Friday, May 29, 2015

Welcome to the Floodplain

                Hello everyone, my name is Liz Mantyck, and I will be entering my senior year at Western Michigan University in the fall. I am majoring in both criminal justice and anthropology, my ultimate career goal is working in partnership with a law enforcement department as a forensic anthropologist. I have enjoyed every minute of this field school so far. After a long and relaxing holiday weekend, the 2015 Field School was eager to return to Niles and get back to work! On Wednesday morning we finished all our paperwork and closed up our units at the Lyne Site, before packing up our equipment and heading down to the floodplain.
Me laying in points with a theodolite
(photo by John Cardinal)
                Upon our arrival at the floodplain, we cleared out some of the grass so that we could begin to plot our units. One of the first things we did was survey the site. A survey is an archaeologist’s way of collecting information or data about the geography and physical space of a specific site. There are certainly a number of ways an archaeologist can go about conducting his or her survey. One of these ways is using a theodolite. And with the help of one of our graduate assistants James Schwaderer, I was lucky enough to help and try my own hand at it.
                Theodolites are becoming more and more popular at archaeological sites nowadays. But what is a theodolite and what does it do? A theodolite is an instrument that is used to measure distance and elevation change. By imputing the location of the theodolite on the site grid, the height of the instrument, the height of the target which is a prism on a pole, and setting the horizontal angle in degrees from north, the theodolite can determine how far away the prism is from the unit along with the change in elevation. This means that a theodolite can measure any point at a 90 degree angle. When we choose our excavation units, we plot them on a grid and use a North and West coordinate to identify them. The theodolite helps us find these coordinates.
Survey at Fort St. Joseph
(photo by John Cardinal)
                For someone like me who has had no prior experience using an instrument like this, it seemed to be a daunting task. Thanks to James, I got the hang of it pretty quickly, though. The first thing you have to do is set up the tripod base and check to make sure the instrument is level. Then one person stands behind the theodolite while another person stands in close proximity of where we want to plot certain coordinates on our grid. This person will hold a rod with a prism at the top of it while keeping that level, too. My excavation partner, Stephan, was holding the rod while I looked through the view finder on the instrument to sight him in line with the cross hairs of the view finder. Once he was sighted in and positioned in the right place, I pressed the “observation” button on the theodolite’s display screen. By doing this, the device calculates the coordinates Stephan was standing at by shooting an infrared beam at the prism. Based on that calculation, I was then able to direct Stephan where to move to ensure we were on the right coordinates.

Welcome to the floodplain!
(photo by John Cardinal)
                After our coordinates were all set, we were finally able to map out and string our units. Today Stephan and I began our excavation and reached the depth of 20cm. We are all very excited to begin finding artifacts, but even more excited to share all of our knowledge of Fort Saint Joseph with all of you!


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