Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
Courtesy Science Museum of MinnesotaDecember 2013 through February 2014, Heritage Crew went out to do outreach activities at North Dale Rec Center. For six days we taught elementary school aged kids about archaeology and the Sheffield Site. Some activities were learning Oneota pottery, identifying animal bones in archaeology, and stone tools. We created excavation boxes allowing the kids to get a an idea of what an archaeological dig is like. The kids measured a unit, and then dug down layer by layer until they found "artifacts" and "features" that we had set up. Archaeologist, Dr Ed Fleming, let us use copies of the level sheets that were used at Sheffield Site, so the kids could record their findings. We taught them about mapping each level to record artifacts and features, and why archaeologists use this method in the field. We had fun during this experience, and hope to do more outreaches like this in the future.
The Heritage Crew did an interview with the Sheffield Site research associates. Check it out!
Courtesy Travis SIf you've ever wondered how radiocarbon dating actually works, the science news website, EarthSky.org, provides a nice explanation of the cosmic origin of the carbon-14 isotope, and how scientists use the degradation of that isotope into carbon-12 to determine the age of organic remains. Be sure to check out some of EarthSky's provided links to learn even more.
Courtesy The Science Museum of MinnesotaJoin us on December 14th, from 12-4pm, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, to talk to the KAYSC Heritage Crew and the Archaeology staff in the Archaeology Lab! Get a behind the scenes look at the artifacts from the Sheffield Site, an Oneota Site along the St Croix River! Learn about Minnesota Archaeology, and the research the Archaeology Department has been working on with the Heritage Crew! Dr Ed Fleming will be available to talk to the public about the Sheffield Site and his other projects at the Science Museum of Minnesota!
The other labs on Level 3 will be open as well! Visit the paleontology lab, ethnobotany lab, and biology labs! Visit with the other scientists who work hard to preserve the collections in the museum, and learn about their research too!
When someone tells you about your nice features you should tell them how fun it is to excavate. I am talking about features in archaeology, of course. A feature is information that contains a cultural importance and cannot be taken to the lab the way it was found.
Examples features are hearths and post-molds. These features are located when the soils have certain qualities in them. Since archaeologists must keep digging to learn more from their block, the feature is destroyed as you dig the feature out. Another example is when artifacts are found together or next to other features. You can see this when artifacts are given context to where they are found. A group of shells found together has more cultural value than individual artifacts by themselves in an excavation unit. Just as how a piece of bone have more meaning when it is found in a fire hearth. As I have said before, the further we excavate down into our blocks we destroy the features, so in order for features to be represented, archaeologists record the features they find as they excavate.
To record features that are a part of the soil, archaeologists draw and map out the block that they dig with each layer that they dig out. In doing so they will have somewhat of a 3-D map of where the feature was in their block. At the Sheffield site we normally dig ten centimeters per layer and record what we find on the surface. When we find a feature we start digging in five centimeters layers. We dig in smaller layers so that we can record the shape of the feature more accurately. The behavior of how we dig also changes. Sometimes we dig out certain sections of the feature in order to record how the feature looks from the side.
Archeology is ultimately a destructive science and keeping a good record is key for a good analysis. The features we see as we dig will not physically be there when we go analyze our data in the lab. The more data we record from our features the more chances we have of making a cultural connection with our findings. Features are one of the most important parts of archeology because it gives the artifacts and other data more meaning to why they might be there. Without features archeology would just end up as a display of objects without any cultural significance.
Courtesy Francisco Estrada-BelliOne of the largest and most vibrant archaeological discoveries of the Maya culture was announced yesterday.
Archaeologists have uncovered a 30-foot by 6-foot frieze inside the base of a pyramid depicting deified Maya rulers. Much of the frieze's red, blue and yellow paint has been preserved by debris that had fallen over the frieze. Here's a link to the full report of the finding by archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli’s team at the Holmul Archaeological Project in Guatemala.
“This is a unique find. It is a beautiful work of art and it tells us so much about the function and meaning of the building, which was what we were looking for,” said Estrada-Belli. The carving depicts human figures in a mythological setting, suggesting these may be deified rulers. The team had hoped to find clues to the function of this building, since the unearthing of an undisturbed tomb last year. The burial contained an individual accompanied by 28 ceramic vessels and a wooden funerary mask.
Courtesy Francisco Estrada-Belli
Last Monday, the Heritage Crew got a lesson in lithics from the Archaeology department at the Science Museum. Lithics are stone tools like arrowheads, hammerstones, metates (millstones or grinders), and stone blades. Lithics,(or stone tools) come in many different shapes and sizes. Some stone tools are "unifacial" which means that they have been flaked on one side only. Others are "bifacial" which means that they have been flaked on both sides of the rock. There are some stone tools that can be "nonfacial" which means that they were not worked on and just used how they were. Efficient knappers (stone tool makers) can flake off long, thin blades and not have to rework it, and then would be able to haft the blade onto a wood or bone handle. Hammerstones however, were not worked on, they were just stones used to hit and crush objects. They were used in conjunction with anvilstones and usually had spots worn away and made very bumpy.
Courtesy Mark RyanThe new Science Museum of Minnesota exhibit, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed has just opened and is a must-see for anyone interested in the ancient and mysterious civilization that once flourished and ruled in Central America. This wide-ranging exploration of the social, political, spiritual and cultural world of the Maya includes artifacts, displays, and hands-on interaction for museum visitors. In conjunction with this very special Science Museum of Minnesota exhibit, the SMM is partnering with the Maya Society of Minnesota to present several lectures at Hamline University during the exhibit's run this summer and into the winter.
I attended the first lecture in the series last Friday night. Archaeologist Jaime Awe
Courtesy Mark Ryan gave a brief overview of the early Maya worldview then talked about his work investigating some impressively large caves in western Belize near where he was born and raised. Inside the caves he and his research team have discovered pottery, torch sticks, writings, and ritualistic artifacts along with human footsteps and unburied skeletal remains, many of children.
Awe hypothesizes that the caves were used by the Maya (from the Classic Period) to make desperate ritualistic pleas by way of human sacrifices to the Maya rain deity. And evidence seems to back him up. Using carbon dating techniques and core analysis of stalactites from the caves, the time-frame of these cave rituals correlate with a period of severe drought in that region of Belize.
The Maya culture is a truly fascinating one. There are several more lectures and workshops to catch each month through next December, and the Maya exhibit at the museum runs through January 5, 2014. By the way, the museum's Omnitheater is also presenting the film Mystery of the Maya. which presents a very nice overview of the early Maya exploration and discoveries. I recommend you view the film first before going through the Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed exhibit.
Courtesy Wolfgang SauberYou've likely seen the promotional announcements that the Science Museum of Minnesota today opens a huge, new exhibit on the Maya culture – Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. And coincidentally, archeologists today announced the discovery of another hidden Maya city buried in jungle undergrowth in southern Mexico, including a 75-foot-tall pyramid and housing to hold up to 40,000 people.
Courtesy unknownSeveral years ago the Science Museum of Minnesota hosting a very popular exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls are back in the news again with recent developments of scroll scraps now being up for sale on the open market. Most of these pieces are smaller than a postage stamp and contain no writing of the ancient Hebrew texts.
Here's a link to our Science Buzz pages exploring the current science being used to learn more about the Dead Sea Scrolls.