This week began as usual but with one small change: we were three people light. Caroline, Ella, and Sam could not show up for various reasons leaving us short staffed, probably resulting in slower work. Other than that we began as usual. We pumped out the water the tarp had collected and removed the tarp. The labor was divided up into three groups, me and Katie, Dr. White and JJ, and DuVal and Robert.
Katie and I spent the field day resuming the piece-plotting we had been working on the week before in Unit 13. We did not find anything in particular that was too cool or big, just more small fragments of pottery and lots of flakes. Also, I found a small piece of bone. It isn’t very substantial or important but I think it is cool. The only reason bone this old is preserved is because it was in a fire of some form.
Dr. White and JJ started excavating a feature (Feature 11). They found a piece of charcoal in it large enough that Dr. White believed to be substantial enough to save for carbon dating if desired. The feature is a pit of some kind. To excavate it they bisected it with a line level and dug it out with a spoon. A standard spoon was not sufficient so Dr. White broke out the heavy artillery: a serious spoon.
To my knowledge DuVal and Robert were excavating a feature similar to JJ and Dr. White’s, with a main difference being that half of it is exposed where the hill cuts off. This makes for a pretty cool side view.
The day ended with the usual ritual of resetting the very large tarp over the excavation area and weighing it down with buckets of dirt. Hopefully it will protect the site for the next two weeks. We are all looking forward to getting back at it in the following weeks.
Day 7 at the field school already! That means we're just about half way through the semester, and that we still have a lot of stuff to do!
To start with, the large tarp that Dr. White purchased for us to use to cover the units was filled with a large amount of water, so much in fact that it would have taken us too long to bail out. Dr. White however, was prepared for this and showed us his own water pump that he had designed to remove the water from the pit at a much faster pace, while he talked to us on how we would be moved around starting the day so that more of us could have a more rounded approach to the site. Katie and Ben would continue working in Unit 12, Sam and Caroline in Unit 3, myself and Ella in Unit 6, while Robert and DuVal worked in the Downstairs in Unit 13. Lots of different things occurred over the course of the day in Units 3, 6, 12, and 13!
In Unit 12, Ben and Katie spent the entire day piece-plotting their findings while scraping with trowels, attempting to find flakes and other artifacts in the southern third of the Unit. Throughout the day, they mainly found flakes and some small pebbles and rocks.
In Unit 6, Ella and I worked extensively on preparing the bottom of the previously excavated unit from last semester where they had dug down to 100 centimeters below the datum level. First we cleaned up the floor from the tunnels that the worms and bugs had created since the end of last field season, and then we took a picture of Feature 11 which is exposed at the bottom in the southeast portion of the unit. Shortly after cleaning up the floor, we prepared and began dressing the feature while we also piece-plotted some of the artifacts that we uncovered while we were cleaning up the bottom of the unit. Though we were unable to begin excavating Feature 11, we are prepared to begin excavating the next week.
In Unit 3, Caroline and Sam continued to bring down the base of the unit to about 62 centimeters below the datum level (the bottom of Zone 2). While they were scraping across the bottom of the unit, they found several more artifacts, such as pottery and flakes, and specifically one of interest was that another ax head! It was much more clearly defined than that of the previous one, exciting not only all of us students at the site but also Dr. White especially, who had exposed the ax in the first place.
Unit 13, where Robert and Mr. DuVal were working for the entirety of the day, continued to come closer to that of an exposed feature in the wall. They had to progress slowly due to the unstable setting of the cut into hill, but they were able to get close enough to the feature that another unit maybe be opened up directly over an adjacent feature so that we can gain as much information as possible!
The day ended with that of Robert showing us some recreations of Native American blow guns that he had made to show how darts could possibly been used by prehistoric peoples in the Carolinas.
We were a little nervous to return to the site this Friday, since the weather had been so terrible for the past week. The shiny new tarp had quite a bit of water to pump out, as well as a family of mice that called the site home.
Once we were ready to get to work, I was assigned to piece plot the southern half of Unit 12 with Ben.
As you can see, we were able to fill this bag with a good many finds including about a dozen flakes and a large fabric-impressed sherd. Meanwhile over in Unit 3, where Caroline and Sam were working, a second axe-head was unearthed! The odds of this are incredible, and I can't wait to see what we can learn from them in the lab.
Piece plotting is done by scraping the soil lightly with a trowel, and flagging anything you might find (mostly flakes for us) with a piece of tape so that it can be mapped out on a graph before removal. This kind of documentation is important when it comes to debitage and shatter, because it can help to piece the material back together and work out how lithics were made. Ben and I spent the day doing this layer by layer, and we will continue next week until we reach 80 centimeters below datum.
Before we set out at the end of the day, Robert brought out some blow guns for us to take a look at! He made these himself from local river cane, as well as the darts which he fletched with thistle. I tried to shoot one, and it is a lot harder than it looks. Very happy to have ended the day on a fun note!
When we first arrived back at the site we started off by removing the tarps and starting a pot of coffee. We were greeted by the fortunate sight of no water in the block so we did not have to waste any time bailing water.
