Archaeology Field School in Lexington

Students investigated the archaeology and history of Lexington and the University of Kentucky campus with Dr. Elena Sesma in a field school conducted between May and June of 2022. Students explored the changing landscape around campus and the materials left behind by those who have lived, worked, and learned in the historic Bingham Davis House on Maxwell Street. The field school included six weeks of intensive, hands-on learning in archaeological research during which students gained experience in archaeological excavation, primary-source historical research, laboratory work, artifact analysis, and public engagement. Two students were selected to work in the academic 2022-2023 academic year as researchers in the Research Undergraduate Experience.

Bourbon Barrel Project

The Bourbon Barrel Project seeks to utilize the tools offered by EduceLab to study and preserve objects related to the deep history of bourbon and whiskey production in the areas  in and around Kentucky. Utilizing tools such as 3D scanning, X-ray spectroscopy, and X-ray probing techniques made available by the University of Kentucky's EduceLab, researchers including Dr. Michael Detisch, Dr. Brent Seales, and Dr. John Balk seek to understand the characterization, degradation, and future preservation of historical objects related to this industry.

Research Undergraduate Experience

Bingham Davis House of the University of Kentucky: The Bingham Davis House on Maxwell Street in Lexington, Kentucky is a historic property currently home to the Gaines Center for the Humanities at the University of Kentucky. A section of the site grounds were excavated by University of Kentucky students as part of the Summer Archaeology Field School (ANT585), led by Dr. Elena Sesma. The field team revealed various features of the site with traditional excavation approaches, as well as cutting-edge imaging on site, including magnetometry, ground-penetrating radar, photogrammetry, and optical scanning.

BENCH Research Program: The BENCH REU program focuses on using high-end engineering tools including optical microscopes, scanning electron microscopes, and X-ray fluorescent spectrometers to gain new insights into historical sites and materials. Starting in Summer 2022 and through the 2022-2023 academic year, students will be trained in some of these techniques and learn about the underlying physical processes behind each method. In August, REU students participated in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) REU Convocation held at the University of Louisville. Their abstracts and presentations can be viewed in the publications tab.

Herculaneum Scrolls: The computer science undergraduate research team visited Naples in June 2022 to present their work to scholars of the Herculaneum papyrus scrolls. The ancient Roman library of Herculaneum was buried and carbonized in 79 CE by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, making the manuscripts mostly impossible to open. The few that were opened by peeling them apart are extremely difficult to read. During the symposium, the students outlined the processes used to digitally reconstruct and archive these severely damaged manuscripts. Their work focused on aligning historical photographic images of a scroll fragment with a 3D model and developing an online viewer for investigating and manipulating the images. For the students, the trip represented their first time lecturing in front of an international audience and gave them their first look at the physical artifacts they had only seen digitally. Papyrologist Federica Nicolardi from the Università degli Studi di Napoli 'Federico II' hosted the students at the National Library of Naples, where she showcased several actual fragments from opened scrolls. The team visited the historical sites associated with the scrolls, including Vesuvius National Park, the site of the volcano responsible for damaging the scrolls, and the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In addition, Associate Professor Gianluca Del Maestro of Papyrology at Università Luigi Vanvitelli led the students on a private tour of the Villa de Papyri, the ruins of the ancient villa where the papyri were found in 1752.

Newport Historic Spring Project: Students worked at the Newport Historic Spring archaeological site in Newport, Rhode Island in excavation and artifact analysis of  material remains at a colonial historical site that is being transformed into a public park. Students will conduct lab work to elucidate the social and environmental world lived in by the inhabitants of colonial Newport. The results of this project will aid in the creation of a public education display that will be used at the park scheduled to begin construction in Autumn 2022. More information can be found on the Newport Historic Spring website.

William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology: Students will receive direct mentorship in the preparation of archaeological assemblages and their associated records for accession into the Museum’s permanent collections. The students will also gain an understanding of the laws and regulations that guide curation best practice and actively apply the most up to date methods of archaeological collections management while developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  In addition, students will gain firsthand understanding of the organizational structure and nuances of archaeological recording methodologies and industry specific nomenclature through the utilization of primary and secondary documentation. Their duties will include identification, inventorying and rehousing of archaeological artifacts, samples, photographic media (slide, negative, 35 mm print, digital), as well as both paper and digital records while maintaining provenience control and adherence to archival best practice.


UK NACME Applied Machine Learning Intensive (AMLI) Bootcamp

The goal of the UK NACME-Google AMLI Summer Bootcamp is to provide students with an introduction to computer science content to be qualified for positions as entry-level Machine Learning (ML) Specialists. Specifically, to prepare talent to understand how to apply statistics and ML to solve real-world data science problems. The bootcamp aims to expose under-represented minority (URM) undergraduate students to advanced concepts in artificial intelligence/machine learning using Google Education’s open-sourced curriculum. The NACME-Google AMLI Summer Bootcamp at the University of Kentucky is housed in the Department of Computer Science under the College of Engineering and led by Dr. Corey E. Baker.

More information is available on the AMLI website


Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

EduceLab collaborates with Mammoth Cave National Park in Western Kentucky, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. Current collaboration with Mammoth Cave centers on provenance research of a wooden trough in the collections of the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology. The Webb Museum accessioned the trough in 2005 after receiving it from the Parks Department of the city of Louisville. Oral history suggests that the trough was removed from the Cave by a private individual and donated to the Louisville Parks Department, but the antiquity and context of the wooden trough remains unclear. Webb Museum researchers hypothesize that the trough dates to the era of industrial mining of niter (calcium nitrate) from the cave soil, which was converted to saltpeter for black gunpowder. This was a profitable industry during the War of 1812 and was largely accomplished by the labor of enslaved African Americans. Extensive wooden remnants from this operation (leaching vats, water pipes, pump towers, and pump components) remain in the cave, but in a dismantled state, with some portions, such as the log pipes, buried. Multi-method analyses were conducted to test this hypothesis by applying radiocarbon and dendrochronology dating to confirm the trough's antiquity, as well as using the Scanning Electron Microscope in the BENCH cluster to conduct elemental analysis of remaining crystals on the surface of the trough in order to verify or falsify the presence of calcium nitrate. This analysis and its digital documented with optical scanners from the MOBILE cluster equipment have been published in the journal Heritage Science.