Friday, May 26, 2017

Six Weeks Until Dirt Starts Getting Moved!

The Smiths Island Archaeology Project resumes on July 10 after a two-year hiatus - right around the corner, so to speak!  Of course, Bermuda and I both have a lot packed into the weeks in between...
 The eyes of the world will be upon Bermuda in May and June, as the Tall Ship Regatta passes through St. George's crossing the Atlantic. Then America's Cup starts up and runs through June 27 and two years of preparation and anticipation come to a month-long maritime match-up... which is partly why we are digging in July! I usually keep each year's field school t-shirt design a carefully guarded secret, but it is more timely now than it will be in July - and just arrived back from the printer. The ship is actually an engraving of the Sea Venture, the only one known to exist, from the frontispiece of R. Rich's Newes from Virginia (London 1610). Hopefully none of the 2017 racers will meet a similar fate.

Smiths Island is actually the second of my two field schools this summer. I leave next week for Ghana to take part in the University of Rochester/University of Ghana's joint field school investigating Elmina Castle - the oldest surviving European building in Sub-Saharan Africa.  We will be doing structural recording and analysis blended with photogrammetry and laser scanning surface recording of the entirety of this enormous castle complex in order to both create a high-resolution digital model of the fortress as it stands today and also historically date all its sections, from the original Portuguese construction in 1482 through the Dutch modifications made after its capture in 1637 and more recent (post 1872) British alterations, as well as assessing various conservation events in the 1950s and early 2000s. This project is "archaeology without dirt" in that we won't be actually excavating anywhere, but the rigorous application of logic and undertaking a Harris Matrix-like assessment of TPQ/TAdQ/TAQ dating for all of Elmina's walls, floors, roofs, windows, doors, passages, etc. will certainly be challenging. Plus I get to try out the new DJI Phantom 4 and working with georeferenced aerial imagery in Photoscan, which will let us get at portions of roofs and inaccessible towers that we otherwise couldn't model. Going from currently chilly Rochester to Ghana's humid and constantly 90-degree climate will also take some getting used to.  Bermuda will seem positively cool in July after Elmina!

We will have a smaller but equally stalwart team for 2017, with five undergraduates from the U of R and a Yale graduate student especially interested in the slave experience in a comparative Atlantic context. The inimitable Leigh will be returning to Smallpox Bay as Katrina steps into Jim's sizeable shoes (he actually wears size 13), since he will be busy dissertating about pirates and digesting a month of data gathering in British archives.

Bermudians who are interested in volunteering, please contact me in June so I can put you on an email list and give you updates as we get close to starting. Remember, the only way to get one of our exclusive 2017 field school shirts is to formally do the field school or volunteer for at least three days - to earn it. In the mean time, enjoy America's Cup and don't drink too much rum!

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