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World’s Oldest Dress Re-Discovered

By Emila Siwik

 

The Tarkhan Dress

Could the world’s oldest dress be the coolest Archaeological discovery of 2016? Recent work by Alice Stevenson and Michael Dee shows that a dirty linen cloth excavated in 1913 by Sir Flinders Petrie is actually a dress.  But not just any dress, the worlds oldest woven garment! The Tarkhan dress dates to around 3200 BC and was once worn by a female Egyptian teenager of royal descent.  It was found in a First Dynasty Tomb south of Cario  and is made out of flax plants that were spun, then woven into linen.  Linen was the fabric of choice in ancient Egypt; many people were wrapped in it during the mummification process and it was often given as a symbolic offering after death. The dress was tailored, meaning that it was not draped or tied to the body, but cut and fitted.  It had a V-neck and pleated sleeves and bodice. Signs of wear at the elbow and armpits show that it was a beloved item worn in life, then brought into the after world.  It was placed in the tomb folded and inside out to allow the detail around the cuffs and neckline to stay intact through the years.

Dating the Dress

The dress was overlooked by archaeologists in the early 1900’s and sat in museum storage, dirty and entwined with other textiles for years. It was discovered in 1977 when the textiles were sent for cleaning and conservation. In 2016, a small sample of the dress was sent for radiocarbon dating. This process established that the dress was older than previous estimates, and was made shortly before the First Dynasty.

Radiocarbon dating for the Tarkhan Dress

Doesn’t it make you wonder what exciting finds are waiting to be discovered in the collections right here at the Sustainable Archaeology facility?

Thank you to Dr. Lisa Hodgett’s Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology class, Western University

 

Further Information

Dollinger, Andre

2007 Aspects of life in Ancient Egypt. Electronic document,  http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/flax.htm

Stevenson, Alice and Dee, Michael

2016 Confirmation of the world’s oldest woven garment: the Tarkhan Dress http://antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/stevenson349

Watson, Traci

2016 See the World’s Oldest Dress. Electronic document, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/160218-oldest-dress-egypt-tarkhan-archaeology/

 

Environmental Archaeology: An Overview

 

Environmental Archaeology is the study of the ecology of past human populations. No matter where we live, we create an impact on the landscapes and the landscape impacts us. Archaeologists understand the physical environment such as landforms and climate and the biological environment such as plants and animals through analytical techniques used by the various sub disciplines of environmental archaeology. This includes;

Geoarchaeology

Geoarchaeology reconstructs interactions between humans and the past physical environment using geomorphology and sedimentology. Geomorphology studies the shape and origin of landscape features while sedimentology reconstructs the history of sediment/ soil deposits. Together we can identify inorganic resources such as stone, clay and mineral deposits while reconstructing past landscape topographies to explain human settlement patterns and impact.

Archaeobotany (Paleoethnobotany)

Seeds from MOA reference collection

Archaeobotany is the study of how humans interacted with the plants around them. Using preserved remains such as charcoal, seed, wood, and phytoliths we can identify plant based foods, other uses for plant materials, and subsistence strategy. We can also use plants to reconstruct the chronology and climate of archaeological sites through additional sub-disciplines such as dendrochronology.

Palynology

Palynology is the study of microscopic plant remains such as pollen and spores recovered from sedimentary cores to reconstruct regional plant communities. Simply, the abundance of pollen and spores tell archaeologists which species dominated the area.

Zooarchaeology

Raccoon skull: MOA Reference Collection

Zooarchaeology is the study of sub fossil, animal remains such as bone, teeth, antler, shell, and parasites to identify the animals of past environments and identify subsistence of past human populations. This allows us to also learn about the health and sanitation of past populations.

Bioarchaeology

Bioarchaeology is the study of past human remains. Each bone tells a story and Bioarchaeologists can reconstruct diet, health, infectious disease, and behaviours of past populations through their remains.

The goal of environmental archaeology is the reconstruction of past culture. Understanding that humans are part of a complex interacting system of technology, behaviour, and the physical environment takes time and a wide variety of knowledge.

