I was able to actually do something with what I’ve learned: Stephanie King’s Week 5

by Stephanie King, VCU student

This week, we went to Colonial Williamsburg to see how archaeologists approach excavation within the historic town. We spoke with a few people, including VCU alumni Crystal Castleberry, who filled us in on what they were looking for and what challenges they faced. Apart from strange methods used in the past (especially an extraordinarily large system of criss-crossing trenches), the soil layers in Williamsburg are incredibly thick and rife with 19th and 20th century disturbances.

Touring the Bray School site with Crystal Castleberry as guide.

Touring the Bray School site with Crystal Castleberry as guide.

After enjoying the many distractions of the Colonial shopping center (Scottish imports!) and lunch at the Cheese Shop, we went to the Rockefeller Library and toured the historic preservation laboratory.

Emily Williams in the Colonial Williamsburg Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.

Emily Williams in the Colonial Williamsburg Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.

X-ray of a conserved metal object.

X-ray of a conserved metal object.

Returning to Ferry Farm, we realized that we were all fairly close to done with our second units. Everyone wrapped up their units by Thursday, and we learned how to profile the excavated walls on the eastern side of the site. Technically, some of the units are not “closed” because features are present — we closed our final contexts for the year to leave those features in situ so their relation to one another can be thought over. Because a few of these features resemble plant molds, there may be evidence that the back yard of the Washington home was purposely gardened to create a welcoming facade. Best leave the features there so they can be excavated carefully without the pressure of a few-days left of field school.

Field school party!

Field school party!

The send-off for field school was delightful fun. Our mentors were gifted good tidings of wine and chocolates, students received their own party favors, and we watched a slideshow of photos from the past five weeks. And Sharknado. Archaeology is serious business. And so, naturally, a vast majority of us came to the last day of field school entirely covered in temporary tattoos.

Throwing stones across the Rappahannock.

Throwing stones across the Rappahannock.

Sadly, I didn’t find a single wig curler (not a one!), but I certainly would not mind stopping by to help further at Ferry Farm. It feels wonderful to know that I was able to actually do something with what I’ve learned over the past few years. Hopefully, I can used what I’ve learned from the past few weeks to do something more.

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