Current Research

An excavated kitchen.

Kitchen House Project, Charleston, SC 

Dr. Chantel White, Dr. Katherine Moore

Through the analysis of materials hidden in the walls of a 19th century kitchen house, CAAM archaeological scientists are reconstructing the daily lives of enslaved people who once lived and worked inside the structure, including the foods they prepared for themselves and others.

Learn More
Survey equipment at the Woodlands.

Reconstructing Historical Garden Landscapes, Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Chantel White, Dr. Jason Herrmann, Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau

Located near Penn’s campus, The Woodlands estate provides the opportunity for CAAM to investigate the city’s early garden landscapes through combined survey, excavation, and lab analysis. CAAM specialists are studying 18th century greenhouse architecture as well as preserved botanical remains from buried garden soils.  

Learn More
Excavated cave.

Mughr el-Hamamah Paleolithic Project, Deir Alla, Jordan

Dr. Chantel White, with Aaron Stutz and Liv Nilsson Stutz

40,000-year-old botanical remains excavated from the MHM cave site are providing valuable insights into the diet of prehistoric humans and the ways they processed plants to help make them edible.

Learn More

Characterizing the Manufacturing Practices of Late Bronze Age White Slip Ware From Bamboula-Kourion, Cyprus

Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau, with B. Cordivari (NYU-ISAW) 

White Slip Ware vessels from Late Bronze Age Bamboula-Kourion are analyzed to reconstruct the production technology using ceramic petrography, x-radiography, infrared spectroscopy, and electron microscopy. Results contribute to an understanding of community-level interaction at Bamboula and in the region around the Troodos.

Learn More
Pottery fragments and notes.

Southeast Asian Earthenware Project, Lao DPR

Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau, with Dr. J. White (ISEAA) 

A rich ceramic dataset from the Middle Mekong Archaeological Project provides a foundational collection from which scientific analyses can begin to piece together the economic and technological dimensions of past societies of this important region. Scientific analysis of earthenware produced, exchanged and used across tributary rivers flowing into the Mekong in the Luang Prabang region aims to contribute to our understanding of the Middle Mekong riverscape affordances and connectivity from the middle Holocene to historical periods.  

Learn More
Xray of pottery from Pachacamac.

Forming Techniques of Ychsma Cephalomorphic Bottles and Cara-Golletes from Pachacamac, Peru

Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau, With Dr. J. A. Davenport (MURR)  

Ychsma was a hierarchical society centered on the Lurín and Rímac valleys of Peru’s central coast during the Late Intermediate Period (1000–1470 CE). During the Late Horizon (1470–1532 CE), it was the subject of intense investment and transformation by the Inka, most notably in the administrative and pilgrimage center of Pachacamac. X-radiography is used to evaluate forming methods and techniques, and compare cephalomorphic bottles, dating to earlier Ychsma periods, and cara-golletes, dating to later Inka periods.  

Learn More
Excavators working in the field.

Human Ecology of Early High Altitude Communities in South America

Dr. Katherine Moore

Excavations at high-resolution cave sites at very high altitudes centers on how people adapted to challenging environments during the last centuries of  Pleistocene climate in the region. Zooarchaeological analysis is key to understanding the sustainability of these occupations, and related molecular analysis provides access to data on climate, mobility, and rainfall. 

Learn More
Plank House.

Animals in the Historic Delaware Valley

Dr. Katherine Moore

Collections in the Zooarchaeology laboratory from a range of contexts reveal the diversity of food traditions and economic patterns as Philadelphia shifted from being the nation’s first capitol to an industrial powerhouse, and received new residents from around the world.

CODA researcher and participants.

Community Oriented Digital Archaeology; Documenting and Reconstructing African American Mortuary Landscapes 

Dr. Jason Herrmann

Since 2020 and with support from the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, applied courses in digital archaeology have emphasized work relating to African American cemeteries in southeast Pennsylvania, providing students with the opportunity to acquire skills in digital field recording and analysis while they work with cemetery stewards and historians to help tell the story of greater Philadelphia’s Black burial spaces.

Learn More
Aerial view of the landscape.

Space and Identity in Ancient Motya 

Dr. Jason Herrmann with Dr. Paola Sconzo, University of Palermo

Multi-instrument geophysical survey, surface collection and test excavations at ancient Motya (Sicily, Italy) to identify some of the inherited urban traditions that informed the mid 6th century reorganization of the city as well as to trace bottom-up transformations in the urban plan as the inhabitants of Motya responded to social and political changes over its history. As one of the very few Phoenicio-Punic urban sites that is not covered or destroyed by later phases of occupation, our interpretations are a significant contribution toward broader questions of Punic urban traditions, material identity, and social organization.

Handwritten geophysical notes.

Digging Digital Data at Sybaris and Elis

Dr. Jason Herrmann

In the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists and physicists from the Penn Museum carried out large-scale geophysical surveys around the globe. The Digging Digital Data team is cataloging and digitizing records from the extensive remote sensing surveys to create new GIS visualizations and to re-evaluate the original interpretations with new methods and information.

Map showing location of Tepe Gawra and objects from it.

Developments in Copper Metallurgy at Tepe Gawra

Vanessa Workman

Approaching old questions with new methods, the project addresses copper-alloy practices as expressed in the archaeological record of Tepe Gawra in northern Iraq. The work utilizes techniques in microscopy and chemical analysis to document fluctuations and developments in the composition and manufacture of copper-alloy objects from the Late Chalcolithic to the end of the Middle Bronze Age, studying pivotal moments for the use of arsenical copper and tin bronze. Students of the Archaeometallurgy Seminar (2024) are the primary gatherers of data for this project.

Photos of objects with blue pigment revealed.

Egyptian Blue Outside of Egypt: Blue Pigment Objects in Iron Age Iran

Vanessa Workman with Alexis North (Penn Museum Conservation)

A multi-analytical project investigating the production and use of Egyptian blue pigment in the Near East. The project employs methods of multi-modal photography, microstructural and chemical analysis to complement typological and art historical approaches to investigate a unique set of Iron Age molded Egyptian blue artifacts from several archaeological sites in northwest Iran. The project aims to contribute data on material sources, production technologies, and the transfer of craft knowledge as we develop a better understanding of Egyptian blue in the Near Eastern context.

A fire pit.

Early Iron in the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean

Vanessa Workman with Adi Eliyahu-Behar, Ivan Stepanov, Lee Sauder, Jake Keen

The mechanisms that ushered in iron to the eastern Mediterranean and Near East in the late 2nd–early 1st millennium BCE continue to be poorly understood. The project looks at the adoption of ironworking into metal workshops of the southern Levant from the sociopolitical and material perspectives. Tools and waste byproducts of the production process inform us of the many parameters of early iron – from technological capabilities, material accessibility, and traditions of craft knowledge. Through metallurgically oriented excavations, laboratory analysis, and experimental archaeology, this team of international researchers works to better understand how iron came to be a dominant material in the ancient world.