Student Blog — Notes from Mel

Here’s a dispatch from Mel, where she shares some of her finds and observations from today’s work — Kate

Exciting progress today! Watching the well emerging stone by stone is fascinating, as was witnessing live obsidian knapping. As architecture is located and artifacts are being recorded and mapped out, a clearer picture of the site is emerging.

Learning to level a theodolite and total station takes time and skill,  but the information they provide are very useful. Beautiful weather today. I was chuffed to find a ceramic button, piece of a pipe stem and some thick, dark glass. 

— Melissa Plavins

Student Blog — Well, it’s a well!

Here’s a dispatch from the field by Fraser, who is part of the well team (let’s call them the Wellies!) — Kate

Water is essential for our existence, but it can definitely impede an archaeological investigation. The ground is saturated, and the water table is high, making the conditions challenging. The muddy conditions may slow and complicate the excavation, but it doesn’t dampen the spirits of this group! Music drifts across the field as students and instructors work together to uncover the expected features. I worked at the well excavation today. Both Teika and Erik, experienced excavators, provided me with lots of encouragement and constructive criticism, and no sharp trowels were launched in my direction!

Erik and Teika making a plan for the well’s excavation.
Teika finding a way through (under) this slightly inconvenient fence segment. [Ed. comment from Kate: This sparked comparisons to Sadako from Ringu! ]

Shining soil, and using a trowel to gently excavate the areas around the well was a great practice in the monotony and detail-oriented nature of this work. This produced a not-tiny mound of soil that I was quite proud of!

Backdirt pile from today’s excavation.

In the main operation area, a lake had formed- there was more water than in the well!

Maybe this is a well too? (unlikely)

Other teams continued to map surface artifacts, and most other people were engaged in careful excavation (of an endless supply of mud!). Kate found a fascinating article exploring wells as oft-ignored artifacts, and this information helps create a good intellectual framework for the work as we move forward (Thanks Kate!).

Can you tell which side was expertly excavated?

My back is definitely feeling the labour, but spirits continue to be high! Tired, dirty, these archaeologists are still smiling, and I am happy to be among them!!

— Fraser Williston


Although the rain held off today apart from a brief sprinkle at lunch, our site is still quite soggy. Work continued on OA1, where we are trying to locate what we think is part of a stone wall from a structure, perhaps an improved log cabin. The soil is so heavy and wet it is a bit of a slog to get through but our team is in good spirits and set to with a will this morning.

Morning mucky digging and bucket emptying.

In other parts of the site, we have broken down into smaller task groups. A team is continuing uncovering the well, please see Fraser’s blog post for more details on that from today. We also had mapping teams operating most of the day to document and collect the surface finds from earlier in the week using digital theodolites or the totalstation.

Setting up and levelling the totalstation.
Mapping team 3 setting up their digital theodolite.
Mapping team 1 collecting surface finds.

After lunch, people swapped tasks. The combined efforts of the OA1 crews meant we were able to get the overburden down to where we thought the wall should start appearing. Along with a potential wall, we had a little surprise as water began bubbling up to fill the unit.

The beginning of the water incursion.
Water plus dirt = mud.
The deeper layers of the overburden from OA1 seem to have a bit higher concentration of artifacts including this big piece of spalled whiteware that Kyla found.

While we took a pause to assess the water rapidly filling the northwest corner of OA1, we pulled some people and tasked them with relocating some of the stage 3 units from the 2009 excavation.

James checking the GPS coordinates to match up with the 2009 excavation grid (more or less).
Tim, Sam, Sebastian and Joel start taking out the overburden from the new unit, hunting for the geotextile that was placed to cover the wall segment previously discovered in 2009.
By this point Michael had engineered a drainage trench with the Wall crew (Wallies) to channel the water away from the unit downhill. We are hoping in a few days that the nicer weather forecasted will dry this up a bit.
By the end of the day, our task groups (Mappers, Wallies and Wellies!) had finished up their active projects and worked on their field notes and any documentation that needed to be taken care of.
Goodnight site, see you tomorrow.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the end of the first week of field school! It will be a busy day as we have lots to accomplish before the weekend. We need to finish relocating the wall from 2009, complete the surface collection of artifacts, and if possible, try and sort out if there is a wall in all that muck in OA1.