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VCU Archaeology

Our Feature(d) Story at George Washington’s Ferry Farm

by Bernard K. Means, director

From left to right, Eric Larsen, Laura Galke, and Dave Muraca discuss a unit being excavated by Courtney Williams.

From left to right, Eric Larsen, Laura Galke, and Dave Muraca discuss a unit being excavated by Excavation Intern Courtney Williams.

Today, June 9, 2014, a group of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students will begin the 4.5 week VCU archaeology field school at George Washington’s Ferry Farm.  They will learn the basics of field archaeology from Field Director Laura Galke and Assistant Field Director Eric Larsen, with VCU alumnus Lauren Volkers as their Teaching Assistant. Also on hand to assist are a number of Excavation Interns, including VCU alumni Vivian Hite and Allen Huber. The overall archaeology effort at George Washington’s Ferry Farm is directed by Dave Muraca.

Lauren (left) and Vivian document a feature.

Lauren (left) and Vivian document a feature.

This will be our third formal year excavating in the location where George Washington grew up, between the ages of 6 and around 22, from 1738 to 1754.  Lauren and Vivian were part of the 2013 field school team, while Allen was part of the 2012 field school–he returned in 2013 as an excavation intern.

Allen Huber screens for artifacts.

Allen screens for artifacts.

As was true in 2012 and 2013, many of the VCU students who are taking the 2014 field school have already been exposed to the basic archaeology at George Washington’s Ferry Farm, and have some notion of what kinds of artifacts have been found so far at the site, ranging from the Paleoindian period to the latter half of the 20th Century. The students have seen some of our hundreds of 3D scanned artifacts as animations in my classes, have edited them in digital form as part of internships, or have handled plastic replicas printed from our 3D scans.  Many 3D printed artifacts are incorporated into current public archaeology efforts at Ferry Farm, particularly under the direction of Vivian Hite, who is the main public archaeology intern this summer.

A young girl reaches up to touch an replica artifact being held by Vivian.

A young girl reaches up to touch a printed replica artifact being held by Vivian.

Last week, while preparing for the field excavations, I also decided to try out our Sense 3D scanner on some of the features uncovered so far this year at Ferry Farm.  The Sense 3D scanner does not produce a result as refined as the NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner, but it is easier to use in the field, and perfectly suited for picking up the morphology of a feature.

Using the Sense 3D scanner to document features.

Bernard using the Sense 3D scanner to document features.

The 3D representation can then be digitally manipulated–rotated in all dimensions–and small replicas can be printed as well.  I plan on scanning features found by this year’s VCU archaeology field school member–and some of the students themselves!

Feature excavated by Courtney (top) and digital model (bottom).

Feature excavated by Courtney (top) and digital model (bottom).

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