Last, But Not Least: Lauren Volker’s Week 5

by Lauren Volkers, VCU student

Day 24 (Monday): Today we went to Colonial Williamsburg to get a tour of the archaeology sites and to see their lab. When we first arrived we went to one of the archaeology sites, one of them is across from the court house. One of the directors, Andrew Edwards, gave us an overview of the site and what they are looking for. Currently they are looking for a Market Square house that was on a Frenchmen’s map in 1782. They use this map to help them get an idea of where the buildings use to be. Dr. Edwards also talked about Jimmy trenches that they encounter. Jimmy trenches are named after Jimmy Knight who dug trenches every meter to look for buildings. After we went to another site where we visited a VCU grad, Crystal Castleberry. Crystal then told us about the site she is working on with other interns. The site use to be the site of the Bray School that educated slave children owned by William and Mary. Then we took a quick break for lunch and met up with Emily Williams who works in the lab and gave us a short lecture on reconstruction. We got a tour of their lab and got to see how they clean artifacts. They even had an x-ray of a vessel to see what it was, which was really cool.

Field Director Andrew Edwards talking about the site.

Field Director Andrew Edwards talking about the site.

Day 25ish: Today Mariana and I were in the lab all day. In the morning we washing artifacts from last year’s field school and then ate lunch outside with everyone else. It was interesting to see how they wash artifacts and the different tools they use. After lunch we learned to bag artifacts, I didn’t know how detailed they were. First you take a dry tray and go through each type of artifact and then group the ones that are the same. The plus side Mariana and I got some ceramic practice in before our test. After we got to label some artifacts, which was very meticulous. I really enjoyed labeling but trying to get the little bits of paper to face the right way was really annoying.

 

Mariana in the lab washing a tooth.

Mariana in the lab washing a tooth.

Day 26ish (Wednesday): In the morning Mariana and I finished our colonial layer, but ran into a root mold so we had to stop and get a new context for it. After we didn’t find anything we continued digging our transition layer and we reached subsoil just a little after lunch. We had to keep digging earlier because we had coal flecking in our soil. Once we finished out our unit we got to remove our SW balk. Removing a balk is much easier because you only need a context if you find something and you go down by layers.

Our finished unit!

Our finished unit!

Day 27ish: Once we finished our balk in the morning we then got to learn how to profile our wall. I think profiling is one of my favorite things to do, its oddly relaxing. First you have to line a level string to make sure your measurements are accurate. Then you score the wall to see the stratigraphy in the wall and measure each layer each half an inch. Then you get the old paper work to right down what the soil color and texture was for each layer. In the afternoon Dr. Means surprised us with a field trip to Dove Tail to look at their facility. It was really interesting to see how they run their lab because they were able to transform an office facility into a working archaeology lab. After we returned to finish up our paper work and then cover up the site.

Mariana and I’s scored East wall profile.

Mariana and I’s scored East wall profile.

 

Day 28ish (Last day): This morning we started with our ceramic’s test, which went pretty well and then we had our weekly group discussion. After, we all of the field students went down to the Rappahannock River to see if anyone could through a stone across to the other side like George Washington supposedly did. My first throw was horrible! I released the rock to late and ended up throwing it on the ground, but my second try I did much better. Aaron had the best throw out of everyone and made it pretty close to the other side. After Mariana and I did both our unit summaries and then we profiled some south walls. After I finished one of our unit summaries I got to do a whole wall profile by myself, which was super exciting! At the end of the day most of the other field school students left so the last of us got to sign the tool box for this year’s field school and then put tarps over our units for the last time, sadly. This maybe the last day, but this experience has been amazing and I will surely never forget it.

All of our finished units and the utility trench going through them.

All of our finished units and the utility trench going through them.

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Sweating Dirt: Lauren Volker’s Week 4

by Lauren Volker, VCU student

Day 16: This Saturday we went to Washington, D.C. to get a special up close look at 18th century clothing from Mary Doering. We decided to meet in Washington D.C. near the Smithsonian Institution Building. After we went to a conference room where we meet Mary Doering and she showed us some clothing and accessories she has collected over the years. At first she showed us some women’s dresses, and other outfits that they wore back in the 18th century from going out attire to staying home. It was really interesting to see the different outfits and how some dresses even had separate pockets that you could attach to a belt. We then moved onto men’s clothing and different vests and trousers they wore. My favorite was the men’s underwear and the leather pants. Then Mary Doering showed us some shoes, buckles, and a wallet that had a name and date sown into it. After we grab some lunch and then a couple of us went to National Museum of American History, since some of us have never been before. Unfortunately a few parts were closed for reconstruction.

