We left Day 5 still working our way down through level five. We had left our unit (Unit 4) with several artifacts flagged and still in situ in the floor. The entire time going through level five the last week we were using shovel scraping to take off very thin layers. When we felt or heard the shovel scrape or hit something we would stop, find what it was hitting, and then flag it. Once the floor became too crowded with flags to continue digging, we would map where each individual artifact was located, including a northing, easting, and elevation. This method is called piece-plotting. Each artifact was then placed into its own individual bag. This will allow researchers to come back and look at our notes and paperwork and reconstruct exactly where each individual artifact was located in the ground. Every time we dig we are destroying the site, and anything that is moved cannot be put back to exactly how it was. Therefore, it is extremely important for us to do things like this that will allow the site to be reconstructed by future researchers if they should have need to do so.
So we started Day 6 dealing with the artifacts we had left flagged from the previous week.
Once we had finished our mapping, we continued down through level five. Unlike our previous levels, we were digging based upon natural levels. So the level would end when the soil color began to change. Dr. White wasn’t entirely sure whether this sediment zone (Zone 2) was an intact prehistoric deposit or a second plow zone. Eventually we started to find our answer. After some more shovel scraping, we began to see sharp lines in the floor of our unit. We set up two tents to provide shade over the unit so that the light was all the same. In the sunlight shining through the trees it was quite hard to make out more subtle differences. Once the tents were in place, it was quite easy to see sharp changes in the color of the soil.They looked very similar to the plow scars that we had seen at the base of the previous level and were in a cross hatched pattern across the floor of our unit, and continued into the unit directly south of ours. One interesting thing to note is that the artifacts that we were finding were only being found in the dark soil synonymous with level five. Once it looked like this was the base of the level, Dr. White had us map the plow scars, and close out the level.
After that we began a short arbitrary level down to 75 cm below datum. For our unit this meant digging down about another five centimeters. This was to get us completely out of the mixed stratigraphy between Zones 2 and 3. We would not be piece-plotting everything we found in this arbitrary level, only things that were of special interest like large items and diagnostic pottery sherds.
As we began screening the dirt that came out of level six, the pottery sherds we were finding were different from those that we had been finding. Up to this point the pottery sherds had been black and somewhat sparkly. The pottery sherds that we were beginning to find now were more red and dull. This signifies a change in pottery style, so we are definitely getting into something different than what we have been digging in..
We finished the day in the middle of level six. Come next week we will flatten out our floor at seventy five centimeters below datum, and then start the same process that we did in level five, simply going down to the next natural level. Who knows what we will find deeper down!
Day 6 of field school was another sunny, warm day. Honestly, I feel we’ve been very lucky with the weather this semester. It had rained over the week, and so there was water in the units. Usually, this would be removed using buckets, but Professor White wanted to test out a scavenged electric sump pump to pump the water out. It was slow. It was a team effort to lift the tarps and pool the water for removal.
Professor White assembles his contraption.
Slow water removal. Quite a few spiders and insects came out to see us while we pumped water.
Measuring tapes are laid out on the sides of the unit so that northing and easting can be measured.
Once the water was removed and the tarps were set aside, we could begin working. I was assigned to Unit 5, and we continued work on our Level 4 (within Zone 2). Last time, we began piece-plotting, and had left 13 flagged artifacts to plot. However, it appeared that one of our flagged items was actually in Unit 6, and so it was excluded from our measurements. After cleaning up the unit then collecting and preparing paperwork, we began to measure each artifact’s provenience, or place in the unit. Every item is assigned a number, then the northing, easting and elevation below a pre-determined datum was measured and recorded. Once the artifact’s provenience has been recorded, it can be removed, observed, and placed in a bag with the assigned number. Most of these artifacts were pottery fragments, rocks or flakes. These locations are also plotted on a graph on the main paperwork for the unit and zone. These measurements give an idea of artifact concentration, assist with accurate mapping, and give a record for those who review our work in the future.
Shane shovels thin layers of soil from unit 5.
Artifacts are placed in bags with their assigned number, and measurements are recorded separately.
A pop up tent is used to shade the unit, so that any color changes in the soil can be seen more easily.
When the artifacts had been marked and removed, we began work to reveal more. This takes very careful shovel skimming work. The goal is to remove very small amounts of soil, and stop when you hear o feel anything against the shovel blade. The item is marked for later plotting. This can be time consuming, and takes some delicacy. Any dirt removed is screened and artifacts are bagged together. Unit 5 had plenty of artifacts to piece-plot, and still more were missed and found after screening the removed soil. This yielded pottery fragments, rocks, flakes and a point of some sort. We worked to plot another 12 artifacts, and then flagged 27 more before ending for the day. These should be waiting for us on Day 7 when we continue our field work on the Broad River.
