Living Archaeology Weekend

Students gather at demonstration stations.

Welcome to Living Archaeology Weekend in Kentucky!  On the third weekend of September, every year, over 1500 people travel to the Gladie Learning Center in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, to learn about technologies through time.  The objective of Living Archaeology Weekend (LAW) is to provide a diverse, high-quality, multi-sensory educational opportunity in American Indian and Pioneer technologies and other lifeways, archaeological interpretation, and archaeological site preservation.

The Audience

Each year, the Friday of LAW is devoted to a target audience of over 800 5th graders from local and regional schools.  In recent years, the steering committee developed teacher training workshops, pre-field trip classroom visits, and formal curriculum that can be used throughout the year.  After their visit, students have the opportunity to enter an essay contest addressing the importance of preservation of cultural resources. The winning student receives accolades in the news, and pizza party for their class, and a set of classroom resources for their teacher.

On Saturday, LAW is open to the public and typically draws upwards of 900-1000 visitors.  On both days, the demonstrations are held on the rolling acreage of the Gladie Learning Center. The native technology and lifeways demonstrations are set-up along a creek floodplain, and the pioneer technology and lifeways demonstrations are located at the Gladie Cabin.

The Experience

5th graders try their hand at tanning.The Native Demonstration Area hosts a number of exciting technology demonstrations, including flintknapping, bow-arrow, fishing, blowguns, pottery making, stone bowl and pipe making, willow basket weaving, and cane mat weaving. Visitors can try their hand at spear throwing with an atlatl, cattail mat weaving, cordage making, and hide tanning. At the pump drill demonstration, visitors use flint-tipped drills to make their own shell and rock pendants.

At the plant domestication demonstration, visitors learn about native crops, use native gardening technologies like digging sticks and shell hoes, and earn free packets of native squash seeds. Because the Red River Gorge is a World Hearth of Plant domestication, we have a demonstration on medicinal plant use on Friday. Learning about plants that were first domesticated in Kentucky, and how those plants were used for food, shelter, storage, and clothing is just one of the many experiences at LAW.

Other demonstrations focus on native arts and games. Visitors learn about cane flutes and listen to beautiful music. On Friday, members of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma lead students in the traditional stickball game. On Saturday, they demonstrate the Cherokee marble game and basket making.

Students grind corn that they just husked in the previous station. Next stop: ceiving the cornmeal!

Several of the pioneer demonstrations focus on corn, from farming and processing methods to tools and technology to crafts. At the spinning and quilting demonstrations, visitors can use drop spindles and tack a quilt. Students participating in Living Archaeology Weekend 2011 helped create a beautiful quilt for Community Hospice in Ashland, Kentucky. The blacksmith demonstrates methods of forging, melding, heat treating, and finishing. A longhunter recreator in period dress describes technology and trading on the early Kentucky frontier. Music demonstrations featuring traditional instruments celebrate the rich traditions of Appalachia.

The Gladie cabin, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, formerly served as a hotel, a post office, and a home before being moved to the Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center. Stewardship and preservation are also a primary goal of the event, and visitors are invited to tour the Gladie Cabin and learn about the importance of site stewardship. This particular cabin has been furnished over time with collected materials from the community. Rather than interpret a particular period in the cabin, or take out modern materials, we decided to harness the teachable moment and, next year, ask the visitors to think critically about the cabin and to decide what items might not represent the cabin history accurately.  Do you have ideas on more ways to interpret historic cabins?

Growing and improving

The Gladie Cabin.

The steering committee is always brain storming ways to improve our materials and the experience. One oversight we recognized this year was that the connection between archaeology and the demonstrated technologies is not clear. One solution is to develop signage for each station noting clear, concise examples of archaeological signatures for each technology. We’d appreciate examples or suggestions below!

In addition to improving the actual event, we are constantly seeking new ways to attract educators in our region to the teacher workshop. If you have suggestions on reaching teachers and successfully attracting them to a certified training event, please let us know.