Posts we left behind for Ferry Farm at the National Museum of American History.

Posts we left behind for Ferry Farm at the National Museum of American History.

Day 17: Another Monday come and gone and today Mariana and I finally finished our unit! In the morning Mariana and I finished leveling our unit and had to screen by buckets to make sure we don’t find any artifacts. Since last Friday Dr. Means found lithic debitage in our last bucket we have had to dig a little further to make sure we did in fact reach subsoil. It was also a really hot day and the weather says it’s going to get hotter as the week goes on. Hopefully no one will pass out and it cools off soon. We also got a new unit N600 E565, the unit in front of our old one. We started top soil and got close to the 20th century by the end of the day.

Day 18: Another hot day and Mariana and I continued our new unit. We got through our topsoil and into our 20th century. We found a wig curler so hopefully that will mean will find more as we dig deeper. We also found glass shards, plastic, lithic debitage, a clay marble, and ceramic sherds. By the end of the day Mariana and I finished our 20th century layer and on Thursday we will be able to start our Antebellum layer.

Mariana and I’s new unit after the top soil was removed.

Mariana and I’s new unit after the top soil was removed.

Day 19: Today we went to Washington D.C again to receive a lecture from Dr. Ruth Trocolli about GIS (Geographic Information Systems). First we took the train to D.C., which was pretty cool since I’ve never taken the Amtrak Train before. Before the lecture we went to the D.C. and walked around for a while. I saw cheetahs (which are my favorite), pandas, elephants, orangutans, gorillas, and many more animals. The GIS lecture was really cool because it should us how we can use technology to see where historical sites are and how that can help both archaeologists and developers. The program shows a map of the area and then where all the historic and prehistoric sites can be found and more information can be added to add more details. After we went to the Natural Museum of Natural History to see the Written on Bone and the Human Origin exhibit. The Written in Bone exhibit is my favorite, because you can see all sorts of different skeletons of animals in the beginning and then humans. I like how they show human remains that died and the causes so you can see how it affected their skeletal remains. I also really like bones so I could be a little biased. Still an awesome exhibit and you should go see it if you haven’t already!

 A panda eating bamboo.

A panda eating bamboo.

A cheetah!

A cheetah!

Day 20: Another scorcher out in the field, but Mariana and I were every productive. In the morning we noticed our utility trench outlined in our soil so we excavated that in the morning. We didn’t find much beside a whole bunch of rocks and pebbles. After lunch we started on our antebellum layer and got to about half way at the end of the day. We were also drinking a lot of water and got misted by the water screen hose to cool down. In our antebellum layer we found ceramic sherds, glass shards, lithic debitage, brick, and coal.

Mariana and I’s finished utility trench (left).

Mariana and I’s finished utility trench (left).

Day 21: Today had to be the hottest it’s been all week. It was supposedly 100°F, but Dr. Means stopped by with a nice surprise for us, sparkling water! We also took a lot of water breaks. Mariana and I continued our antebellum layer and in the morning we had to produce a lot of dirt so the archaeology camp had something to go through (Thanks to Ashley and Katie for helping!). In the end we had ceramic sherds, glass shards, coal, brick, a tooth, lithic debitage, pipe stems, and nails. Just before lunch Mariana and I finished our antebellum layer and then started our colonial layer. We found very little artifacts, which can happen and we got to leave early since the weather was so hot. Hopefully next week won’t be as hot as this one.

 

All of the artifacts we found in our antebellum layer.

All of the artifacts we found in our antebellum layer.

 

Another Week Bites the Dust: Lauren Volker’s Week 3

by Lauren Volker, VCU student

Day 11: Today we went to Mount Vernon to take a look at the archaeology site and to see George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. First we got a look at the lab and some artifacts that they found on site. We got a close up look at their restoration department and some local projects they are working on. After a quick tour of their storage room we went to see the archaeology site they are working on. Currently they are working on finding the kitchen that Samuel had when he lived at Mount Vernon and other outhouses. After we got to tour the grounds and see all of the other buildings they reconstructed. It was really interesting to learn that they now painted the house a cream color after discovering that was the color George Washington had the house, not white. We also got to take a tour through George Washington’s house and got to see the New Room that they are working currently reconstructing.

