Thursday, May 24, 2007

By Evan Heiser

Today we started our second to last day of shovel testing. Next week we will open up a few excavation units from existing shovel testing pits. These units will be significantly larger than our shovel test pits which are only 50cm x 50cm (about 1.5 x 1.5 feet). The larger units will most likely be one meter by two meters (3 x 6 feet). This size will enable us to actually get into the unit and excavate whereas our shovel testing pits are just too small. We should have more leverage with the shovel and other tools which will make digging much e
asier. Michael and I opened up a new hole which is located at N5040 E5040. This pit is located on the northeast side of the property in the woods near our neighbor's backyard. Before actually starting excavation, we had to clear away the modern trash on the surface. A lot of ivy covers the ground, so we took a shovel and cleared the top layer away from our testing pit so that we were not sitting in vegetation. We were careful not to walk into poison ivy. Michael started digging while I sifted through materials. The top couple of soil layers, about 20cm (8 inches), was fairly easy to dig through since the dirt was a silty loam, conducive to vegetative growth. Our finds for the first layer consisted of a modern nail and staple, many small pieces of charcoal, a modern piece of ceramic, and a few pottery sherds. Our second layer was the most exciting given it produced our most interesting artifact yet uncovered.

At about 18-20cm below surface I ran across a point while sif
ting through the subsoil. My first reaction was one of denial but I soon realized how cool the find was. Michael immediately took the point around to the other members of our field school to show it off. Everyone seemed to like the find. Louis Tesar came over to analyze it and said the point can range in date from 1650-1820 and belonged to the Mississippian culture. The point was made from a type of chert which is located along a creek bed in Alabama. The point is 2.2cm in width at the base and 3.6cm in length. It has color gradations which range from dark yellow, medium brown, and medium orange. The point may have been located at the layer that Native Americans lived on. I have never personally found anything like it. The feelings associated with it are kind of strange. A part of me wanted to hang onto the point so I could continue to look at it and rub it, but that is obviously not the ethical thing to do. By keeping it with the collection, Archaeologists can learn far more about the past by studying the point and the associated artifacts and soil deposits. There is just something strange about handling an artifact which was made a few hundred years ago by someone who really needed it. Touching the surface and looking at all the flakes really allowed me to understand the how skilled the workers must have been. Touching the point brought me back in time for a few minutes. Michael and I dug down another three layers to 50cm (20 inches) below the surface. In layers three and four we found a few artifacts which consisted of pottery sherds and fired clay accretions. We ended the day by recording the stratigraphic layers of our testing pit and then backfilling it. Tomorrow we should move onto another pit located in the woods on the southwest side of the property.

Earlier in the morning Andrea called us over to take a gander at Michelle and Mercedes' hole which was located only 10 meters south of ours. While digging they ran into a possible feature only about 25cm (10 inches) down. The feature covered about 70% of their excavation unit and ran from the south wall to the north wall. It was partially covered by a large root in the southeast corner of the unit. The feature resembled hardened clay and contained charcoal flecking in it. The flecking has been a common theme throughout several pits and should be indicative of past areas of pottery production or living spaces. Juan, Erin, Paul, and Samantha have continued working on their test pits but I don't think they have come across anything out of the ordinary. Towards the end of the day Moe and Jennifer left their hole to shoot some more points with the total station. The total station is a very expensive EDM (electronic distance measuring device) surveyors and archaeologists use to plot points from our datum. Moe would shot points while Jennifer balanced the rod housing three prisms responsible for receiving the laser from the total station. Andrea cleared the area of brush so that the laser would not be obstructed. Tomorrow should be our last day of shovel testing and then next week we will move onto larger units.