Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Below: Laura Volz works on exposing a pottery sherd with a dental pic
Some of our features had nothing in them, some had a few artifacts, while others (like the above photo) had an abundance of artifacts, including shell (marine & freshwater), pottery sherds, chert, bone and a bone bead. For the features that contain many artifacts we had to dig around them and leave them where were naturally deposited (in situ) in order to see the way they are arranged to help us possibly figure out why they are positioned the way they are. Then once the exposed artifacts have been photographed in situ they can be collected.
Below: Two post molds and a feature with half of the artifacts in situ
As we continue to excavate our units these last two day we hope to find more exciting things in our features that can help give us a better look at the people that once lived on this land we've been digging in.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
|David Watt and Laura Volz outfitted for rain|
|Valerie Hall discovered this ceramic pipe on the surface at the east end of the site|
|Lorelei Schak peers into the ground cover to look for artifacts|
|Cailin Meyer uses her awesome red bag to carry tools of the trade|
|Bo excavates a plow scar filled with food remains|
|Yolanda Saunooke oversees excavations|
|Helen Brandt plots map points using the Total Station|
Another rainy day kept us from returning to excavations until the very end of the day. Most students continued making dog leash collections and Helen Brandt and Andrew Border were the mapping team.
|Andrew Border holds the prism for mapping|
|A Dog Leash Collection|
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
|Laura Volz holds a steatite tempered sherd|
|David Moore shows us a ceramic bead|
|David Moore points out a feature|
|a small pit filled with burnt corncobs|
|Chris Rodning has a few parting words for the students|
The remaining students who did not venture to the field returned to the lab after lunch to continuing working on our individual poster projects or cataloging artifacts. Having the whole morning--and for some all day--to work on our posters was a wonderful surprise. I was able to analyze the projectile point data that I have been collecting. I was also able to work on identifying what kinds of points that I have been working with. While working with the points I have been able to identify multiple point styles as well as an average data range. The others in the lab were also examining or cataloging artifacts.
|a possible Madison Point|
|I have not been able to idenitfy this point|
Sunday, June 19, 2011
|The Nolichucky River|
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Starting at the beginning of this week, Monday June 13th, the students of the 2011 Historical Archaeological Field School started to water screen. The water screening is to ensure that any artifacts that were possibly missed during when the dirt was removed from each pair's unit, or after the original (dry) screening.
|Helen Brandt dry screening|
dirt is then shoveled from the tarp to a wheelbarrow until full, and then taken over to the water screening station. To properly water screen your pre-screened dirt, a few shovel fulls are put onto a screen which is held up by two wooden sawhorses. It is important to make sure that the screen does not have too much dirt and or mud on it at any one time as it will make it difficult to sift through it.
|Lorelei Schak taking a load of excavated soil to the water screening station|
and clumps, leaving only the artifacts.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
As we have been excavating the levels of our units, we have been collecting all of the dirt that we remove from the unit to screen for any artifacts that may be in it. We first dry screen the dirt to find any larger artifacts that are in the dirt. The water screening comes in to retrieve the smaller artifacts that slipped through the dry screening. For the water screening, we use a smaller sized screen and pump water through the dirt, making a lot of mud, but leaving the artifacts in the screen, along with some grass and hay. Once we get those remains back to the lab, we (or a couple very talented and intelligent individuals) will pick through the remains until only the artifacts remain.
We were unable to water screen the dirt for long because it quit functioning. It took a few days for it to start working, and now, the first day for us to use it, it stops. But, those are the challenges that people have to face; I just hope that it starts working again so that we are not forced to haul buckets of water up from the river.
Since we were unable to continue water screening throughout the day, we continued working on excavating our units, trying to get through the plow zone so that we can uncover features of the settlement. But, since we are unable to water screen our dirt, we have had to bag all of the dirt after the dry screening. So, all together, we probably have well over 100 bags of dirt waiting to be water screened.