George Washington’s Mt Vernon Estate

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate

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Day 12: Today Mariana and I finished excavating our utility trench and were able to continue excavating our antebellum layer. Hopefully we can catch up with everyone else (all the other units are on the colonial layer). We were able to continue excavating our antebellum layer and still found quite a few artifacts. Some of the artifacts include: nails, ceramic sherds, glass shards, a possible horse tooth, pipe stems, and hair curler sherds (none of them count since none of them had an end).

Mariana and I’s finished trench.

Mariana and I’s finished trench.

Some dirt we screened from our antebellum layer.

Some dirt we screened from our antebellum layer.

Day 13: Today we started the day with a ceramic lecture that took up all of our morning. The lecture was very informative, but a lot of information to take in. Hopefully I can remember all of it in time for our ceramic’s test. After lunch Mariana and I continued our antebellum and we found another hair curler with an end! This one has a WB (maker’s mark) and a crown with a dot in it. We also finally got to our colonial layer, finally!

A wig curler with the maker’s mark and a crown.

A wig curler with the maker’s mark and a crown.

Day 14: This morning it was raining and luckily instead of sending us home we got to learn how to do unit summaries. I actually really liked writing unit summaries and filling out the paper work. Right after we also got to hear a lecture from Laura Galke about small findings. Unfortunately we had to stop our excavating of our colonial layer because after leveling off our unit with our STP, we realized our STP was deeper than we thought. Mariana also uncovered a distal end of a pig’s tibia so we are going to have to wait to get it out until we can continue our colonial layer. Hopefully we can finish it tomorrow and it’s not to deep.

Everyone hard at work writing unit summaries (In photo Olivia, Aaron, Katie, and Mariana).

Everyone hard at work writing unit summaries (In photo Olivia, Aaron, Katie, and Mariana).

The distal end of a pig’s tibia in our colonial layer.

The distal end of a pig’s tibia in our colonial layer.

Day 15: This morning again it misted on us, so we got to continue our unit summaries. After the mist stopped we got to go out and excavate. The rest of the day turned out to be very nice because it was slightly chilly and cloudy so it wasn’t hot digging. Mariana and I were also able to fully dig out our STP and we ended up going down another foot, so in total our STP was a little over 2 ft deep. By the end of the day we also got really close to subsoil. We thought we were finally done with our colonial layer because we went through about 8 buckets of dirt and not artifacts, but of course on our last bucket Dr. Means found a lithic debitage so hopefully we can finish up our unit next week.

Dug and Buried: Lauren Volkers’s Week Two

by Lauren Volkers, VCU student

July 1st, Ferry Farm dig site everything soaking wet from the rain.

July 1st, Ferry Farm dig site everything soaking wet from the rain.

Day 6 (July 1st): Unfortunately it was another short day, due to weather. I was really excited to get down to the antebellum layer today, but Mother Nature had other ideas. We first started to uncover everything and get all of our materials from the surveyor shed, but right as we started to dig it started to rain. As it started to mist we all started to shift through our dirt and that’s when it really started to rain. Mariana and I only were able to get enough dirt to fill half a bucket before we had to start covering everything up. So unfortunately we were only to get about an hours’ worth of digging in today. It was pretty fun to shift through the mud, since the rain made all of our dirt into mud, and it wasn’t too bad getting all wet. Hopefully the weather will be a little bit nicer for the rest of week so we can get more digging done.

 Laura (our field director), Ashley (TA/ field crew chief), Allen (field crew chief), and other interns help shifting some dirt/mud looking for artifacts.

Laura (our field director), Ashley (TA/ field crew chief), Allen (field crew chief), and other interns help shifting some dirt/mud looking for artifacts.

 

Day 7: Today we went on a field trip to Monpelier, James Madison’s old home. First we watched a short film on the history of James Madison and the property. Then we went on a tour of James Madison’s house and got to see what the house may have looked like on the inside. The house is different than what it looked like back then because they had to deconstruct the house since the duPonts (owners of the house after the Madisons) made additions to the house. The goal was to get the house to look like what it would have been during James Madison’s retirement. After the tour the director of Archaeology Matt Reeves gave us a tour of the current excavation site, where the slave houses would have been and possibly a smoke house for tobacco.