What’s On- Maple Harvest Festival

This hafted stone axe head would have been used to chop, split, or shape wood. This object, along with many other Indigenous woodworking tools will be on display in the Permanent Gallery during the Maple Harvest festival

As Canada commemorates its 150th anniversary with hundreds of events scheduled throughout the country this year, here at MOA we are taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight the life-ways and practices of the First People who were living here for millennia before “Canada” even existed. Many First Nations traditions and practices, such as maple harvesting, are still very much alive today and part of the traditions we consider to be quintessentially Canadian.

As part of growing up or living in southern Ontario, most of us enjoy, or have enjoyed at some point in our lives, the opportunity to walk or even ride on a horse drawn-sleigh through a snowy woodlot in late winter, observing the spiles and buckets (or today, the acres of tubes!) hanging from trees, collecting maple sap.  An isolated cabin, wood smoke billowing from the chimney and smelling of sweet, caramelised syrup is the highlight of our tour (short for the pancakes!), where sap is boiled in metal kettles or large, flat pans, reducing the liquid after many, many hours to the sweet, sticky, sugary treat that we all know and love.

First Nations of the eastern Woodlands would collect and even boil tree sap in birch bark baskets such as this

These traditions that we associate with the Sugar Bush can be traced to First Nations origins, in which families would leave their homes and villages in late winter to set up small camps in the deciduous forest to collect maple (and/or birch, box-elder and white walnut) sap. Trees were scored, sap was collected and reduced. Before metals were introduced to the region from European settlers and traders, sap collection and processing used perishable containers such as wood and bark. Raw sap, rich in nutrients after the lean winter months, was also enjoyed as a tonic and a flavour enhancing base for soups, stews, and porridge. Processed syrup and sugar would preserve the taste of spring long into the year, used to sweeten culinary dishes and drinks and serving as a source of trade and commerce if collected in large enough quantities.

At our Maple Harvest Festival on March 11-12th, we will be honoured to have local First Nations Elders Dan and Mary-Lou Smoke on site to awaken the forest and conduct a sweet water blessing, thanking the trees for their nourishing gift. Anishinaabe Elder Larry McLeod will also be joining us from North Bay to teach us about the importance of birch bark, including its use as a basket to collect and even boil sap. We will also have sagamite, a traditional corn soup/stew made from fresh sap for tasting in the longhouse and an exhibition of archaeological objects relating to First Nations maple harvesting in our museum gallery.

We welcome our visitors to join us in this celebration of spring that has been honoured since time immemorial, the awakening of the forest (in the Forest City!) and the first harvest of the year. This is a festive time, marking an end to hunger and darkness as we welcome the return of light, life, and nourishment from the land around us. We hope to inspire in our visitors a wonder for the unique environment of this region in which maple trees flourish, an awareness of the wisdom and ingenuity of First Nations cultural practices and an appreciation for the rich heritage of Ontario which lies beneath our feet.

 

Online Collections: A Digital Experience

Technology is an integral part of our society. We spend countless hours checking our emails, browsing social media, and looking up ratings of places before we even visit them. We have the opportunity to connect with places across the world we may otherwise never have the opportunity to visit. The widespread accessibility of the internet allows museums the opportunity to present their collections online, making them more accessible and present within a wider community. With the quick advances in technology, it can be hard to stay up to date in the museum world. Online collections are one way of staying relevant with today’s technologically savvy generation.

A woven hat too damaged for display. Despite what you see, the brim of the hat is warped, with pieces of the interior breaking off with slight movement. The top of the hat is collapsed with its structure being held together by tissue placed inside.

The very first question about an online collection that most museums consider is weather we should create one at all, and if so, how much information should we include? One of the benefits of making the collection available online is that we can share parts of the collection that otherwise cannot be put on display, such as fragile or light sensitive objects. This allows the viewer to experience an object they cannot otherwise experience in person, while preserving the objects at the same time.

So how are online collections made? Online collections begin with the museum’s digital record of an object. New digital records are created everyday, and for some museums this may take years to change all object records into a digital form. For example MOA holds over 2 million objects and only a small fraction have a complete digital record. We also monitor what goes online especially when it comes to culturally sensitive or ceremonial materials since they are protected and not displayed unless special permissions are given. All objects are approached with care and consideration before being placed into public view. Information such as appraisals, donor information, and archaeological site information are also not shared online.