We still have plenty of work ahead of us, but we keep pushing through. Listening to music while we dig makes it a little easier, too.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
On Friday we took a field trip to Cherokee, NC, which is about 2 hours from where we are digging in Tennessee. We first visited Kituwah (when pronouced in Cherokee, it sounds more like "Cad-oo'-ah" or "Gah-doo'-ah"). This town was located at the center of the Cherokee homeworld, and their council house (located on top of the badly-eroded mound you can sort of see in the above picture) held THE fire that was central to their world. Two men were responsible for maintaining the Sacred Fire, and if it died out due to their inattention, the penalty would have been death. Representatives from every Cherokee town would come to Kituwah during the Green Corn Festival to take coals from the Sacred Fire back to their towns, where they would extinguish every fire before starting a new fire with coals from Kituwah. You can read more about the town, the Sacred Fire, and lots of other interesting information about the Cherokee here: http://www.ancientsites.com/aw/Places/District/825842
After a tour of the town site, and lots of discussion about Cherokee history and Kituwah archaeology, we were brought a FANTASTIC lunch.
We were given fried chicken, fried fat back (those curly things that look like french fries but sort of taste like the oil the fries were cooked in!), potatoes, cabbage, and bean bread. The bean bread is in the lower left corner, and did not have much flavor. However, when we put it together in a bite with the potatoes and cabbage it was delicious! It was also very filling, and after the morning in the sun I think most of us were ready for an afternoon nap. :D
Instead, we were off in the van again to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The Museum
tells the story of the Cherokee people through artifacts, video, and interactive displays, beginning with the Paleo-Indian Period and continuing through historic times. Of course, I was very interested in the beautiful examples of surface decoration on many of the ceramics! (Take note of the decorations on the pot in the upper right - you may be tested on this later.)
I found the Museum's displays especially interesting in the way that they incorporated modern terminology for events in Cherokee history. For example, in the exhibit describing the Trail of Tears, they spoke of the Cherokee being interned in concentration camps. The immediate mental connection to the Holocaust was shocking and almost painful, and I'm sure that sort of visceral response was intentional. It was a very effective way of making a connection to an event that is largely glossed over in public-school textbooks, and it was probably the most memorable aspect of my visit.
The Cherokee Museum also honors important women and men in their history. There is a special exhibit about Sequoyah, who created a syllabary for the Cherokee language. He is the only person in history to create a system of language despite being illiterate. He used the Roman alphabet (the one many modern languages use today) and modified many of the letters, using each symbol to represent a syllable in the Cherokee language. As you can see in the book written in Cherokee below, many of their syllable-symbols look like upside-down or backwards letters from the Roman alphabet. This link has more information on the syllabary (http://www.powersource.com/cocinc/language/syllab.htm), while this one (http://www.cherokee-nc.com/index.php?page=56) has links to several pages about Cherokee history, including pages about Sequoyah and his syllabary.
From the Museum we continued to the Ocanaluftee Indian Village, a self-described replica Cherokee village from around 1760. (Click here - http://www.cherokee-nc.com/index.php?page=17 - for more information and a cool video about the Village.) The village includes a dance area, examples of a council house and several different styles of homes, and crafting stations where you can stop and talk to the artists while they are beading, potting, flintknapping, and woodcrafting (to name a few!) When we arrived they had just begun dancing.
This video shows part of the Bear Dance. It was probably my favorite dance to watch because the dancers were obviously having so much fun! (Watch how the one dancer keeps reaching for the singer, who is trying so hard not to laugh, and how the woman in the blue dress accidentally smacks her partner in the face near the end of the clip!)
After the dancing finished, we took a guided tour of the various craft stations and domestic structures. Of course, my favorite was the pottery. Remember the surface treatment on the pot from the photo above? That was likely created with a paddle similar to the one in the photo below.
In this video, our tour guide describes one method of pot-making.
She is speaking pretty quickly because thunder was rumbling, and I think she was trying to get us through the tour before the rain started (although, incidentally, it never did).
