This week at field school we had beautiful weather. It was a cool day, but the sun was shining so the site was mostly kept at a warm temperature. There had not been much rain the previous week, so removing the tarp from the unit was a mostly easy task. We had coffee today, so that kept people in high spirits!
Lelia, Laura and I continued work in Unit 15. Our task today was to finish removing level 2, the transition between the first and second plow zone. We used a shovel to remove most of the dirt and it was easy to tell where we needed to stop because the base color of the dirt was significantly darker and we could see plow scars. The digging was slow going due to the number of roots, large and small that run through the unit. There are so many roots because of a tree that had to be cut down at the beginning of starting this unit. The stump is still present in the unit and sits 13.5 cm into the north wall of it. The large roots from the tree have been our constant foe while digging in Unit 15, but despite the slow pace we were finally able to get to the bottom layer. Throughout the removal of level 2 we were constantly screening the soil through a ¼” screen to check for artifacts. We found a lot of small pieces of quartz, some fire cracked rock, and a few pieces of pottery.
Once we reached the bottom of level 2, we cleaned up the unit by removing all remaining loose dirt with trowels and making the unit floor level. This was so that we could clearly see the plow scars. We recorded the soil color of the base layer and then then two other colors, one that was slightly lighter and caused by the plow, and an even lighter one from roots.
After recording everything we needed. We began to remove the soil from level 3. The goal is to get the floor of our unit level with the floor of Unit 12 so that we can excavate a feature that is in both units. To start we filled out the form for the excavation and then created a bag for artifacts screened. We did not get very far into level three, but we did find a lot of fire cracked rock and stamped pottery, which was very exciting!
This week was the third week in a row that we had a full day of sunshine and decent temperatures. We are also getting into the groove of getting to the site, unloading the toolbox, removing the tarp and starting on our individual projects. Last Friday, February 21st, Laura, Robert and I leveled all the 1m x 1m quadrants of Unit 15 to create the entire 2m x 2m unit. Once unit 15 was ready to have level 2 removed, I was put in charge of removing the natural layer to the darker soil under the upper plow zone. This week we had Laura, Sami and me working to finish removing level 2 soil out of the unit so that the plow scars would be noticeable before bringing the unit down through level 3. The purpose of this unit is to expose the feature (Feature 16) that appeared to extend into Unit 15 from the unit to the east. Unit 16 is also coming down as well due to a possible feature in the southeast corner of Unit 6.
When we leveled the unit by a natural layer, we then worked from east to west with trowels to uncover the color mottles that were not as noticeable once the soil had dried out. The Munsell color for the main part of the unit was 10YR3/4 with two lighter mottles of 10YR4/6 and 10YR5/4. The ending depths of our unit were between 58cm and 61.2cm below datum across the unit.
In the transition between upper and lower plow zone, we were finding higher numbers of much larger flakes, fire-cracked rock, and pottery sherds. An interesting rim sherd in particular we found and it has incised markings on the rim. When we started level three Laura was put in charge of the unit and we were also finding some complicated stamped pottery sherds. Larger amounts of flakes and larger rocks along with the higher number of pottery are normal for the lower plow zone. This is because when this area of land was plowed, artifacts from the lower strata were brought up and mixed together with upper layers.
Kieran and Sam were in the northern half of Unit 4 and southern half of Unit 6 working on piece plotting. Sarah and Robert were working in Unit 3 and they were piece plotting while digging further down the strata. This was also the second week in a row that Unit 14 downstairs was not collapsed due to rain and flooding which is always a plus.
This week in the field we had another reprieve from the rain; however, it was one of the coldest days we’ve been out so far. Once we’d pumped out the leftover rainwater and uncovered the main block, Sam M. (Sam) and I picked back up piece plotting from where we’d left off the week before. Piece plotting is locating the exact 3D coordinates of an artifact within the established grid system at the site. Sam. and I worked together to first finish the SE quadrant of our unit. I measured the northings, eastings, and centimeters below datum (cmbd) of each artifact with the4 laser level and read them out to Sam so she could record them on the FS log and unit paperwork. After completing the SE quadrant, we moved on to the NW and finally finished our current level of piece plotting with the SW quadrant. We stopped for lunch halfway through piece plotting our final SW quadrant and finished up the remainder of the unit shortly afterwards.
