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.

 

Field school burned hot: Ruth Martin’s Week 4

by Ruth Martin, VCU student

The round piece of metal, probably a washer.

The round piece of metal, probably a washer.

The fourth week of field school burned hot. On Monday, Ryan and I started our antebellum layer. We found a lot of artifacts.  Which consisted of a ton of nails, some ceramic shards, and cool pieces of metal. The most notable among the metal bits were a backing that most likely belonged to a button, a huge flat piece that was part of a can, and flat circular piece with a square cut in the center. At first glance this piece looks similar to a Chinese coin, however, tit is instead probably a washer or some early version of one.

 

Nails!

Nails!

Piece of metal; the rim suggests it was part of a can.

Piece of metal; the rim suggests it was part of a can.

 

             By the end of the day Ryan and I had dug out most of the antebellum layer and were flattening/cleaning up our unit for the transition to the colonial layer.

On Tuesday, it was time for Stephanie and I to go to the lab. I enjoyed my time in the lab. It was a nice change of pace. In the morning Stephanie and I were taught how to clean artifacts with a toothbrush. we were shown into a washing room with a big glass window, this was so visitors could watch us clean the artifacts. Occasionally visitors would walk by and if they were interested in what we were cleaning, we held up some of our more interesting washed artifacts, such as a cassette tape! Later we tried our hand at labeling. This task was not as hard as I previously had imagined. Though I had assumed that we would be required to write the tiny labels. Instead we used pre-printed labels.

The next day, after our lab adventure, all the field students spent Wednesday in Washington DC. In the morning we explored the zoo. During lunch we signed into a huge glass building. While there Dr. Ruth Trocolli gave an amazing presentation on the GIS program.

The rest of the week was spent out in the field. While I was in the lab and in D.C., Ryan finished leveling our unit, changed contexts, and went through some of the colonial layer. Ryan and I finished the colonial layer and are working through the transitional subsoil layer. Friday morning I found a feature and excavated it. This feature was most likely a plant because it was shallow and irregular in shape.

We didn’t find any wig curlers, but may have found a boundary since the unit to the west of us didn’t find any either. So hopefully we’ll get the unit done by Tuesday or Wednesday.

 

Making fantastic progress: Stephanie King’s Week 4

by Stephanie King, VCU alumnus

Our warmest week yet! And also my busiest. My partner Olivia and I started our new unit and blew through the topsoil layer while still making decent progress on the 20th century. We didn’t find anything terribly exciting, save for a dilapidated plastic horse/camel/cow toy.

Bones and teeth in the lab.

Bones and teeth in the lab.

On Tuesday, my former partner Ruth joined me in Ferry Farm’s lab to clean and label artifacts (mostly brick and mortar with a few ceramic sherds, glass, teeth, and small bones). I decided then that lab work was nice, but only about once a week or so. While cleaning artifacts in an air-conditioned lab has its perks, there’s something more satisfying about pulling those artifacts out of the soil yourself. It is easy to forget, however, that different facilities have different methods for cleaning artifacts depending on their needs.

Amethyst in dinosaur bone.

Amethyst in dinosaur bone.

Our trip to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday was my favorite of our field trips so far. I had never taken the commuter train before, and the trip to the middle of D.C. was really quite easy from there. We stopped at the National Zoo, just because, and I finally got a decent hat. From there, we met with Ruth Tricolli, the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO, or “Shippo”) out of D.C. She gave a presentation outlining the importance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications in archaeology, such as mapping the precise locations of identified sites and determining the Area of Potential Effects (APE) of large-scale construction projects or excavation. She also shared information about opportunities in the field, which is particularly important given why most of us are in field school. The rest of our trip was spent at the National Museum of Natural History, where I pretty much wandered off and looked at the Smithsonian’s rock and mineral collection and mammalian skeletal collection for a few hours.

Scarlet macaw

Scarlet macaw

Olivia and I spent the last two days of the week identifying and excavating a 20th-century utility trench that spans our unit. The final trench ended up being a good foot wide and a few feet deep, and gave up few exciting artifacts, a minor disappointment to my partner — the unit just north of us had plenty to offer out of its trench, 20th century or not. By Friday, we were able to just start our Antebellum (now on either side of the trench), which had plenty to offer from the get-go. We ended Friday by finding a fair sized piece of Chinese imported porcelain with a floral decoration. We are making fantastic progress, and I’m confident we’ll see the bottom of this unit before the school ends.

Porcelain vessel fragment!

Porcelain vessel fragment!

