This spring, an archaeology field school with the University of South Carolina and South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) will be excavation a multi-component site here in South Carolina. On our first day, January 17th, we started in the classroom learning about the site and basic rules of archaeology before we headed out. With us that first day were graduate students working under Dr. White, the undergraduate students taking the field school class, and archaeologists from the SCDNR Heritage Trust Program.
When we first arrived, we got a short tour of the site, and Dr. White explained what we would be doing on our first day: uncover the floor of previous field school excavations, set up the site, and screen a fallen wall. We stopped for a quick lunch break and then we started to clear the vegetation which had grown up since May 2018 in order to find the nails marking the corners of the unit. We tied string tied around the nails in order to square off the unit and ensure the dimensions and the walls stay the same throughout the dig. Once the string was in place and plywood of the walls were located, we put shovel to dirt and began to dig! Personally, my only experience with digging are the two times I helped do shovel surveys so my skill with the shovel was lacking, but I was ready to give it my all.
Screens were set up by the wall unit for screening through the collapsed dirt for artifacts that were now out of context to bag up. The way we screened was by using standing screens, and as a couple of people were digging there were also people going through the dirt. By running our hands over the screen and pushing the dirt through we were able to separate the rocks, and pottery sherds left. When I was down by the screen we did happen to find what seemed to be a decorated rim sherd. Later, in the day the people screening were able to also find a projectile point which was thought to be a Savannah River Point. Since the wall was collapsed and now out of context we did not have to worry about which layer an object was found as it was all mixed together. I know when I was down screening, we started a smaller bag for pottery and more delicate objects.
Back in the upstairs block we were getting closer to the floor, and it was getting to have too many people shoveling. We were running three people shoveling and two people running the wheelbarrows. As we were getting closer to the floor, we had to make sure that we were keeping the shovels level. One of the DNR archaeologists Larry Lane taught me how to “shnit,” or shave the dirt away in a way that allows you to sort of sneak up on the floor. This way you do not just stab your shovel into the landscape fabric and plywood. We did not finish digging down to the lower floor, so we had to save that for next week.
At the end of the day we had to pack up and cover the units we were working in. Dr. White has this massive blue tarp that we were going to place over the unit to prevent the weather from interfering with our work. The way we did it was, first we had to refold the massive tarp, but then place it over the entire unit. Dr. White said that some people will try to fight against the water but we are going to work with it. To accomplish this, we stepped on the tarp in order for it to fit to the shape of the unit that would allow it to fill like a swimming pool. We are not expecting rain in the week between field days but if it did, it would be interesting next week how we go about getting the water out. To keep the tarp from blowing away we also placed buckets with some fill dirt on the corners and around the perimeter, as well as the two wheel barrows.