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VCU Archaeology

A Fine Day in Fairfax

By Ashley McCuistion, Virtual Curation Laboratory Multimedia Coordinator

Dr. Means shares our favorite plastic skull.

The Virtual Curation Unit headed up to Fairfax County, Virginia, on Tuesday, July 24, where we scanned some artifacts for the Fairfax County Park Authority Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch.  Mariana Zechini and I met Dr. Means at their headquarters in the James Lee Community Center first thing in the morning, where he had already set up the equipment and began scanning a broken stoneware vessel.  The scan was not going well when we arrived, so Dr. Means stopped the process to examine the issue.  He discovered that the platform was wobbling because the cord was slightly out of place, so after moving things around a bit, we started the scan again and hoped for the best.  The second attempt was far more successful, with only a small amount of data missing from the top and around the broken edge.

Mariana (left) and I (right) work to get the artifacts photographed and recorded.

While the scanner was recording the stoneware vessel, Mariana and I were introduced to the people in the lab, including Liz Crowell, Chris Sperling, Liz Paynter, Aimee Wells, Megan Veness, Kathleen Lowe, and some other wonderful people who were all very warm and welcoming, and quite enthusiastic about our project!  We showed them the scanner and some of our plastic artifact replicas, which everyone really seemed to enjoy. Mariana and I also used this time to photograph some of the other artifacts that we would be scanning and started the paperwork for each of them.

The next two artifacts that we scanned were a couple of beautiful prehistoric pottery sherds with different designs that were found at the Hartwell site.  While these were scanning, Mariana and I decided to look through the lab’s lithic type collection and brush up on our knowledge of projectile points.  I was surprised by how much I remembered from my archaeology classes last year, but also realized that I still have a lot to learn!  After our brief study session, all three of us joined our new Fairfax friends for a delicious lunch of pizza and cookies, and everyone shared stories about their adventures in grad school and archaeology.

An incised rim sherd, successfully scanned!

Once we returned to the lab, we began our fourth scan of the day, which was another prehistoric rim sherd with an incised design.  I got to set this one up on the platform, and Mariana started it on the computer.  While this was scanning, Dr. Means explained the capabilities of the scanner and pulled up some examples of what the artifacts look like when they are fully processed.  Everyone was impressed and excited by the technology and the many possibilities it presents in the realm of research and curation.

Dr. Means demonstrates the capabilities of our scanner.

The rim sherds all scanned successfully and without any major problems, and we even had time for one more artifact after they were complete.  The last artifact of the day was a metal faucet that was found on a colonial site and may be related to a popular winery that once existed nearby.  We were not sure if it would scan properly without powder, as metal rarely does, but we decided to give it a try anyway.  This time Mariana situated the artifact on the platform and I got to start it on the computer.  I was a bit nervous when I first sat down in front of the screen, but I remembered everything Dr. Means and Courtney taught me and managed to get it set up properly and started the scan without any issues!

Mariana sets up the colonial faucet.

The first scan of this artifact was full of holes and we weren’t sure it was going to work, but after the second rotation it immediately started looking better, and by the end we had a perfect copy!  We did one more scan of the artifact on its side to avoid having any data holes and then called it a day.  We had a fantastic time at the Fairfax County lab and really enjoyed meeting everyone there.  It was a lot of fun and I hope we can return to do some more scanning for them soon!




  1. Pingback: My Final Day at Ferry Farm « Digging Anthropology - July 27, 2012

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