LAW is made possible by a host of private sponsors and, in large part, by the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Kentucky Archaeology Survey, the Kentucky Organization of Professional Archaeologists, and the Kentucky Heritage Council. This year marked the 24th year of the event and we are proud to say that it gets better every year!  Check out our website for more event details and links to education materials ( ).

SHA 2013: Trips and Tours

The conference program for the SHA 2013 conference in Leicester boasts a number of trips and tours; here is your opportunity to see more of Leicester and the surrounding area. You can register for these trips and tours, which take place on the days immediately before and after the conference, via the online conference registration website, or with the registration form enclosed with your latest copy of the SHA newsletter. All tours depart from the Mercure Hotel, in the centre of Leicester. Any tour that fails to register a minimum number of participants will be cancelled, and any moneys paid will be refunded to the registrant.

‘City of contrasts’ – a walking tour of Leicester

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 11.00am to 3.30pm

Cost: $10.00; lunch is not included; there are many places to eat in Leicester City Centre.

Leicester is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the UK outside London, with a rich urban heritage of archaeological sites and historic architecture. This walking tour led by local experts in Leicester archaeology and history will take participants through the city’s remarkable story from the Roman period to the 21st century. Leicester began life as a Roman provincial capital known as Ratae Corieltauvorum, and there are standing remains of a Roman building known as Jewry Wall next to Saint Nicholas’ church. The city was the county town in the medieval period, and the tour will include visits to medieval churches, the castle and the timber-framed guildhall. In the post-medieval period Leicester developed into a major industrial centre, and there are many fine 18th- and 19th-century houses, warehouses and commercial buildings to be seen. Leicester experienced dramatic growth in the 20th century with large scale immigration from South Asia, Uganda and the Caribbean among other places, and today has a rich cultural heritage of religious diversity and toleration, marked by the many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim places of worship across the city (not to mention fantastic international cuisine!)

NOTE – Participants should wear comfortable shoes for a day of walking.

‘If these pots could talk’ – the Staffordshire Potteries

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 8.30am to 4.30pm

$60.00; lunch included. 

A visit to the Staffordshire  Potteries which made many of the 17th and 18th century ceramics which are found on sites in the USA, such as creamware, salt-glazed stoneware, bone china and porcelain. See round the Gladstone Pottery Museum, one of the few surviving pot banks in the Potteries, where the processes from clay-processing to glazing, transfer printing and firing can be seen. Lunch will be taken at the Museum, followed by a talk from ceramics expert David Barker and a tour round the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, with the finest collection of Staffordshire pottery in the world.

‘More glass than wall’ – Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 9.00am to 4.30pm

$110.00; lunch included.

A unique opportunity for an exclusive visit to Hardwick Hall, a 16th century masterpiece and one of the finest historic houses in Great Britain. Created by Bess of Hardwick in the expectation of a visit from Queen Elizabeth I, its huge windows look out over the surrounding countryside of Derbyshire. The house is famous for having one of the best preserved Elizabethan interiors in Britain, with an extensive collection of original early modern furniture, decoration and textiles. A grand staircase takes visitors to the High Great Chamber with its great frieze of the virgin goddess and huntress Diana in a forest, an allusion to the virgin Queen Elizabeth. Participants will have the house to themselves, with a guided tour led by the National Trust’s House and Collections Manager at Hardwick. The visit will include a light lunch.

NOTE – as the house is not normally open to the public in January, it may be cold and participants should dress accordingly.

‘All the world’s a stage’ – Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Wednesday January 9, 2013. 9.00am to 4.30pm

$65.00; lunch included.

A special opportunity to visit Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, one of Britain’s most popular tourist destinations. As well as the famous attractions associated with Shakespeare’s life and family, Stratford-upon-Avon is a beautiful market town dating back to the medieval period, with a wealth of historic timber-framed buildings. Participants will visit the Shakespeare Birthplace Museum, where original 16th-century furnishings and interiors have been painstakingly reconstructed and will also have the opportunity to see Hall’s Croft (home of Shakespeare’s daughter) and Holy Trinity Church where the playwright is buried. In the afternoon they will receive a tour of the Guild Chapel and grammar school, which date back to the 15th century, where new research has reconstructed the original layout and decoration of the buildings.

