Student Blog — Notes from Mel

Here’s a contribution from Melissa about her first day of excavation on site. — Kate

Today we got stuck in…literally! It was one of those days where your boots make interesting sounds when you try to release them from the mud. I’m not complaining as it was funny. I am so happy to spend these days with such great people.

Today I had an opportunity to learn how to use GPS coordinates to locate surface artifacts found during our pedestrian survey, how to shovel shine, and how to do a bag fold so that the artifacts remain in the proper bag once collected.

Nicely folded bags of artifacts ready for the lab!

This was a bit of a juggle in the rain whilst holding several at once, but Jada and I worked out a system which at one point involved my jacket hood to carry the finished bags. We took turns screening and learning about the theodolite. It was very interesting seeing the well being revealed. When you are with interesting, happy people the day goes so quickly.

— Melissa Plavins

Student Blog – Sifting Table Chats

We will feature student blogs throughout the field school. Our first student blog post of 2023 is from Fraser, who shares with us moments from his first day of excavation. — Kate

            A lifetime of camping has prepared me in some ways for archaeology work. So many clothing options! Weatherproof, breathable, often colourful – these garments can make or break your time in the outdoors. Cold butts and wet feet can ruin a natural experience. Gray rainy days and chilly weather might dampen some, but not this group of archaeologists! Laughter echoes on the site as we get to know each other, and explore the best ways to process thick mud through screens in an attempt to locate cultural artifacts. Now I know Steph’s favourite movie (Johnny Got His Gun), and Jada’s favourite food (Fajitas).

I learned that Josh knows a ton about drilling, and scuba diving, and that Kyla and Kelsey are co-presidents of Trent’s student archaeology association. These are just some of the topics that get discussed while working methodically to process the excavation material. It is tedious work, but in the best possible way. For a complete novice (like me) to archaeological methodology, this experience has already exceeded my expectations! It is clear that many of my colleagues have profound passion for this work, and it is infectious! I am supremely optimistic about this team, and our prospects for learning and enjoying a successful field school experience!!

— Fraser Williston

Excavation begins

The first full field day is always ironing out wrinkles and fixing things, and in my case a lot of running back and forth between the Archaeology Centre and my office before we started for the day. Everyone met at the Archaeology Centre, we went over the plan for the day. Michael Obie joins us today as one of our field directors, and we also introduced Harper Jin, who will be managing the lab and finds. Then the convoy to site departed! I however didn’t arrive on site until after lunch, as in the morning I was giving a presentation on ceramics to the Williams Treaties Archaeological Liaison trainees.

Today we had several task groups operating independently. Part of the site excavation will be conducted as a Parks Canada style of open excavation, where we will open a large area and then dig it down in successive layers that unravel the various processes that formed the site. The first step was to take the topsoil down 10 cm. The soil we are dealing with in this field is a clayey loam, and the rain we have been experiencing has meant the soil is heavy and waterlogged and is not the nicest to screen.

Operation Area 1 undergoing excavation.

Another group was busy using the digital theodolite to map in the artifacts we flagged yesterday during the pedestrian survey, and the third group was out in the second field we surveyed using GPS to map in surface finds and collect them.

Mapping and recording surface finds with a digital theodolite.

Despite the lowering clouds and saturated soil, spirits were high and the excavation and screening continued apace. James was off site in the afternoon giving a presentation on lithics to the archaeological liaison trainees, so Michael and I held down the fort.

The bottleneck today was definitely screening!

Teika and Erik were tasked with uncovering the well that had been identified and partially excavated in 2009. To our surprise, it was full of water! This might complicate the excavation we plan for the well but we will sort that out in the coming days.

Teika and Erik triumphant with the well. Not shown, a poor garter snake that had picked this spot for a hibernaculum and died over the winter.

Just as we were packing up for the day, the long-threatened heavy rain commenced, which was perfect timing. Not so perfect was a little mishap with the trailer leaving site, but we managed to sort things out (Thanks Fraser for your assistance!). Tomorrow’s plan is to open up another operational unit for excavation, and continue the surface find mapping and recording. Now that we have some artifacts, the lab part of operations also will be firing up.

The weather forecast keeps changing but we are hopeful for clear skies next week!