Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We love getting out in the dirt, so when Clay County teacher Cindy Cheatwood recently proposed that we revisit excavation with students and we jumped at the chance!  We got our plans, partnerships, and paperwork in order and met her and Middleburg High School students on a Saturday in early December. 

We chose to revisit a site out on Black Creek that had been the target of some similar excavations last year.  We visited a few days beforehand to plan our dig, and were thrilled to see signs posted to enforce Clay County's preservation ordinance!  We love seeing site protection in action.

Jennifer and Amber lay out the first of two 1x1m units.

On the day of the dig one of our favorite volunteers, Jennifer, joined us to help with the kids. We decided to open up two units to the east of the original trenches. The plan was to further explore the brick feature, possibly some kind of pathway, to get a better understanding of why it was placed there. (For more on what we found out during the first investigation visit this previous blog entry.) We also wanted to find out how the brick structure held up as it progressed along the roadside, and whether it changed at all in thickness or form.

Sarah briefs students on the history and archaeology of the site.

We were so pleased that so many students came out on a Saturday morning (!), braving a threat of rain.  Some even brought along younger siblings.  After a quick sign-in and orientation our participants broke into four groups, which rotated through four stations before the day was out. 

Students excavate and screen for artifacts with Jen Knutson.

Two of the stations gave students an opportunity to excavate units with trowels and brushes and to screen for artifacts. 

The adage, "Many hands make light work" certainly holds true here!

Kevin Hooper explores local history with the students.

 The third station combined a history talk by local historian Kevin Hooper and a visit to the Middleburg Historical Museum.

Students gently wash and sort artifacts as David offers support.

At the final station, the kids got to do some of the unglamourous but very important work that archaeologists carry out: they washed, sorted, and re-bagged artifacts under the watchful eye of new FPAN intern David Underwood.

We love working with students--my favorite moment of the day came after a conversation with a student who hadn't been very involved.  He was in charge of labeling artifact bags at one dig station, and when I encouraged him to try digging, he hesitated. "I have a party to go to later on."  He was dressed in khaki slacks and a button-down shirt, and didn't want to get dirty.  I suggested that he just crouch, staying planted on both feet, and try digging.  He agreed to give it a shot.  Several minutes later, a staff member from the school pointed out that he was now kneeling, and likely to get his pants muddy.  Hardly looking up from his trowel, he replied, "It's not THAT fancy of a party."  We may have a burgeoning archaeologist on our hands.

As for the units themselves, we did find more of the brick feature.  Whether it's a single path or there is another course of bricks is still unclear.  However, it appears to be consistent in width and construction, and was once traced by a strand of barbed wire.  We're unsure whether we'll be back out with another batch of students, but right now we're content to catalogue the artifacts and work up a site report, a critical piece of the archaeological process.  And by "we," I mean that new intern I was telling you about.

One Response so far.

  1. Jen says:

    Thanks Kevin Hooper for your book! It was a pleasure to meet you.

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