A tintype image, very sensitive to light.

The accessibility of online collections is limited only to the people who have a computer and internet making it easy for people all across the world to access the collections with a simple click. This invites research potential and allows viewers who are interested in a museum to experience the collections if they can not experience it physically. Like museum exhibitions, online collections are not static. They change and evolve with new research and objects.

Not all museums have online collections and the ones that do are hosted on the museum website. With the interest in cultural objects growing, sites that search objects from multiple museums such as the Google Art Project and Artefact Canada give you the opportunity to curate your own collection of favourite items and to learn about objects from all over the globe.

Here is a link to MOA’s Online Collection

Negotiating Authenticity: Engaging with 3D Models and 3D Prints of Archaeological Things

By: Beth Compton

Twitter: @Beth_Compton

Web Hub: http://www.ourpresentpast.org/

If you’ve ever been really excited to go to a museum exhibition only to discover later that part or all of the display was made up of replicas – you’ll know that, for some reason, people tend to feel differently about the “real thing” than they do about the “copy” or the “fake.”  People have fascinating relationships with things and their copies. Sometimes we don’t know or understand where our own impressions of authenticity come from, or why we feel better about certain modes of representation and replication than we do about others. While some might really enjoy looking at a 3D model of an artifact on a screen – zooming in to take a closer look, flipping it around to see its different sides – others might prefer seeing the original artifact in a glass case in a museum. Still others might prefer to hold a 3D printed replica, able to run their fingers over the surface of the object and heft it in their hand. A lot of this is pretty subjective.

Replicas of an ulu artifact (Ikaahuk Archaeology Project). From left to right: white 3D print, colour 3D print, handmade replica (by Tim Rast), and the original artifact excavated from Banks Island, NWT. Photograph by Beth Compton.

There is no doubt that new 3D technologies are impressive in their ability to mimic the originals – but are these replicas and representations really useful beyond the “wow” factor? How do experiences with originals and copies compare with one another? Does making a copy (either digital or physical) change our view of the original artifact in any way? Ultimately, can we generate more meaningful experiences with digital and physical facsimiles?

In partnership with the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project, Sustainable Archaeology, and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, I explore the nature of archaeological objects and their digital copies in two localised contexts – one in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Canadian Arctic (Banks Island, NWT) and the other in Southwestern Ontario. With the help of the wonderful folks at Sustainable Archaeology, I have been able to take two collections of artifacts (provided by the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project and Museum of Ontario Archaeology) and expand those collections to include digital photographs, 3D models, and 3D prints.

Beth Compton cleaning archaeological artifact prints coming out of the 3D printer at Sustainable Archaeology. Photograph by Nelson Multari.

 

These collections have provided inspiration for dialogues with a diverse array of archaeological constituents including local Inuvialu it and First Nations community members (elders, adults, and youth), museologists, curators, and archaeologists. Overall, I hope to shed some light on how experiences, perceptions, and values differ amongst individuals.

While the majority of participants thus far have certainly demonstrated a strong interest in emerging 3D technologies, there is also a high diversity of opinion, both between and within communities, about the specific roles archaeological replicas should play. It will be interesting to see down the line how these views will shape what we choose to replicate and how.

Collection of artifacts, replicas, photographs and 3D models prepped for an interview at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, NWT. Photograph by Beth Compton.

Collection of artifacts, replicas, photographs and 3D models prepped for an interview at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, NWT. Photograph by Beth Compton.

Note: if you’ve never seen or heard of 3d printing, this is a good introduction to the technology: http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/.

Message from the Director:

Welcome to a brand-new year at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology! I am honoured to start my first full year as the new Executive Director at MOA, and I am excited about what 2017 has in store for us. I follow in the footsteps of some incredible people who have had the honour of directing this unique facility, the last of whom – Joan Kanigan – left a strong foundation of policy development and infrastructure renewal that will allow us to begin the first stages of our merger with Sustainable Archaeology, the research and curation facility next door. The integration of SA will allow us to incorporate new and interactive technologies into our galleries and classroom, highlighting some of the innovative archaeological research being done at this state-of-the-art facility.

