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Posts Tagged ‘Archaeology’

Sec. Kluttz speaks at the QAR lab anniversary

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it turns out that it takes a village to raise a 300-year-old shipwreck from the depths of the ocean too!

In late April, Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz and several other members of the DCR team joined with colleagues and friends from East Carolina University to celebrate 10 years of partnership between the department and the university in running and managing the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR) Lab.

Sec. Kluttz, Deputy Sec. Kevin Cherry and Chief Deputy
Sec. Karin Cochran talk with ECU Honors College Fellow Dr. Tim Runyan, who was previously director of ECU’s Maritime Studies Program and ECU Vice Chancellor Research & Graduate Studies
Dr. Ron Mitchelson, who is also ECU’s incoming provost.

Though the staff at the lab work for DCR’s Office of State Archaeology, the lab itself is part of East Carolina’s West Research Campus. Dozens of ECU graduate students have gained experience working at preserving the treasures in the lab and in the field as part of this exciting project. During the celebration, the Secretary had the chance to meet and personally thank several members of the QAR team for all that they do to make this recovery and preservation operation a huge success.

ECU isn’t DCR’s only partner in the project either. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Intersal, Inc.  and Nautilus Productions are just a few of the agencies and companies that provide technical and logistical support to the archaeologists who work in the field.

Photos of the memorable celebration are available online. You can also learn more about the QAR project, and even signup for a behind-the-scenes tour of the lab, on the QAR project’s website.

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Raising a cask hoop concretion

Raising a cask hoop concretion

After the weekend, we returned to site with the focus of separating the individual elements that make up the pile. A large anchor, A2, lies atop 8 cannon. With such a large concentration of iron, the cannon and anchor have concreted together to form one massive concretion – too large to recover all together. To recover artifacts from the pile we need to separate them. We began this work this week. We first tried using an old fashioned hammer and chisel, but it quickly became apparent that the immense concretion was too thick to attack with man-power alone.  A pneumatic chisel attached to an air compressor on the deck of R/V Jones Bay proved to speed up the process, and we made some headway.  The pneumatic chisel has made it much easier to map and remove cannon balls and ballast stones as we come upon them lodged deep within the concretion.

A beautiful day with calm, glassy waters

A beautiful day with calm, glassy waters

We also managed to raise two large cask hoop concretions and another concretion of unidentified artifacts, along with an assortment of small objects and get them all transported back to the lab.  Another very productive week for the team, considering we only worked three days because of Labor Day and one bad weather day!  The seas flattened out entirely on Thursday, and by Friday, the visibility climbed to 15 feet. All the divers marveled at the rare opportunity to be able to see the entire wreck site upon descent.

Our team grew this week with the addition of ECU graduate student Nicole Wittig. We are excited to have her on board for the remainder of the fall season!

Week 5 was September 3-6.

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By Kimberly Kenyon, QAR Conservator 

Some of the highlights from the second part of August include the discovery of a previously-unknown cannon under a large concretion and the raising and transport of several large concretions. Here’s an overview:

Week 3: August 19-23

Recovering the deadeye strop concretion

Recovering the deadeye strop concretion.

Divers surfaced on Monday with the exciting news of a previously unknown cannon lying within the immense concretion that makes up the pile. This new cannon, which is estimated to be a two-pounder based on its size, brings the cannon grand total to 28! This cannon is also the eigth located in this particular pile. Our numbers seem to be edging closer and closer to the 40 cannon purportedly on the QAR at the time of grounding. Will we find all 40? We certainly hope so!

U.S. Coast Guard crane operators removing the sounding weight concretion from Jones Bay

U.S. Coast Guard crane operators removing the sounding weight concretion from Jones Bay.

Tuesday, we were able to raise two large concretions using the davit (think of a small crane, like one used to raise and lower lifeboats off the sides of ships). One contained two lead sounding weights and a deadeye strop;  the other  had two massive deadeye strops. It’s always exciting to find pieces of the ship’s rigging!

Wednesday, we moved the dredges to units 244, 245, 247 and 248, where cannon C-26 and C-27 were found. After removing the sandbags and overburden, the smaller dredges were employed so that sediment could then be collected in the sluices on deck.  Unfortunately, the winds turned again, so we spent Thursday and Friday on shore. At least it allowed time for Kim, Jeremy, and Greg to count and weigh all the ballast stones raised so far and put them in storage. It cleared up some much needed space on the dock at Fort Macon.

