Week 5: An End and a Beginning

By Bernard K. Means, VCU/Virtual Curation Laboratory

Crystal Castleberry, a legacy of the VCU archaeology field school (2012 edition) gives a tour of the Bray School site in Colonial Williamsburg.

Crystal Castleberry, a legacy of the VCU archaeology field school (2012 edition), gives a tour of the Bray School site in Colonial Williamsburg.

After five memorable weeks, the 2013 VCU field school came to an end on July 26, 2013.  The week began with a field trip to visit archaeological sites and conservation facilities in Colonial Williamsburg and ended with scraping, mapping, and profiling the units excavated by the nine VCU field school students. Fortunately, the week’s efforts were helped by a weather pattern that brought days that were still hot and moderately humid, but not those of the previous week.  And, rain held off all week as well, making for perfect days to excavate at the site where George Washington grew up.

Ashley McCuistion, far left, discusses field strategies with Laura Galke, far right

Ashley McCuistion, far left, discusses field strategies with Laura Galke, far right

I asked the students to reflect on what field school meant to them, and reported this for my Day of Archaeology post on Friday, July 26. I’ll refer the reader to that post for details.  Overall, the nine field school students expressed their feeling that they had a true appreciation for what archaeology entails—something that is not possible solely through class room study.  Most felt better prepared for a future career in archaeology, however that might manifest.  I can say that, while ability and temperament varied somewhat, all of the field school students proved that they make a solid addition to anyone’s field crew.

Field director Laura Galke examines a Colonial-era cellar feature.

Field director Laura Galke examines a Colonial-era cellar feature.

Our work at George Washington’s childhood home at Ferry Farm would not have been possible without the support of the George Washington Foundation (GWF).  The Foundation provided the students with an excellent and knowledgeable field director in Laura Galke, GWF archaeologist and small finds analysis, who not only guided the field excavations, but also provided the social context for the items recovered by the students.

Assistant field director Erik Larsen taking notes.

Assistant field director Erik Larsen taking notes as Vivian scrapes her unit.

Her assistant field director, Eric Larsen, challenged the students to work harder and to consider multiple perspectives when interpreting the past.

Ashley McCuistion demonstrates coring in the backdirt pile.

Ashley McCuistion demonstrates coring in the backdirt pile.

VCU student Ashley McCuistion, a GWF intern, was my teaching assistant, and excelled at instructing her fellow students on multiple field tasks, many taking simultaneously.  The efforts of Laura, Eric, and Ashley, as well as other GWF interns, is evident in earlier blog postings.

The field school poses with the Rappahanock River in the background.

The field school poses with the Rappahanock River in the background.

The end of week 5 was a bittersweet moment for me, being the end of this intensive field effort.  It was great to see these nine students take further steps on their goals of becoming archaeologists—one’s that I will be proud to call colleagues in the not too distant future.  However, as all but one are taking classes from me in the next academic year (one student has graduated), my interaction with these developing professionals will continue.  And, I look forward to this next chapter with this great set of students.

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