Another very interesting area was the flintknapping/weapon making station. When we arrived the gentleman in the above photo was making darts for a blowgun, which the Cherokee would use for small game (when asked he confirmed that he has gotten squirrels and rabbits with his.) He also competes, and after an amazing demonstration where he hit the target 6 out of 6 times, he said that he has taken first place several times in competition (although he then confessed that he has not yet beaten our tour guide's uncle!)
The building in the photo below was of great interest to most of the field school students. This is a reproduction of what Cherokee domestic structures likely looked like in the sixteenth century, which is the time period during which our site would have been occupied.
Also of great interest to us was the interior of the council house, as seen below. By the eighteenth century, when many European observers began to document the Cherokee, a council house like this one would have been build on a four-sided, flat-topped mound. There is archaeological evidence that the mound would have been built up in several layers, while maintaining the central hearth throughout the building process. The hearth would literally grow in a long column from the bottom of the mound to the top while the town's sacred council fire burned continuously.
It was such a fascinating day, especially now that we can come back to our site with some cultural context about Cherokee town planning and cultural practices. I think our trip to Kituwah, the Museum, and Oconaluftee allowed us to make a personal connection with the artifacts we are finding, and served to remind us that archaeology is not all about the artifacts--it should be about the people who created the artifacts and the meanings those artifacts hold.
I'll end now, before I get too theoretical. :D As our Cherokee guides at Oconaluftee told us, the Cherokee language does not have a word for "goodbye". Instead, they say "do na da' go hv i" to one person, and "do' da da go' hv i" to a group of people. (See the video below for pronounciation).
So I will say to you "do' da da go' hv i" -- "until we meet again, in this life or the next."
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Today we continued excavations in six 2 meter x 2 meter units. Three are located near what we believe to be the outer palisade of the Cherokee town, and three more are located in an area with high concentrations of bone and shell. These concentrations might indicate a living area (possibly where domestic structures were built,) and as they are adjacent to an area with scarce artifacts compared to the rest of the site, we are hazarding a guess that maybe our artifact concentrations indicate houses on the edge of a plaza. That would certainly be accurate when compared to eighteenth-century Cherokee town plans, but part of our research will be to try to determine if this town (occupied in the sixteenth century) follows the later layouts recorded by European observers in their interactions with the Cherokee.
As Cat’s post mentioned, we are using an arbitrary measure of 10 cm for our first level. Because the field we are working in has been used agriculturally for several years, the stratigraphy of the site (the original layers in which artifacts and soil were deposited) has been disturbed by the plow. The churning action of the plow is great for the soil and crops, but very, very bad for archaeologists. Any artifacts found in the plow zone can not be accurately linked to their original deposition site, but can still give us information regarding the features below. Artifacts are pulled up to the surface by the plow, but travel only a small distance from their original location. If we analyze the artifacts found on the surface, we begin to see patterns—for example, a large concentration of bone, pottery, and shell might indicate an area where people were cooking and eating, while a large concentration of chert flakes might indicate an area where lithic (stone) tools like projectile points, knives, and scrapers were being worked. This kind of spatial analysis gives archaeologists a better idea where to dig, especially when faced with an enormous field, a small crew, time constraints, and a limited budget! This bird's-eye-view photo taken from the top of the hill next to the field only shows about a sixth of the full field.
We began excavating yesterday, but had barely begun to scratch the surface when the call came to close up our unit. Here is what the unit Steve and I have been working on looked like first thing this morning:
There are three units in the photo in a sort of checkerboard pattern, almost like a “U”. Note the second group of three units in the distance near the top left of the photo.
Although it is hard to see in the photo, our unit had an enormous hump of soil right in the center caused by the tractor’s wheels, so although we took our elevation in the highest corner, we still had to work down through an extra 5 or 6 cm of soil before we even hit level. It felt like we moved a tremendous amount of dirt today, although it may not look like it in the photo below:
This is what our unit looked like at the end of the day. We are about halfway to our 10 cm mark!
