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VCU Archaeology

Summer Travels I: Mounds and Needles

by Bernard K. Means, director

One of the nice aspects of a virtual archaeology project is that I can easily travel to various locations and “carry” a wide assortment of artifacts from a variety of sites–and sites that represent locations broadly distributed across time and space. Most of the artifacts are safely “stored” on my laptop, although some are printed plastic replicas.  The replicas are neatly stored in plastic divided storage boxes designed to hold tools of varying size; they also stack and have handles, so work perfectly for organizing and transporting the replicas printed from the 3D digital models.

Dr. Maureen Meyers with a drilled bear canine from the Carter Robinson Mound site.

Dr. Maureen Meyers with a drilled bear canine from the Carter Robinson Mound site.

Last week I went to Lee County, Virginia, to speak with Dr. Maureen Meyers’s Radford College field school, which was then excavating the Carter Robinson Mound site. This mound site is associated with Mississippian societies and included the platform mound and surrounding structures.  In addition to giving a formal presentation to the field school students on virtual curation–with digital models and plastic replicas in hand, I spoke with Dr. Meyers about creating digital models of some of the objects from this site.  This is particularly important because of the site’s remote location.  Lee County itself is closer to eight other state capitals than its own state capital in Richmond.  In fact, it was faster for me to leave Virginia and drive for a time in Tennessee before coming back into Virginia! Probably because the site is geographically remote, it is also viewed as “outside” many discussions of pre-Contact American Indian cultures in Virginia. Virtual curation of key artifacts from the Carter Robinson Mound will be one way to highlight this interesting site and its past inhabitants .


Karen Price of George Washington's Mount Vernon holds a printed replica of a tin solder from Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Karen Price of George Washington’s Mount Vernon holds a printed replica of a tin solder from Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

Yesterday, I also had the pleasure to travel to George Washington’s Mount Vernon to attend another “SmallFinds” workgroup.  These are organized by Laura Galke of the George Washington Foundation and feature informal presentations by a small group of scholars.  This Small Finds work group focused on needlework, with presenters explicitly discussing an important aspect of material culture that often is not preserved in the archaeological record or that is misidentified even when it is found. So far, the Virtual Curation Laboratory has only scanned one artifact that we could categorize as a needlework item–a bone awl from Fort Hill, a 13th century Monongahela site located in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Some of the participants also brought items from their collections–D.C. archaeology was kind enough to loan us some of their items for scanning over this summer.


Digital model of a bone awl from Fort Hill.

Digital model of a bone awl from Fort Hill.


Next week I’ll be discussing virtual curation of artifacts from Fort Hill and other New Deal-excavated sites in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, at the Somerset Historical Center in Somerset, Pennsylvania. So, stay tuned!




  1. Pingback: Summer Travels I: Mounds and Needles - archaeoinaction.info - June 23, 2013

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