A day in the lab and let’s play I-Spy…

Friday is our scheduled lab day, where we wash and catalogue the artifacts collected during the rest of the week.

While the first thing that most people associate with archaeology is digging up artifacts, this is only one part of archaeological research. Once artifacts are removed from the ground, they aren’t very informative until we analyse them, and that happens in the lab. For some students, they quickly discover that the lab side of things is their true passion. For every day of fieldwork, it is a good rule of thumb that there are at least two days of labwork to deal with the artifacts recovered.

In this part of the world, our weather and seasonality means it is common to ‘make hay while the sun shines’, and thus excavate as much as one can during the window of ground workability and visibility. The winter then becomes lab time, where the artifacts amassed during the spring-fall field season are carefully analysed, documented, and reports are written based on the results from the analysis.

For the field school, however, we try to schedule in lab time each week, and also rotate students through various activities according to their interests and aptitude.

(clockwise, from left to right) Trevor, Nicholas, Jacob, Shannon, Faisal, and Emily are washing artifacts from contexts 2 and 3 of Structure 1.
(clockwise, from left to right) Trevor, Nicholas, Jacob, Shannon, Faisal, and Emily are washing artifacts from contexts 2 and 3 of Structure 1.

Today the students worked on washing the artifacts we recovered yesterday, and setting them out on trays to dry. The next scheduled lab day (or rain day if we get rained out), the dry artifacts are separated by material type and analysed. We had a backlog of stuff from earlier fieldwork, so the students also documented that material and applied some of the information that they had learned in their intensive workshop on historical artifacts.

The Arch Centre was buzzing with activity (although only one wasp). (L-R) Jacob, Raine, Kate, Sam, Marielle, Nicholas, Emily, Trevor, Shannon, and Darci.
The Arch Centre was buzzing with activity (although only one wasp). (L-R) Jacob, Raine, Kate, Sam, Marielle, Nicholas, Emily, Trevor, Shannon, Faisal, and Darci.

Here’s a sneak peek at a small sample of the artifacts we recovered yesterday. These tray layouts reminded me of I-Spy games, so let’s play a game, and I’ll post the answers Monday.

On this tray can you spot: 1. Lice comb; 2. porcelain doll's leg; 3. pig tusk; 4. rolled-lip food jar
On this tray can you spot: 1. lice comb; 2. porcelain doll’s leg; 3. pig tusk; 4. rolled-lip food jar; 5. four buttons
How about on this tray: 1. The Artifact of the Day for May 4th; 2. a chicken leg bone; 3. a bastard file; 4. the key from a key-wind tin; 5. a bone button
How about on this tray: 1. The Artifact of the Day for May 4th; 2. a chicken leg bone; 3. a bastard file; 4. the key from a key-wind tin; 5. a bone button; 6. bullet casing
How about these: 1. an earthenware jug; 2. three pipe stem fragments; 3. a terracotta flowerpot; 4. fragment of a Blue Willow plate; 5. three shirt buttons
How about these: 1. an earthenware jug; 2. three pipe stem fragments; 3. a terracotta flowerpot; 4. two fragments of a Blue Willow plate; 5. three shirt buttons

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