The return makes one love the farewell: Bridget Polk’s Week 5

by Bridget Polk, VCU student

This week was the final week of field school, topping off the month long experience. It’s great to finally say that I can participate in archaeology but I am reminded that there is always room to learn. New people can teach me new techniques or just help with my understanding of the field. I look back at my first blog post at how excited I was and realize that I am still just as excited as I was then, no matter how tired I may feel. I really did pick to do something that I love.

We began our week on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, VA. There, we visited the dig sites where they were looking for a market building and part of an old dormitory. From there, we saw the sites of the town, walking through Merchants Square and proceeding to eat lunch at the Cheese Shop. We walked over to visit the Conservationists where we got to visit the lab and view how conservation of artifacts happened.

 

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

The rest of the week, we took to cleaning up and finishing the units that we had started. Profiling became one of my favorite things to do, as it came naturally to me. I got to profile three walls by the time Friday came around. Around Wednesday, we took the baulks down all the way to the bottom of the unit. Who knew there would still be artifacts in the baulks? After finding a few nails and bits of ceramics later, we had the unit down completely. The last thing to do was to scrape our part of the site clean. Starting from the wall, all of us worked our way west, scraping the units to allow them to be fresh and able to be mapped by the interns and field director next week.

 

Our unit’s profile. Look at that stratigraphy!

Our unit’s profile. Look at that stratigraphy!

How it all transfers to paper.

How it all transfers to paper.

I will miss getting to dig but it’s time for me to be thinking about going back to school and graduating. While I sit in my desk in classes, I’m just going to be itching to be back in the field with a trowel in my hand, a pencil in my pocket, and a smile on my face.

 

 

With Our Trowels Combined…:Bridget Polk’s Week 4

by Bridget Polk, VCU Student
Week four of field school and what a hot week it was! I started out the week finishing a unit that I had begun helping an intern, Courtney, which contained a 20th century patio.  Down below, Courtney and I were able to take the unit to the previously determined subsoil from FF-18, a previous dig year. By the end of the week, I was back with my original dig partner Aaron. While I was with Courtney, I found 2 wig curlers making my total 3 thus far this summer. Quite an impressive number I might add.

Me with my two wig curlers!

Me with my two wig curlers!

Finally, it became time to take a field trip. This week, we visited the D.C. area starting out at the zoo and ending with a visit to Dr. Ruth Trocolli for a lecture on GIS applications in archaeology. I really enjoyed the trip, as it is not that often I get to visit the capital. Also, this happened to be my first time to go to the D.C. zoo. All in all, it was a good day and it was back to digging the next day.

A most photogenic Meerkat.

A most photogenic Meerkat.

Before the end of the week, I was back with Aaron at our old unit. We were able to bring the unit down to the top of the colonial layer where we discovered a feature! This was my first feature that I actually got to dig all season so Aaron, who dug out our 20th century utility trench, let me have free reign on it to learn how to dig it exactly. It was an experience to say the least, as we had to determine many measurements and make sure we mapped everything just right. But in the end we were able to almost finish the feature up before the end of the day Friday. I can’t wait to see what this last week of field school has in store for us.

The Western side of our unit where the new feature is located. You can also see a mole path in there as well.

The Western side of our unit where the new feature is located. You can also see a mole path in there as well.

 

There’s Something About George: Bridget Polk’s Week 3

by Bridget Polk, VCU student

Washington’s home of Mount Vernon. We toured the archaeology lab and got to enjoy the current excavation site. The differences between Ferry Farm and Mount Vernon are different as they dig in bigger units. But the bigger hole didn’t seem like it would be any easier than our 5-foot by 5-foot units. The trip continued with a tour of the house.  The architecture was great, but the view was even better! It was so peaceful even when there were so many people around.

The view from Mount Vernon and what a beautiful day it was!

The view from Mount Vernon and what a beautiful day it was!

Tuesday, Aaron and I got to experience work in the lab. Cleaning artifacts isn’t always fun but I enjoy it still. I think it’s important to help move the collections along in the process of documentation so that it isn’t just sitting somewhere being forgotten about. It’s important to get that information out for research purposes.

The next day brought rain in the morning, keeping us from our work. However, we learned how to conduct paperwork to summarize sites. After lunch, Aaron and I dug down into the subsoil of our unit to make sure it was subsoil! After finally coming up with pure clay, we, with the help of our T.A., Ashley, and site director, Laura Galke, were able to say that we did in fact reach subsoil and thus could close out our first unit.

The paperwork that we were taught to fill out, it’s a lot easier than it looks!

The paperwork that we were taught to fill out, it’s a lot easier than it looks!

Our new unit was actually the next square over. We knew what we were getting into as far as how the tree roots and type of soil changes we would be looking for based on our experience with the previous unit. I’m hoping to dig the unit down to the subsoil again by the end of the week but maybe that’s a little too ambitious. It’s okay if we take our time. George is waiting, after all.

