Growing up as girl who was always outside playing in the dirt and soaking up the sun, it was surprisingly easy to discover what my passion would be once I got through a few semesters of college. I came to the University of South Carolina as an undeclared student, not really sure what I was going to do with my life. That is until I took my first anthropology class and absolutely fell in love with the idea of being able to prolong my favorite childhood experiences by being outside and actually learning and discovering new ways to relive our prehistoric past.
Archaeology is not for everyone, and honestly until I my first day of this class, I was not sure if it was for me. But, after experiencing the beginning stages of fieldwork and undergoing unfamiliar techniques, I am warming up to the idea of pursuing archaeology as my career path. Throughout this experience, I will be outlining my progression as an archaeology student and my involvement in fieldwork through these blog posts while also including what we are doing every day, how we are performing these tasks, and why we have chosen to perform this way.
Before we could get down to the nuts and bolts of fieldwork, we had to meet up with the rest of our ten-person class. Our professor, Dr. Andy White, went over the syllabus in greater detail. Professor White started off by introducing the tools we were going to be using for our fourteen-day field experience. It was crucial that we came prepared our very first day with 5m measuring tape, a 2m folding ruler, a small transparent ruler, a mason’s trowel, and a mason’s line level. He provided us with a notebook, which is the most important tool we will have to utilize, and a Sharpie. We used all of these tools our first day of class, but we didn’t actually put the Mason’s trowel into use, we just had to get one edge nice and sharp by using an electric sharpener.
In order to accurately understand how, what, and why were excavating in this particular area, you will have to visualize the site itself. The layout of the area could be described as having a centered driveway that is at an incline, and to the right of this driveway it flattens out revealing the second level of our site. At the bottom of the driveway, is the first level, and separating these to sites is a dirt wall that reveals very visible features, which we will also be excavating. Once we got to the location of the site, our first task was to clear the two levels of land that we will be excavating. In order to do this, we had to rake and cut down some underbrush. This land needed to be cleared of all leaves, pine straw, and any trees that were going to be problematic.
After we completed this task, we had to pinpoint exactly where we were going to lay out our units. By using the Pythagorean theorem, we were to plot our points based off two existing points on the site grid. We laid out a 4 x 4 meter block on the upper level, and a 1 x 2 meter unit on the lower level. At first this task was very daunting because I have no background in archaeology, but once I could accurately visualize the site itself, I had no problem figuring out the math.
After we got rid of all of the underbrush, plotted our units, and ate lunch, we had to get into pairs and draw out a visual representation of the site itself to scale. We did this by walking down a 50 meter tape and then walking back, all the while counting how many steps we took down and back. We took the two numbers, averaged them, divided 50 meters by the average step count in order to give us an accurate scale for how many meters each step we took accounted for. This way, we could draw and map out the site to scale and position every landmark to its specific location on paper.
After we finished drawing our maps, six hours had passed and it was time to head back to campus. Although I quickly summed up the three main tasks of our first day of field school, the class itself was stretched out from 8 in the morning until 3:30 that day. While we learned how to properly map out our sites and visualize our projected areas from almost nothing, time flew by because everyone was very hands on and engaged in this amazing learning experience.