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“Get the Lead Out”: pXRF Workshop for Elemental Analysis of Lead Shot

By Stacey Whitacre, James Page, Scott Butler

LAMAR Institute pXRF Workshop

June 2017, Brockington archaeologists Scott Butler, James Page, and Stacey Whitacre attended a pXRF training workshop organized by the LAMAR Institute and the National Park Service (NPS) in Savannah, Georgia. The workshop was designed specifically for lead shot specialists and conflict archaeologists to look at the elemental make-up of lead shot collected from colonial and Revolutionary War battlefields and camp locations.

We worked with physicists from Bruker to understand pXRF technology and optimize the machine for our needs. A pXRF machine uses a beam of fluorescent light to conduct elemental analysis of an object by analyzing the number of photons emitted. Bruker experts aided us in the creation of a customized calibration for the analysis of lead shot. We looked at the relative amounts of tin and other alloys or impurities (e.g., antimony, silver, iron, copper, cadmium) used to harden lead shot during the eighteenth century. We specifically worked with the Bruker Tracer 3V+ machine, as it contains no tin or silver in its internal components. We utilized the Artax software to visually and statistically analyze the results of the pXRF data.
One of the goals of this workshop was to create a comparable collection of lead shot in the form of a collective database which we could all access. In order to maintain consistency, we collaborated with other lead shot specialists and conflict archaeologists at the workshop to create a method for pXRF use with lead shot and a protocol for uploading data to the collective database. This method minimally includes the following stipulations:

•    each lead ball should be collected and stored separately to avoid cross-contamination;
•    we are to avoid the impact area of lead shot during pXRF analysis;
•    each specimen is to be analyzed at a high voltage setting of 48kV, an anode current of 30µA, with a black filter for 180 seconds; and
•    information posted to the collective database is to include UTM, site name, weight (grams), diameter (inches), fired condition, cultural period, cleaning method, citation, machine type, date, any other pertinent comments, and a photograph for each specimen.

This data set has a wide range of possibilities within the conflict archaeology community. While there is still much to be tested, we spoke about the possibilities of lead shot variation. When assessed alongside archaeological context, size, and other characteristics, pXRF elemental analysis may be useful for sourcing lead shot. One hypothesis is that there is more tin in American-made lead shot than British-made musket balls due to the fact that American forces had limited access to lead during the Revolution. Further work is necessary to determine the accuracy of this hypothesis. Additionally, testing needs to be conducted regarding the possibility of several elemental concentrations within one artifact and soil contamination that may impact the results of pXRF analysis.

Bruker offered the Tracer 3V+ to any group wishing to borrow it for 10 days. Brockington was the first group to sign up for this use time. James Page is currently using the pXRF machine to analyze lead shot that was recovered from the Brier Creek Revolutionary War Battlefield in May of this year. The team will also use the machine to analyze several brands of modern buck shot to determine if modern shot can be isolated from historic shot (i.e., is zinc present only in modern shot?). If it can, archaeologists can utilize pXRF technology to remove modern shot from our analysis to improve our interpretation of historic battlefields and camp locations.

Analysis of an Unknown Component at 38CH2048, Johns Island, South Carolina

By Colin Partridge and James Page

Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2016

Two archaeological technicians from our Atlanta office, Colin Partridge and James Page, will present analysis related to a Brockington Data Recovery project at the 2016 annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Athens, Georgia. Mr. Partridge will be presenting on Friday, October 28th at 5 pm, in the General Session: General Session: Enslaved Narratives and Plantation Studies. The abstract of the paper is below.

Analysis of an Unknown Component at 38CH2048, Johns Island, Charleston County, South Carolina

This paper focuses on an unknown component identified at 38CH2048, an eighteenth to nineteenth century plantation site on Johns Island, Charleston County, South Carolina. To determine whether this part of 38CH2048 is associated with a Post-bellum homestead or with Civil War troop movements on Johns Island, we performed a functional and qualitative analysis of the recovered artifacts and compared them against known contexts. Our presentation will include the results of these analyses, as well as a discussion of the methods and best practices researchers can utilize in examining future Civil War sites and other conflict-oriented components.

