Thursday, May 17, 2007

By Evan Heiser

The smoke has seemed to clear finally from the extensive burning of forest fires along the eastern part of Florida and in southern Georgia. The weather has not been too bad considering it is late spring in Florida. The temperatures have reached the mid to upper 80's but we work under shade for the most part, so it is rather comfortable being outside. There are ten students and two primary instructors who teach and overlook our progress.

We continued shovel testing today and will probably be doing so for the next couple of weeks(pictured to right). Michael and I finished up our first pit this morning with the assistance of Andrea White. Andrea told us to dig down to 50cm since our last finds were in the third level, approximately 20-30cm below ground level. Michael proceeded to shovel, pick, and scrape the test pit with multiple tools. Our test pit consisted of rather hard clay from about 19cm down to 50cm. I sifted soil, which was not an easy task. I used my bare hand and trowel to screen the material through the webbed metal mesh. We did not encounter anymore artifacts in the final 20cm and thus determined that the test pit was culturally sterile. "Culturally sterile" means that the pit is devoid of any human artifacts from what we can practically determine.

Andrea assisted us in filling out our first field form. The Munsell soil type test was an interesting aspect of the recording process. Munsell soil types are a way for archaeologists to communicate about the color and consistency of differing strata. We matched three layers from our test pit to a book comprised of many soil color chips. The book itself costs over a hundred dollars and is remarkably exact in identifying different types of soil. We then back-filled our hole with the soil we had sifted and prepared to move on to our next shovel testing pit.

Michael and I moved to our next point, which was located at N5000m and E4970m. These coordinates are an easy way for archaeologists to determine where our test pit is located in relation to a datum. This datum is critical in determining coordinates across the site. The datum is set at N5000m and E5000m. The first number is Northing 5000 meters and the second is Easting 5000 meters. This means that we shovel tested at a pit which was 30 meters to the west of the datum but along the same line referencing north. As one can see, shovel testing pits are determined my adding or subtracting values from the datum.

I began digging and quickly found an oak root only a few centimeters below the surface. The root was running right through our test pit, so Michael and I made an executive decision to remove it. I first cleared out the dirt from around it and Michael went at the sides with a mini-machete. This tool is very useful for clearing brush and I was surprised it could handle a root 6cm in diameter (pictured to left). Michael cleared the root and then we proceeded to dig some more. We soon came to a smaller root but with only a couple of snips from the loppers, we had that obstruction cleared. We continued down and uncovered an old door hinge in the northwest corner of the site. We consulted Bureau archaeologist Louis Tesar about the find. He told us to carefully remove the surrounding dirt so we could view it at the same level as everything else. We did this, which slowed our progress quite a bit, considering we had to dig hard and dense clay with only hand trowels.

A door hinge was the largest find Michael and I have had so far, but we also uncovered numerous pieces of glass and nails. The clay turned a mottled color and we consulted a couple of more experienced field crew, Michelle and Moe, graduate assistants for the project. They took a break from surveying with the total station and determined that we had evidence of burning noted by the charcoal flecking mixed with hardened clay.

Another interesting observation of our test pit is the disturbance of the soil, which we could tell by the mottled soil and unusual order of the artifacts. We concluded digging at about 3pm and headed inside to have a brief lecture on lithics. We wrapped up the day with a discussion on how stone artifacts are made and even went into spear throwers, which the natives used. Tomorrow we should wrap up our second pit; others will continue to plot points, and Andrea and Mary will put our noses to the grindstone.