If you like snakes, you'd love 38FA608 this time of year.
Enjoy the video!
Tomorrow will be our last day in the field at 38FA608. Last Friday we finished excavating the features in the block and got Unit 13 almost down to where it needs to be. Tomorrow we'll backfill the block and collect final information from the profile exposed by Unit 13. We may not have time to get everything done during the day, so I'll probably have to finish up when I go out next week to break down the toolbox and grab the screens, etc.
If you like snakes, you'd love 38FA608 this time of year.
Enjoy the video!
Video from Week 11 of the Broad River Archaeological Field School: Features, Possible Posts, and the Invention of Tailgate Archaeology
We've only got two more days left in the spring 2018 season at 38FA608. The weather looks good for this Friday, so I may end up threading the needle with yet another season with no time lost to rain.
While we're in good shape to finish up in the block on Friday, Unit 13 is going slower than I'd hoped. It just won't stop being interesting. As you will see in the video from Week 11, I took two students out for an extra day to work on the Late Archaic deposits and try to keep things moving along. There is still work to be done before we reach the Middle Archaic zone, and there's no telling what we'll run into down there. If the broad pattern of field archaeology holds, we'll find something extremely interesting this Friday that will bring the whole endeavor to a screeching halt.
The video for Week 11 is a long one, as it includes footage from an extra field day. I resisted the temptation to pose on a lawn chair in the back of the pickup truck. Enjoy!
We're officially in the "end times" of this season's fieldwork at 38FA608. After last Friday, we have just two more days to actively excavate at the site (the students will be doing lab work while I'm at the SAA meetings, and the last day will be reserved for buttoning things up and backfilling).
We made good progress last Friday, ending the day with Features 11 and 12 exposed in profile. Feature 11 is a relatively deep, midden-filled pit, while Feature 12 is a shallow basin associated with some large pieces of fire-cracked rock. As I'll discuss at some point in the future, both of these kinds of features are well-known from sites of similar age. Analysis of the contents of the features will help us understand activities at the site as well as refine the chronology of site occupation.
As you can see in the video, Unit 13 refuses to stop becoming more interesting. Both of the Savannah River points from Friday came from an area of slightly darker sediment that is probably a feature. I'm planning on spending tomorrow working at the site with a couple of volunteers to keep things moving along in Unit 13.
I'm happy to report that my campaign to raise money to support next year's field school has passed a quarter of the goal of $4000. My sincere thanks go to Mike Morgan, Ken Kosidlo, and two anonymous donors for their generous contributions and support.
Enjoy the video!
I've started a GoFundMe campaign to support the planned 2019 season at 38FA608. If you've been following along with my blog posts, the students' blog posts, and the videos from this year, you have some sense of the value of sustaining the work at this site. We've shown that site 38FA608 preserves an extraordinarily fine-grained record of human behavior dating back at least 6,000 years. The archaeological deposits protected within the levee provide a rare opportunity to understand the activities of individuals and small groups deep into South Carolina’s past and integrate those data into the larger narrative of Eastern Woodlands prehistory. They also provide a wonderful opportunity to educate students and the public in the use and importance of careful and systematic field methods to understand the human past.
The site is the real deal.
I would like to keep the field school going as a yearly spring offering through the University of South Carolina. To do that, two main things need to happen:
(1) student enrollment needs to be sufficient;
(2) I need to have funds to support the work.
After two seasons of work at the site, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be successful out there in terms of supplies, equipment, time, energy, and strategy. An important component of what I've been doing is hiring some experienced help to manage working in the two areas of the site (the block and the wall) at the same time. This year I hired one of the students from the 2017 season to act as a kind of "field sergeant," helping with direction, basic instruction, and quality control in one of the excavation areas. It helps with continuity, and also helps that student get some supervisory experience. I plan to continue that in the future (with different students).
I set up the GoFundMe with a goal of $4000. That money will be used to :
(1) pay a student field assistant ($1190);
(2) pay student lab workers ($1280);
(3) purchase expendable equipment and supplies to continue stabilizing the site ($557); and
(4) rent a vehicle to transport students to/from the site ($973).
Specific research goals for the 2019 season will be developed as materials and information from the 2018 season are processed, analyzed, and integrated with those from the 2017 season. My suspicion that there is a Late Archaic (ca. 2000 BC) house at the site grows stronger as the 2018 work continues (more on that later).
Sustained, publicly-accessible research on sites like 38FA608 has the potential to address numerous interesting questions as well as engage the community and help educate the next generation of southeastern archaeologists. Please consider contributing to these goals if you value our work and would like to see it continue.
