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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Blue Creek: Excavating an Upscale Community

When we think of the ancient Maya civilization, the monumental centers of Tikal, Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Copan usually come to mind. These, however, are only a few of the countless ancient sites, many of which, though known to exist, still lie unexcavated and unexplored. Still others are yet undiscovered, and their number is still a mystery. The jungle shrouds their secrets. The archaeologists who uncover and investigate these sites have many years of work ahead them before a complete picture of the Maya civilization, and how it mysteriously and suddenly declined, emerges.

Blue Creek

A comparatively small site in northwestern Belize promises to add an important chapter to the story. It will help answer questions about how a medium-sized community of approximately 20,000 people managed to support an unusually wealthy class of residents and a large public precinct surrounded by numerous, well-defined residential structures and agricultural components. Known as Blue Creek, scientists at this site have uncovered a large number of exotic goods, unusual for a community of this size. It is thought that its strategic location, in combination with the techniques the ancient inhabitants employed in agricultural production, defined the foundation for its wealth.

The Project

Dr. Thomas Guderjan of the Maya Research Program is leading a team of archaeologists and other professional staff to find answers to the questions surrounding the site. In 2011, the team will be returning to continue excavations.
They are calling for students and volunteers to join them for their 2011 season, which begins May 23 and runs through July 24.

The Field School

Participants will receive training in field and laboratory techniques as well as receive a "crash course" on the Maya and archaeological methodology. Accommodation is at the Blue Creek research station, which has 35 small residential cabanas, a 1500 square foot laboratory building, a main building with a dining hall, and men's and women's restrooms and showers. All meals, equipment and supplies are provided. There will be four two-week sessions. Participants are welcome to join any or all of them.

Join the Team

For the student or enthusiast of Maya archaeology, the Blue Creek experience represents one of the best field school opportunities available for this region of the world. If you are interested in becoming a part of it, you can find out more by going to
www.mayaresearchprogram.org or by emailing Dr. Guderjan at guderjan@gmail.com. The project staff has prepared an excellent, detailed Participant Guide that will tell you just about everything you would want to know as a Project student or volunteer. The Guide can be accessed at the website.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Archaeological Field Services

ADS Peatland Archaeological Field School June – July 2011


Archaeological Development Services Ltd (ADS) are archaeological consultants to Bord na Móna (BnM), Irelands largest peat producer since 1998. During this time we have carried out fieldwalking surveys and have excavated over 200 archaeological sites in their industrial peatlands in the Irish Midlands.

The wealth and diverse nature of archaeological sites, artefacts and environmental information preserved in Irish peat bogs is unparalleled. The wooden trackways, platforms, gravel and stone roadways excavated to date have ranged from the Neolithic to Later Medieval Periods, many of which are unique to the archaeological record. With our academic partners in Reading University and Royal Holloway University of London we have facilitated hands on undergraduate training, Masters and Doctorate theses in Palaeoenvironmental research including tephrachronology, peat stratigraphy, insect analysis and the development of new geophysical survey techniques.

For 2011 we have developed a practical field-based training school providing a unique opportunity to those seeking an introduction to field archaeology. The two week field school has been developed with the aim of providing participants with practical training of the highest professional standard from experienced practising peatland archaeologists. There is also the opportunity for those who have completed the two week instruction course to participate in an additional two or four weeks excavation season.

The aim of the ADS Peatland Archaeological Field School is to provide the participant with the skills to locate, identify, record and excavate archaeological structures in Peatlands and to interpret the sites in order to gain an insight into human interaction within marginal landscapes. This information will be put into context with the surrounding archaeological monuments in the ‘dry land’ areas and provide a more detailed picture of the particular social group and their way of life.

At the end of the course Participants will:

  • An understanding of Irish archaeology
  • have knowledge and understanding of Irish Peatland Archaeology
  • be able to identify archaeological sites through field walking survey
  • be able to distinguish archaeological wood from naturally occurring wood remains
  • be able to record, excavate and interpret different Peatland sites

Field School summary course outline:

Week 1 starts with a day in the classroom where participants will learn about Irish archaeology, Irish peatlands, the history of excavations in peatlands, sites excavated to date and their local and regional contexts.

On-site training will commence on day two with training in archaeological field walking. By the end of the week students will have learnt how to identify, record and sample sites.

In week 2 participants will receive training in the excavation of a trackway where they will be shown excavation techniques, recording, completion of feature sheets, drawing, peat stratigraphy, photography and sampling.

An additional two to four weeks excavation experience is also on offer to those that have completed the two week training course. During this time participants will get the opportunity to further their skills with additional supervision as well as gaining hands on experience in palaeoenvironmental sampling.

University accreditation is pending, participants will be supplied with a certificate of satisfactory completion of the field school and additional excavation season if completed.