With the prospect of the antebellum layer less than inches away: Vivian Hite’s Week 4

by Vivian Hite, VCU student

Day 1:

Monday morning we set off for the field knowing we would finish our first unit.  After some leveling out and smoothing we were ready for our picture.  Once we closed the context of our very first unit we were ready to move on to unit number two.  Located directly across from our original unit, we got straight to work.  With the sweltering heat and dry ground it made for a very difficult top soil layer.  As we dug and screened we realized that this was in fact our least favorite layer.  Nothing but roots to try and dig out and plastic pieces, the top soil only showed the great future for the following day.

Day 2:

On Tuesday we began our 20th Century layer.  We decided that we would try and complete a layer a day.  We felt that setting these goals would help us stay motivated during the heat and ensure that we complete our second unit before the end of the field school.  Even with the prospect of the antebellum layer less than inches away, the 20th Century took us an excruciatingly long time to get through.  Aside from gum and gum wrappers, nails, and plastic the layer lacked excitement. Luckily we stuck with our goal and managed to finish the 20th Century knowing that when we came back to the field on Thursday we would be getting to the antebellum layer, my favorite.

Day 3:

Early Wednesday morning we set off for the train station to take us to DC.  I had never been on a train before and the commuter chaos and ticket system got the best of me.  After validating my card twice we boarded the train and got ready for the excursion.  Once we arrived at DC we hopped right on the metro and headed straight for the zoo.  Once we entered the zoo we split ways and moved around the zoo.  In my group we visited the elephant, the pandas, gorillas, and ended at the Amazon.  After realizing we were 15 minutes away from our meeting location but due to arrive in 10, we darted to the entrance.  Jumping back on the metro and skipping lines we arrived at our true destination.

Riding the VRE!

Riding the VRE!

We met up with archaeologist Ruth Trocolli and her colleagues.  She presented on GIS and the archaeology that has been and is currently being done in DC.  The lecture was great in that it put our lessons from methods into perspective and showed them in practice.  It all began to come together as things had been doing throughout the past few weeks.  Lectures and notes, powerpoints and readings all were flooding back and colliding to produce a completed puzzle of information.

Day 4:

Thursday began with our antebellum layer.  An hour into digging and everyone was already feeling the heat.  We worked as diligently as we could, but it was no surprise that we were all hiding under the magnolia tree screening every chance we got.  Prior to lunch Francesca was graced with a wig curler while shoveling through our early antebellum.  The day also provided glass fragments, a wide variety of ceramics, and an abundance of nails.  34 to be exact.  As the day wore on the heat got the better of me and I became a little loopy.  After being sprayed down with a water hose and forced to drink bottles of water, it was back to the dirt.

Francesca with her wig hair curler.

Francesca with her wig hair curler.

Day 5:

Despite the heat, we were able to finish the antebellum layer on Thursday and we’re ready to begin the colonial bright and early Friday morning.  The ground was so dry that it was difficult to see the change in soil color.  It all appeared grey and brittle.  One swipe of a trowel and you could glimpse it.  The orange like clay.  But just as soon as you could see it, the soil became dry and grey yet again.  Compared to our past unit, the colonial layer in this unit actually contained artifacts.  Sherds of ceramics, glass, and nails came out of the earth.   Later in the day the heat got to Francesca and an hour away from closing, we went into the lab to beat the heat.  Knowing that we wouldn’t finish the unit today was okay only because Tuesday was right around the corner and so was the end of our second unit.

A hot day!

A hot day!

Into the Cement Jungle: Olivia McCarty’s Week 4

by Olivia McCarty, VCU Student

Week four marked the start of my partner’s and my second unit, blistering hot weather, and two fieldtrips to Washington D.C.

The first fieldtrip of the week was on Saturday with Mary Doering, who invited us up to look at her fascinating collection of 18th and 19th century clothing. It was amazing to see all the work that went into making just one of these garments, and while I don’t think I will ever be lucky enough to find a whole garment while excavating, our group was able to take a look at a variety of buckles, buttons, and other fasteners that we may well find in our excavation of Ferry Farm, so here is hoping to that there are many of these small finds hidden within my new unit.

Monday began with my partner Stephanie King and I immediately getting assigned our new unit and for rest of the day we began to work our way through the topsoil. Stephanie had the pleasure of discovering a child’s plastic toy animal along with many other artifacts as well. By the end of the day we had already finished our topsoil and were getting ready to move onto the 20th century. It is interesting to see how much faster we are going through this unit when compared to the beginning of field school when it took my group of three people two day to get through the topsoil then. I am starting to feel like I am really getting the hang of everything now and don’t have to bother the interns nearly as much as I used to.

