One very important aspect about archaeology is being able to connect and communicate your research with the community. Archaeologists do not just openly locate sites and begin digging holes! The first step in excavation is sharing your research methodologies with the community so that you can gather support and understanding for the excavation goals that are planned under the project. Ultimately before being able to place your trowel into the ground, all permissions have to be granted. To create these key connections and network, the archaeologist must effectively communicate their research plan and goals about how the project is important to anthropology and to the greater community.
Today the board of the Archaeological Research Trust (ART), the landowner and family, and other visitors came out to the field site to learn more about Dr. White’s research and more about the Broad River Archaeological Field School being conducted this Spring. Communicating with the community always makes me nervous because you must be on your P's and Q's. Everything communicated about archaeology must be perfect! One wrong or researched answer could lead towards disinterest within the project which would negatively affect Dr. White. I do not want that! The Board members would all be visiting along with the property owner’s family, which means that they will have a lot of questions about the field school and archaeology.
We arrived at the site around 9:00 am to prepare the site for further excavation. Our goals included using trowels only, working cautiously, and hopefully closing at Level 8. For Unit 6, the opening measurements averaged around 96 cmbd (centimeters below datum), which meant that Kate and I did not have too much farther down to go. As we continued excavating, every time we come across an artifact we must mark it with flagging tape. Recording the location through piece-plotting is very important so that the artifacts can be mapped in situ and then logged as an FS number. By continuously doing this process it allows for Dr. White to be able to make inferences and theories based off the spatial analysis of how the artifacts are discovered.
Our guests began arriving around 10:30 am and continued to arrive well after 11:00 am. It was very weird having more than 30 people observing our work because of the constant thought of how I did not want to mess up.
The ART board members were very fascinated in the types of artifacts that we were finding. Since we were answering questions and not used to a lot of people being around, I felt as if Unit 6 did not get as much done as we usually do because of all the excitement from the ART board.
As Unit 6 goes down farther, we're finding more fire-cracked rock (FCR). Another aspect to note is how the lithic flakes and FCR we're finding seem to be getting bigger. That makes me very excited to see what else may be found within the next couple of field days. I do hope that we can get enough completed before the end of the semester.
Day ten at the site was an unusual one for us. While we’ve been fortunate to be working in such a mild climate, it is now late March and South Carolina is in full blown Spring. We arrived at the site at our usual time but work begins much more quickly now as everyone knows what to do. We didn’t waste much time with the morning breakdown as our team was missing four people and we had the Archaeological Research Trust (ART) and other guests coming out to see what we’ve been working on.
I’ve worked exclusively in the same unit for the length of the field school and although I was out the week before it didn’t take long to look over the paperwork and figure what we had been up to. Unit 6 initially moved quickly through each level since we went through the plow zones and we’ve kept pace with the unit directly north of us for most of the school. However, in recent weeks we’ve all noticed an increase in the number of artifacts unearthed and we’ve had to slow down to record their provenience more precisely. The previous week Unit 6 had reached depth at the bottom of level 8 but the piece plotting of individual artifacts is a lengthy process.
Tiffany and I worked most of the morning piece-plotting and all seemed routine "upstairs" until the guests to the site started to arrive. After months working with the same crew of just 13, having 25 extra people around was definitely interesting and more than a little distracting. Most of the morning they were "downstairs" with Dr. White as he explained in detail what we have been doing, what we have uncovered, and what he has been interpreting from our finds. With such consistently cooperative weather we haven’t actually had much downtime as a team to sit around a discuss our findings so I was curious to hear what he had to say and found myself splitting my attention between the unit and the presentation. Eventually they came "upstairs" and he spoke on the progress of our units and answered a few questions and though they were now in earshot, the active curiosity of a few of the guests ultimately left us passing them each artifact after we bagged it. A few of the people seemed to have archaeological knowledge and I was interested to hear what they had to say about our findings.
We had a late lunch and then worked awhile longer before cleaning up. With so much going on it felt like the day flew by, but honestly at the end of it we hadn’t progressed very much at all. We didn’t even finish the piece-plotting of our level. However we have been anticipating the ART visit since the beginning of the semester and successfully hosting them felt like a different sort of accomplishment.
We are now nine days into the field school, and our units are starting to get deep enough that we made ourselves a step. Unfortunately, said step collapsed the first day we had it. This just goes to show how soft the soil is that we are working in. The farther down we have gone, the looser it has gotten. At this point just stepping in it leaves a fairly deep imprint, like walking on the beach. The way we combat this is to try to move around in our units as little as possible. We simply pick a place to stand and do as much as we can from that point.
Because our step collapsed the first time around, DuVal started first thing today rigging together a support that would help to protect the part of the wall still intact and to prevent more soil from falling into Unit 4.
I am still going at Unit 4, and we are making slow but steady progress downwards. At the start of the day we cleaned up our floor and made it level where DuVal needed to work so that we would be out of his way while he put his contraption in place. For the past several days we have been working in level 8, which is the dirt between 90 and 100 cm below datum. We are getting close to that hundred mark, but the going is quite slow. In this level we have hit several large rocks which are going to remain in the floor as they are resting somewhere below our current level. We'll take them out when we reach that point, for now we are interested in what we are finding around them.
Imprints (because it's so soft) and flagged artifacts in the floor of the unit.
Once we started to hit lots of flakes in this level, Dr. White had us switch to just trowels. Gone are the days of shovel scrapping, and here are the days of meticulously marking every artifact we find so that we can piece plot it. Because the dirt is so soft, we have to trowel carefully, so as to not move the flakes from their in situ position when we hit them. This makes for slow going. Before today we had already piece-plotted at least a hundred flakes, and we would continue this process today. By the end of the day we had plotted close to a hundred more. Eventually this will allow future researchers on the site to see exactly where these pieces were sitting. Studies have made it possible to determine where someone was sitting when they made these flakes, based upon where they land. Dr. White has also alluded to the possibility of painstaking hours in the lab trying to put the pieces back together to see what is not there, which would be the tool that was being made. Because of this possibility, we are recording everything in as much detail as possible, and going through this process this way.
As the day continued we were also joined by the property owner and family, other people from the South Carolina Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology (SCIAA), members of the board of the Archaeological Research Trust (ART), and other guests. They came out for a tour of the site, and to see what we had found so far over our short time at the site.
By the end of the day, Nate (my partner in Unit 4) and I had finished piece-plotting all of our flagged artifacts and cleaned up the loose dirt on the floor for a fresh start of flagging and plotting next week.