Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Diggin' Your Roots

The site.
Hi everyone, I'm the intern of this year's field school! I like to think of myself as the site's ghost excavator, since I kind of float around to different units as needed, helping out when someone's pit partner is gone for the day or out sick, and just generally doing whatever odd jobs need to be done. I have so far worked with a lot of different people and in all different types of units (ones with lots of roots, rocks, loose soil, hard packed soil, muddy, etc.). 

Joe taking on the roots!
Today, as well as yesterday, I was working with Amanda and Max on their fort site unit. It had a lot of roots in it, which required quite a bit of time to work through, but we finally got all of the big ones out, especially "Big Bertha" (yes we named our roots), and it really paid off! It seems that once we just got through that top layer of roots they now have quite a nice unit, with fairly loose soil, and shade. It has given hope to the adjacent L-shaped units who are still struggling through even bigger tree roots to get to the good stuff beneath; they had to take a chainsaw to some of the roots they were so big!

Of course some of the units without all of those natural obstacles to get through have already dug out the majority of their alluvium layer and are beginning to see signs of the plow zone, and more importantly, artifacts! We began our wet screening operation today,
setting up the necessary pump and hoses and having our subsequent "teaching moment" on how to and why we wet screen. In summary: the soil at the Fort is mostly wet clay, so the only way to be able to effectively screen the soil is with water. We spray pressurized water at the dirt and through the screen and expose the really small artifacts that we might otherwise miss. As you can imagine, combining muddy soil and water is a somewhat messy task, yet very important and even fun, especially on such a hot day like today. The wet screening yielded some nice finds today, including lots of bone, some lead shot, and even a part of a gunflint we able to be identified as French from its honey coloration.

All in all it was a very productive day and I hope you are just as excited as we are to discover what else is hiding in the soil, and beneath the roots! And if you'd like to learn more about Fort St. Joseph and especially about the fur trade (or would just like to meet this year's wonderful archaeolo
gists) please join us tomorrow, Wednesday, at the Niles public library at 7:30pm for the first of this summer's public lecture series. Hope to see you all there!!
Just being a ghost excavator!

~Devora Gleiber

Photo credits Cathrine Davis.

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