Week 3: This week was intense. We dedicated our time to working at the homesite this week, really delving into understanding not only the heritage at the Du Bois homesite, but archaeological methods as well. On Monday, despite the rain, we got better acquainted with the layout of the homesite- including not just history of the site, but its soil and geological formation from 12,000 years ago. Later in the day my group conducted some resistivity, completing four lines. We were doing this to look for the kitchen and cellar foundations West of the Du Bois Great Room. Unfortunately, the rain kept us from doing any further resistivity, which I am definitely starting to better understand. On Tuesday I was working with the total station- a very meticulous device- to map an area for excavation. We mapped at E43/N37. This is an area between the middens whose surface was surveyed in 2003. They had not found artifacts on the surface, so we are mapping units to excavate in order to determine if a lack of artifacts on the surface indicates an absence of artifacts beneath it. Definitely excited to dig once these are completed! I have also been really enjoying our readings this week, especially the Paul Shackel article, “Public Memory and the Search for Power in American Historical Archaeology.” His examples in the post-Civil War era for creating a public memory at the expense of African-Americans were astounding. How this can happen through evoking nostalgia, omitting alternative pasts, and creating a sense of nationalism and patriotism is really quite scary. On Wednesday we got our units mapped out for PI20 and PI21. Also learned that PI stands for Provisional Index, as well as a wealth of additional terminology. We didn’t do any troweling, but we did do some shovel skimming, removing the surface sod. I learned a great deal in proper measurements beginning with your datum point in the SW corner, and measuring down 10 cm or until the next soil change. Professor Paynter later gave us a tour of the site, highlighting the significance of cultural heritage at the site after we have completed our excavation and interpretation. This site is going to remain and endure for others. Whether it is for an educational purpose or personal experience, one day this site is going to be as old as the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association Museum in Deerfield. There we had seen a “museum of a museum,” and it was an interesting lesson in how we depict the past, and how those perceptions of the past at the present time influence that understanding. It is imperative that we are conscious of that as we make our excavations, interpretations, and designs for the homesite. We are splitting up into site nodes next week, with half of us staying here in Great Barrington and the rest heading back to Deerfield. Although I find both interesting, I think I would like to stay at the homesite. On Thursday we were met with feisty thunderstorms, so we stayed at UMass and instead had a ceramic analysis lab. We did a lot of work with ceramics as well as glass. I find this part of post-contact archaeology fascinating. That I enjoy identifying pointy shards of glass this much is very unprecedented, but nonetheless fulfilling. We ended the week on Friday with finally doing some troweling below the surface! I worked at PI21, and we had a lot of glass. In fact, we found a small, intact bottle! It was beautiful, with a sort of beveled design, much like the molds Elena had showed us in the ceramics lab on Thursday. We didn’t even get 15 cm bpd (below point of datum) before having to pack up. I cannot wait to continue to excavate. Hopefully I am at the homesite next week and can further understand what out findings indicate for the hypotheses at the site.
Week 4: I can’t believe this week is over- it really flew by! I have been split into working with the group at the homesite. On Monday our tasks were to continue excavation at PI20 and PI21, as well as conduct some resistivity. I was moved from the artifact-rich PI21 to the root-ridden PI20. But I didn’t mind, as this gave me an opportunity to really focus on proper measurements, troweling and stratigraphic soil analysis. I also had an opportunity to shadow Professor Battle-Baptiste as she was giving public interpretation to a couple of tourists at the site. This was a great chance to see how multifaceted archaeologists need to be. We can’t only be soil experts; we need to be able to switch gears at any moment from the scientific to the social, from the historical to the contemporary. You need to be able to read profiles of the earth as well as other people. Something tells me that if you can’t embody that trait, then this isn’t the job for you. On Tuesday I did resistivity all day! We ended up getting fourteen lines done. Unfortunately we found out on Wednesday that much of the resistivity we had done hadn’t worked. Such is the reality of working the field. For Wednesday we set up our tarps and uncovered units PI20 and PI21. Chris began to explain how to properly draw soil profiles. I didn’t realize one had to draw a panoramic map of the four soil walls according to scale, but it make sense. We leveled off the pit and sidewalls to better determine soil change and horizon levels and depths. Had a discussion at lunch about Harris levels, or types of soil, and all I can say is “wow.” I think I finally grasped the three-dimensional structure of the unit. I really better understand how the paperwork details Harris levels at their own excavation level, and why we measure top depth bpd, plan bottom depth bpd and excavation top depth and bottom depth. The concept is really coming together as I continue to excavate. It’s difficult going from the 2D paperwork to a 3D unit. We were rained out yet again on Thursday, so we had another lab day. We spent the morning dusting and washing artifacts and bagging them. I learned about field lab vark tags and artifact codes. The four of us students who are in the homesite node actually got into a heated debate regarding the ethics of discarding (or throwing away) artifacts after researching them. I personally think that if you have exhausted your research and found a place for that item within it, you ought to keep it as a record or as an item of cultural significance to those groups for which your research serves. I wish we could keep everything, but if you find millions of pieces of tiny shards of metal, or glass, is there really a need for saving every single last bit? If it has been documented and there is a mutual understanding between researcher and indigenous/cultural/stakeholder group, then why keep it? Chris then showed us how to properly draw soil profiles. I can’t wait to actually draw one in the field next week. Later in the day we visited the Natural History Museum at Amherst College, which was absolutely delightful as I initially wanted to be a paleontologist and had never seen their immense collection of footprints. On Friday we were back out at the site. Instead of closing out units at PI20 and PI21, Professor Paynter had us flag the measurements of PI9 and PI5- units which were excavated in 2003. What we excavated was the backfill, as we are looking at the extent and integrity of this area. Even in the backfill, though, there were a ton of artifacts! Granted, they found thousands in 2003, so our ten or fifteen is nothing in comparison, but it’s interesting that we found some nails, glass, metal pieces and even a piece of creamware. We will continue to uncover these next week, and then hopefully map out some brand new units to excavate anomalies found from resistivity. I cannot believe there is only one week left and then presentations!