Pottery fragments, flakes and rocks sifted from two buckets of unit 5 soil.
Point sifted from unit 5 soil.
End of the day's work. Orange tape indicates artifacts to be mapped.
We arrived at the site around 8:45 am, this was our first week without Jim Legg on site and so we discussed and redistributed several people to begin work on a new unit in what we have begun to call the “downstairs” area at the bottom of the hill. Due to the rain of the previous week we spent the first 30 minutes or so testing our new pump to remove the water that had accumulated on the plastic covering over our units. It may not have been faster than our previous practice of passing buckets along a line but at least now we know how to use the pump.
My unit (Unit 6) had ended the previous week on our fifth level with shovel skimming and piece-plotting as well as mapping. We had a new member added to our unit who had been working with Jim on the downstairs wall the previous weeks so after bringing him up to speed and closing out the paper work on level five we received instruction to scrape our unit and bring it flush with a neighboring unit so that we could have a clearer view of the plow scars we have been following. We erected tents to control the lighting, sprayed the level down with water, and took our photographs with the board. The plow scars seem to run primarily north-south and after careful consideration we decided to excavate level six as an arbitrary level, this time aiming to move down only 5 cm, piece plotting any large/interesting artifacts, and ending with a depth of 75 centimeters below datum.
After breaking for lunch, we discovered an inconsistency in our depths in the southwest corner of our unit. My records show that on the morning of day 5 either we miscalculated or the rain raised us 2-3 centimeters from where we had previously measured. At any rate, we leveled off at an even 75 centimeters all around and plotted several large rocks as well as what is possibly our first cultural feature. Dr. White encircled the area and we scraped the rest of the unit to finish our mapping and paperwork. The neighboring unit also unearthed our team’s first projectile point.
We ended the day with level six and after filling out the requisite paperwork, we cleaned up the site and headed home. Dr. White continues to be concerned with the drains under the small bridge we use to cross a creek. He seems to be at odds with a family of beavers.
On the 5th day of our industrious and fruitful dig we couldn’t have worked under better weather. Bright sunshine with a stiff cold breeze: it literally couldn’t get any better. This time Scott and I, who had been working with Jim on the profile wall, were reassigned back to the original 4m x 4m block split into quadrants that were being worked by separate groups. I was sent to Unit 5 to work with Shane and Sam while two other students were sent to replace us with Jim.
Unit 5, I came to learn, was plagued with roots. Luckily they were far enough down by the time I got there that it wasn’t as horrible as some had pitched it to be. Kudos to them for all the hard work. The upside to Unit 5 was the myriad of artifacts found within each bucket we screened. If the previous levels collection bags were any indication then whoever was screening was bound to find a ton of cool stuff. In any case the first thing we set about doing was finishing some paperwork for the previous level (they had been instructed to "skip: a level and just have one large level 3 ending at the base of the plowzone) and setting up level 4 for excavation. While Sam opted to do that Shane and I set about cleaning up the floor walls as well as gently reveal the plow scar features. This was done by the gradual light scraping with a trowel along the bottom and wouldn’t you know it they began to appear rather rapidly throughout the floor of the unit.
After the approval of Dr. White he then explained that the next step was to remove the dirt from the plowscars as the other groups around us had begun to do. After some observation, it seemed relatively simple and we set about doing it right or at least attempting to. After the first few awkward strikes into the dirt we got into a rhythm of scooping out the scars. Someone even suggested using a spoon to dig them out if they were too slim and honestly it seemed the perfect tool.
Nevertheless once that task was completed we set about shovel skimming and piece-plotting into the next level (in Zone 2). Something new to many if not all of us. This using the shovel with finesse which may sound a bit like an oxymoron but there is a technique for scraping away the dirt in fine paper thin levels. Following a quick learning curve this was mastered…well maybe grasped. Mastered may be overzealous.
The reason for the feathery touch with the shovels was to uncover but leave in place artifacts all over the unit. These we marked with a pin and some bright orange flagging tape. Once most of the floor had been marked with little pins and we really couldn’t walk around without hitting any it was time to plot them. Yet another part of archaeology that started slow and picked up the pace. But like before we picked up the pace with some practice and with the help of two folding rulers spread on our boundaries like an X and Y axis and the trusty earsplitting screech of the laser level we mapped all of the artifacts and bagged them individually for later analysis.
