Screening eight individual buckets: Olivia McCarty’s Week 3

by Olivia McCarty, VCU student

      Karen Price discussing the excavation units at Mount Vernon.

Karen Price discussing the excavation units at Mount Vernon.

This week was a busy one filled with trips, lectures, fieldwork and unfortunately rain. We started out with a journey to Mount Vernon. Where we got to take a peek at their lab area, and discuss the process they used to identify the original colors used on the house and in the “new room,” which they are now renovating. It was very interesting to see how hard they worked on making sure even the smallest details were correct, for example they even did archaeology to discover where old post holes might have been so that the fence will be the same place as it was during George Washington’s times.  After a tour around the lab area we got to go see some archaeologists working in the field, they use 10’ by 10’ units when excavating and they were humongous to use since we dig 5’by 5’ units; their units equal four of ours but I also appreciated why they did that because it was nice to see a bigger picture of the whole area immediately instead of working in a smaller area one at a time.

Tuesday we were back in the field and back in our antebellum layer. We started out the day with a bang making a lot of head so that by mid day we were getting to the top of the Colonial layer, which was exciting!  We took some time making sure our unit nice and level and once we closed out our paper work, including in the notes, the huge horse tooth we found we had found that day, and then we began to excavate the Colonial layer for the rest of the day.

Two pipe stems we found in our antebellum layer.

Two pipe stems we found in our antebellum layer.

Wednesday was a little different in that we had a ceramic lecture in the morning given to us by Mara Kaktins, the ceramic’s specialist at Ferry Farm. The lecture was very interesting but also packed with so much information that I felt like I would be lucky to just remember one of the names we discussed.  After the lecture I was also really excited to return to the field that afternoon to test out my new found knowledge by examining all the ceramic sherds we uncovered; unfortunately for me that didn’t happen because our colonial layer was pretty scarce when it came to artifacts and we hardly found anything that day, and non of the pieces were notable ceramic types either.

Thursday began with rain which prevented us from going into the field; however we were still put to work learning how to write up field unit summaries, which is basically a quick look at what was in each unit. We all had about a million questions going though the paper work, however it was also great to see how the groups for last year worked in their unit and what they found. To break up the monotonous paper work our field director, Laura Galke, gave us an interesting lecture on some of the small finds artifacts that had already been analyzed at Ferry Farm and how these small but personal artifacts can give a lot of insight into what life was like and how they dealt with everything.  By midday the skies had cleared enough for us to head back out to work. Ashley also had a surprise for my group explaining that since it was half way through the field school that she was going to switch up some of the groups and that I would now be moving to a new unit to work with fellow field school student Stephanie King. Stephanie’s unit was also in the Colonial layer.

My new unit partner Stephanie working hard.

My new unit partner Stephanie working hard.

Friday was another rainy morning so back inside we went to finish up our paper work from the day before but it also came with a welcome surprise of fresh doughnuts that Ashley was kind enough to get for us to make the work go faster with a yummy morning treat.  Luckily the rain cleared our even early that day and by 10 we were able to head out into the field. As Stephanie and I began working on our unit we were finding a lot of debitage, which are the waste materials produced when you make stone chipped tools. By the end of the day even the debitage were disappearing and soon we weren’t fining any artifacts at all which was telling us that we were approaching subsoil, which mean that their was not more human artifact to be found. After verifying this by screening 8 individual buckets of freshly scraped dirt from our unit we had official reached the bottom of our unit! It was a great way to finish out the week knowing that we had now successfully excavated our very first unit completely!


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