by Stephanie King, VCU alumnus
Our warmest week yet! And also my busiest. My partner Olivia and I started our new unit and blew through the topsoil layer while still making decent progress on the 20th century. We didn’t find anything terribly exciting, save for a dilapidated plastic horse/camel/cow toy.
On Tuesday, my former partner Ruth joined me in Ferry Farm’s lab to clean and label artifacts (mostly brick and mortar with a few ceramic sherds, glass, teeth, and small bones). I decided then that lab work was nice, but only about once a week or so. While cleaning artifacts in an air-conditioned lab has its perks, there’s something more satisfying about pulling those artifacts out of the soil yourself. It is easy to forget, however, that different facilities have different methods for cleaning artifacts depending on their needs.
Our trip to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday was my favorite of our field trips so far. I had never taken the commuter train before, and the trip to the middle of D.C. was really quite easy from there. We stopped at the National Zoo, just because, and I finally got a decent hat. From there, we met with Ruth Tricolli, the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO, or “Shippo”) out of D.C. She gave a presentation outlining the importance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications in archaeology, such as mapping the precise locations of identified sites and determining the Area of Potential Effects (APE) of large-scale construction projects or excavation. She also shared information about opportunities in the field, which is particularly important given why most of us are in field school. The rest of our trip was spent at the National Museum of Natural History, where I pretty much wandered off and looked at the Smithsonian’s rock and mineral collection and mammalian skeletal collection for a few hours.
Olivia and I spent the last two days of the week identifying and excavating a 20th-century utility trench that spans our unit. The final trench ended up being a good foot wide and a few feet deep, and gave up few exciting artifacts, a minor disappointment to my partner — the unit just north of us had plenty to offer out of its trench, 20th century or not. By Friday, we were able to just start our Antebellum (now on either side of the trench), which had plenty to offer from the get-go. We ended Friday by finding a fair sized piece of Chinese imported porcelain with a floral decoration. We are making fantastic progress, and I’m confident we’ll see the bottom of this unit before the school ends.