The excavation site at James Madison where the slave houses and a possible tobacco house stood.

The excavation site at James Madison where the slave houses and a possible tobacco barn stood.

Then we had a quick lunch break before we went up to see the Archaeology lab. The Archaeology lab was impressive because they had an interactive screen that had information about the site, how things are done, and what they have found so far. I really liked the pull out trays that displayed a bunch of artifacts they found, my favorite were the little toy figures. Some of us were trying to quiz ourselves with the ceramic pieces they had on display. Hopefully I will be able to remember most of them in time for our ceramics test.

A metal statue of James and Dolly Madison.

A metal statue of James and Dolly Madison.

Day 8: Today Mariana and I continued our 20th century layer and finally got to our antebellum layer! Unfortunately due to weather again we had to close early due to a storm. We found our antebellum layer because there were more rocks and the dirt had a little bit of mottling in it. We did not find much in our 20th century layer but we did find glass shards, ceramic sherds, nails, plastic, and lithic debitage. Luckily since we are just about to start our antebellum layer means we will have plenty of dirt for the public to go through and hopefully interesting artifacts to show everyone tomorrow for the 4th of July festival at Ferry Farm.

Day 9: It’s the 4th of July! Ferry Farm was very busy today due to the vendors and the public coming out to celebrate the 4th of July. We also add re-enactors come out too! My favorite was the man who played George Washington; he was really dedicated to his part and knew quite a bit about the history.

volkers figure05

Dr. Means came out too and helped/talk to the public. Since there were so many people Mariana and I got a lot of help shifting through dirt and finding artifacts. I think today was our best day for artifacts because we found: many sherds of ceramics, agate ware, a lot of nails, a sharks tooth, glass shards, lithic debitage, animal bone, and our first hair curler! Unfortunately, again, we had to pause our antebellum layer because a trench was discovered going through our unit and units around us. The trench was first discovered by Katie and Ryan (interns at Ferry Farm) and it turns out that it was a 20th century utility line. Hopefully we can get through it pretty quickly.

volkers figure06

Mariana and I’s first wig curler that has a full end.

Day 10: Today was our second full day of the week so yeah! It was really hot and humid today so we did not get a lot done today since it was so hot. Mariana and I just worked on the trench that went through our unit and luckily it didn’t go through our STP (shovel test pit), but it did get pretty close. Since the trench was 20th century we weren’t expecting to find much. We did find part of a wig curler (not an end piece so it did not count towards the total number of wig curlers), ceramic sherds, glass, and nails. Near the end of day Mariana and I did get near the end of the trench so hopefully on Tuesday we can touch up the walls and continue excavating our antebellum layer.

Our unit with the STP and the 20th century utility pipe running through it. Photo taken by Mariana Zechini.

Our unit with the STP and the 20th century utility pipe running through it.
Photo taken by Mariana Zechini.

 

From the Bottom Up: Lauren Volkers’s Week One

by Lauren Volkers, VCU student

Day 1: My first day at Ferry Farm, located in Fredericksburg, was both spectacular and very informative. To start off the day Ashley McCuiston, our TA, gave us a tour of Ferry Farm and provided a brief history on the house and surrounding land. George Washington’s boyhood home is no longer standing, but there are rock features that outline where George Washington’s house once stood. Currently there is an old house/building that is still standing that use to serve as a boy’s home for misguided boys. The idea was that if the young men could live where George Washington grew up, they would be inspired to adjust their behavior and strive to reach their goals. Today the house/building serves as a visitor’s center for Ferry Farm and houses a lab for the archaeologists. There is also a garden in the back where they are growing all sorts of vegetation and plants that the Washingtons would have been growing when they lived on the land too.

After receiving our tour and taking a brief lunch we dove, not literally, into archaeology. We were first split up into groups and met our field school crew chiefs, Ashley and Allen, that are supervising and teaching us how to properly excavate an archaeological site. My partner for the excavation is Mariana, which is really cool because we use to play soccer together so it nice to at least know someone on the first day. After that we were given our own unit and coordinates, ours is N600 and E560, and Ashley and Allen went over the paper work that we will have to fill out for every context we run into. Before we could start digging we had to write down our coordinates, context number, elevation of the soil, the size of our unit, and get a Munsell soil sample. A Munsell soil sample is taking a small sample of the soil and comparing our sample with a Munsell soil color chart to figure out what color our soil is. After all of our paperwork was filled out and all of our supplies retrieved we were finally able to start removing the topsoil. At the end of the day, we were shown how to cover up the site with black tarp and where the concrete blocks go so the tarps wouldn’t go flying at night. We also put back all of our materials in the surveyor’s shed, a small shed where we keep most of our supplies we use to dig.

