Into the Cement Jungle: Olivia McCarty’s Week 4

by Olivia McCarty, VCU Student

Week four marked the start of my partner’s and my second unit, blistering hot weather, and two fieldtrips to Washington D.C.

The first fieldtrip of the week was on Saturday with Mary Doering, who invited us up to look at her fascinating collection of 18th and 19th century clothing. It was amazing to see all the work that went into making just one of these garments, and while I don’t think I will ever be lucky enough to find a whole garment while excavating, our group was able to take a look at a variety of buckles, buttons, and other fasteners that we may well find in our excavation of Ferry Farm, so here is hoping to that there are many of these small finds hidden within my new unit.

Monday began with my partner Stephanie King and I immediately getting assigned our new unit and for rest of the day we began to work our way through the topsoil. Stephanie had the pleasure of discovering a child’s plastic toy animal along with many other artifacts as well. By the end of the day we had already finished our topsoil and were getting ready to move onto the 20th century. It is interesting to see how much faster we are going through this unit when compared to the beginning of field school when it took my group of three people two day to get through the topsoil then. I am starting to feel like I am really getting the hang of everything now and don’t have to bother the interns nearly as much as I used to.

I was being put to the test the very next day, as I was excavating on my own, as my partner had to go work in the lab. Now everything was on me and I didn’t have a partner to help remind me if I forgot about something!  I was a little hesitant at first but I soon realized that nothing was really changing, the only thing I had to worry about was working hard because I didn’t want my partner and I getting too far behind the other groups. As I toiled away in the 20th century layer I got to see some very interesting artifacts; including some ceramic sherds that I was actually able to identify because of our ceramics lecture. The sherd I liked the best was a piece of white ware that had a black floral transfer print on it. Though I didn’t reach my goal of completing the 20th century layer by the end of the day I was close to the end and only needed to do a final scrapping to smooth some of the lumps out and I would be ready to go.

Stephanie holding the plastic toy she found

Stephanie holding the plastic toy she found

However the 20th century would have to wait, as the next day we had another fieldtrip to Washington D.C. Instead of driving up there this time we decided to take the commuter train and metro to get around. This was exciting for my roommate Vivian, who had never taken the train or metro before. After public transportation dropped us off in D.C. our first stop was the zoo! I had not been to the D.C. zoo since I was six and enjoyed wondering around it immensely, however most of the outside animals were much smarted then us and were hiding in shady places as it was a very hot day. I took full advantage of the misting stations that the zoo has around its walkways, and my group even got to get our feet wet at the sea lion and seals exhibit to try and beat the heat.

After spending the morning communing with the wild animals, we journeyed into the cement jungle at noon to meet up with D.C. archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, who gave us an informative lecture on GIS, and how it is implemented. She also passed around some interesting playing cards that had archaeology information on them. Once our lecture was over we raced over to the Natural history museum and explored their “written in bone” exhibit, which was fascinating for me having just taken human osteology in the fall. The zoo, lecture, and museum left us all pretty tired and we soon headed back to Fredericksburg to prepare for another day of excavating.

A great caption on one of the playing cards Dr. Trocolli passed around

A great caption on one of the playing cards Dr. Trocolli passed around.

Thursday was the beginning of another very hot day, and now that I had my partner back we got straight to work evening out our unit. As we worked on smoothing everything out we also were confronted with the top of a feature, the 20th century utility trench that runs through most of our field school units. After getting a picture of our unit we were ready to begin excavating the trench. Dr. Means stopped by to give us some pointers, explaining that it was okay to put some force behind our shovel when we dug, and showing us how it was done. The trench kept us busy for the rest of the day, with very few artifacts being found.

: Lauren and Mariana trying to beat the heat by jumping through the sprinkler

: Lauren and Mariana trying to beat the heat by jumping through the sprinkler.

Friday morning we got right back to the trench and after working for a while and doing a fresh scraping of the walls of our trench we were done. With the completion of the trench we also got to measure it and found that we had removed more than a foot of dirt from it! After all that hard work we still have more to work on and we quickly moved onto the antebellum layer. Though we were able to make a decent dent in it we still have some ways to go before we hit the colonial layer. My goal for the last week of field school is to make sure that I hit the colonial layer and finish it out so that the unit will be completed before the field season is over.

Me standing proudly in our utility trench

Me standing proudly in our utility trench





























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