 ‘Ship ahoy!’ – Maritime Greenwich and the Cutty Sark

Sunday January 13, 2013. 8.00am to 5.00pm

$115.00; lunch included.

Maritime Greenwich was designated a World Heritage Site in 1997, testimony to its central role in the development of British and European maritime power between the 17th and 19th centuries. The tour will visit the major attractions which make up the World Heritage Site: the National Maritime Museum, which is the world’s largest maritime museum with a remarkable collection representing 500 years of British maritime and naval heritage; the Old Royal Naval College, designed by Sir Christopher Wren; and the Royal Observatory, straddling the Prime Meridian and housing the famous Harrison timekeepers among other displays ( Lunch will be provided. In the afternoon, the tour will visit the Cutty Sark, the last surviving 19th-century tea clipper and once the greatest and fastest sailing ship of her time. The ship re-opened in mid-2012 after extensive restoration (following a devastating fire) with a new exhibition centre, so this is a great opportunity to see an important piece of maritime heritage brought stunningly back to life.

‘Poverty and prayer’ – the Minster and Workhouse at Southwell, Nottinghamshire

Sunday January 13, 2013. 10.00am to 4.30pm

$60.00; lunch included.

A visit to one of the East Midlands’ hidden gems, the historic Minster town of Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Southwell is known to have been an important Roman centre, and in the Anglo-Saxon period the town was granted to the Archbishops of York, who established a major Minster church here. The Minster is a beautiful miniature Cathedral, with a 12th-century Norman nave and a 13th-century gothic chancel and chapter house, famous for its wonderful naturalistic sculpted decoration.The small town surrounding the Minster contains pretty Georgian houses and shops. Outside the town stands a more dismal element of Southwell’s history; in 1824, the first Union Workhouse in Britain was built here, which survives remarkably intact and is now owned by the National Trust. A grim building designed to segregate, punish and reform the ‘idle poor’, the Southwell Workhouse became the model for the notorious ‘New Poor Law’ of 1834, and the bleak interiors display attitudes towards poverty, homelessness and institutional life from the 19th century to the present day. For delegates with an interest in institutions of incarceration and reform, this tour provides a unique opportunity to experience life in one of the most influential punitive institutions of 19th-century Britain.

NOTE – as the Workhouse is not normally open to visitors in January it will be very cold, and participants should dress accordingly. Comfortable walking shoes should be worn.

Ironbridge – Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution?

9.00am, Sunday January 13 to 4.30pm, Monday January 14, 2013.

Single occupancy $250.00; double occupancy $210.00 per person. Dinner, bed and breakfast included.

The Ironbridge Gorge was among the first group of UK sites to be designated as a World Heritage Site in 1988. The Quaker industrialist Abraham Darby first successfully smelted iron ore with coke here in 1700, and his grandson then built the world’s first cast iron bridge across the River Severn in 1779.  The Coalbrookdale Company created one of the first industrial settlements with its terraced rows of housing, institutes, churches and chapels.

This two-day tour will visit all of the museums which are part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.  These include the open air museum of Blists Hill, the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, The Jackfield Tile Museum and Coalport China Museum with its splendid displays of bone china. Dinner and overnight accommodation in the Telford Golf Hotel and Resort.  A highlight of the visit will be an early evening lecture from the Academic Director at Ironbridge, David de Haan. He is a leading expert on the 1779 iron bridge, to cross which even the Royal Family had to pay tolls, and he will also lead a tour to the bridge and its toll-house next day.

The World Archaeological Congress, January 14-18, 2013
Early registration ends October 20, 2013.