By Cristian La Rosa

Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2016

An archaeologist and GIS specialist from our Charleston office, Cristian La Rosa, will be presenting his recent research on phosphate mining in South Carolina at the 2016 annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Athens, Georgia. Mr. La Rosa's poster will be displayed on Friday, October 28th from 1-5 pm in the Athena E room. His title and abstract is included below, and the poster is attached as a PDF at the top of the article.

Using LiDAR to Identify and Analyze Landscape Features associated with Historic Phosphate Mines in Coastal South Carolina.

Phosphate Mining flourished from the mid-1860s to the late 1920s in areas adjacent to Charleston, South Carolina. The purpose of this poster is to demonstrate how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology can lead archaeologists to easily identify and analyze large-scale landscape features associated with historic phosphate mines. This is accomplished by creating a high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM), applying relief visualization techniques (r.skyview) and calculating terrain forms (r.geomorphon) using GIS geoprocessing tools.

SEAC 2016 - The House Between the Rock Piles

By Jana Futch

Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2016

An archaeologist from our Atlanta office, Jana J. Futch, will present information on a recent Brockington Data Recovery project at the 2016 annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Athens, Georgia. Ms. Futch will be presenting on Thursday, October 27th at 11:20 am, in the General Session: Flora, Fauna, and Foodways. The title and abstract of the paper are below.

The House Between the Rock Piles: Results of Phase III Data Recovery at 9GE2085

Brockington and Associates completed a Data Recovery project at 9GE2085, a multicomponent site with two rock piles in Greene County, Georgia. The historic occupation of this site, dating from c. 1800-1830, represents one of the earliest Euroamerican habitations recorded in the Oconee River drainage. This review will focus on the possible historic residents of 9GE2085, an interpretation of the two rock piles, an examination of the material culture recovered from the site, and the results of a paleoethnobotanical analysis that identified a surprisingly diverse array of plant remains from a feature associated with the earliest historic occupation of the site.

SEAC 2016 - Conflict Archaeology in a Modern Urban Environment: Finding the Battle of Atlanta

By Stacey R. Whitacre, Scott Butler, and James M. Page

Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2016

Three archaeologists from our Atlanta office, Stacey R. Whitacre, Scott Butler, and James M. Page, will be presenting original research pertaining to the Battle of Atlanta at the 2016 annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Athens, Georgia. Ms. Whitacre will be presenting on Thursday, October 27th at 4:00 pm, in the General Session: Landscapes. The title and abstract of the paper are below.

Conflict Archaeology in a Modern Urban Environment: Finding the Battle of Atlanta

The American Civil War left a permanent mark on the landscape of the United States. However, several battlefields have been altered by modern development. The physical remnants of the Battle of Atlanta were gradually erased as the needs of a growing city resulted in the construction of roads, high-rises, and other development. This paper discusses the challenges, limitations, and overall potential of conflict archaeology in a modern urban environment and offers a methodological plan of action for conflict site identification and investigation. We present a case study of a Confederate gun emplacement site located during a utility project through Atlanta.

By Niki Mills

88th RSC Significant Event

Brockington was pleased to support the 88th Reserve Support Command (88th RSC) by conducting a Phase Ic Archaeological Investigation at the James T. St. Clair US Army Reserve Center (USARC) in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The attached report was written by Carrie L. Schafer, the Senior Environmental Planner for the 88th RSC Directorate of Public Works. In it, she describes the location of the USARC, which was once part of the Jeffersonville Quartermaster Depot, and the results of Brockington's investigations of this historic urban context.

Multiple Scales of Interaction and Tradition in the Early Side-Notched Horizon

By Dr. Kara Bridgman Sweeney

Southeastern Archaeological Conference

Dr.Kara Bridgman Sweeney, an Archaeologist in our Savannah office, will be presenting at the 71st annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC) being held in Greenville, South Carolina from November 12-15, 2014. Dr. Bridgman Sweeney will be participating in a symposium titled "Early Human Life on the Southeastern Coastal Plain."

Having recently completed a research project documenting evidence for social boundaries and intergroup interactions within the Early Side-Notched Horizon, Dr. Bridgman Sweeney found additional support for certain models of colonization, regionalization, and settlement for the Southeast. Her research suggests that distinct, place-oriented subregional traditions initiated during the late Paleoindian period continued into the Early Archaic. Dr. Bridgman Sweeney posits that, as descendent groups intensified their use of certain resource-rich river drainages, they also  revisited other locations for the primary purpose of cementing social bonds at a regional scale. She finds that large-scale sharing networks, facilitated by regular cross-drainage mobility, are reflected in the patterned variation within two classes of side-notched tools made of Coastal Plain chert.