Longhouse interior view using the HTC Vive

Interactive technologies related to Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and 3-D imaging will be moving into the gallery over the coming year, beginning with our MOA VRchaeology exhibit opening on January 12th. MOA VRchaeology will transport visitors back 500 years with HTC Vive virtual reality goggles to experience a reconstructed Iroquoian-style longhouse developed by Western Anthropology PhD candidate, Michael Carter. To read more about Mike’s project, which he’s fully documented, check out his blog here, then come out to MOA for this unique experience in person!

Our first temporary exhibit of the year opens on January 26th in partnership with Nokee Kwe Native Learning Centre. The +Positive Voice Program entitled Warrior Womyn: Reclaiming our Identity is an inspiring exhibit promoting positive narratives and memes by urban Aboriginal women who are experiencing a transition to employment/education. This will be followed in April by a temporary exhibit developed in collaboration with Western First Nations Studies. And in August, watch for our take on the year’s sesquicentennial celebrations with an exhibit featuring the negotiated identities of Chief Joseph Brant and Pauline Johnson in the era of Canada’s new confederation.

Do you love maple as much as we do? That sweet – even nutritious! – treat that maple trees reward us with after a cold winter? Then make sure to mark your calendars for the weekend of March 11-12th when we’ll be re-establishing an old event here at the museum to celebrate the Maple Harvest! We’ll be focusing on traditional First Nations’ methods of harvesting and processing this natural resource, and we’ll be offering all sorts of engaging and interactive activities throughout the weekend. And of course, plans are already underway to host our 9th annual Harvest Festival and Pow Wow on September 16-17th in conjunction with London Doors Open. That event will be followed by International Archaeology Day on the 21st of October. Also, watch for us this year out in the community, as we broaden our outreach to provide a contact and gift-shop booth at local and regional events and festivities – stop by to say hi and ask us what is new!

Male dancers for the 2016 Harvest Festival Pow-Wow
2015 MOA Pow-Wow

We are also committing to updating our education and outreach programs in 2017. With a newly installed and generously donated Smart Board from Western Ivey Business School, students will have more opportunities for interactive engagement in the classroom. And retired school-teacher Linda Imrie has donated her time and skills to revamping our Edu-kits, catered to augmenting curriculum studies from grades 1-6 – so if you are not able to get your classroom to the Museum to experience our in-house educational programs, please inquire about the availability of these instructive and archaeologically-themed kits!

MOA has a dynamic and dedicated team of Board members, staff and volunteers who continue to work diligently to create a more immersive and engaging experience for visitors of all ages – and we are always looking for volunteers willing to share their time and talents, so if you are interested in joining our team please give us a call! Whether it’s a walk through the gallery to see what’s new, your attendance at a craft workshop or school group, or just a walk along our pathways and woodlot to appreciate and reflect upon the undisturbed archaeological village preserved beneath your feet, we look forward to seeing you in 2017!

-Dr. Rhonda Bathurst-

Potters in the Past: Micro Computed Tomography of Archaeological Ceramics

By: Amy St. John, PhD candidate in Anthropology, Western University

A pot in the scanner

As an archaeologist, I believe we can access some of the day-to-day, face-to-face interactions of past people through the material culture they left behind. Ceramics are one of the most commonly found material culture types around the world and throughout time. There are many steps that go into ceramic making. Some of these include: gathering and refining clay, adding materials to that clay to make it more workable, forming that clay into a pot, then decorating, drying and firing that pot. Some of the steps in ceramic making, like exterior decoration, have been studied extensively by archaeologists trying to understand cultural connections in the past. Other steps, such as how people actually formed clay into pots, are more difficult to access. However, ethnographic evidence tells us that formation methods are often learned, passed on and maintained across generations, even as more visible decorative techniques change over time. So how can we access how people were forming pots out of clay?

