by Mariana Zechini, VCU student
Despite a rainy start this week, the VCU 2013 field school was able to enjoy two full days in the field, along with a field trip to Montpelier and a hectic but inspiring 4th of July.
On Monday morning, after spending fifteen minutes opening the site and a mere five minutes (at least it seemed like only five minutes) digging, the field school was sent home due to bad weather. Lauren and I stayed behind for an hour or so to help the interns screen through the soil that we had produced within that short amount of time. Although the soil had turned to mud by the time we were able to screen it, I had fun helping out!
On Tuesday we were off to visit James Madison’s Montpelier where we toured the grounds and had a glimpse of life at Montpelier during James’ and Dolly’s time there. Matt Reeves, the Director of Archaeology at Montpelier, met us at the site where other field school students and interns were digging. There, they are digging in the South Lawn, where there has been evidence of heavy slave activity. Dr. Reeves then showed us the lab where artifacts are currently being processed. In the lab, field school students were able to look at an extensive type collection of nails, ceramics, glass, bone, buttons and metal. Getting familiar with these artifacts will help to identify them immediately in the field. Although the day itself was cloudy and gloomy, my first trip to Montpelier was exciting and insightful.
Wednesday started off just like Monday: wet and rainy. I had hoped to at least make it to lunch today and was pleasantly surprised when we were able to work until 2:30pm before closing early. Unfortunately this is when Lauren and I had just closed our 20th century context and were about to finally dig into the antebellum layer! Instead, we spent the Fourth of July showing off early 19th century artifacts to visitors.
Describing Independence Day at Ferry Farm as “busy” is an understatement. There are various vendors, performers and activities happening on site. My favorite part of the patriotic chaos, though, is sharing what archaeologists find in the field with curious visitors. My day was filled with informing people about the activities that have been going on at Ferry Farm in the previous centuries. I was able to talk to people about the diverse history of the site, from Washington to the Civil War and I was able to show off the two, yes TWO, wig curler fragments we found that day!
Friday was the most tiring day of the week, mostly due to the crazy day we all experienced on Thursday. Lauren and I hit a utility trench that runs through our unit that we can hopefully finish digging on Tuesday when we return to the field.