Day 1: Our excavating site before we got a unit assigned to us.

Day 1: Our excavating site before we got a unit assigned to us.

Day 2: One the second day we were able to remove the topsoil, but didn’t find much besides bits of plastic and plenty of rocks. Since we finished removing the topsoil we were shown how to get our unit set up for a picture. After that we kept digging into our 20th century disturbance layer, but after a while I noticed an increase in the amounts of rocks and a change in the soil color—the soil went from a dark brown to a yellowish brown, in the south east corner of our unit. After asking Ashley and Allen they confirmed that we found our first feature and that it was a shovel test pit (STP) 513 from a previous archaeologist. After finding our feature we stopped excavating our 20th century disturbance layer and started excavating our STP since the soil and contents came from a different time. It was very interesting to learn how to excavate a feature, but it was also annoying because my partner Mariana found a glass marble that was half exposed so we were going to have to wait to take it out until we could resume our 20th century disturbance layer. We also found a nail and marking tape in the ground near our feature, which was probably left behind from a previous archaeologist.

Day 2: Mariana and I’s STP after we found it and marked its boundaries for the picture.

Day 2: Mariana and I’s STP after we found it and marked its boundaries for the picture.

As we started excavating our STP we had to be careful so we wouldn’t go outside our STP’s boundaries, since that soil is different than the soil inside. There were mostly rocks and soil inside of our STP, but we did find two nails and a ceramic sherd while screening our dirt, which was exciting. Unfortunately we had to end the day early because a storm was coming in and it surprisingly came upon us quickly, because the wind became very strong. Luckily we were able to work fast and cover our site, without injury, before the storm came in. I was very surprised that just on our second how fast we were able to cover our entire site and return everything before it got ruined by the storm. Go us!

Day 2: All of getting our stuff to leave before the storm hit and after we got all the tarps down with all of the wind.

Day 2: All of getting our stuff to leave before the storm hit and after we got all the tarps down with all of the wind.

Day 4: On Thursday we got a break from working and took a field trip to George Washington’s Birthplace in Wakefield. It was a beautiful place because it was right on the Potomac River and the view was amazing, the constant breeze was also a plus. It was really nice for Amy Muraca from the National Park Service to take time out of her day and show us around the landscape and the storing facility where they store the artifacts found on the property. We got tour of a house that was a monument to George Washington, which was funny because only two things, a table and a metal wine bottle, in the house were from George Washington’s home and the house wasn’t even modeled after the house. The supposed outline to George Washington’s birthplace house was also really odd looking, which makes you wonder if the archaeologists that excavated the site before are certain that that is the true outline of his home. After taking a tour of an old cemetery where is actually houses some of the remains of the Washington family. For lunch we ate on a beach, which was beautiful and relaxing despite all of the mosquitoes. I think my favorite part of the day was when Ashley and Dr. Means presented some 3D printed replicas to Amy Muraca—her face looked like it was Christmas morning.

Day 4: George Washington Birthplace National Monument house (Background) and a house that modeled a kitchen and slave quarters.

Day 4: George Washington Birthplace National Monument house (Background) and a house that modeled a kitchen and slave quarters.

Day 5: On Friday Mariana and I were finally able to finish our feature, but the soil at the bottom is very dark and after consulting with Laura, our Field director, could indicate a new feature or the just color of a deeper layer. We will not find out which it is however, until we get our current layer (20th century disturbance layer) down to where our STP stops. After finishing and taking a picture of our feature, we also had to map it so when looking back other archaeologist will know where exactly the STP was.

Day 5: Our finished STP!

Day 5: Our finished STP!

We then continued excavating our 20th century disturbance layer to get it down to the antebellum layer. So far Mariana and I have not found much besides: plastic, two glass marbles, ceramic sherds, small glass shards, nails, and plenty of rocks but that is expected of the 20th century layer. We also had to end early again because dark clouds were staring to roll in so hopefully next week there will be more interesting things in our antebellum layer and we will get more than one full day in the field!