3D images of exterior and interior features of a ceramic pot. The top row shows the exterior surface and inclusions. The bottom row shows renderings of voids

My research explores the ceramic analysis potential of innovative micro CT technology available at the Sustainable Archaeology: Western, located next door to MOA. Micro CT uses X-rays to provide non-destructive, high resolution, fully 3D images of the interior and exterior of ceramics based on the density of materials. It can show us interior features in a unique way, augmenting traditional techniques that include destructive methods.

As a case study, I’ve scanned ceramic sherds from an archaeological collection that are part of a larger research project, directed by my supervisor Prof. Neal Ferris (Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology), related to a Late Woodland Borderland in southwestern Ontario dating to around 1100-1250 A.D. Micro CT is proving to be an extremely promising method for examining the interior features of ceramics. These include: voids/air pockets, micro folds in clay, and both intentionally added material known as temper and natural inclusions in clay, which you can see we can easily isolate in the 2D slices and 3D renderings that micro CT creates.

Patterns that we can see in these interior features often relate directly to the formation techniques potters used to make ceramics. I’m finding that on these borderland sites, there were several different ways of making pots that are visible in the scans. For example, some pots’ rims are folded over, while others have clay added on to the exterior.

A 2D slice and 3D renderings of the interior structures of a ceramic

So what I am demonstrating through the micro-analysis of ceramic craft is how micro CT can help us understand an often neglected aspect of this common artifact type: how people were using their hands and other tools to manipulate clay into pots. Using some of the most advanced technology available today, we can explore how the craft of making pots relates to communities, learning, tradition, and innovation over several generations in the past.

Looking Forward: Virtual Reality at the Museum

Trained as both an archaeologist and computer animator, Michael has spent his professional career immersed in the creative, technical and business roles of animation and visual effects (VFX) film and broadcast production. Returning to his archaeology roots twenty years later, Michael’s research focuses on the use of Virtual Archaeology (VA) to better inform archaeological and heritage research, dissemination, and mobilization. His interest is in VA epistemology, paradata and the experiential application of technology for archaeological knowledge construction.

Exterior of the Longhouse

Michael’s most recent completed research project explores the application of virtual reality in the (re)imagination of a 16th century Iroquoian Longhouse.

“What’s cool about Iroquoian longhouses in Ontario archaeology is that nothing survives of these once massive wooden structures except for the post hole stains in the ground, remains of fire hearths, storage pits or even burials within the disintegrated walls of these houses.” Using the archaeological evidence found in the ground, archaeologists make an educated guess as to how the longhouse once appeared as it stood. By coupling European historical accounts and Indigenous oral histories with archaeological data, Michael can stitch together a virtual 3D account of a typical longhouse.

Interior of the Longhouse

This longhouse combines the interpretation of the cultural material available, modern methods of CGI and virtual reality production, and 3D scanned artifacts from the Lawson collections to provide visitors of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology a chance to explore the sights and sounds of what a potential longhouse might have looked and felt like within the 16th century in Southwestern Ontario.  

In 2017, the museum plans to make this technology available for use to visitors to experience at the museum. Stay tuned for updates, stories, and new information relating to the use of virtual reality in the museum here through our notes, or on social media.

Hillary testing the Vive

 

For more details on Michaels work check out A Day in Virtual reality here.

http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-day-of-virtual-archaeology/#more-22779

Follow Michael Carter on Social Media

@mcarterSKW

Kathleen Kenyon Archaeologist

As part of our programs, we encouraged University students to contribute to our blog, based on what they were learning.  In this week’s guest blog, Elizabeth McConkey. then a student in Western’s ANTHRO 2261 – Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology, covered Kathleen Kenyon, an Archaeologist we would all benefit from knowing better.

Kathleen Kenyon, Archaeologist

Image of Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon

Indiana Jones is one of the most well known movie franchises of all time. In the first installment of the series, with the Nazis hot on his trail, Indiana Jones equipped with his whip, shotgun, satchel and fedora sets out to uncover arguably the most significant archaeological find in all of history, the Ark of the Covenant. Despite having an affiliation with a museum and university, Indiana adds some unconventional aspects to the archaeologist’s job description. Such criteria include gun fighting and hand to hand combat. Despite the image that popular culture provides, the truth is that real archaeologists are quite different from Harrison Ford’s character. For example, British archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon could not seem further from this portrayal of an archaeologist. Kenyon was a significant British archaeologist in the 20th century, taking part in excavations all over the world. She might not have been involved in gun fighting and car chases, but her career was nothing short of extraordinary.