Before we knew it we were out of time and had to pack everything up halfway through dropping pins on our next level of artifacts. I thought I’d be too attached to the "downstairs" profile wall to enjoy digging anywhere else but I was way off. I couldn’t be more excited to get back to Unit 5 and keep at it. If only there wasn’t going to be gallons worth of the last storm waiting for us on the tarps Friday morning.
Alarm goes off—it’s 6:45 AM and 29 degrees outside. Honestly, way too cold to be shoveling and trowling through dirt all day, but I must get out of my bed and get to work. Although I have never been a morning person, I manage to roll out of bed, put on sweatpants, make a peanut butter sandwich, and finally bring myself to meet with my field school peers so we can get the ball rolling and start our fifth day of field work.
We arrive on site around 8:45 AM, once we manage to crawl out of our unassigned assigned car seats we gather around our 4m x 4m excavation block “upstairs.” First things first, we have to remove the two sheets of tarp that successfully protected the three 2m x 2m units from any precipitation that managed to reach our dig site. A couple of weeks ago, the process of removing water through the use of buckets and a trembling single file line of cold, wet, and tired students was traumatizing. Needless to say, this is probably the most tedious part of our day, but thankfully, it did not rain that much over the week, so there were only a couple of gallons of freezing water to remove.
After Professor White goes over a couple of minor pointers and expectations for the day, he decides to switch up what stations we are assigned to. Every day before this week, I was assigned Unit 6 (the southeast 2m x 2m corner unit of the 4 x 4) with my peers Kate and Tiffany. Dr. White wanted to switch two people out of the block and transfer them “downstairs” to work on the profile wall with Jim Legg. He asked my little Unit 6 crew if we enjoyed where we were, I enthusiastically exclaimed “I love Unit 6,” to which Dr. White promptly said, “alright, Elena, you get to move downstairs.” At the time, I was mildly devastated. But, after being able to observe first hand Jim Legg’s perfected excavating technique, I am glad I got moved. Not only was my only job screening and filling out paper work, but I also got to experience a master at work. He makes every cut with such ease and perfection that I finally had to ask him how long it took him to master the art of excavating, to which he said his first dig site was excavated perfectly. Unbelievable.
Though this day turned out to be pretty ordinary and uneventful, we did manage to uncover a misshapen form of some type of point, although we can not accurately claim it as such due to its asymmetrical form, but it was definitely shaped this way purposefully. This specific cultural material was the only individual piece that struck out to me in the midst of FCR (fire-cracked rock), pebbles, small pieces of pottery, and minor amounts of quartz flaking debris.
Hello! My name is Tiffany and I am a senior Anthropology and History double major. I decided to sign up for the Broad River Archaeological Project because I wanted to gain more field experience in archaeology. My first time in the field was spent abroad in the Ifugao Province in the Philippines, so I was very excited to learn what excavation is like within my home state! So far I have already begun to learn a lot about how to conduct archaeological excavations within wooded areas, as well as how to set up a unit arbitrarily. Each week in the field, I cannot wait to come back to discover and learn more about archaeology.
When Day 4 of excavations started, I thought it was going to be a bad day. I woke up nauseous and I was worried that I would not be able to push through the entire day. It was very cold and my unit team was also feeling under the weather. Last week, we were able to reach the second level of Unit 6 for the entire 2 x 2. The goal for today was to try and reach the layer of soil that was darker than the light mottles which were showing up in Level 2. The darker models signify that the plow zone of the soil has been dug through. Aiming to reach Level 3, we had to trowel carefully in case the dark soil appeared faster than we expected. The hardest part when digging was cutting through and getting past the tree roots. If the roots were tiny, they were not as bad to cut through. However, if they were large it could possibly ruin your lowest point or even cause the walls of the unit to fall if not careful.
With this in mind, we had to dig from 50 cm below datum (cmbd) to 60 cmbd to clear Level 3. My unit team (Kate, Elena, and I) get along very well. When we are not shoveling, or troweling out dirt from the unit, we are rotating the responsibility of screening buckets and scanning the screen for possible artifacts. Since opening Level 3, we are finding more and more artifacts of interest. So far we have collected small pebbles, ceramic sherds, lithic flakes, and a large rock! When we first began digging our first day, we found nothing within the first level. Now we are beginning to frequently find artifacts which make me excited for what we are possibly going to find in the upcoming field days!
