Final week of field school arrived: Ruth Martin’s Week 5

by Ruth Martin, VCU student

The final week of field school arrived.  This week started off with a field trip to Williamsburg. After an hour and 45 minute drive that went by very quickly, we entered Williamsburg. When we first entered we were greeted with reenactors.

 

Reenactor driving a horse-drawn carriage through Williamsburg.

Reenactor driving a horse-drawn carriage through Williamsburg.

We headed straight to first archaeological site in Williamsburg. Archaeologists were excavating this part of Williamsburg to determine the dimensions of the marketplace square.

Market Square excavations underway.

Market Square excavations underway.

Next we visited Williamsburg’s field school, who were busy excavating around the enslaved children’s school. Their goal was to uncover outbuildings. Their screening equipment was different from ours in the way that it was built. At Williamsburg they had to hold their screens, shake them, and shift all at the same time. While at Ferry Farm, we have stands that hold our screens while we shift.

After that, we had lunch at the cheese shop, which boasted a variety of interesting sandwiches. After lunch we explored Williamsburg for a while before meeting up with Emily Williams.  She gave us an intriguing lecture on conservation.  In her presentation, she talked about some of the old ways they used to conserve artifacts.  One of these included dropping them in a liquid substance, which preserved the artifacts well but was extremely dangerous for the conservators.  One instance of this is when a conservator dropped live ammunition in the liquid and it shot through the ceiling to the next floor!  However, all artifacts preserved this way hardly need to be cleaned or maintained. Although this practice is no longer in use today, for obvious reasons.  Another outdated conservation technique involved coating metal artifacts in thick black wax.  Conservators believed the wax would seal off the oxygen to prevent rust, or if rust did appear it would be readily apparent on the black wax and easily removed.  In reality, rust forms under the wax layers, but is hardly to the conservator until damage is substantial and often irreparable.  These artifacts today must be stripped of the black wax covering and conserved in another way.

Next, Emily showed us the conservation lab.  She showed us the different projects they were working on, including removing dirt from copper using a microscope, and piecing together a tortoise shell.  Lastly, she showed the way an x-ray image revealed intricate decorations on an object that appeared plain to the naked eye.

  A piece of copper being cleaned with the help of a microscope, you can see the removed dirt-look to the right of the copper piece.


A piece of copper being cleaned with the help of a microscope, you can see the removed dirt-look to the right of the copper piece.

The rest of the week was less eventful.  Ryan and I finished our unit, in which the feature reappeared, which will not be excavated until next season.  We then did profiles of the northern and eastern walls of the unit.  Once we closed it out, it was too late in the field season to begin another unit, so we worked on different tasks (such as profiling and unit summary forms) to round up my final week in field school.

North wall  of the unit, freshly scraped and in process for a profile.

North wall of the unit, freshly scraped and in process for a profile.

 

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