CAP 2017: Week 3 and 4

Last week, we dealt with horrible humidity and soaring temperatures. This week, we start off strong with a new weather predicament: heavy rain. During the weekend, the East Lansing area experienced some decent downfall. The result of this was a nice-sized swimming pool in our units. Okay, it may not have been that bad, but it was the first time we had to use buckets to gather up the water and dump it out else wear. But hey, at least we had some tasty drinking water for the day!

The other side-effect from the rain was that the soil in our units was much more damp than usual. Even after skimming off the top layer of our unit, the soil was still much higher in moisture content than usual. This resulted in soil that deformed with every step or knee, which made it pretty difficult to level out the floor of the level. However, today, Tuesday the 20th of June, provided near-perfect weather. The sun was not too harsh, but it helped to dry out the soil, which made it far easier to deal with.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

With regards to the unit KP and I work in, we have some interesting developments. Firstly, the “feature” that we found is much larger than we could have imagined. So, it was decided that we close up shop and continue on as though the burn layer full of coal and nails is its own strata. This was mainly done because treating it as a feature would be unwise due to the sheer size of it. The fact that it was filled with so much cultural material does indicate something interesting, but we have to move on and see what is further below before we make a decision as to what it could have been.

Secondly, as we reach the bottom of the 5th level, was have come across some very large rocks all throughout the Eastern half. Although we have not dug down deep, my speculation is that the rocks could have been placed there to control the flow of water, as in, keep water out or in. Only time will tell as my squadmate and I continue to dig deep beneath the surface of the Earth (about half a meter.)

Stone wall along Unit A's western boarder.

Stone wall along Unit A’s western boarder.

Some exciting news, however, is that all of the active units have human-made walls in them. Yay! Unit B is slightly different though. Other than my own Unit A and the newly opened unit D, Unit C’s structure/wall is of a different composition. While the walls in Unit C are composed of large stones and plaster, Unit C’s wall seems to be made up of cement, which may indicate that it was once a sidewalk or cement lintel. Digging deeper may give us the answer. Let’s go DQ and CD!

On one last note, I would like to say this. Working in the pit, soft soil or not, can be pretty tiring on the body. I find that my knees are week and my arms are heavy. There’s sweat on my shirt already, and I’m as weak as spaghetti. Above the surface, I looked calm and ready, but in the pit I’m drained and unsteady. So, for anyone who thinks archaeology is just fun in the dirt, it isn’t. It’s both fun AND taxing on the body. So please, for the love of all that is holy, stretch so that your knees don’t explode. At least, that’s what I’m going to do.

CAP 2017: Week 3

Hot Weather and New finds.

This past week has had the most unbearable weather so far, but overall, the learning process at CAP 2017 Field School is still continuing! Although I probably differ from my peers, I find that the most difficult thing about this project is not dealing with the weather and the environment, but learning new processes, such as mapping, can be the most time-consuming. However, once the process is learned, future applications of that process tends to be done smoothly and more quickly.

As my “squadmate”, Kaleigh Perry, noted in her most recent blog, much of our time at the end of last week and this week has been spent excavating the Field School’s first feature, Fea 1A. We are almost done with that and we will then move onto the next layer. Oh joy! A quick summary of the feature is that it contains a gigantic amount of cultural deposits, such as coal and nails, and the high frequency of roots that pass the feature could indicate that the deposit was filled in slowly and naturally over time.

Knob and Tube Wiring

However, besides talking about the current state of the field school, I also wanted to discuss one of our more notable finds, which was the ceramic tube found in our unit’s first layer. Knob and tube wiring was used in “old school” electrical wiring in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but more specifically, the tubes were used to pass wires safely though beams, such as wood, to avoid electrical and thermal damage to the surroundings (Myers 2010).

Thomas ceramic insulator from Unit A.

Thomas ceramic insulator from Unit A.

At the digestion of this sweet and tasty (and very simple) knowledge, most people may think, “Cool. You found a nasty old ceramic tube used in outdated electrical wiring.” Although they are partially right, they would be missing the real meat of the knowledge sandwich, which is that you can use the ceramic tube to date an area! Ceramic tubes followed specific styles of their time, and not only that, but they also contained makers’ marks as well, both of which can be cross-referenced to give an idea as to what time period the tube, and potentially, a building, came from (Myers 2010).

And this, right here, what I just told you about dating, is one of the reasons why archaeology and anthropology is so important. Everyday items used by populations in the past can provide us with a massive insight as to what those people were doing and also when they were doing it. Thousands of years into the future, future societies could be able to date areas or buildings by which iteration of an Apple I-phones are in an area. So, the same dating processes that work in the past and present will always stand the passage of time, and will always aid archaeologist in uncovering what shenanigans people in the past were engaged in.

 

References

Adrian Myers. “Telling Time for the Electrified: An Introduction to Porcelain Insulators and the Electrification of the American Home” Society for Historical Archaeology Technical Briefs in Historical Archaeology 5 (2010): 31-42.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/adrianmyers/4

Campus Archaeology: Week One.

Week One: First Impressions, Dirty Digging, and Tired Bodies.

Josh & Kaleigh dig a guide hole in their unit.

Josh & Kaleigh dig a guide hole in their unit.

Well, it’s Tuesday, June 6. After Completing week one and working towards defeating week two, I can safely say that working for the field school has been pretty great so far. We started off our excavation by setting up a 2 meter x 2 meter guideline. Then, we dug guide holes into each corner of our unit and also in the center, which was supposed to be approximately 10cm down. After that, we shovel-skimmed the surface until we were 10cm down into the unit. Of course, this process has had its complications, but at the end of the first week me and fellow squad mate, Kaleigh Perry, have completed the first level.

Level 1 Artifacts/Debris.

Although we have not dug deep beneath the surface of the Earth, we have found plenty of items. The most common objects are nails and shattered glass. It goes without saying that the nails we find are incredibly rusty and sometimes are almost unidentifiable. Also, coal is plentiful. From small chunks to big chunks, KP and I and the other classmates have found plenty of coal. Not every item we found has been a nail or piece of glass though. Some of the noticeably distinct items found have been a four-hole button, ceramic tubing for electrical wiring, some decorated glazed ceramic pieces, and a fragment of a Diamond Ink Co. bottle. More information on some of these items to come, but if you want to read about the ink bottle fragment, my more initiated partner, KP, wrote about it in her first blog post here.

Overall Observations.

With regards to the artifacts and debris we have found thus far, there have been some noticeable patterns. Firstly, much of the glass and nails have been found near the Station Terrace wall that runs along the West wall of our unit. The nails/glass being found mostly in this area supports the evidence that construction and deconstruction of a building has been performed in this area. If these items were found in similar numbers in other areas of our unit, it could suggest the presence of another wall or that the building covered the area, but that currently is not the case.

In addition to the pattern of nail and glass fragments, some soil patterns exist as well. Based off of a prior excavation, the wall should continue to run South, past the current spot where it ends, which is a meter down our West wall. However, the soil changes from a dark color to a much lighter and tan color once we reach the “end” of the wall in our unit. We aren’t sure what this means, but its presence with the placement of the wall may be of importance, and naturally has been written down in our handy-dandy field notes.

Conclusions

Overall, the entire process of excavating is methodological, systematic, and most importantly, it’s a learning process. We are all new to the game and are learning a massive amount of this process, and even though my body is tired and I have a terrible sunburn on my hairline, I love putting my trowel into the ground and gettin’ dirty.