My favorite tool and method for digging is my trowel, Isabela. There is something calming about the quiet sound of scraping across the dirt each time when we are clearing a level. I am having to use a shovel for the first time during fieldwork and it feels very unnatural to me because I am used to solely using my trowel. When shoveling, sometimes I fear that I am taking out too much soil so I am slowly becoming better at scraping the dirt, little by little to keep the unit floor equal as we dig.
Although it was cold the entire day, I believe that my team and I did well because we were able to complete Level 3 and trowel sweep the entire unit for a closing picture. Once all the paperwork and FS numbers were assigned to our artifacts, we were able to relax and be proud of all the hard work and effort that we did that day. I am looking forward to Day 5!
We arrived at the site around 8:45 a.m. and after several days our crew has developed its rhythm. We removed the thick plastic covering we use to cover our units: the previous week had been reasonably dry and this task was quickly accomplished.
So far, we have been working in our initial teams of three. Each group has been assigned its own 2m x 2m meter unit to excavate in levels. The first day was spent plotting our units and clearing the area. The second and third days we moved down two levels so that on February 3 our unit was ready to begin level 3, moving from 50 cm to 60 cm below datum. As we moved through our unit, several buckets screened revealed about a dozen potsherds and rocks, including one large piece of fire cracked rock.
About mid-morning we noticed the mottling that had appeared in the previous level was appearing in larger more linear arrangements. At the end of our third level it had become clear that we were looking at plow scars, indicating that the forest in which we stood had once been plowed for farm land. At 11:30 we took our break for lunch. By now I’ve worked out the right amount of food I need to be comfortably full for the afternoon. It’s about double what I brought for the first day. Also, as a bonus, we now have a coffee maker for the post lunch slump.
A little after noon we went back to work and wrapped up level three with a trowel scraping and routine paper work. We met with Dr. White and observed the differences in the plow scars for the “upstairs” and “downstairs” units. As our site contains active units on top of the hill as well as at the bottom we have designated the lower units to be the "downstairs." Dr. White advised us on our course of action and we began our first natural level, seeking to remove the lighter color sand of the plow scars and create a level that was uniform in its dark color, if uneven in depth. We wrapped up our fourth level shortly after two o’clock and so began the process of closing the site for the week.
After a routine day, we logged our artifacts and covered the units. Each day on site we work faster and uncover more artifacts and I find that before we have even arrived back in Columbia, I am excited for the progress to be made the next week as we work through our levels.
There is nothing better for a crippling hangover than cold winter air and the fresh earthy musk of a young archaeological site.
This was our third trip to the site this semester and by now most of us had figured out what we were supposed to be doing and how to go about doing it. Priority was disposing of the gallons of rainwater that had accumulated on the tarps we had proactively laid down over our block units. After this painstaking and frigid process everyone set about finishing up their group's unit to reduce them to the (mostly) 40 cm below datum arbitrary level that was already established. Now working with the entire excavated plots the units were then dug down to the second level of 50 cm below datum but this time over the entire 2m x 2m unit instead of just one 1m x 1m at a time.
Sifting soon became a coveted job as stones, pot sherds, and even a bit of bone were unearthed. What was once buckets filled mostly with poison ivy roots and loose dirt gave way to full buckets of sandy soil.
I, however, was placed with Jim Legg and another student named Scott. We had the task of first clearing the top of the profile wall from all the plant and tree debris so that we could get a better look at the corner of the unit that Jim would be working on. The unit (Unit 9) he had laid out did not have a SE corner pin but instead was just assumed to be below the wall because of the angle at which he was working. We were working with essentially a small corner by the NW and NE pins along the 1000E line.
After clearing the area of the unit from above Jim set about digging into it with the intention of digging through the entire natural level indicated by discoloration against the face of the wall. As he dug it didn’t take long for Scott and I, perched on the top of the wall collecting loose dirt in buckets and sifting it, to uncover several significantly sized sherds of varying thickness.
Eventually plow scars became evident at the bottom of the natural level about a foot down. The discoloration and clear plow lines indicated a tilling of this area at some point in history. Dr. White then wanted a picture which evidently is where archaeologists exhibit their true prowess with the trowel as Jim explained to me while gingerly scraping away at the base of the level. What he was going for was a flat even surface with little to no sign that a trowel had even been used -- much like doing flooring in a house it had to be neat and even. And while only a small corner was dug from this unit it yielded a surprising number of artifacts to the point that my curiosity has been piqued enough to hope that the next level down holds even more surprises.
