by Vivian Hite, VCU student
Monday morning we set off for the field knowing we would finish our first unit. After some leveling out and smoothing we were ready for our picture. Once we closed the context of our very first unit we were ready to move on to unit number two. Located directly across from our original unit, we got straight to work. With the sweltering heat and dry ground it made for a very difficult top soil layer. As we dug and screened we realized that this was in fact our least favorite layer. Nothing but roots to try and dig out and plastic pieces, the top soil only showed the great future for the following day.
On Tuesday we began our 20th Century layer. We decided that we would try and complete a layer a day. We felt that setting these goals would help us stay motivated during the heat and ensure that we complete our second unit before the end of the field school. Even with the prospect of the antebellum layer less than inches away, the 20th Century took us an excruciatingly long time to get through. Aside from gum and gum wrappers, nails, and plastic the layer lacked excitement. Luckily we stuck with our goal and managed to finish the 20th Century knowing that when we came back to the field on Thursday we would be getting to the antebellum layer, my favorite.
Early Wednesday morning we set off for the train station to take us to DC. I had never been on a train before and the commuter chaos and ticket system got the best of me. After validating my card twice we boarded the train and got ready for the excursion. Once we arrived at DC we hopped right on the metro and headed straight for the zoo. Once we entered the zoo we split ways and moved around the zoo. In my group we visited the elephant, the pandas, gorillas, and ended at the Amazon. After realizing we were 15 minutes away from our meeting location but due to arrive in 10, we darted to the entrance. Jumping back on the metro and skipping lines we arrived at our true destination.
We met up with archaeologist Ruth Trocolli and her colleagues. She presented on GIS and the archaeology that has been and is currently being done in DC. The lecture was great in that it put our lessons from methods into perspective and showed them in practice. It all began to come together as things had been doing throughout the past few weeks. Lectures and notes, powerpoints and readings all were flooding back and colliding to produce a completed puzzle of information.
Thursday began with our antebellum layer. An hour into digging and everyone was already feeling the heat. We worked as diligently as we could, but it was no surprise that we were all hiding under the magnolia tree screening every chance we got. Prior to lunch Francesca was graced with a wig curler while shoveling through our early antebellum. The day also provided glass fragments, a wide variety of ceramics, and an abundance of nails. 34 to be exact. As the day wore on the heat got the better of me and I became a little loopy. After being sprayed down with a water hose and forced to drink bottles of water, it was back to the dirt.
Despite the heat, we were able to finish the antebellum layer on Thursday and we’re ready to begin the colonial bright and early Friday morning. The ground was so dry that it was difficult to see the change in soil color. It all appeared grey and brittle. One swipe of a trowel and you could glimpse it. The orange like clay. But just as soon as you could see it, the soil became dry and grey yet again. Compared to our past unit, the colonial layer in this unit actually contained artifacts. Sherds of ceramics, glass, and nails came out of the earth. Later in the day the heat got to Francesca and an hour away from closing, we went into the lab to beat the heat. Knowing that we wouldn’t finish the unit today was okay only because Tuesday was right around the corner and so was the end of our second unit.