While screening this afternoon, Steve found a very cool shell bead. It is called a columella bead, and its name comes from the Columella snail shell from which it was made. You can check out a pretty neat x-ray of the shell on the wikipedia page linked here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columella_(gastropod). Interestingly, the book Cherokee Prehistory by Roy S. Dickens, Jr., notes that similar beads were found on two sites in western North Carolina, very close to where we are working.
This website focuses mainly on northeastern native groups, but it has some very interesting information about the creation of shell beads: http://www.wampumbear.com/P_History%20of%20Wampum.html. Here is a picture of the bead from our unit:
Hopefully we’ll have more exciting finds next week!
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Yesterday, after laying out our units and mapping in the corner points, we started mapping out our surface artifacts on a drawn-to-scale grid. This morning, we finished that process and then proceeded to discover the joys of . . . paperwork.
But first, surface collection inside a unit: After we recorded our unit’s relative locations via a Total Station , we began a crawl survey inside the unit boundaries. Each piece of bone, shell, ceramic or lithic sitting on the visible surface was marked on a drawn-to scale map. Since our units are exact two meter squares, we can easily map the artifact’s location by measuring its distance to a vertical and horizontal edge of the unit.
After we were satisfied that everything visible was found (there are many artifacts on the surface, but hidden by grass or straw), we began the tedious but incredibly necessary process of paperwork. In our field journals, we began a list of lot numbers and artifact numbers. Along with basic location information, such as where we are working, what unit we’re working on, and what level we’re on in that unit, we also record any possible information that may be of use to future archaeologists. We don’t want another student fifty years from now puzzling over where a particular ceramic was recovered (because it’s often complicated)!
Such information includes the date, the size of the unit we’re working on (2x2 m), and the context or description of the lot (such as surface collection, plow zone, level one, etc.). We also record the soil type (such as silt, clay, sand, or some type of loamy mix of the any two or all three) and color (matched to a good old Munsell color chart) and a basic list of what we found (ceramics, lithics, bone, etc.).
Each ceramics or lithic we recovered on the surface was also given an ‘artifact number’ and description in the lot list, and was then bagged separately; bone and shell were bagged in groups together, and not given artifact numbers. Each bag requires its own separate tag with all the pertinent information recorded on it before being placed in a ‘master bag’ for that level, which also has its own tag; this is a purposefully redundant system that ensures that, under practically no circumstances will the provenience of the artifact be lost.
After the paper work stage (which took a couple hours), each group took corner and center elevations of their unit. To record the elevations, you first find the highest corner point; then, using a level and a long string attached to the corner pin, you can find the difference in elevation at the other corners. These are important for understanding the stratigraphy of the unit as you dig.
The next step is cleaning the unit before you begin digging. Cleaning a unit involves cutting – NOT pulling! – any grass, brushing back any loose straw, and generally making the dirt surface visible. A lot more surface artifacts were recovered during this stage, but since they weren’t previously visible in the crawl survey, they were just put together in the master bag.
Finally, after a unit is cleared, it’s time to begin the first excavations. We use flat shovels to shave off the dirt a few centimeters at a time. Since our first level is an arbitrary level of 10 cm, we’re not concerned with keeping the contours of the surface – this is because the field has been plowed, and most units have tire treds or plow lines running through them. These are artificial changes to the soil stratigraphy, and so we don’t follow them.
The loose dirt is then collected in our trusty Best Friend, Mr. Bucket, and then carried over to our sifters. Sifting allows us to pick out artifacts from the loose dirt that we missed while digging.
Artifacts recovered include things like shell, bone, ceramics, lithics and tiny beads - like above! We only had a little time to dig before our Field Director, Dr. Sampeck, called it a day – but it was great to finally start the excavations!
Cailin Meyer (ISU: Historical Archaeology Graduate Student)