by the discovery of human skeletons. These remains were exposed via trench excavation, and lay under a large concrete foundation slab poured in the 1970s. Review of historical records and maps indicate that these remains are associated with New Haven’s first Roman Catholic Church, from a cemetery dating between 1834 and 1853. Four adult human skeletons were recovered, with few associated artifacts. Many of the skeletal elements have postmortem damage, but the remains are remarkably well-preserved overall. Two of the skeletons are female, one aged 25-35 years, and the other possibly 60-70 years of age. The other two are male, one also 25-35, and the other over 60 years of age. Both younger individuals have remarkably complete and unworn dentition, while both older individuals show antemortem tooth loss and extreme dental wear. The younger male shows marked calculus accretion and periodontal disease, and the older male exhibits multiple healed fractures to the cervical vertebrae and ribs, suggesting significant (but ultimately survivable) trauma. All individuals show indications of manual labor such as compressed vertebrae, robust muscle markings (especially on the males), and arthritic changes to many joints.
Here, we present data on stature, ethnicity, and health. We also describe ongoing collaborative work to identify and elucidate the context of these individuals within New Haven’s history and society. This work was supported by the Connecticut Office of State Archaeology and the Yale University Department of Anthropology.
Gary P. Aronsen, Ph.D., is Laboratory Manager of the Biological Anthropology Laboratories at Yale University. Gary’s research interests include Biological Anthropology, Primate Ecology and Behavior, Evolutionary Anatomy & Osteology and have included projects in Uganda and Panama.
Nicholas F. Bellantoni serves as the State Archaeologist with the Connecticut State Museum ofNatural History and Archaeology Center at the University of Connecticut. He received his doctorate in anthropology from UConn in 1987 and was shortly thereafter appointed state archaeologist. His duties are many, but primarily include the preservation of archaeological sites in the state. His research background is the analysis of skeletal remains from eastern North America. He has been excavating in Connecticut for over 30 years.

3:15-4:00  Reception (wine and cheese)