Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Photo Session at the University of Maine

Yesterday we spent the entire day in the basement of the University of Maine's Anthropology/Folklore building. This place is more or less my dream playground equipped with labs, mechanized photo stations, a flint-knapping room, and a repository (aka The Cave) that holds the majority of Maine's artifacts. We had two goals for our work yesterday.

1) Photograph artifacts that were recovered from the Hirundo excavations and represent the cultural chronology of the site.

2) Sort through and scan slides from the original Hirudno excavations and field schools in the 1970's.

The photos we took and scanned will be used for an upcoming Hirundo Archaeology webpage and public lectures (i.e. Rebecca's a week from today!)

Here are some examples of artifact photos:

Ground Felsite Plummet, Archaic (9000-3000 BP)
Though the true purpose of these items remains uncertain, it is
hypothesized that they were used as weights for fishing.

Felsite Projectile Point, Middle Archaic

Chert Projectile Point, Late Archaic

 Ground Slate Projectile Point, Early-Middle Archaic

The early-mid Archaic period in Maine is partially complexing as chipped stone artifacts became vastly replaced by ground stone technology. In other words, people make tools by grinding instead of chipping. As soon as it came into place, ground stone technology suddenly transitioned back to chipped stone towards the end of the Archaic era. Some archaeologists argue a change in population caused a change in technology, others suggest the transition was merely a fad among a single culture. 

Ground Slate Celt, Archaic
Axe Head or Chopping Tool (perhaps hafted to wood handle)

The chipped/groundstone technology change marks a large question mark across the spectrum of archaeology. What exactly does the transition mean? Does it suggest the incursion of a new population? Or, does it represent technology changing as it does today? Take for example computers: if an archaeologist identified 21st century humans by their computer preference we would mostly be broken up by Mac and PC users. Can you say that different computers identify unique cultural groups? Depending on what questions you are asking, it could be completely legitimate or absolutely inaccurate.

Friday, May 27, 2011

June 4 Public Lecture at Hirundo Shelter

Rebecca Sgouros will be giving a joint talk with local University of Maine professor Dr. David Sanger titled "The First People and First Landscape of the Penobscot Valley Region" on June 4, 2011. The talk will be held in the Shelter on the refuge at Gate 1, Parker Reed Shelter. Take a left on exit 197 and Hirundo is 5 miles on the right.

 Below is a brief summary of their talk.

"After the last ice age which ended around thirteen thousand years ago, the Penobscot River Valley changed dramatically. Environments developed that provided plentiful resources for the earliest inhabitants to settle. Changes in the climate and ecology of the area required ancient communities to continuously adapt and develop new hunting, gathering, and fishing practices to ensure survival. This talk will consider several sites within the local area and the evidence they provide for the changing landscape and food practices of the past."

Taken from Hirundo's Blog

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Little Bit About What We're Doin

First, the update bug count: 
Rebecca: 34
Matt: 16

Last night marked the second in the shelter. The frogs weren't too loud, it was a bit cold, and the mosquitos came out in full force. Not just outside but in the shelter as well. As it turns out, the roof right above our beds has slats that open up to the outside world to increase ventilation. Thus, a grand entrance for any willing mosquito has been positioned approximately six inches from out heads when we sleep. A bug net scheme is in the works, photos will follow. 

This afternoon we met with Dr. David Sanger at the University of Maine. Sanger and fellow UMaine colleagues were responsible for the entirety of Hirundo's past archaeological work. Yesterday we hiked around the marshy woods and checked out the location of the Hirundo Site. It is huge. And I have absolutely no idea how it was discovered in the first place. The wide open spaces of Wyoming where I'm used to conducting surveys is a tad different than Maine.


Over the course of the next few weeks we will begin to survey the Hirundo property for additional archaeological sites. Our tactics have yet to be refined and will likely be fine tuned as problems occur. We'll see! Other than attempting to locate other sites, our work here will mainly focus on the digital promotion of already accomplished archaeological work. This week we will be photographing snazzy artifacts at the University of Maine repository that will be included on Hirundo's web page as part of an interactive cultural chronology of the area. Other projects we will be working on the following weeks include preparing the refuge for Maine Archaeology Month, designing curriculums for archaeology based field trips, and offering the grand knowledge of Rebecca Sgouros and David Sanger to the world in the form of a public lecture next Saturday! See for more info!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BAM!, Bullfrogs, and a Rotting Moose

     Two weeks ago we graduated from our respective colleges, loaded up my Trailblazer (The Black Knight), and cruised North into the backwaters of central Maine. After a 16 hour drive from Charlotte to Boston followed by an additional 4, we finally pulled off of I-95 into the marshy forests of the Penobscot River Valley. Over the course of the next couple weeks we will work with the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge to promote and sort through the vast amount of prehistoric cultural heritage located on their property. More of that to come....

     While at Hirundo we will be staying in a fantastic little cabin located on the shores of Lac D'Ore. A lake named no so much for its nugget filled banks, but rather the cost in time it took to construct by hand. The lake is surrounded by an admirable population of bullfrogs that at night, make Manhattan sound like the dark side of the moon.
     The first step of this process was moving in. Many thanks are owed to Stephanie Larouche (Rebecca's Mom) for buying cooking supplies, food, and cleaning the place. The shelter itself has no electricity but offers a fireplace, gas stove, and nearby outhouse. It also hosts Fred the caretaker's latest project of constructing a Moose hide drum. Right now it is still in prep stage and consists of a bloody Moose hide in a trash can saturated in an equally smelly substance. When the wind gets going we haven't figured out whether or not it is the gusts or stench that keep the mosquitos away. Oh yeah, them.... we conveniently arrived just as Maine's bug season started up. We will be broadcasting a live kill count as this trip progresses. For the time being the score is:

Rebecca: 25
Matt: 7

Tomorrow we start our real work and updates will most likely ensue.