Dr. Bridgman Sweeney will be joining Larry James from our Charleston office in representing Brockington at SEAC this year.

Learn about St. George's Parish Church and Cemetery

By Larry James

Southeastern Archaeological Conference

Larry James, an Archaeologist in our Charleston office, will be presenting at the 71st annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC) taking place in November in Greenville, South Carolina. Mr. James' recent research focuses on the ruins of St. George’s Parish Church at the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site in Summerville, South Carolina. The church and it's associated cemetery were in use from 1719 through the 1830s.

The surviving bell tower of St. George's is a stark reminder of an 18th-century Anglican community that endured years of prosperity, war, fire, and abandonment. Archaeological investigations that took place in 2012 and 2013 allowed researchers to study the enigmatic past of this sacred site. This work illuminated the connection between the spatial arrangement, architecture, and material remains of St. George's Parish Church and cemetery and the larger community of Dorchester. Mr. James' paper will  present the results of this investigation and detail the archaeological integrity of this unique historic landscape.

Mr. Jame's  presentation is included in a symposium titled "Archaeology in South Carolina State Parks," which will also feature papers on sites at Charlestowne Landing and Hampton Plantation. We are pleased to note that Mr. James is one of several researchers who will be representing Brockington at SEAC later this year.

Brockington Work at the Barrancas Site to be Featured at 2014 SAA Annual Meeting

By Steve Rabbysmith

2014 Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting

Steve Rabbysmith will present information about the Barrancas Site at the next annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), to be held in Austin, Texas from April 23-27, 2014. The Barrancas Site (8SE1354) is a  large multi-component archaeological site located at Naval Air Station, Pensacola (NAS). The site has produced a wide variety of cultural material and intact deposits that are related to its extensive occupation, and reflective of its strategic importance on Florida’s Pensacola Bay.

Past investigations of the site have focused primarily on the substantial first Spanish Period occupation at the Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, and associated fortification San Carlos de Austria. However, a recent cultural resources compliance study carried out by Brockington on other portions of the site has revealed deposits associated with the American nineteenth century, including an Antebellum Creole home site, a Civil War Union encampment, and a post-Civil War Army installation. 

The SAA presentation will provide an overview of the site’s later historical occupation and related archaeological remains, and will demonstrate the Navy’s commitment to preserving this and other important historic properties while maintaining its mission. Mr. Rabbysmith has been working with Brockington field archaeologist and University of West Florida graduate student Kad Henderson, as well as Carrie Williams, the Cultural Resource Manager of NAS, to put together the information for this presentation.  Mr. Rabbysmith's talk will be part of the symposium entitled: Navy Archaeology, Recent Research, Critical Perspectives. 

By Eric Poplin and Carol Poplin

National Underground Railroad Conference

In June, 2013, Eric Poplin presented a paper to the 2013 National Underground Railroad Conference focused on Harriet Tubman and the little-known history of the Combahee River Raid. An abstract of the paper is below, and full version of the presentation, including graphics, is provided in the attached PDF.

On the night of June 1-2, 1863, a Federal raiding force led by the 2nd SC Volunteer Infantry (African Descent) and guided by Harriet Tubman ventured up the Combahee River in lower South Carolina. Harriet Tubman gathered intelligence prior to the raid and spread the word for action among the enslaved laborers on Combahee River plantations. She helped calm the people as they fled to the Union gunboats. This raid carried over 700 enslaved people to freedom on this night, one of the largest single events of emancipation in the state or nation. Although well documented in the historical record, this event has been largely ignored in discussions of the American Civil War until the present. Widening of US Highway 17 and replacement of the Combahee River bridge (now the Harriet Tubman Memorial Bridge) prompted the creation of the Combahee Ferry Historic District. The District encompasses the inland extent of the 1863 Combahee River Raid, including portions of several rice plantations whose laborers escaped to freedom. This is one of the few places and events directly associated with Harriet Tubman in South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is ensuring that this story does not remain forgotten in dusty archives but is told to the people of South Carolina and the United States through on-site interpretation, a traveling interpretive exhibit for local museums and entities, and a web-based history and guide of the Combahee Ferry Historic District.

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