Last Friday's fieldwork was eventful. With just a few days left in the field, we are down into the nitty-gritty of the feature excavations intended to recover detailed data about the Late Archaic (ca. 4000-1000 BC) occupations at the site. Last year's work in the block revealed the presence of a significant Mack component (dating to around 1000 BC) and hinted at the existence of an earlier Savannah River component (dating to around 2000 BC) in close vertical proximity. Although we won't know which features go with which component until we excavate and analyze them, Friday's work gave us some important clues. Enjoy the video!
You can find all the videos from the 2018 season on the Broad River Archaeological Field School website.
Excavation of Late Archaic Pit Features at 38FA608: Video from Day 8 of the Broad River Archaeological Field School
Last week was spring break at USC, so I put off producing the video from Day 8 of the field school until today. We had a small crew but beautiful weather, as usual (at some point I'm sure my luck will run out). Work focused on the excavation of Feature 3 (exposed in the machine cut wall), Feature 11 (encountered in the block), and Unit 12 (still piece-plotting down through the intact deposits to reach Feature 13. Enjoy the video!
I grew up on a small farm, so I can verify through personal observation that a chicken really does run around like crazy after you cut its head off.
Things have been hectic both at home and at work over the last month. The coming week is USC's spring break, which will offer a little bit of breather as I won't be in the field this Friday and won't have regular office hours or meetings with students.
Here's some bullet points about what's been going on and what's coming up.
"Finding the Family" Fieldwork Started
As I think I mentioned in the Week 2 video from field school, I've got a complementary project lined up to do some subsurface reconnaissance (i.e., targeted backhoe excavations) of nearby landforms that are similar to the one we are working on for the field school. At least some of those landforms -- also alluvial -- probably contain archaeological deposits, perhaps of different age ranges than 38FA608. Anyway, the first step is to establish some known points that we can use for mapping our excavations. I've spent a couple of days in the field doing that, one with Eddie Reeps who used his GPS rig to help determine the coordinates of a handful of far-flung points that I set (by sinking rebar).
This work is being funded by an internal USC grant. I realized this seek that I never actually announced it or described it via my blog, so I'll do that sometime in the near future.
My First Holi: That Was Fun!
Last weekend, my family and I joined some of our Indian friends (and their Indian friends) to celebrate Holi. This is a holiday that I knew nothing about before the rise of social media. The bright colors make it naturally photogenic.
This was a really interesting experience. Speaking as an "alien" with very little foreknowledge about what to expect, I was struck by both the overall positivity of the atmosphere and the sense that it was a time/place where "normal" cultural rules were put on temporary suspension. There was color (and water) everywhere, much of it applied to your face and body by strangers. It's a strange kind of intimacy, not unlike what I experienced at the fringes of the mosh pit at Against Me!
I wish we could have stayed for the food, but the little kids were on overload/meltdown and a retreat was the best option.
Friday Field School Video Will Be . . . Delayed
Our ongoing work at the field school site (38FA608) went well. We had another beautiful day with plenty of sun and high temperatures in the low 60's. The crew was smaller than normal.
I had hoped to get two of the Late Archaic features out of the ground, but it was not to be . . . they are going to take the time they're going to take, and that's all there is to it. While Feature 3 (exposed in the machine-cut wall) was completely removed, Feature 11 remains in progress. Both of these features are defined by dark fill contained some carbonized plant remains (including nutshell) and a low density of lithics. Feature 11 is deeper than I anticipated, and the fact that it intrudes into earlier deposits makes i's excavation complicated. I lined our ongoing excavation with landscape fabric and filled it with back dirt to protect it until we return.
I probably won't get the video from Friday done on Monday. I'm not sure, but it may be next Monday before I upload the Week 8 video. We won't be in the field this week because of spring break. Watch for the premiere of "trowel cam."
"Harley" Ready to Move!
I finished my first officially-commissioned sculpture: a scrap metal javelina named "Harley." It's be a steady weekend project, occupying the large majority of time I've spent in my workshop since late January. I think it turned out great - perhaps one of the best pieces I've made. The "formal" pictures are here on my ZeroPointMechanic website. There will be a video when I get the time to put it together.
"Harley" will be travelling to Arizona, hopefully leaving my garage on Monday. My least favorite part of the whole deal was making a custom crate to ship the piece. I don't like working with wood, and making the crate (including scrounging pallets, buying new materials, trying to figure out what constitutes "strong enough, etc.) took about four times as long as I thought it would. The sculpture alone weighs 76 pounds, while the whole package with crate and pallet balanced out at a whopping 185 pounds. My sister (aka "the client") is dealing with the specifics of getting the thing moved from point A (Columbia, SC) to point B (Tempe, AZ). I made a stencil. Spray paint, like wood, is not a good medium for me.
