Contextualizing CAP’s GIS: Introduction to Intern Jasmine Smiths Project

Hi, I’m Jasmine Smith, and I’m a CAP undergrad intern this semester. I’ve been working with CAP since I participated in the Summer 2015 field school.  I also did an internship during Fall 2015 where I examined the laboratory glass found at the Gunson site.  I was also able to work as part of the CAP field crew this summer. My project for CAP this semester involves working with a geographic information system to create a map showing where CAP has found artifacts from different time periods. The four historical periods CAP focuses on are separated into phases: phase 1 (1855-1870), phase 2 (1870-1900) and phase 3 (1900-1925) and phase 4 (1925-1955). Using GIS will allow us to visualize the distribution of artifacts we have found from each of these phases.

This past Tuesday I was able to go into the lab and look at artifacts from past excavations to get an idea of what time periods the artifacts come from. We can usually give an estimate of how old an assemblage of artifacts is depending on what we know about the site from archival research and what types of artifacts were found. Now that I have an idea of what artifacts are from each phase, I can figure out how I want to display this in the GIS.

An aerial photograph of MSU’s Campus. Every dot represents a excavation unit or test pit CAP has dug during archaeological surveys. This image does not show all of the excavations completed.
An aerial photograph of MSU’s Campus. Every dot represents a excavation unit or test pit CAP has dug during archaeological surveys. This image does not show all of the excavations completed.

CAP has used ArcMap for several years to do a number of projects. One of the things I use the most is a map that show’s every single place CAP has dug on campus. This map is basically an aerial photograph of MSU’s campus with different layers for each of the sites we’ve excavated. Each layer includes either point data that represents individual shovel test pits or polygons that represent trenches/pits. Each layer also consists of a detailed description of the site and what was found there. We also have a layer that shows historical buildings that are no longer standing. This is very helpful for giving us an idea of where we should dig on campus.

During the semester I will be adding new layers to this map for the sites we excavated the past two summers, as well as entering metadata missing for sites excavated in previous years. Other ideas that might be interesting to explore using GIS would be creating a map of the most interesting artifacts CAP has found. This would include artifacts we mention often such as the doll head from the historic privy, the men’s shoes from station terrace, etc. Another thing that might be interesting to do in the future would be to create a map showing the distribution of different artifact types around campus.

Working with GIS is something that is very new to me. I never thought much about it until this past spring semester when I took GEO 221, Intro to Geographic Information. After talking to people in the Anthropology department, I learned that GIS is a very sought after skill in Archaeology. This summer Lisa Bright, the campus archaeologist, suggested I do an internship working with CAP’s GIS. I thought this would be an awesome opportunity and so far I’ve learned a lot. I am definitely seeing how GIS can benefit archaeology.

 



1 thought on “Contextualizing CAP’s GIS: Introduction to Intern Jasmine Smiths Project”

  • I found this article to be quite interesting. It’s great to see the progress in archeological technology and the promising future for MSU students in this field of study.

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