I was being put to the test the very next day, as I was excavating on my own, as my partner had to go work in the lab. Now everything was on me and I didn’t have a partner to help remind me if I forgot about something!  I was a little hesitant at first but I soon realized that nothing was really changing, the only thing I had to worry about was working hard because I didn’t want my partner and I getting too far behind the other groups. As I toiled away in the 20th century layer I got to see some very interesting artifacts; including some ceramic sherds that I was actually able to identify because of our ceramics lecture. The sherd I liked the best was a piece of white ware that had a black floral transfer print on it. Though I didn’t reach my goal of completing the 20th century layer by the end of the day I was close to the end and only needed to do a final scrapping to smooth some of the lumps out and I would be ready to go.

Stephanie holding the plastic toy she found

Stephanie holding the plastic toy she found

However the 20th century would have to wait, as the next day we had another fieldtrip to Washington D.C. Instead of driving up there this time we decided to take the commuter train and metro to get around. This was exciting for my roommate Vivian, who had never taken the train or metro before. After public transportation dropped us off in D.C. our first stop was the zoo! I had not been to the D.C. zoo since I was six and enjoyed wondering around it immensely, however most of the outside animals were much smarted then us and were hiding in shady places as it was a very hot day. I took full advantage of the misting stations that the zoo has around its walkways, and my group even got to get our feet wet at the sea lion and seals exhibit to try and beat the heat.

After spending the morning communing with the wild animals, we journeyed into the cement jungle at noon to meet up with D.C. archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, who gave us an informative lecture on GIS, and how it is implemented. She also passed around some interesting playing cards that had archaeology information on them. Once our lecture was over we raced over to the Natural history museum and explored their “written in bone” exhibit, which was fascinating for me having just taken human osteology in the fall. The zoo, lecture, and museum left us all pretty tired and we soon headed back to Fredericksburg to prepare for another day of excavating.

A great caption on one of the playing cards Dr. Trocolli passed around

A great caption on one of the playing cards Dr. Trocolli passed around.

Thursday was the beginning of another very hot day, and now that I had my partner back we got straight to work evening out our unit. As we worked on smoothing everything out we also were confronted with the top of a feature, the 20th century utility trench that runs through most of our field school units. After getting a picture of our unit we were ready to begin excavating the trench. Dr. Means stopped by to give us some pointers, explaining that it was okay to put some force behind our shovel when we dug, and showing us how it was done. The trench kept us busy for the rest of the day, with very few artifacts being found.

: Lauren and Mariana trying to beat the heat by jumping through the sprinkler

: Lauren and Mariana trying to beat the heat by jumping through the sprinkler.

Friday morning we got right back to the trench and after working for a while and doing a fresh scraping of the walls of our trench we were done. With the completion of the trench we also got to measure it and found that we had removed more than a foot of dirt from it! After all that hard work we still have more to work on and we quickly moved onto the antebellum layer. Though we were able to make a decent dent in it we still have some ways to go before we hit the colonial layer. My goal for the last week of field school is to make sure that I hit the colonial layer and finish it out so that the unit will be completed before the field season is over.

Me standing proudly in our utility trench

Me standing proudly in our utility trench

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Week, New Unit: Mariana Zechini’s Week 4

by Mariana Zechini, VCU student

This week, Lauren and I completed our first unit and began digging our second unit directly east of our first one. I was excited to move on to a different unit and see what we would find. We knew that we would encounter part of Feature 13, a modern utility trench that runs through the site, but that didn’t hinder my excitement for some new soil!

Monday was spent changing units and removing the topsoil. Tuesday was spent excavating our 20th century disturbance layer, which provided various interesting artifacts. This layer yielded one wig curler fragment, ceramics, one pipe stem, glass and a clay marble.

On Wednesday, we took a field trip to DC to visit some animals at the zoo, and more importantly, listen to a lecture on GIS and the archaeology going on in Washington, DC from Dr. Ruth Tricolli, the archaeologist for DC’s Historic Preservation Office. She discussed the importance of GIS knowledge and what is being done in the District of Colombia using this technology. She showed us several maps of the types of archaeology being done in the city and where, as well as how she and her staff have been able to locate former streams or man-made land in the area.

A funky meerkat in the small mammals building.

A funky meerkat in the small mammals building.

 

After our visit with Dr. Tricolli, field school students headed for the National Museum of Natural History to see the Written in Bone exhibit. Being from Northern Virginia, I have visited this museum a number of times and I love it more each time. I am especially interested in the Written in Bone and Human Origins exhibits that were completed within the past few years. The Written in Bone exhibit, housed on the second floor of the museum, outlines the hardships that colonists faced in the Chesapeake area during the 17th century by studying skeletal and cultural remains. I have a strong interest in bones and so it is very inspiring to see this collection, as well as the Human Origins exhibit, which describes the life and anatomy of our early human ancestors.

