Down to Sub: Mariana Zechini’s Week 3

by Mariana Zechini, VCU student

This week started out with a trip to Mount Vernon on Monday. There, we met with the Director of Historic Preservation, Dr. Esther White, who showed us some interesting artifacts currently being worked on by staff as well as the collections facility where we had a brief discussion about the problems with archaeological conservation. Afterwards, Deputy Director of Archaeology, Eleanor Breen took us up to the mansion where archaeology is being done right outside of the kitchen. Karen Price, a field school intern at Ferry Farm last year, was there to talk to us about the archaeology being done on site and the similarities and differences of archaeology at Mount Vernon versus the archaeology at Ferry Farm. At Mount Vernon, test units are ten feet by ten feet unlike Ferry Farm where test units are five feet by five feet. This lets archaeologists see a larger area at one time. She also noted that they do not dig in a grid system like Ferry Farm does. Seeing these differences made us understand that each archaeological site will vary in how they operate and methods of excavation will change in order to suit the site’s needs.

One of the test units being excavated at Mount Vernon

One of the test units being excavated at Mount Vernon

On Tuesday we returned to Ferry Farm where my partner, Lauren, and I were got back to work on a trench we were digging last week. Luckily, we were able to finish digging the trench (which yielded few artifacts) and continue excavating our antebellum layer. We found bone fragments, ceramics, possible cow’s tooth, a pipestem and one wig curler fragment.

Artifacts found on Tuesday include one pipestem, one wig curler fragment, bone fragments, ceramics and one tooth.

Artifacts found on Tuesday include one pipestem, one wig curler fragment, bone fragments, ceramics and one tooth.

On Wednesday morning, Mara Kaktins, Ferry Farm’s ceramics and glass specialist, gave a roughly three hour lecture to students about the different types of ceramics and glass found on site. In the afternoon was spent finishing our antebellum layer where we found one half of a wig curler! Lauren and I were so excited to contribute to the enormous wig curler count at Ferry Farm.

Thursday and Friday morning started off rainy but instead of being sent home, students met inside to learn how to do unit summaries. Each student received paperwork from one unit dug last year. This was a valuable experience because it let us see the importance of clear and understandable paperwork.  Site Director and Small Finds Specialist, Laura Galke, was nice enough to give a lecture to students and interns about small finds found at Ferry Farm. Small finds are defined as personal items that can tell archaeologists about an individual such as wig curlers, buckles and fans.

Luckily the weather cleared up and we were able to dig! As we were digging our colonial layer, however, we noticed that our STP was not deep enough and we had to stop excavation of our colonial layer to finish digging our STP.

Friday morning began with finishing up unit summaries before heading out to the field. Lauren and I dug our STP in under two hours and were able to continue digging the colonial layer, which yielded few artifacts, one being what could possibly be the distal end of a pig’s tibia. After several buckets and wheelbarrows full of dirt with zero artifacts found, it seemed that we were finally reaching subsoil. I was excited to finish our unit, until we found a beautiful jasper flake in our final bucket of the day. Monday morning, Lauren and I will do a final scrape of our unit to see if it yields any more artifacts before hopefully continuing on to another unit!

 The wig curler found on Wednesday marked with W.B. under the crown.

The wig curler found on Wednesday marked with W.B. under the crown.

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