My third day on the site. By this time everyone had gotten acquainted with the work that we are doing. We are all in groups of three. Each group of three works on a quarter of the excavation unit that we all are working on. I have come to call my group “Team S.S.S.” because we all have names that start with the letter S. Go team S.S.S.! it’s not a competition, but it should be. Unfortunately this team will not last to the end of the semester. There will come a point where the groups will change up.
Did team S.S.S find anything of interest while digging? Yes! I believe that my group found at least six pieces of pottery. At one point of the day there was a disagreement about the pottery in which I came out on top. I had found a piece of pottery which I wanted to show. It wasn’t particularly interesting, but to me anything that comes up is interesting. I showed it to one of the other students who claimed “that’s a rock." I was shocked that this person would go against the expertise that I don’t have. In all seriousness, after that was said I wanted to know for sure what it was. So I asked Dr. White and he agreed that it was a piece of pottery.
“Yes!” I thought “I’m not an idiot!”
I was really happy that I didn’t look like a fool, which may happen more than I would like. Also I was right. Remember, it’s not a competition, but it totally is.
I only recorded in my notebook what my group found, but if my memory is correct, other groups found quartz , which my group has yet to find.
There were some real struggles though. The war against the roots began for me that day, and it might be waiting for me when I get back next Friday. There were a lot of roots to cut through. We are not the only ones who have had to deal with roots. I’m sure that the rest of the class will agree that it is a pain to cut through them.
Over all, the day was eventful, and I look forward to going back and finishing the war with the roots.
When we pulled into the Broad River site and started unloading our belongings, I noticed a feeling of routine. We were getting to know the class and each other better, and I think everyone is getting more and more comfortable with the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn to scrape in the dirt.
I returned with Jim Legg to the “downstairs” portion of the site to continue assisting him in digging out the profile wall. The site’s "upstairs" and "downstairs" are divided by a curved wall, scooped out of the earth by a backhoe, revealing a number of layers and archaeological features. Jim’s job is to flatten this wall systematically and according to the arbitrary grid to create a visual representation of the site’s geologic and archaeological past. I had the privilege last week of helping (and watching) Jim magically carve a perfectly flat wall from a curved mess.
Jim finished digging the first unit (Unit 8), but still had one meter deeper to cut before becoming flush with the exiting profile (created by Units 1 and 2). While he filled out paperwork, I assisted Dr. White in mapping out the two extreme points of the profile line, so we knew where to dig. I held a mirror while Dr. White shot lasers from a stationary point. When the beam reflected back to the computer, Dr. White got a reading of the mirror’s location and instructed me where to move so we could locate the exact point in space where we wanted to place the nail.
Once the profile line was set up, we returned to the dirt. There was some overhang from the upper layers held together by grass and tree roots that we needed to knock down before we dug deeper into the wall so as to avoid a possible cave-in of loose sand.
Soon after starting this exercise, we broke for lunch. I ate at the table in the barn with the rest of the class but broke off towards the end to explore. I walked across the gravel road and into the field which was once (possibly) an ancient bed of the Broad River, long ago diverted and now a field of grass and clovers. I sat on the ground and watched stratus clouds whisp over a backdrop of lush green and bright blue skies. Frogs from a near by creek hollered endlessly. The site is a very peaceful place to be, and one of my favorite things about fieldwork so far is being outside in such a beautiful, remote location.
When I returned to the wall, Jim explained what we were looking for as we dug out more and more sediment. The top layer of lighter sand was called a “plowzone.” This simply meant that people had farmed this land and plowed the fields at some point in recent history. As we neared the bottom of the plow zone, we kept an eye out for what’s called plow scars. Once the very top of the sub-plow sediment layer is visible, lines of lighter upper sediment will be visible. Basically, whenever the deepest gouge of the plow reached this layer, it moved the lighter dirt from above into this “scar,” clearly confirming that this top layer was in fact a plowzone.
Once we spotted an indication of plow scarring, Jim set out to clean up the edges of the wall so Dr. White could photograph the scars, and I moved to the four units where the rest of the class was digging. I had been helping Jim for most of the time that we had shovels in the earth (mostly manning the screen and paperwork), so I was eager to get my trowel dirty. My group was finishing up a layer, creeping closer to the edge walls and scraping the floor flat. Maybe two full days of watching Jim Legg ninja 90 degree angles out of wonky slopes rubbed off on me, because when I took my first slice at the wall I noticed how natural it felt. I started carving away and tossing dirt into a bucket for screening, but before we could finish the layer it was quitting time. I can’t wait to return next week and really get my hands dirty in these units. Here’s hoping it doesn’t rain!