As a significant female archaeologist, Kenyon defies the masculine image and stereotype that the Indiana Jones franchise reflects. A graduate of Oxford University in London England, Kenyon pursued a career in archaeology with a special interest in stratigraphy (the distribution of different soil types in the ground) (3). She created the concept of the baulk, which is now a very significant part of stratigraphic analyses in modern archaeology (3). A baulk is the wall or edge of an excavated area, which reveals the different layers of soil in the ground (4). Baulks are significant because they allow archaeologists to identify the different layers of the soil and thereby to determine the age of a site and categorize the artifacts into time periods.

Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho

Kenyon in the field at Jericho
At Jericho

Though Kenyon never set out to find the Ark of the Covenant, she did take part in significant excavations with a biblical theme. For example, she was greatly involved with the excavations at Jericho, a site located in Palestine and associated with the ancient Israelite’s (1). This site is not only significant because it is thousands of years old, but evidence collected by Kenyon suggests that it is the only site that has been inhabited continuously from the beginnings of the first human agricultural settlements until the present (2). The evidence that she collected shed light on the lives of those who inhabited the site in more ancient times. Her research records the development of the people of Jericho from their nomadic beginnings to their use more sophisticated year round settlements (2.Pg 269). Though nothing supernatural came with her finds, she certainly contributed a great deal to knowledge about the site.

Kenyon’s career was not lacking in excitement. Through the development of new archaeological techniques like the use of the baulk and her excavation of sites at Jericho, Kathleen Kenyon clearly made a large mark on the field of archaeology. Despite their differences, Kenyon was more like Indiana Jones than we might have expected at first glance.

Kathleen Kenyon Archaeologist

References and Additional Resources:

  1. Kenyon, Kathleen. 1955 “Some Archaeological Sites and the Old Testament: Jericho,” The Expository Times 66(12). 355-358.
  2. Kenyon, Kathleen. 1967 “Jericho,” Archaeology 20(4). 268-275.
  3. Dever, William G. 1978 “Kathleen Kenyon (1906-1978): A Tribute,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 232. 3-4.
  4. Archaeological Institute of America “Introduction to Archaeology: Glossary,” Accessed on Feb 8th 2016.
  5. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Kathleen-Kenyon

International Archaeology Day

Come celebrate MOAs International Archaeological Day!

On October 15th, over 100 organisations across the world will be holding workshops, fairs, and lectures for International Archaeology Day. With only five years under its belt, this once National day held by the Archaeological Institute of America started from humble beginnings with only 14 participating institutions in the United States. You may be thinking why is this important to me?

iad2016-logo

“International Archaeology Day is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA and archaeological organisations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of a local archaeological site, a simulated dig, a lecture or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, the interactive, hands-on International Archaeology Day programs provide the chance to indulge your inner Indiana Jones.”
-AIA Website-

For the past year, the city of London has been working on reviewing their Archaeological Master Plan with a focus on updating the modeling for predicting the location of Indigenous sites and better modeling the urban core of the City. Overall, the four goals of the Master Plan review are:

1. To update the archaeological site database and associated mapping for known archaeological sites in London
2. Review the existing archaeological site potential model and make recommendations for potential improvements/compliance
3. Review current federal, provincial, and municipal planning and management guidelines
4. Develop an implementation framework for responsible municipal stewardship and management of archaeological resources in the city.

international-archaeology-day

This year’s International Archaeology Day features collaboration between the City of LondonArchaeological Services Inc. (ASI) and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.  ASI’s Dr. Ron Williamson (also the Museum Board Chair) and Jonas Fernandez will present Something Old and Something New: Archaeological Management Plans in a City Building Context. You have the opportunity to attend this free lecture to learn about modern ways municipalities are managing their cultural resources and how this updated Archaeological Master Plan will help preserve our city’s rich archaeological heritage. See our website for additional fun activities.