"Beauty and Grace:" Final Prep Before ArtFields
Next week (I think on Tuesday the 20th), I'll finally have to face the challenge of moving "Beauty and Grace" to Lake City, SC, for ArtFields 2018. The piece will be displayed on lawn in front of The Citizens Bank (209 East Main Street). My friend and archaeology colleague Chris Gillam has agreed to help me get the ceratopsians moved and reassembled. I'm not sure what I promised in return, but I'm sure it was something. As it stands now, my plan is to get some segments of heavy-duty PVC to use as rollers when moving the components of the piece over the lawn. Some 2x4's and a crowbar will also come in handy. If it was good enough for ancient Egypt, it will be good enough for me.
I've started prepping both pieces to finally live outside. I cleared space in my workshop yesterday so that I could wheel "Beauty" inside and apply a coat of Penetrol, which will arrest the rusting, bring out colors, and provide a barrier to moisture. It also makes the entire piece shiny, which I'm not a huge fan of. But it's better than all the colors degrading to an even rusty orange. The coating is sticky as it dries for 48 hours, so I had to apply it in a space that I could enclose to prevent the omnipresent March aerosol of pine pollen from becoming a permanent part of the piece. "Grace" will go next.
An Unknown Road Trip
I will be spending a few days this week on a road trip with my older daughter. We don't know where we're going. We may not know where we're going until after we've already been there. It's tradition.
A 250-mile radius from Columbia includes most of North Carolina and Georgia as well as eastern Tennessee. I had some thoughts about going to Florida to see Cape Canaveral and/or a restaurant with a mermaid show, but that might be too heavy on the driving, too pre-planned, and too expensive. Plus I'm not really impressed with Florida's government right now and not enthusiastic about spending my money there.
If you know of a "good," out-of-the-way destination in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, or Tennessee that I should be aware of, post away. I've driven by the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, SC, but not yet stopped (it looks like it has been trashed). I went out of my way on my last swing through North Carolina to visit the Andre the Giant museum, only to find it closed. I'll probably try to avoid the Myrtle Beach area.
I spent my morning putting together the video of last Friday's field work. The work continue to go well, even as things become more and more complicated. We've started dealing with the Late Archaic features, the excavation of which is my primary research goal this semester. I had to rush a bit on the editing of this one for personal reasons, but it's done and posted. Enjoy!
We had an eventful day in the field last Friday, so this week's video is longer than usual. Every project like this reaches what feels like a "hinge point" where you can start accurately sizing up what you can and can't get accomplished. We won't be able to do everything I wanted to do at 38FA608 this semester, but we'll be able to do a lot of it. Fingers crossed the weather continues to cooperate.
We finally took the large rocks out of the floor of Unit 5. One of them turned out to be something unexpected (I won't spoil is so you can enjoy the moment with us on the video). The other turned out to be . . . well, watch the video for that also.
My arms and hands began blooming with poison ivy rash at about 2:00 on Saturday morning. Last week it took a couple of days before I started to feel the irritation. My folk theory is that the lack of rain allows the oils to build up and concentrate. Spring is aggressive and early here: plants and animals move into the excavation areas during our week-long absences from the site.
Enjoy the video!
I'm sorry to announce that the field school did not make it into the field last Friday. Having spent the entire week dealing with the flu in our household, I was worn out and probably still contagious. It would not have been responsible of me to expose my students to the virus, so I made the executive decision to stand down for the week.
In lieu of going in the field, I gave the students a three part reading assignment to help them understand the context of what we're doing at 38FA608:
Part 1: Review last season’s fieldwork
Please read through my weekly blog posts (listed here) from last season’s excavations to familiarize yourself with what we did and why we did it that way. This will help you better understand the purpose of what you are doing in this year’s excavations.
Part 2: Familiarize yourself with basic vocabulary used to describe sediments and basic concepts of sediment deposition and soil formation
Please read the following two documents online, keeping in mind what you know so far about the site where we are working: “Guide to Texture by Feel” (USDA) and “Soil Formation” (LSU). Being able to competently identify and describe sediments and understand what differences in color and texture might mean is important to being a good excavator.
Part 3: Understand the general geomorphological setting of 38FA608
Please read this short article on natural levees and have a look at this paper about the formation of lamellae in sandy sediments. The lamellae paper is fairly technical, so don’t be discouraged: try to understand what the authors are saying about the formation of lamellae (which we have in abundance at 38FA608 in the deeper zones) and what they might be telling us.
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