Heavy concretion with 2 large lead sounding weights visible (bottom)

Heavy concretion with 2 large lead sounding
weights visible (bottom).

The visibility has been improving, and with all this close-up time with the pile, we have been spotting a certain curious octopus lurking. Julep has even gotten some video of him. Unfortunately, he is going to have to be evicted from his home on the pile so we can get to work!

Greg (left) and BJ (right) lowering the dredge to the seabed.

Greg (left) and BJ (right) lowering the dredge to the seabed.

Week 4: August 26-30

Brick fragment.

Brick fragment.

Various small finds are finally coming to light during the fourth week of work on site. Greg identified a brick fragment just underneath cannon C-7 in unit 246, and he also very carefully lifted and recovered a fragment o12f pine sacrificial hull planking in unit 270!  We hope this is a good indicator of what may still be buried in nearby units.

Fragment of pine sacrificial planking.

Fragment of pine sacrificial planking.

We have been lucky this week in observing a number of local wildlife species. Kim spotted a sting ray just west of anchor A2, Julep managed to get some more video footage of the octopus still lurking around the pile, Danny was very excited by a dolphin escort one morning while we were headed out, and flounder are beginning to appear around the site.

Morning dolphin escort.

Morning dolphin escort.

Finally, a large batch of artifacts raised over the course of the previous three weeks was delivered to the QAR lab in Greenville on Friday.  Since so many of the concretions were oversized and too heavy for us to physically load them onto our trailer, we made use once again of the U.S. Coast Guard’s team of crane operators to assist us. Two cask hoop concretions, the lead sounding weight concretion, a deadeye strop concretion and a nail concretion were all loaded quickly and efficiently, and all the boxes of smaller finds were loaded up and transported to the lab.

We lost Greg and Jeremy with the end of the week – they were a tremendous help on site and will be sorely missed!

Nail concretion shortly after recovery.

Nail concretion shortly after recovery.

Stay tuned! We’ll be bringing you updates from September’s field work soon.

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Interns (left to right) Jeremy, Jeneva, and Greg

Interns (left to right) Jeremy, Jeneva, and Greg

The opening of a field season is always busy, and this year proved to be no exception. In our first two weeks of work, the team focused mostly on setup, laying out gridlines and placing sandbags around the perimeter of new excavation units. We recovered some artifacts, too. Here’s a brief overview:

Danny preparing to drill

Danny preparing to drill

Week 1: August 5-9

The opening week of the 2013 field season saw the team gathering supplies and readying R/V Jones Bay for diving. Once divers were in the water, they started laying gridlines over the pile and labeling new units nearby (246, 255-271).  The grid system not only aids the archaeologists in meticulously mapping in each artifact on the site plan, but the numbered squares also help divers to figure out where they are on those particularly low-visibility days.  Another new feature for this season is a set of white buoys attached to the ring of Anchor 2 (A2).  It’s yet another assurance of relative location when you descend into the murky water.  It’s nice to know where you are!

Kim (left) and Shanna (right) feeding cables to Danny and BJ on the bottom in order to take pH and corrosion potential readings

Kim (left) and Shanna (right) feeding cables to Danny and BJ on the bottom in order to take pH and corrosion potential readings

Billy Ray, Chris, Nathan and Julep all came up from Fort Fisher and were joined by Dave from Maritime Museum and Shanna from the QAR lab. Our four technicians, Laurel, Danny, B.J. and Matt were aided in their work by interns Greg, Jeremy and Jeneva. Although the weather was a bit overcast, the team managed to get four diving days on site and accomplished much!

Week 2: August 12-16

Greg (left) and Matt (right) recovering cannon C-26

Greg (left) and Matt (right) recovering cannon C-26

The team ushered in the second week by placing sandbags around the perimeter of new excavation units we intend to excavate in 2013.  Also, as part of an ongoing corrosion study, Danny and BJ located the artifacts anchor A2, cannon C-6, C-7, and C-8, which had all been outfitted with sacrificial zinc anodes.  They drilled through the concretion to expose bare metal, and using an electrode, they measured each artifact’s pH and corrosion potential, the figures for which will hopefully reflect that the anodes are performing as they should be in slowing down active corrosion.  The electrodes’ cables were connected to meters being monitored by conservators, Shanna and I, on the deck of the Jones Bay.

