At the beginning of Day 11 we arrived at the site an hour later than usual at around 9:35 because of the morning thunderstorm that didn’t clear up until 9:00 in the morning. After we finished removing water and the tarps from the units we began piece-plotting.
I was working in Unit 5. While the group as a whole has been piece-plotting for a few weeks now, this was my first day working on piece-plotting for the entire duration of the time at the site. Unit 5 was on level 6 and was aiming for 90 cmbd (centimeters below datum). When we opened the unit this week we were at an average of about 76 cmbd we managed to get down to an average of around 78 cmbd by the end of the day.
Piece-plotting tends to be slow work as it involves troweling the bottom of the unit gently and marking anything that you find with a piece of flagging tape. Once the floor of the unit is more or less even and you have marked everything that you found then it’s time to go back through the unit and measure the northing, easting, and the depth of all of the artifacts marked with the tape. The measurements are taken with the help of folding rulers set up along the edges of the unit and with a laser level to take the depth. Each artifact once measured is given its own bag marked with an FS number specific to the artifact and then put into the larger unit and level bag.
As the field school is rapidly drawing to a close, it was decided that Unit 5 would not be able to reach 90 cmbd before class ended and would therefore aim for 80 cmbd to level off at and close the level. Units 4 and 6, the other units above the profile, are at level 8 and are closing their units off at 100 cmbd.
Dr. White spent a portion of the days’ time clearing the space around a large rock in Unit 5 in order to see if it could be removed in the time that the field school has left. After removing several centimeters around the rock he concluded that it almost certainly could not be removed without digging deeper than the level of the unit and giving an uncertain provenience. The rock will have to be removed at another time with another field school.
Meanwhile, the unit below the "downstairs" profile, once Unit 7 and now Unit 10 due to unexpected flooding, collapsed again after the rain of the week since the sand below the profile is incredibly soft and doesn’t hold together. This time Dr. White has decided that reopening the unit in order to get a proper profile was probably going to be impossible at that it should therefore be backfilled and reopened at some point in the future when a week doesn’t elapse between days at the dig site.
The start to Day 11 was a little different than the other days. We usually meet at 8 o’clock at the designated building. However this day we met up an hour later at 9. We did this because of the rain that morning. This is actually the first time that the weather has delayed us from the site. So far we have been extremely lucky to not have rain on Fridays. Thanks to this delay I was able to eat a real breakfast. I usually just get things out of the vending machine for my breakfast and lunch, but this time I got three Chick-fil-A biscuits: one for breakfast, two for later. I am still convinced that this was the greatest decision of my life.
When we got to the site the rain had stopped. Like what always happens when we return after it rains, we had to drain the water that was trapped in the tarp that was covering the excavation unit.
After that we got back to work. On the previous day, Day 10, I had missed the field school for personal reasons. Also the two days before, I was working in a different unit away from everyone else. So while I was gone from the normal units I missed a few things. I took a look in all of the 2 x 2 units and was surprised that there was so much being dug up. One thing specifically caught my eye in someone else’s unit. To me it looked like some kind of point. I asked someone, who was older and was more knowledgeable, what it was. He simple said: “It’s interesting that’s what it is.”
Unfortunately there was nothing that interesting in the unit that I was working in this day. It is worth saying that this day was the first day that I piece-plotted with only a trowel. Piece-plotting is when we skim the surface of the unit and every time we hit/find something we stick it with a marker. The last times I piece plotted I always used a regular shovel. The reasons that we used trowels today were because there was so much stuff, that we wanted to get all the in-between places that are not accessible with a shovel. There might not have been anything overly interesting in the unit that day (although to my standards everything is interesting), but there was a lot of stuff. It was mostly flakes and cultural rock, possibly fire exposed. It only took about an hour and a half before so much was uncovered that we had to methodically bag the items. It was so much stuff that me and my partner couldn’t finish before we had to leave.
It has been five days and I am still feeling the effects of piece-potting with a trowel. Without a shovel I was forced to crouch to do my work. Now my thighs are sore. I have to say that it was a pretty good workout.
It was raining heavily all night and early morning, so Dr. White postponed meeting at the SCIAA building until 9 am rather than the usual 8 am. Giving back that one-hour of sleep to our Broad River crew was legendary. We arrived on site at 9:45, and I could see the amount of pep and readiness in everybody’s eyes just because we got to have a extra hour of sleep. Due to the rain, there was a good amount of water to bail out of the site on the upper deck, which drained some of the peppiness from my crew. But, by 10:30 Sam and I were taking our beginning depths for Unit 5, and everybody was getting into the archaeological groove.
We ended last week at around 78 cmbd (centimeters below datum), so our goal for today was to piece-plot any artifact that wouldn’t just slide through the ¼” screen and level off Level 6 at 80 cmbd. Initially, we had to go through our paperwork and compare our data with the FS log to make sure all of our material culture was recorded accurately. Thankfully, the Unit 5 team had everything together last week, so it was just easy sailing from there on out.
After we reached a decision on our goal, we started piece-plotting artifacts. Sam and I were moving a bit slow, and our entire class was being quite talkative, so Dr. White had to remind us why we were here and why it is important to get as much done as we can with the amount of time we have. With that in mind, we kept troweling downward, piece-by-piece. Compared to previous weeks, this day was coming up kind of short on material culture. We were only finding small flakes, tiny rocks, and occasionally a tiny pottery piece.
Lunch time arrived and we got to sit at this picnic table directly next to the beautiful Broad River. Although I thoroughly enjoy the archaeology responsibilities I have to uphold, socializing with my crew and eating a quick lunch is the best part of my day (mainly because it was a beautiful day, and there were a lot of turtles out).
Sam and I had plotted 35 artifacts, and when we finished eating we still had to record the northing and easting of each piece. Although that extra hour of sleep helped enhance the morning energy, the subtracted time made time fly by and we didn’t finish plotting our pieces. We ended up short of our goal of 80 cmbd by just a centimeter or two throughout the unit, but we've still got one more remaining day of excavation.