by Mariana Zechini, VCU Student
The last week of field school was bittersweet. On Monday, VCU students met in Colonial Williamsburg to tour the site, talk to archaeologists and meet with Emily Williams, the Conservator of Archaeological Materials. We met in Williamsburg around 9:30 and immediately headed over to two areas where archaeologists are currently digging. The first site is located at Market Square and run by Meredith Poole and Andrew Edwards. A Virtual Curation Laboratory intern and recent graduate of VCU, Crystal Castleberry, is interning at Colonial Williamsburg and specifically working on the Bray school site where she talked us through what is going on there. The Bray School was a school for enslaved children in the 18th century and excavations are currently being done in the yard.
Afterwards, Emily Williams gave a presentation on conservators, their role and why they are important. Conservation has always been interesting to me, especially after working with the 3D scanner at the Virtual Curation Laboratory but I never fully understood the amount of work that goes into preserving artifacts! Emily Williams talked to us about the academic background that an archaeological conservator needs as well as to interpret and protect artifacts so that they will be around for future generations to study.
On Tuesday, Lauren and I spent the day in the lab at Ferry Farm. Every Tuesday, one group went into the lab to learn about procedures done once artifacts have been recovered. Lauren and I were the last group to visit the lab and I was interested to see the differences in laboratory procedures from Fairfax County’s Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch, where I have been working all summer. Lauren and I spent the morning washing artifacts and practicing for our ceramics test. In the afternoon we bagged labeled artifacts. I enjoyed the labeling process because it is something that I had never done before.
Wednesday we were finally back in the field after a four day break. Lauren and I had left our lovely unit at the colonial layer and weren’t finding many artifacts. We spent the day shoveling through our colonial and transitional layers with zero artifacts being recovered. Fortunately, this meant that we had completed our second unit! We were thrilled that we were able to finish the unit before the end of field school.
Thursday morning was spent profiling units, which is something I had never done before. Profiling is a great way to hone your stratigraphy skills because it allows you to see a vertical representation of each layer. In the afternoon, Dr. Means took us to Dovetail, a cultural resource group located minutes from Ferry Farm. There, we met with Kerry González, their Lab Manager, who showed us laboratory procedures that take place there, as well as hundreds of ceramics recovered from a kiln site down the road from University of Mary Washington. This was very interesting because the Virtual Curation Laboratory has scanned some of the kiln furniture recovered from the same exact site!
Friday was, sadly, the last day of field school. We started the morning off with our ceramics test and then Lauren and I spent the rest of the morning writing unit summaries for the two units that we excavated. During lunch, field school students went down to the river to throw rocks across it, as per tradition. No one made it all the way across but it was very fun nonetheless!
Friday afternoon, Vivian and I had the opportunity to map the 10 ft x 30 ft area that field school students had excavated over the five weeks at Ferry Farm. I was very excited because I hadn’t expected to be able to learn about the mapping process and I wanted to learn all about the procedures done after a unit has been excavated, including profiling, report writing and mapping. Vivian and I finished mapping about four units before closing the site.
As per tradition, the four remaining field school students signed the toolbox at the end of the day.
I can’t express in words how much I value my time at Ferry Farm. Field school was an amazing opportunity and experience where I was able to connect with peers and professionals through archaeology. Goodbye for now, Ferry Farm!