Week 1 of the 2020 season at Dorn Levee #1 was a bit unconventional, in that the day got started a bit later due to a brief orientation given by Dr. White on campus before embarking to the site. We were given basic ground rules, expectations, and a short background on the site and the previous excavation seasons that have occurred there. We then left in separate vehicles from the SCIAA parking lot, after having loaded the necessary equipment into several of the vehicles.
After arriving, we were shown the large wooden toolbox that holds much of the hardware that is needed for successful excavation at the site. We then took a brief lunch break to allow everyone to eat and charge up energy for the rest of the day. We were shown where we would be able to use the restroom, as well as shown where we could refill our waters, which will be getting increasingly important as the weather begins to warm during the semester.
After being shown the upstairs and downstairs portions of the site, we immediately set to work on assembling the screens and screen tables that would be used for the rest of the season. After I had completed assembling the screen I was assigned to put together, I helped others out with theirs.
Once all the screens had been assembled, most of the field team set to work on removing much of the backfill dirt that had been put into the upstairs units from the previous excavation season. This involved using shovels and wheelbarrows to remove the dirt in teams. Tarps had been set up on either side of the units to allow for future ease with refilling the dirt back into the units, and the dirt was taken from the wheelbarrows into these tarps as they were being filled. About 20 minutes into this, I was asked to join another small team that was being tasked with removing and screening some of the dirt that had collapsed from the unprotected part of the wall during the off season. This involved the delicate removal of the loose dirt from the wall, which was mostly concentrated on the bottom of the wall itself, although some of it was still attached. We moved two screens to the downstairs area and picked up some artifact bags that we would use to store the finds recovered from this process, and we labeled them accordingly. We were asked to place the screens in such a way that allowed for the material that got through the screen to become part of the protective area around the wall.
At first, we began by using square shovels to gently skim the loose dirt from the more solid part of the bottom of the wall. The dirt was then placed into buckets and brought to the screens. Those of us working on this section of the site would intermittently rotate roles, allowing everyone to screen, shovel, and run buckets. Some artifacts were recovered from the wall area during this process, including some ceramics, flakes, and even a decently-sized Savannah River point. We called Dr. White down to look at the point before it was bagged individually.
While Dr. White was with us at the downstairs portion of the site, he showed us how to properly find and gather more of the loose dirt from the bottom of the section of the wall we were working on. Following the lamellae, while also relying on sensing the density of some of the wall, it became clear that more loose dirt could be removed from the wall, without damaging parts of the wall that would need to be removed and excavated with more precision. We then began to use trowels to gently scrape away more of the loose dirt, letting it fall down into the pile of loose dirt that was being carried away by shovels for screening. Extra care was taken during this part, as we did not want to destroy the more intact parts of the wall.
After some time, Dr. White called us all over towards the upstairs portion of the site in order to instruct us on the typical protocols and steps involved in leaving the site for the day. Tools and other important objects were put away properly, and the team left the site, eventually all meeting back at the SCIAA parking lot.