Dates for 2011 are as follows:

Peatland Archaeological Field School 20th June – 1st July / 4th-15th July / 18th-29th July

Additional Practical Peatland Excavation 4th – 15th July & 18th-29th July


Fees are inclusive of accommodation which is provided on a self catering basis, transport to and from site as well as a learning pack including field manual and log book and the provision of excavation equipment for use while in attendance. The school runs Monday – Friday inclusive 9am – 4.30pm participants are free to explore the beautiful sites and scenary of the Irish Midlands at the weekends or may avail of additional guided tours of sites of interest in the local area for a small additional fee.

Peatland Archaeological Field School €1,450

Additional Practical Peatland Excavation €1,200 for two weeks / €2,000 for four weeks


Accomodation will be provided in Athlone, Co Westmeath and the Field School will be based near Ballyforan, Co Galway.


A deposit of 50% of the fee payable before 31st March 2011 will secure your booking with the balance due by 1st May 2011. Booking forms and furter details are available by emailing training@adsireland.ie or by contacting Jane Whitaker directly at 00353 866012040.


ADS Introduction to Forensic Anthropology 2011

Archaeological Development Services Ltd (ADS) are one of Ireland’s leading archaeological service providers. For 2011 we have developed a practical course in Forensic Anthropology providing a unique opportunity to those interested in seeking an introduction to the study of human remains in archaeology and, in a broader context, the archaeology of death in Ireland. The training provided will be of interest to many who work in archaeology, including current students of archaeology as well as professionals who seek to learn more about this specialised area within archaeology. The course has been developed with the aim of providing participants with practical training of the highest professional standard from practising professional archaeologists and Ireland’s leading forensic anthropologist, Laureen Buckley.

Laureen has studied human skeletal remains from an archaeological context for 25 years. She is regularly consulted by the Gardai and the State Pathologists’ for advice on skeletal material and to aid in identification of human remains from a forensic context. She is currently also an honorary lecturer in the Dept. of Forensic Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Laureen has studied human skeletal remains from all periods from the Bronze Age, Early Medieval and the Post-medieval period, concentrating on palaeopathology and weapon trauma.

The human body, and particularly the skeleton, has always been a source of fascination, providing inspiration to artists and being a necessary learning aid for medical students over the centuries. Archaeologists have long experienced a rise in public interest when skeletons are found on an excavation site, not only from schoolchildren wanting to hear the gory details of the deaths of these people, but also from the local community who are amazed to find that their ancestors were closer than they thought. Students from all areas, young and old, continue to find human bone fascinating. It seems that once an interest is sparked, and the depth of information that can be revealed from reading a skeleton is realised, then the osteology student is hooked for life.

Forensic Anthropology is the interpretation of the human skeleton to reconstruct the life of the person. The experiences of a person’s life leave an imprint on their bones and the forensic anthropologist seeks to answer as many questions as possible:

Did they die young or live to an old age?

Did they have a good diet or did they suffer from malnutrition?

How tall did they grow?

Were they quiet and sedentary or did they have a vigorous lifestyle?

Were they afflicted with chronic disease?

Did they inherit traits from their parents?

The above are just some of the questions that can be answered by those with the skills to read bones, and they can reveal fascinating details about the life, and sometimes the death, of a person who lived centuries ago.

Introduction to Forensic Anthropology summary course outline

This two week course consists of a series of lectures and laboratory work. Students will have the opportunity to examine the human skeleton in detail, learn to identify the different bones and discover the wealth of information they contain. Topics covered include

. Introduction to the skeleton and skeletal development

. Determination of Sex, Age and Living Stature

. Congenital Developmental Abnormalities

. Post-mortem or ante-mortem bone changes

. Palaeopathology of Skeletal Remains

University accreditation is pending, participants will be supplied with a certificate of satisfactory completion of the field school.

Dates for 2001 are as follows:

20th June – 1st July

4th-15th July

18th-29th July


Fees are inclusive of accommodation which is provided on a self catering basis, a learning pack and log book and the provision of laboratory equipment for use while in attendance. The school runs Monday – Friday inclusive 9am – 4.30pm. Participants are free to explore the beautiful sites and scenary of the Irish Midlands at the weekends or may avail of additional guided tours of sites of interest in the local area for a small additional fee.

Introduction to Forensic Anthropology €1,995


Accommodation will be provided in Kells, Co Meath and the school will be based in the ADS offices and laboratories in Kells Business Park.


A deposit of 50% of the fee payable before 31st March 2011 will secure your booking with the balance due by 1st May 2011. Booking forms and furter details are available by emailing training@adsireland.ie or by contacting Jane Whitaker directly at 00353 866012040.

See the website for these training opportunities at www.adsireland.ie.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Excavating a Colonial Era Fort

May 16-June 24, 2011: Fort Shirley Excavation

The Penn State Department of Anthropology will offer an archaeological field school that will excavate Fort Shirley, an important Colonial-era fort erected in 1755.

Whether you are a current anthropology student or simply interested in learning more about the subject, this program will provide an extraordinary opportunity for you to get firsthand experience in archaeological fieldwork. You can learn how to lay out grids, use a total station, excavate, and conduct preliminary laboratory work. Most instruction will be hands-on training in the field. The course will also offer lectures on historic archaeology and Pennsylvania history.

