It is hard to believe that this is the end to another successful field school! Last week, we began backfilling Units 4,5, 6, and 7. I had no idea how much work was involved with backfilling. Thankfully, the weather has been relatively warm and not too humid, otherwise it would have made the process more challenging.
Backfilling entails placing all the dirt which was excavated back into the ground. Since everything was recorded and screened during excavation, the walls were lined with plywood and landscape fabric (paper which lets water pass through) before throwing the dirt back into the block. We had to strategically plan which piles of dirt would be used first, since the rain during the week would make the sand very compact. I walked around the inside of the unit to make sure that the sandy dirt was being evenly redistributed around the edges and the center. At first when we started, it seemed as if the task would be impossible to complete. Every time dirt was placed inside of the unit, it appeared to never get any higher! Once we added in wheel barrows adding dirt inside of the unit became a lot easier than before!
Since it was the last day, we decided to have a cookout! Everybody was responsible for bringing an item. Kate went to Goodwill and bought a George Foreman grill to make hamburgers and grilled zucchini. We also had grapes, tomatoes, lettuce, pulled pork, and chips! The students of the Broad River Archaeology Field School did well organizing our last day.
Although the main part of field school is focused on learning archaeology, another important aspect is making connections and getting to know your professors and peers. I enjoy archaeology and attending field schools because of being able to meet new people while learning new techniques and information that I may not have known before. I learned how to set up a unit using an arbitrary north instead of magnetic north and learned how to piece plot artifacts in situ inside the unit. You never know when you may meet your cohort again, whether it be at a conference, a field school, or possibly co-directing research projects together! Anthropology and Archaeology are team-oriented fields where the project would not be successful without group participation.
Our last day! Also known as Backfill Day. We arrived on site at the usual 8:45 with a slightly smaller crew. As it is the end of the semester, one member was unable to come out and one couldn't stay for the whole day. Fortunately, we had wrapped up a little early the previous week and had already begun the process of backfilling the "upstairs" excavation block.
Last week we had finished our levels, learned to profile, and placed plywood reinforcements against the walls. After layering everything with landscaping fabric we spent the afternoon carting buckets of dirt back to the pit. It was a bit disheartening to put back what we had so carefully removed over several months as well as frustratingly slow. Every bucket load seemed agonizingly slow but we had actually left the pit half full so that on our final day we split teams upstairs and downstairs. I started upstairs and when the block was nearly full moved downstairs to help out.
The lower profile wall (Unit 9) had collapsed several weeks earlier after heavy rains so we were taking extra care to reinforce it and preserve the strata. After constructing several large wooden buttresses to support the dirt we moved the back dirt from previous downstairs units and the collapse against the base of the support to help it maintain position. We then carefully added buckets of dirt between the profile wall and the wooden reinforcements to further protect the profile from the elements. We took our Sharpies and wrote our names on the wall before we draped black plastic sheeting over the whole thing.
All of this took us roughly half our usual allotted time out there. We had come prepared, however. I set up a George Foreman grill (recently procured from the Goodwill for a bargain price of $4.95) and we had a long lunch of hamburgers and grilled zucchini, potato salad, chips, and pulled pork barbecue. We cleaned up the site and put all the tools away for the last time and aside from a massive treeless plot of sandy soil, it looked very much the way it did when we first arrived on site in January.
I’ll definitely miss the team we had, even for my first project I feel we had an easy going chemistry that made the more difficult tasks simple. Though I’m not able to join, a volunteer crew is going out in another month to continue work on the downstairs. I’m guessing volunteers won’t be writing regular blog posts but it will still be nice to be able to check progress on this website.