The portrait of George Washington in the museum at Mount Vernon.

The portrait of George Washington in the museum at Mount Vernon.

The Heat is On! Bridget Polk’s Week 2

by Bridget Polk, VCU student

Week 2 has come and gone. With the temperatures beginning to rise, I start to question why dig season is in the summer. But at the end of the day, I forget all that as I take time to think about the day. Do I still want to do this? The answer is: yes! I love being able to get down into the dirt and sift around solving mysteries that some might not have been able to understand. It furthers my education and many others’ education as well.

Arriving on site Monday, I was apprehensive about the weather and hoped it would hold out for us to dig but sadly, the rains came and digging was cancelled. I would have loved to have been digging still but it was nice to have a day off as I work on the weekends and don’t really have a break lately.

The view from Montpelier.

The view from Montpelier.

Moving on to Tuesday, Our class visited the home of James Madison, Montpelier. There, we visited the grounds to learn about a fellow founding father and how archaeology was crucial for the reconstruction of the gorgeous house. We were able to visit the field school at Montpelier and see their dig site. It was great to compare the two and meet a few of the students and interns. Next, we visited their lab. It is one of the largest and most visitor friendly labs I have seen. I would like to encourage anyone who is going to Montpelier to visit the lab and take a look at what they have found. The staff is super friendly and would love to show you around.

Finally on Wednesday we got to dig again! As temperatures began to rise, my water intake increased as well. It’s important to be safe while digging out in the hot sun. My dig partner, Aaron, and I found another wig curler throughout the day as we dug our way down through the antebellum layer.

Wig curler found on the Third. Number 2!

Wig curler found on the Third. Number 2!

The Fourth of July was interesting for us to say the least. All of us chose to dig on this holiday and really tried to shine with the public. Not to mention, we found another wig curler too! It was fun watching the littler kids sifting through the soil and getting excited over what they thought was a jewel but was probably just a rock. It reminded me of when I was young and loved to learn about history. These kids might grow up to be like me when they get older and that puts a smile on my face to think that I could have excited them to pursue archaeology.

Friday came and went by pretty quickly as Aaron and I dug down to the colonial layer almost finishing up our first unit! We will be back on Wednesday to take pictures and get it all done. Monday will be our field trip to Mount Vernon and Tuesday I am in the lab! I’ll update next week!

 A beautiful piece of glass I found in the Colonial layer.


A beautiful piece of glass I found in the Colonial layer.

Finding George: Bridget Polk’s Week 1

by Bridget Polk, VCU student

Attending field school at George Washington’s boyhood home Ferry Farm has been a wonderful experience even after only one week’s time. I have been reminded of the passion that I felt for archaeology as a child and wish to follow a path that I enjoy so as I never have to “work” a day in my life. Digging in the field, however, is very hard work. It takes a discipline and certain amount of strength to understand and be able to complete the tasks set out for you.

An excited me waiting to leave for field school on day one

An excited me waiting to leave for field school on day one

We began our week touring the site and getting familiar with the history of the area to better understand our own reasoning for conducting archaeology. I point this out because archaeology is a destructive process that needs to be done delicately in order to retain all the information that we can to further our understanding of the past.  Within our field school student comrades, we each picked a digging partner to dig with for the entirety. My dig partner, Aaron, and I have gotten along swimmingly this past week as we both learned the basics of an archaeological dig.

When our work began, our topsoil layer was just obscured heavily with roots from a neighboring magnolia tree but we were able to get through it and begin screening our unit. Soon, we made our way down into the 20th century layer of the soil finding that the soil variance was very subtle and needed time to be looked at and thought over before we could conclude that it was in fact a soil change.  Surprisingly, our 20th century layer included an animal’s rib bone believed to have been eaten and discarded.

Animal bone recovered from our unit.

Animal bone recovered from our unit.

We continued digging in the 20th century layer the next day finding interesting artifacts ranging from glass sherds, brick pieces, and even ceramic sherds. This day had to be cut short as a strong storm began to send gusty winds at us giving us a horrible time trying to cover up the site completely. After hard work, we got it all covered and safe from the oncoming rains.

On Thursday, we visited George Washington’s birthplace while receiving a tour from Amy Muraca of the National Park Services. Afterwards, we got to view the archaeological collections at the park. This was my favorite part as I saw quite a few artifacts that interested me including: old books, old maps, busts of George Washington, 19th century furniture from the site and many other household items.

A beautiful hourglass among the other artifacts at the collections facility.

A beautiful hourglass among the other artifacts at the collections facility.

By the end of the first week, I was tired as an old dog but my excitement soon peaked when my digging partner and I found the first wig curler of the field school! This is a very popular artifact that is found around the site and is of great importance as they are from the Washington era. All in all, I believe that the first week went well and I look forward to see how we can expand our knowledge and understanding of George Washington and his boyhood home.

The infamous wig curler to end out our week at Ferry Farm!

The infamous wig curler to end out our week at Ferry Farm!