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Eminem eloquently describes the first day on the field within this segment.
On the first day in question, I held a shovel in my hands. I was ready to deturf the excavation area when I recall another quote; “archaeology is not actually about digging.”
I then spent the next few hours digging, fully aware of the irony.
It was hard work, but very rewarding, as we finished deturfing relatively quickly. From there we began troweling the soil, looking for artefacts and other interesting features. This can be hard on your knees (though I am told that knees don’t exist in archaeology).
“Archaeology is more about scraping,” These words could not have had any more truth in them. We spent many days scraping down layer after layer, looking for artefacts to note. I found many obsidian flakes, fire cracked rocks, basalt flakes and ten times as many rocks.
I couldn’t be happier.
If, however, you decide that troweling isn’t for you, there is always the total station. The total station provides a good rest for your knees (if you can still feel them) and allows you to get a clearer picture of what’s happening in the whole excavation. The total station records the 3D location of all the artefacts, rocks, features, etc. that have been found during the excavation. With this information, we can look at possible patterns of activity and events that took place in the excavation area. This was probably one of my favourite parts of the excavation.
Another favourite of mine was excavating features. Features can include storage pits, postholes, firepits, etc. The easiest way to know if something is a feature is to decide whether it can not be moved from the site without being damaged. Excavating these is like figuring out how a puzzle piece fits into the larger picture.
So, for future students:
- Lift several buckets a day
- Bring a REALLY good raincoat
- Strengthen those knees
- Ask questions – take advantage of the sources of knowledge
- Don’t leave your drink bottle in the car
“This opportunity comes
Once in a lifetime”
~Caitlin Macnay (feat. Eminem)
After six days of hard work I am beginning to understand the amount of sweat and effort that goes into excavation. Although the weather has not been ideal I have had a great time and one of the best things I have learnt on this trip is the power of a canvas tent that has withstood wind and rain.
Although I have not spent as much time excavating as others I did get the privilege of working the electronic total station for the last two days. Giving me the chance to get to see multiple parts of the trench over the course of the day. It has been stressful but recording the artefact locations is an important part of archaeology as it gives us valuable information.
The island is beautiful and I only wish there was more time to see it but we run on a pretty tight schedule to make sure we maximise our time spent in the trench. Heading over to the beach after each dig has been one of the highlights of my time here and it is a great way to relax after a day getting mud-covered or dust blown.
As we prepare for an incoming storm I have come l to take pride in fortifying my tent against the elements and feel proud when it makes it through the night.
Scrape, scrape, scrape. Yet another rock, some more scraping. Obsidian? No wait, this has two serrated edges, in the shape of a triangle… shark tooth! And that was my most interesting find today. I must say it was a bit of a sharking discovery, and overall made the rest of the day’s scraping quite fin.
Archaeological field school is definitely not what I expected. I was fully prepared to rough it out for two weeks with the bare necessities, yet I arrived to find everything was completely adequate, if not more than what we needed. I have realised that no, you cannot dig straight down into the ground to get the nice stratigraphic profile, the layers get taken off one by one like you’re peeling a painstakingly crumbly onion. I also have discovered that I like my watch tan, and getting covered in dirt every day.
Coming on field school has definitely been a massive learning curve. Learning things from doing is so much better than reading it out of a textbook! I have so far learnt the best angle to hold your trowel, the best way to separate the top layer of grass from the soil, and how to backup and reorder photos taken in the field. We were rained out and the trench got flooded yesterday (bring a reeeaally good raincoat), which provided some exciting photos. It is only the third full day of the trip and I am loving everything we have done so far. Bring on the next 10 days!!
Just one year ago, I was a third-year field school student excited to go on my first archaeological dig. Little did I know, I would be returning to the island the following year as part of a research project. The familiar scenery of rolling hills, sheep scattered across the landscape and the beautiful Coralie Bay in the distance from the Lockwood lodge brought back fond memories. Having prior experience meant I was better prepared with gear and comfort food for the whole three weeks. Next time I will definitely bring waterproof pants as I learnt the hard way with a drenched pair of pants hanging on the line.
I was fortunate to be part of the survey crew with Josh and Matt who are two experts in the field of GIS and have taught me how to operate the new Trimble total station. The new model is quite different to what we previously have been using. I felt I was at an advantage since having little experience with the Leica total station I could adapt quickly to the new machine.
Every day I was given the task of setting up the total station. I would then help teach and supervise two field school students how to use it. A nostalgic feeling consumed me as I reminisced about my first encounter with the total station and the excitement and nervousness that came with using it. Some mornings we had a wave of artefacts surfacing and there would be a huge back log to record, while on other days would be calm. I surprised myself with how much I had learned in just the few days we had before the students arrived.
I have learnt the art of prioritizing what needed to be recorded immediately to cope with the influx of artefacts on busy days as the survey team control the speed of the excavation. The students were fast learners and understood the pressure that the job entails. I like to think I have a deeper understanding of its importance and if done correctly the high value of information that can be obtained.
I have been extremely lucky to return to the island again and experience the whole project from a different perspective. I have hardly noticed the time fly by and I will feel sad to leave the island on Monday. It will definitely take some time getting used to life back on the mainland!