by Bridget Polk, VCU student
Attending field school at George Washington’s boyhood home Ferry Farm has been a wonderful experience even after only one week’s time. I have been reminded of the passion that I felt for archaeology as a child and wish to follow a path that I enjoy so as I never have to “work” a day in my life. Digging in the field, however, is very hard work. It takes a discipline and certain amount of strength to understand and be able to complete the tasks set out for you.
We began our week touring the site and getting familiar with the history of the area to better understand our own reasoning for conducting archaeology. I point this out because archaeology is a destructive process that needs to be done delicately in order to retain all the information that we can to further our understanding of the past. Within our field school student comrades, we each picked a digging partner to dig with for the entirety. My dig partner, Aaron, and I have gotten along swimmingly this past week as we both learned the basics of an archaeological dig.
When our work began, our topsoil layer was just obscured heavily with roots from a neighboring magnolia tree but we were able to get through it and begin screening our unit. Soon, we made our way down into the 20th century layer of the soil finding that the soil variance was very subtle and needed time to be looked at and thought over before we could conclude that it was in fact a soil change. Surprisingly, our 20th century layer included an animal’s rib bone believed to have been eaten and discarded.
We continued digging in the 20th century layer the next day finding interesting artifacts ranging from glass sherds, brick pieces, and even ceramic sherds. This day had to be cut short as a strong storm began to send gusty winds at us giving us a horrible time trying to cover up the site completely. After hard work, we got it all covered and safe from the oncoming rains.
On Thursday, we visited George Washington’s birthplace while receiving a tour from Amy Muraca of the National Park Services. Afterwards, we got to view the archaeological collections at the park. This was my favorite part as I saw quite a few artifacts that interested me including: old books, old maps, busts of George Washington, 19th century furniture from the site and many other household items.
By the end of the first week, I was tired as an old dog but my excitement soon peaked when my digging partner and I found the first wig curler of the field school! This is a very popular artifact that is found around the site and is of great importance as they are from the Washington era. All in all, I believe that the first week went well and I look forward to see how we can expand our knowledge and understanding of George Washington and his boyhood home.