I was back in Unit 12 with Robert. We just had a little bit of Level 4 to finish off so we got that all smoothed out for photographing. Level 4 was very rich in potsherds, as well as having a feature in the northwest quadrant and a historic posthole in the northeast quadrant.
After having a look, Dr. White decided he wanted to board off about two thirds of the unit with landscaping fabric and particle board so we could have somewhere to sit and for us to piece plot the southern third of the unit. Piece-plotting is where you go very slowly with a trowel and dustpan and stop every time you hit something to flag it. Once the unit is full of flags we are going to map their locations out. We did not have to start a bag for this level yet because we have yet to catch anything in the screens: this is a good thing because it means we have been very careful with our piece-plotting.
Ella and DuVal finished off Level 1 in Unit 13, which is along the cut. They found fire-cracked rock, flakes, and pottery. After that they continued on to Level , excavating the second plowzone as a natural level.
Over in Unit 5, JJ and Sam continued to trowel scrape and piece-plot. There where two decent-sized rocks in their unit. The smaller of them turned out to be a greenstone axe head. The larger one Sam had started to uncover last season and was very happy to finally remove. It turned out to just be a big rock.
Caroline was over in Unit 3, starting about 40 cm below datum and continuing down to the base of the upper plowzone (shoveling and shifting only). She found some potsherds, including plain, and some with stamping and punctate decoration.
Finishing up Dr. White had purchased an enormous 50 foot tarp that could cover the entire opened area of the site. This both made closing up easier and should make reopening and closing every week much easier.
We were greeted today with water-free units and some animals that had taken up residence under the tarps. After safely evacuating a family of mice and handling a worm snake that had made its way into the excavation block, we were ready to start Day 6 of our dig.
We pretty much kept to the same tasks as last week. In Unit 13, DuVal and I continued to carefully excavate in natural levels. By the end of Level 1 we had uncovered a fair amount of sherds, flakes, and fire-cracked rock. This isn’t surprising considering that we are digging over a known feature, and we are hopeful that more artifacts will continue to appear as we move closer to the feature. After taking depths and finishing the Level 1 paper work, we carefully continued into level 2 where we stopped for the day.
This unit has been a bit tricky, as its location means that we must dig very carefully to keep the wall from collapsing. The shape of the unit changes somewhat as we go further down thanks to overhanging dirt, but through careful paper work and troweling we have managed to avoid any disasters. If I have learned one thing from this unit it is the importance of field notes!
There was very exciting news out of unit 5, where JJ and Katie continued their piece-plotting. Not only did they completely uncover Sam’s rock, but the other rock in Unit 5 was revealed to be what looks like a stone axe head! We were lucky to be able to observe this artifact in situ, and its excellent condition makes it a great complement to the other artifacts collected this semester.
Over in Unit 3, Caroline and Sam continued their excavation work starting from about 40 cm below datum. Carefully shoveling instead of trowelling, they made it to the end of the plowzone by the end of the day and had recovered some interesting plain and punctate pottery.
Ben and Robert continued to excavate Unit 12. This unit has produced lots of decorated pottery sherds, and today was no different! They finished up zone 2 and began to work on zone 3 (below plowzone), where they started piece-plotting.
Today’s work marked the halfway point of our fieldwork, and it was a very productive day at that. (It isn’t everyday that you find a stone axe!) Hopefully the good luck and warm weather will continue for the remainder of the semester.
Day 3: this one was a little bit hectic.
I was with a group working on Unit 12, where we broke ground the previous week. The other group was piece-plotting the items found in Unit 5 and then removed items that were exposed that they believed would not disturb too much of the soil (see JJ’s post for more details on what occurred in Unit 5).
Having made two 1m x 1m units, we were now going to connect them with two more 1x1 units, making a large 2m x 2m unit. These units were still segregated in sorting and bagging, however, the plan was once it was all level it would be one 2m x 2m unit.
This worked out relatively smoothly. Despite my clumsiness I did not crack any walls or damage the site. We had help from a small group of DNR people and students who where interested in archaeology and they made the shifting go relatively faster.
Once our unit turned into a nice and level 2x2, we were to take it down to the base of the first plowzone. A plowzone is a layer of dirt that is a distinguishably different color and is caused by people in the past plowing the land and disturbing the natural layers of the dirt.
On our way to digging it down to the plowzone we found a very interesting piece of pottery, it featured kind of a wavy characteristic to the upper lip of it.
Once we got to the base of the first plowzone (the base of Level 2), and made it nice and level we were going to learn how to properly take a photograph of the unit. This involved clipping back as many roots as possible so that they would not be present in the picture. After that was taken care of we set up a board with all the important details of the site on it so that later in the lab we can tell exactly where that photo was taken. This board included the site’s designation (38FA608), the unit, the level, and the date as well as an arrow pointing north placed in the unit next to it.
Overall take away from this week, is I learned to be more careful and methodical in my actions while at the site. I nearly damaged our unit multiple times through careless error and only did not by luck. However, this day was overall enjoyable as have been all the days working on this site and I look forward to getting dirty again next week!