This course can provide good preparation for employment in contract archaeology and for graduate school in anthropology. However, students interested in history, geology, and other related fields also can benefit from this exciting and unique experience.

For more information, go to www.outreach.psu.edu/programs/field-school/index.html

Photo Credit: Greg Grieco

Friday, February 04, 2011

Unearthing Tiberias: Shedding Light on an Ancient Religeous Center

The Tiberias excavations are located in the heart of the ancient city of Tiberias, less than 1 km south of the modern city, just across the street from the beautiful and historic Sea of Galilee.

Tiberias was founded in 19 C.E. by king Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, as the new capital of his kingdom. In spite of the original objection of the Jews of Galilee to settle the new city, named in honor of the Roman emperor Tiberius, it was not long before Tiberias became the Jewish capital of the Galilee, rivaled only by its sister-city, Sepphoris. Historical sources inform us of both pagan and Christian communities struggling to find their place alongside the Jewish community within the social and urban networks. Although sources are mute regarding the political leadership in Tiberias during the Byzantine period, some records, along with recently discovered archaeological finds, point to a strong Christian community lead by the bishop of the city.

The peaceful surrender of the city at the time of the Arab conquest, guaranteed the residents of Tiberias fair treatment by the newly established Islamic government. In fact, Tiberias reached its peak during the Early Islamic period as the new capital of the province Jund al-Urdunn, replacing Beth Shean, the capital of the Roman-Byzantine province of Palestina Secunda. Recent archaeological excavations in and around the ancient city of Tiberias, have helped us re-evaluate the centrality of the city during this period, indicating that it may have been even more marvelous than previously realized.

The decline of Tiberias during the 11th century, until its final destruction and relocation by the Crusaders to its present setting, is likely due to a series of natural disasters and repeated rampages led against the city by violent nomadic tribes.

Current Excavations

Dozens of excavations have been carried out to date in and around the modern city of Tiberias. The site on which our excavation focuses is at the center of the ancient city. Previously excavated structures at this location include a bathhouse complex, a basilical building, a large colonnaded structure and what has been identified as the foundations for the temple to the emperor Hadrian. It has recently been suggested by the director of this project, Dr. Katia Cytryn-Silverman, that the large colonnaded structure, originally identified as a covered market, is none other than the city’s congregational mosque, comparable to other buildings of this type found throughout the region, and modeled after the Great Mosque of Damascus.

The main goal of our study is to better understand the layout and phases of the colonnaded building in order to determine it usage and character, while studying it in both its stratigraphic and urban contexts. We aim to achieve this goal by utilizing the information gained in past excavations, along with continual, meticulous field work.

To date, four excavation seasons were conducted in the framework of the new excavation project at Tiberias. Initial data was retrieved prompting further research questions dealing with the building, its phases and its urban context. These questions are the focus of our work in the upcoming seasons. Special finds from the previous seasons include: a mosaic floor, a large water cistern, Arabic inscriptions, complete oil lamps, figurines, brass chains from which glass oil lamps were suspended and hundreds of coins.

How You Can Help

The New Tiberias Excavation Project is calling for students, volunteers and professionals alike who would be interested in participating and making a difference.

The staff is comprised of students and personnel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The work force consists of students and volunteers from around the globe as well as local workers from the Galilee. The volunteers (18 years and older) need no previous experience in order to participate in an array of tasks related to the archaeological field work: excavating, sifting, washing and reading of the pottery, and registering the finds found in the excavation. Volunteers are also provided with field trips to nearby sites as well as lectures on topics related to the research prompting this excavation.

The 2011 season will be four weeks long, beginning May 22 and concluding on June 17. The work week is from Monday through Friday; the work day begins at 5:00am and ends at 1:00pm, with field trips and lectures during the afternoon and evening hours. The expedition will be staying at the Aviv Hotel, a 10 minute walk from the site along the promenade of the Sea of Galilee, and a five minute walk from the city center of modern Tiberias. All rooms have a private bathroom, TV, air-conditioning and a balcony. Single and double rooms are available, as are camping options.

There is a non-refundable application fee of US$100, which should be made payable to “The Israel Exploration Society”. The cost for participation is $1350 for half the season and $2550 for the entire four weeks (camping options are also available). This sum covers room and full board from Sunday evening check in through the end of the work day on Friday, as well as all afternoon activities. The fee does not include airfare to and from Israel or transportation within the country; participants must make their own travel arrangements.

Students may arrange to receive academic credits through the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (and transfer the credits to their home institution). The cost is US$80 for the application fee and US$120 per academic credit. Participants will receive 2 credits for participation during half of the season and 4 credits for the entire season. The payment for the credits should be made directly to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Students opting to receive academic credits must fulfill the requirements set by the field school directors (attending all field trips and lectures, tasks in the field and writing of an academic paper relating to the project).

For further information and application forms, please contact:

Shulamit Miller

Institute of Archaeology

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Mount Scopus

91905 Jerusalem, Israel

E-mail: tiberiasexcavation@gmail.com

Website: http://archaeology.huji.ac.il/Tiberias