by Bernard K. Means VCU/Virtual Curation Laboratory
The field week ended a little early on Friday, to the booming sound of thunder and dark, ominous clouds on the horizon–reminiscent not only of this past Wednesday, and the mad scramble to cover the site as strong winds blew and heavy rain fell, but, also, of when this site was contested land during the Battle of Fredericksburg, fought a little over 150 years ago today. The storm ended up skirting to the north of Fredericksburg on June 28, 2013, but, as the site was already covered, the field school students were sent home to reflect on their first week–and write short missives that will grace this blog site early next week.
When I arrived on site, I was greeted by Olivia McCarty, who had uncovered a fragment of a dipped ware vessel, also called by some annular ware. As noted on the Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland web site, these ceramics can date from the late 18th through the 19th centuries.
The students were all busy at work across the site, and all seemed to be weathering the hot and slightly humid temperatures well.
I next went over to the screening area, and helped Bridget Polk and Aaron Ellrich work through their excavated soil. While I was there, they recovered a wig hair curler, the first found in 2013 by VCU field school students. I continued screening while they broke for lunch and found a fragment of an American Indian vessel. I showed this vessel fragments to all the students when they returned from lunch, as the brown coloring can make it difficult to see these ceramic vessel fragments if one has an inexperienced eye.
The surface of the ceramic was eroded but it was clearly tempered with crushed quartz.
Following lunch, each team of excavators–including the interns and the VCU field school students–gave an overview of their work that week on their test unit(s). This is something that happens every Friday, and is designed to ensure that everyone understands what is happening throughout the site, what is being found, and why particular units are being excavated.
The site tours began with Courtney Bowles and Cate Davis discussing a rock -filled pit that they have been excavating. Vertically placed rocks and other clues indicated that this pit was filled rapidly. Next, we listed to Catie D. and Courtney W., followed by Ashley McCuistion and Allen Huber. Ashley and Allen are excavating their own unit, when they are not directly supervising the VCU field school students.
Bridget and Aaron discussed their excavations, including the finding of the wig hair curler fragment, a white salt-glazed sherd, and the American Indian ceramic vessel fragment.
Lauren Volkers and Mariana Zechini have been excavating a unit that contained a shovel test pit (STP) excavated during a 1990s archaeological survey of Ferry Farm. They had just completed removing the soil from the backfilled STP, which provided them with a view of the internal stratigraphy of the rest of their unit.
Next, we all went over to the unit being excavated by Francesca Chesler, Vivian Hite, and Olivia McCarty. They were out of the late 19th and 20th century layers and just getting into the antebellum layers.
The last unit being excavated by the VCU field school is that by Stephanie King and Ruth Martin. They also are just getting into the antebellum layers.
Further details of the first week of VCU’s field school at Ferry Farm will be provided by the students themselves, so keep an eye on this blog!