By B. Smith
After a week of surveying and learning about some of the background history and prehistory of northeastern Tennessee, the students were finally ready to start breaking ground on the Yellow Cabin Site. Excavations this year will focus primarily on the area around last year's Operation 1, unit number 20 South 21 East, which produced some curious features filled with charcoal. On Monday the students started out helping to measure out 2X2 meter grids, which were subsequently subdivided into 1X1 meter grids to be converted into test units.
Altogether, six units were parceled out for excavation - one per student, and an additional unit to be worked on by both lab director Dr. Jeb Card, and field director Burton Smith. After the students received their designated 1X1 test units, they began the arduous task of clearing off excess brush and tall grass off of the surface.
Once the units were all reasonably cleared, the students assisted in shooting in elevation points in their units with the total station.
Holding the stadia rod and prism in place.
By Tuesday morning, students were ready to establish their datums and start digging down 5 centimeters to the bottom of their first level. Since the surface soil was plow zone and choked with thick roots, this task was accomplished through the use of shovels for skimming, with some troweling to smooth out the floor. The students struggled through the roots, but all managed to finish their first level by the end of the day. They even managed to bag, pack up, and haul away all of the dry-screened soil from their individual units, to be water-screened at a later date.
The plow zone at the Yellow House Site represents a completely disturbed context that can extend below the surface to about 20 or 25 centimeters. In spite of this decontextualized soil horizon, artifacts found here can still give clues to the nature of cultural activity preserved below the plow zone line. Students collectively uncovered several artifacts - sand or grit-tempered ceramic sherds, lithic flakes made from local chert, fire-cracked rocks, as well as the occasional artifact of more recent periods (plastic). Not bad for the first day!
Two examples of some of our first finds of the season - a couple of small ceramic sherds.
The students definitely deserve praise - they've worked very hard and diligently, and have been very productive with the time allotted for excavating. With any luck, we may yet be able to finish these first sets of units and open up new units around last year's Operation 5, unit number 20 South 15 East, which produced a series of small post holes.