Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rain days, labwork, and more progress

Week 6 has unfortunately been cut short by several rain days, so today we had our first full lab day for students on the UWF campus. Our entire crew spent the day rough-sorting material that was excavated during the first weeks of the 2011 field season, making some initial progress toward the inevitably lengthy process of laboratory analysis that will occupy the entire fall and probably part of next year (pictured to right is Jennifer Melcher explaining lab procedures to the students).

Bags of artifacts collected from the sifting screens in the field were carefully sorted by size, and then by material (stone, ceramics, iron, glass, etc.), all with meticulous documentation and bagging in order to preserve the exact provenience of each item (to left are Brady Swilley, Sarah Bennett, Joe Stevenson, and John Hueffed in the midst of rough sorting). This process is the first step toward identification and classification of each artifact, which will be carried out under the supervision of lab staff by these and other students this fall semester during their archaeological lab class. For archaeologists, each week in the field can easily result in a month of followup labwork (depending on how many students are working on each project), but no fieldwork is ever complete without a full range of laboratory followup, and subsequent publication of the results.

We did have several good days of fieldwork this week however, as the pictures below will illustrate:

Above, Ralph Hosch carefully draws a profile map of the north wall of a unit that has just been excavated, so that the next unit to the north can be excavated next, in part using this profile drawing as a guide to which soil layers may be encountered next.

Using her well-equipped excavation kit to the right, Danielle Dadiego clears exposed ceramics and charcoal at the surface of a newly-identified feature just below the 19th-century brick-lined trench previously excavated here.

Above, a sherds of colorful Mexican-made majolica, probably Abó Polychrome, next to another sherd that has lost its surface glaze.

The uppermost deposits in most excavation units at Mission Escambe contain debris from the late 19th-century sawmill which occupied the lowlands below the terrace bluff, including the iron spikes and coal pictured above.

Saving the shade-giving trees at the site from the need to clear for mapping using the total station sometimes involves extreme measures in order to bend the trees out of the way, as Lindsey Cochran and Danielle Dadiego demonstrate above.

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