Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Five Centimeters at a Time

Hello, my name is Tommy Nagle and I am from Coldwater, Michigan. I am a double major in anthropology and film video media studies at Western Michigan University. This fall will be the beginning of my 4th and final year at WMU. I had only heard of Anthropology a few times before college, but I quickly found myself enthralled with the subject after my first few courses. I am currently planning to apply to Vanderbilt University’s PhD program in anthropology.
Today at the site my pit partner, Anne, and myself began excavating our one by one meter unit. Before our shovels hit the dirt, we took notes about the nature of the surface soil and any trees near our unit. Once we finished taking our notes, we carefully cut a line around the edges of our pit using a trowel. After some trowel work around the edge we started to shovel skim the majority of the pit. Shovel skimming is an excavation technique that involves holding the shovel at a shallow angle while slowly scraping it across the surface of the pit. Each ‘skim’ removes approximately ½ centimeter of soil. After making our way down 5 centimeters using a mix of shovel skimming and trowel work, we leveled our pit surface and straightened our walls. We are instructed to only move down 5 centimeters before we take more notes about the nature of the soil and any obstructions we find in the pit. My pit had a large root that extended across most of the east wall. Anne and I had to carefully excavate another 10 centimeters down around the root before we were able to saw it off flush with the wall of the pit.

Anne carefully trowelling in our unit! (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
Digging a square hole one centimeter at a time is tedious work, but it has proven to be very rewarding. I already notice myself critiquing the sharpness of the angles and the consistency of the depth in my pit. I am excited to uncover the wealth of historical knowledge that lies centimeters below my trowel.

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