Hanging out with the sea lions.

Hanging out with the sea lions.

On Thursday morning, we arrived at our unit and noticed that one area had dried out significantly more than the other, which indicated that we had reached the top of our utility trench. Lauren and I quickly dug through the trench, which spanned the length of our west wall and moved on to our antebellum layer by lunch. We were excited to excavate the antebellum layer since our 20th century layer had yielded so many interesting artifacts. We found one wig curler, white salt glazed stoneware, American stoneware, various metal pieces, nails, glass and lithic debitage.

 

One of two wig curlers found this week!

One of two wig curlers found this week!

Friday morning we rushed to get two wheelbarrows full of soil so that children from Ferry Farm’s archaeology camp could help us screen. Three very intelligent campers helped me screen one wheelbarrow where they found brick, oyster shell, ceramics and lithic debitage! We moved on to our colonial layer, but we are not finding many more artifacts. Hopefully we will be able to complete this unit by the end of next week!

 

 Our unit as of Thursday afternoon

Our unit as of Thursday afternoon.

 

Into the antebellum (again)! Francesca Chesler’s Week 4

By Francesca Chesler, VCU student

The first day of week four began with the excavation of our new unit with the coordinates N 595 E 560. We worked hard to get through the topsoil layer and into the 20th century. The most difficult part about this was beating the heat, which made it difficult to see the change in soil color and slowed down my progress in excavating the unit because of the constant, but necessary water breaks. By the end of Monday, we reached the 20th century.

Tuesday began with finishing the 20th century and slowly reaching the antebellum layer. Our previously excavated unit had a very large antebellum layer and a utility trench, so I didn’t know what to expect. At the end of the day we stopped finding plastic, which indicated the beginning on the antebellum layer. I also found part of a wig curler this day, but it was too small to be considered an entire wig curler.

Top of the Antebellum layer on Tuesday.

Top of the Antebellum layer on Tuesday.

Part of the wig curler found on Tuesday.

Part of the wig curler found on Tuesday.

On Wednesday we went on a field trip to Washington D.C. Our day began bright and early with a walk to the train station, and we started the morning with a trip to the National Zoo! While not really related to archaeology, it was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed seeing the various animals, especially the various large cats in the zoo.

A group photo at the zoo.

A group photo at the zoo.

After the zoo, we got a brief lecture from Ruth Troccoli, about career opportunities in the field archaeology. Dr. Troccoli is the archaeologist for the Historic Preservation Office in D.C. and kindly shared her knowledge and work with our class. I was very excited to hear about internship opportunities, one which I will be taking advantage of in the near future. We ended the day with a trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. While there were large crowds, I saw nearly every exhibition and particularly enjoyed the “Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt” exhibit. As a child I was obsessed with ancient Egypt, especially the mummification process and the elaborate burial rituals associated with the pharaohs and other wealthy people of ancient Egypt, an interest which sparked my love for anthropology at a young age. As we boarded the train back to Fredericksburg, I began to think about the rest of the week’s excavations and what would be found.

Thursday was my favorite day of field school so far. My partner and I began shoveling vigorously into our unit, anxious to make up for lost time during the field trip. Since we were in the antebellum layer, where many people have found wig curlers previously, I began to carefully scrutinize the unit and noticed many small ceramic sherds and rocks which looked like wig curlers, much to the vexation of my partner who advised me to not pick up everything, as we would be screening all the dirt later. While teamwork is a good thing, sometimes you have to stick to your gut and scrutinize everything, even if it takes more time. After about an hour or so of shoveling, I noticed a round brown object a few inches away from my shovel and unsurprisingly, picked it up. Luckily, it was a wig curler! I was so happy and lucky to have finally found one. Until this point, I was doubting my abilities but finding a wig curler helped boost my confidence in my skills as a field student and future archaeologist.

Posing with the wig curler.

Posing with the wig curler.

Close­up shot of the wig curler, with the maker’s mark.

Close­up shot of the wig curler, with the maker’s mark.

Friday was hottest day of the week, and I immediately began sweating as soon as I stepped outside. On this day I felt like I was working twice as slowly because of the heat, but I was wrong as we eventually reached the colonial layer and began shoveling our way into subsoil. I tried my best to deal with the unusually hot and humid weather by drinking a lot of water and applying lots of sunblock, but the heat eventually got to me and I started seeing purple spots and feeling dizzy. Luckily, there is lots of work to be done at Ferry Farm and I got to spend the last hal f­hour of the day sorting paperwork in the nice, air­conditioned lab with my partner, who was so kind to join me inside when she easily could have stayed outside and finished the unit by herself. I am very thankful that I will get to finish the unit with my partner and look forward to the final week of field school!