Holy Cow! Day 3 is already done at the Broad River Site in the Archaeological Field School! The morning started off with us removing what water had accumulated in the excavation block of the "Upstairs" of the site. The water wasn't too much but was just enough for us to spend a little bit more time on to ensure that we were able to properly continue.
As we continued our excavation at the site, Dr. White informed us that we would have some visitors today not only from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Heritage Trust, but also some students from a couple of local schools observing us work at the site.
While we were being observed, our class was split into two separate groups. One focusing on the piece-plotting of artifacts that were found in Unit 5 on Level 7, and the other focusing on the deepening of Unit 12 past the plowzone. Both process for each of these Units took up the majority of the time throughout the day.
Sifting and excavation continued throughout the day, as samples were taken not only of small fragments of broken pottery and flakes that were found in Unit 12, but also of pieces of burnt clay, debitage, and portions of charcoal that were found on Level 7 in Unit 5.
Debitage, which is all the material that is produced in the lithic and stone tool process that could range from flakes, shatter, debris, and even blades or rejects from the production process, was the main source of artifacts that were recovered from Level 7 of Unit 5 throughout the day. These individual pieces of debitage were "piece-plotted"; a method of placing the artifacts precisely within the unit along specified Northings and Eastings in relation to the site's datum. This in turn allows us to be able to see the spatial relationship that the multitude of artifacts have with one another across the various levels of the unit. These individual artifacts are then entered into the FS Log (Field Specimen Log) with the information surrounding its removal from the unit as well as it being plotted on a Excavation Unit Form, which contains several important notes about who was working on the particular unit, the exact Northing and Easting of each of the corners, as well as the beginning and ending depths of the unit.
Towards the end of the 3rd day of excavation, Dr. White also introduced us to what we were planning on doing in the "Downstairs" portion of the site, in which we will be crosscutting into the side of the exposed hill.
Closing for the day, one of our on site pros, Robert, who works for the DNR, showed our group some recreations of ancient tools that he himself had made as a way for us to better visualize what these remains may have gone into making, whether it be a fire tempered clay pot or a flaked projectile point that was later used for hunting in the local area on the Broad River.
Day 2 is a wrap! This Friday was the first full day we spent in the field, and for most of us, our first time laying out and digging a unit. To start the day out, we drained the water out of the unit with buckets, and settled down at the picnic table for a short explanation by Dr. White about how to fill out the proper paperwork and provenience for our field work.
At this point, I realized that I'd be relying on my notes quite a bit throughout the semester, since we will be filling out a lot of forms and labeling dozens of bags. Since you can only dig a site once (and digging destroys the matrix surrounding the artifacts) recording these details is the absolute most important part of field work.
Afterwards, it was time to break ground.
We laid out and started digging our first unit. Here you see us taking Unit 12 down a level to 40 cmbd (centimeters below datum). We learned how to take elevations using the laser level, break soil, and record information about the soil. So far, this unit unit yielded several sherds and flakes! We even found the top half of a projectile point.
After a refreshing lunch break, Eddie Reeps was kind enough to give us a demonstration of his drone. I thought it was fascinating. His robot is able to fly through the air at 55 mph and avoid hitting trees on its own. By the time he finished, I think we were all a bit envious and ready to dish out a few thousand for our own.
Overall, I learned that you can only really become proficient in field work through getting your hands dirty and experiencing it firsthand. Finishing a productive day of manual labor is one of the most satisfying feelings out there. Can't wait for next week!
The first day of the field school was definitely an experience. I was not entirely sure how to prepare or what to expect. We started out in the classroom and were given a lot of the background of the site. After we went through the general information we headed out to the site around 10 am. Once we arrived at the site Dr. White gave us a tour of the area.
He first pointed out a quartz point that had been found in the trail that the trucks drive through that he had flagged (seriously hoping I'm not the one to step on it). We then moved to the "downstairs," this was the lower area on the site where a profile was cut into the side of the woods by a bulldozer. When we arrived, this area was still covered by tarps so we did not do any work in the "downtairs" area the first day.
Next we made our way up to the "upstairs," which includes Units 3, 4, 5, and 6. These units had been lined and refilled with dirt to preserve the area from the last semester.
After we finished the tour we began to put together the sifting screens in groups of two. My group had a bit of an issue since apparently our screen was not taken apart correctly last semester but we eventually figured it out! After we all got our screens put together we took a break for lunch. We went to have lunch beside the Broad River which was a beautiful relaxing place to take a break! We came back from break to begin work on the "upstairs" area. Before we could start digging we had to rake off the vegetation that had grown over the site and find the nails to distinguish the corners of the units. Ben and I then mapped out where each point was and tagged the nails with the coordinates. After we defined the area we began to take out the soil that had refilled the area from last year.
I did not expect this to be that difficult, especially since the weather was so nice and cool but I was extremely sore the next day as were many of the other team members. We got most of the dirt out of the block but there is still a bit more left for day two.
After we had finished digging for the day we broke into two-member groups again to learn how to set up one meter by one meter and one meter by two meter units. In theory this seems very simple but to be very precise with the measurements was a bit more painstaking than I expected. This concluded our first day and we packed up our tools and got ready to head out. I am very excited for the future work and hands on experiences ahead in this course!