Even though we lost two days to bad weather, I used that time to my advantage, instructing a couple of our fearless interns. Jeremy and Jeneva, on how to process dredge spoil and seek out the small artifacts that are commonly found hiding in the sediment. Upon returning to site on Thursday, divers began removing ballast stones concreted to the pile, with the hopes that we can understand how to go about separating the large artifacts from each other. On Friday, we raised two cannon, C-26 and C-27, both two-pounders which had only been located in the previous field season. They were delivered to the lab and are currently keeping each other company in the same tank. We also had to say our goodbyes to one of our interns, Jeneva.  She was such a great part of the team, and we will all miss her!

Cannon C-26 and C-27 loaded onto the trailer and ready to be delivered to the QAR lab

Cannon C-26 and C-27 loaded onto the trailer and ready to be
delivered to the QAR lab

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Working at the site of Fort San Juan

This week’s headlines have been filled with the news of the discovery of Fort San Juan by archaeologists associated with Warren Wilson College, Tulane University and the University of Michigan. The importance of this discovery can’t be understated.

Here at Cultural Resources, it’s been our privilege to play a part in the research at Morganton from the very beginning. We gave the project’s researchers their first grant to start work in 1984, and our Office of State Archaeology provided technical assistance to the archaeologists, while our Research Branch helped find evidence of the fort in the historical record.

Helmets like these were worn by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. This particular one can be seen at the N.C. Museum of History.

Though our role was a relatively small one, this is a great example of the partnerships with academic researchers and local historical enterprises that we’re involved with every day.

Several of our agencies have also produced some useful resources to help you learn more about Fort San Juan and its significance:

We’ve also featured the story of the fort and the Pardo Expeditions as part of our This Day in North Carolina project, and Our Historical Highway Markers Program commemorated the fort in 2008. Click here to see pictures of the site taken on a recent visit by Cultural Resources Deputy Secretary Kevin Cherry and here to read more about this momentous discovery.

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A cannon is raised from the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck

Cultural Resources Sec. Susan Kluttz was one of the first people in almost 300 years to see cannons used on Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, as they were recovered from the seafloor late last week. The raising of the two cannons was the culmination of the spring dive season led by state archaeologists in concert with a number of partners and supporters.

She was thrilled to be able to witness such a momentous occasion.

“I’m so proud for North Carolina.” Sec. Kluttz told a reporter from the Jacksonville Daily News after seeing the first cannon raised. “This is such an incredible historic day for our state, and a thrill for me to see something come up from the ocean for the first time in nearly 300 years.”

After visiting the shipwreck site, the secretary also spent time meeting with key project supporters, including Bucky and Wendy Oliver, who hosted a boat trip to the site and whose support has been key in allowing work on the project to continue.

Sec. Kluttz observes the cannon raising.

The trip was a follow up to two trips held in previous weeks to the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, where Sec. Kluttz got to see artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR) project that have been fully conserved and participated in a live stream to nearly 500 classrooms around the country. She’s now seen three parts of the QAR process—underwater archeology, completed conservation and education—and she’s looking forward to seeing a fourth—conservation work in the lab—in the coming weeks.

Though the spring dive season is coming to a close, state archaeologists will head back to the site for a fall dive beginning in August and continuing through October. Check back here and on the project website for updates!

You can also click here to see more photos of the day’s events.

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Sec. Kluttz and Chief Deputy Sec. Karin Cochran with QAR project supporters Bucky and Wendy Oliver

Sec. Kluttz and Chief Deputy Sec. Karin Cochran with QAR project supporters Bucky and Wendy Oliver

Though Sec. Susan Kluttz visited the Maritime Museum in Beaufort two weeks ago for the kickoff of the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR) spring dive season, she didn’t get a chance to see all that the museum has to offer. She got that chance Wednesday after seeing the QAR shipwreck site and meeting with some of people who are making the project’s work possible.

The day started out early with a boat ride out to the QAR shipwreck site. Though rough seas prevented the project’s archaeologists from raising cannon as they had planned, Sec. Kluttz was still able to see where the recovery operations are happening and some of vessels that the project’s team are using.

State archaeologists near the QAR shipwreck site

After the boat trip, the Secretary joined Bucky and Wendy Oliver and other project supporters at the Boathouse at Front Street Village for a presentation by the QAR’s lead conservator Sarah Watkins-Kenney on what happens to the artifacts after they’re picked up from the sea floor. The lunch was followed by a tour of the N.C. Maritime Museum at Beaufort, which is the official repository for artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck.

The theme of the day was the importance of public-private partnerships at Cultural Resources and the impact that private donations have on ensuring the QAR project’s completion. Click here to find out how you can help support work on Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.

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