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!