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The Campbell Island Ceramic Collection Open Access

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The curation crisis that has plagued the field of archaeology for the last several decades seems no closer to being sufficiently resolved as excavation continues to be the core methodology of the practice and has exponentially out-paced our ability to properly store and care for the artifacts. Over recent years, there has been a shift toward collections-based research, especially toward re-establishing the research potential of orphaned and underreported collections. One such underreported collection is the Campbell Island ceramics collection (Accession 40192) from an excavation by Frank Cushing in the final years of his life. The ceramic artifacts are part of a larger collection that includes lithics and osteological remains from shell middens on Campbell Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine, and have remained in storage at the National Museum of Natural History since Cushing’s death in 1900, with little associated documentation. Through macroanalysis of a number of properties of the sherds (eg. identifying clay tempers and other inclusions, identifying form, firing techniques, surface treatments and decorative styles, etc.), as well as attempts at refitting sherds, I have tried to re-establish some contextual evidence and evaluate the research potential of a collection of artifacts that has, until now, not been described in detail.

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