After lunch I checked in with what stage of excavation everyone else was at with their units. Over the course of the morning Cate and Zoë finished digging down and screening 50 to cmbd in the SE 1X1 meter quadrant of Unit 16. They were moving on to the SW corner of their unit when I caught up with them.
In Unit 15 to the north of the main block where Sam and I have been piece plotting, Lelia, Laura, and Fletcher had reached 40 cmbd and are now working on Level 2 across the whole 2x2. They are excavating it as a natural level, identifying the end of the level by soil color change.
After our lunch break Dr. White was working beside Lelia, Laura, and Fletcher in Unit 12. He was removing backfill dirt from the unit to re-expose half of a feature located at the base of the second plow zone. The other half of the feature will be located in Unit 15, and Lelia, Laura, and Fletcher were working on excavating down to it as well. Meanwhile, Robert G. and Sara R. were setting up to piece plot in unit 3.
Down below the main block, DuVal, Rob L., and James were excavating Unit 14. They had reached Level 4, which was at the bottom of the second plow zone, and were recovering a high quantity of ceramic sherds.
For the remainder of the day Sam M. and I worked on piece-plotting the next level down in our unit, which was located in the southern half of Unit 4 and the northern half of Unit 6. Sam M. and I confirmed with Dr. White that that our next step after piece plotting all the artifacts that easily popped out with a trowel at our current level was to shovel scrape down to better expose the artifacts that didn’t easily pop out. We began shovel scraping in the north half of our unit, and switched to troweling because it worked better to remove the dirt around the artifacts we were preparing to remove. Once we’d pedestalled the artifacts on the north half of the unit (the southern half of Unit 4), we stopped troweling and piece-plotted the exposed artifacts. Sam and I finished piece plotting the next level of artifacts in the north half of our unit before it was time to pack up for the day.
Over the past month, it has been very wet. We have had days we could not work at the site and we have had days where we had to hike in, due to flooding, instead of driving. The amount of water that has been dumped onto the site and the surrounding area has been immense. I heard something along the lines of record setting one day on the news…something like since December 1, 2019, until now, these three months, having received the most rainfall in recorded history. The ground really is quite saturated. The nearby Wateree River reached very high levels, destroying many peoples’ property with the quick rise, although there may be other factors at play there, to be honest. The Broad River level at the site increased by 15 to 20 feet.
The drive in was difficult. The road had been reduced to a muddy path, and large chunks of it had washed away. Access to the site was unusually difficult.
All of this water has had an extreme effect upon the site. The landscape surrounding the site has changed. Portions of the exposed wall had collapsed. In fact, the water was probably 4 to 6 feet up on the wall, meaning, large portions of the wall were submerged and possibly damaged.
The excavation block in the upper area was not damaged to anywhere near the same extent as the wall. It is on the highest ground in the immediate area, and therefore, it did not have run off coming through it. However, the block was quite full of water.
Our experience of the subtle art of tarp pulling became necessary on this particular day. The difficulty was ensuring we removed all the water with none of it getting into the pit, as that could do damage to the excavation. We had to carefully tug the tarp from the sides to ensure all the water ran to the middle, where there was a pump…yet, still ensuring the pump was in enough water to not run dry…and also ensure that you were not dumping water from a lower fold of the tarp into the pit. After great effort, cooperation and care, the team finally experienced success in this task. It was rewarding to see such a seemingly small task become such a group triumph.
Once we had access to the block, Leila and I continued work on excavating through the plow zone in Unit 15. We worked in a 2x2 unit by excavating 1x1's so that we could get practice with forming baulks, walls, and floors. We did not see much, and anything we did see was out of context. As discussed in my last post, the context was fairly well eradicated.
Unlike any other day so far this season, we got to spend a full day on site. When recovering the site, we were intentional to put the tarp in place so that we did not attempt to fight the water. It is a fight we would lose. This looked like ensuring that the tarp was not suspended over the pit, but instead sitting in the pit to create a pool so that next time, we could either via pump or bucket, extricate the water without damaging the site. We think we did this appropriately. This was fun, as we had a tarp the size of Rhode Island!