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!
Though I can really only speak for myself, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that the students enrolled in this field school share an appreciation of or strong interest in archaeology. We wouldn’t be waking up before the sun if we didn’t think archaeology held some appeal right? We met Friday morning at 8 a.m., but before we could dive into excavation, there was some groundwork that needed to be done. Professor White began by discussing what sorts of things we would be doing throughout the semester and what would be expected of us as participants in this field school. He also gave a presentation about the site’s history and what the previous field school had done. After all of this, we headed to the site.
The site is located near the Broad River and is in a predominately wooded area. We were given a quick tour of the site, which included the dirt shelf that contains a good look at stratigraphy, as well as the units that lay above it. We were instructed not to walk on the edge of the shelf, as it is very fragile and any disturbance of the soil could result in a loss of context for artifacts and features. This reminded us all that we had to be mindful of how we work throughout the semester in order to preserve the integrity of the site. Our first main task was to construct the screens that would be used for sifting the dirt from units in order to reveal any artifacts or items of interest. After this was completed, we ate lunch and were off to the major job of the day: digging.
At the end of the 2017 semester, the field school students backfilled the block to protect what they had already excavated. We are planning to excavate the same units further, so we had to remove the backfill dirt. Because the dirt had already been sifted for any artifacts the previous year, we simply deposited it on a tarp located away from the unit. Even though I had never spent that much time digging, the job wasn’t too difficult, as the soil is very sandy and there weren’t any tree roots or rocks to slow us down. We managed to uncover the level that the previous class had stopped at in Unit 5. This meant we reached Sam’s mysterious rock, which she will hopefully get to completely uncover soon!
We ended the day by splitting into pairs to practice laying out units. We started with a one-meter by one-meter unit. First, we used the Pythagorean theorem to determine the length of the hypotenuse for a one by one triangle. After we established and marked a one-meter stretch of land, we used the hypotenuse measure to mark the other sides of the unit. This triangulation process is used to ensure that the sides of each unit are completely straight and even. We also laid out a one-meter by two-meter unit, and although I think it will take a few more tries for me to become completely comfortable with the process, working through it definitely helped me to understand how units are created.
By this time it was getting close to 3 and was time to start packing up. The day had really flown by! Before leaving though, we had to make sure that the work we did would be protected throughout the week. Dr. White used this opportunity to share with us a critical piece of archaeological advice: don’t fight the water! We covered the unit with a tarp and placed buckets full of dirt on its edges in order to keep it in place. The tarp was then pushed down into the deepest part of the unit so that any rainwater would collect in just one area instead of the whole thing. After this was finished we gathered our tools and headed back to campus feeling tired but ready to see what next Friday would bring!