Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It Only Takes A Spark

Hi Everyone,
      This is Gary, again, here to update everyone on my latest field school experiences. Since I last blogged, my fellow students and I have relocated to a new site along the St. Joseph River, which we all refer to as “the floodplain.”
About to apply some underwater archaeology techniques.
(photo by John Cardinal)
      At this new location, Amelia, my new pit partner, and I first opened up a new 1x2 meter unit within about six feet of the river. We had a great view and joked with our fellow classmates about it, telling them that we had the best real estate in town. The joke was on us, however, because the river rose and filled our perfectly excavated unit with water. Sadly, my partner and I felt a little displaced after being swamped out of our new unit; we wondered around for a few days helping others with their units, but both of us just wanted to return to our precious river front location. Its funny how attached we’d become to this excavation unit. Unfortunately, the water never completely receded, so Amelia and I opened up a new unit, which we “insightfully” placed farther away from the river’s edge.

      Yesterday, while excavating our newly placed unit, I was using a technique we call shovel skimming, a method of removing a thin layer of dirt with a long handled, razor sharp, flat bladed shovel. And, as I was skimming the dirt, I felt a small vibration run up the handle of my shovel. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I’d unearthed a gun flint—the first one I’ve ever found.
Chert gun flint. (photo by John Cardinal

    For those unfamiliar with gun flints, they are small precision shaped rocks used to ignite the gun powder in muskets, and, because of this ignition system, these guns are also referred to as flintlocks. Gun flint classification is surprisingly complex, but they are basically classified according to their, raw material (chert vs flint), method of manufacture (core vs blade), function (long gun vs pistol), shape (physical dimensions), and color (determined by the source of the raw material used). The particular gun flint that I unearthed is made from chert, honey in color, and technically referred to as a French gun spall.


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