As members of the Society for Historical Archaeology, I would like to invite you to the Seventh World Archaeological Congress, held in Jordan from January 14 – 18 in 2013. WAC is a vital, diverse, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization which promotes world archaeology. It is our pleasure to remind SHA members that the WAC conference follows directly after the SHA conference in Leicester, UK (January 9-12) and that it is a relatively inexpensive flight away from the UK for attendees.

The World Archaeological Congress holds a dynamic, diverse, and international conference every four years, with a strong commitment to participation by indigenous and underrepresented voices. This Congress should hold particular interest for SHA members, as it is deeply involved in current issues that have near-universal importance in our profession.

Three sessions of particular interest to SHA members might be:

Session Title: Socially Sustainable Development
Organizers: Claire Smith, Flinders University, Australia and Sandra L.
Lopez de Varela, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Mexico

Throughout the world, cultural heritage is at risk, due to the pressures of development, population increases and urban growth. However, we lack much of the basic data and essential tools needed to address the ‘big picture’ challenges of heritage and development. We have not yet identified the most valuable ways of growing a workforce
around cultural heritage, or of building heritage capacity. We do not have the tools to evaluate the social and economic consequences of a loss of cultural heritage. Throughout the world, we are facing an irreversible loss of cultural heritage, without the data to understand what this might mean, not only in terms of lost pasts but also in
terms of lost futures.

This session will present case studies on ways to move forward. It will focus on how cultural heritage can be used to generate jobs, create a sense of connection between people, promote cross-cultural understandings, and contribute to social inclusion and wellbeing. It will present examples of new thinking around cultural landscapes,
development and communities; finding a balance between conservation and development; and using cultural heritage to sustain communities, especially in remote regions.

Decolonizing the Ranks: Using Indigenous and Decolonizing Pedagogies
in Teaching, Mentorship, and Training
Organizers: Sara L. Gonzalez (Carleton College), and Peter A. Nelson,
UC Berkeley (Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria)

Decolonization provides a process for thinking about the ways that our research can and does matter (and to whom?). It involves thinking through the wider implications of the craft of archaeology and examining how the process of interpreting and representing the past is both deeply meaningful and politically powerful. It also entails a willingness to think beyond the traditional scope of research, focusing not solely on the products or results of archaeology, but also on how the process of collaboration offers spaces to empower,
benefit, and advocate for communities. What results from asking a basic question—How and to whom will I make my research matter?—is something that is potentially transformative, for when we highlight our accountability to both discipline and community we change what the goal of science can and should be. Envisioned thusly, archaeology
becomes a tool for increasing our understanding of the past and our ability to empower individuals and communities through that knowledge.

In this session we will consider the role of decolonization in the classroom. We invite participants to examine how engaging with indigenous and/or decolonizing pedagogies has transformed the ways in which you train and mentor the next generation of heritage

Heritage as a ‘common’: a novel perspective on the entanglements of
culture and economy
University of los Andes, Colombia.

“The commons” has emerged in recent years as an exciting arena for the examination of multiple problematic ownership situations around the globe, and thus, of an exit from the simplistic dichotomy of “private” vs. “public” property. In the form of laws, the latter categories have wrought poverty and suffering on a globalized capitalist world.” Commons” can take multiple forms, from pre-industrial remnants in rural Europe to claims by Indigenous communities against Western corporate attempts to appropriate bio-knowledge in South America. Our symposium will discuss its implications in the field of heritage and archaeology. We encourage participants from around the world to share
their ideas in theoretical and empirical papers on the connections between archaeology, heritage and property relations, addressing questions such as:

  • Could “the commons” provide a way out of problematic issues of ownership and the public/private dichotomy?
  • What is the potential of “the commons” in the fight against the commodification of heritage?
  • How can the notion of a “shared” heritage be mobilized by local communities to implement politics of redistribution and rethinking of ownership against an alienated “world heritage” that frames itself as globally “shared” common heritage of humanity?
  • What are consequences of heritage as a commons for identity politics?

Early registration for WAC ends October 20th, register now!

We sincerely hope that you will consider participating in WAC-7!