Student Blog — Notes from Mel

As I consider everything that I have learned in the past month I feel amazed, fortunate, humbled and enriched. I am very sad that this is the last week! I think that we have had such fun, that digging has not been a chore. I may go home filthy and exhausted, but I’m happy! I could not have asked for better team mates and instructors. As a mature student I felt nervous, but I have never met such welcoming people, sincerely!  I have more confidence now to pursue a career as a field tech. Furthermore, any mistakes made, were given extra consideration that evening so as not to be repeated.

Artifacts bagged
Washed artifacts ready for bagging
Animal tooth
Heavy residue sorting

Today, as the weather focused on rejuvenating nature, we had an opportunity to sort and clean artifacts and learn the tremendous potential of GIS. I feel so inspired. I took pages of notes in order to research more as time permits. To each member of this field school, I will miss seeing you each day! I hope to see you in a professional capacity in the future. A friend told me that everyone remembers their field school. I will certainly remember mine. I’ve loved it!

— Melissa Plavins

Student Blog — Notes from Michelle

Here are some thoughts from Michelle on the field school experience so far. — Kate

Today is day two of the final week in the field school run by Trent. Unlike a few of the students in the field school, I had no experience in the archaeological field. This experience has been amazing, and I got to learn things I couldn’t wait to do. The whole field school the weather was amazing, so we were outside as often as possible to excavate different units. We found in one of the units what appears to be either a wall or a drain, but we have yet to determine what it actually is.

The 6×6 unit with a line of rocks running through it. Two extra units dug out by different people.   

When we were excavating we were usually working in teams on the BcGn-17 site. 6 students were sent over to BcGn-31 site to work on 1x1s. Me and Abigail partnered up to work on the unit together. It was a fun experience to be able to work on our own units. We unfortunately never found any artifacts in our unit, but we did find a feature. However, because it was an assessment we just excavated and then back filled.

Michelle next to the 1×1
Abigail next to the 1×1
The 1×1 with a feature in the middle with a rock in it

I got to work with two different instruments when we were working on mapping artifacts on the field as well. It was very fun getting to look through the tools and try them out during my second and third week on the field. We got to use a Total Station and a Theodolite.

Looking at the coordinates of a flag
The TotalStation ready for mapping

One of my favourite parts of the field school was today working in the lab. We were all split into two groups, and we swapped at break. I was a part of the first group to be in the lab and working with the artifacts. We bagged already washed artifacts; I did two trays worth of artifacts. One of the trays ended up being artifacts that me, Kyla, and Kelsey excavated. After bagging them our group was divided once again. One group washed artifacts and the other looking through a tray full rocks and artifacts that needed to be sorted. I got to sort the artifacts out from the tray.

Tray of artifacts
Artifacts bagged
Tray of rocks and artifacts
Some of the artifacts from the tray

Overall, it has been an amazing experience and a joy to be able to be a part of this field school. I cannot wait to find work with CRM companies to be able to gain more experience and memories within archeological work. Thank you James and Kate for this amazing time.

— Michelle Rubin

Student Blog — Moving around the sites

Here’s Kyla to tell you about what it was like working on two very different sites during the field school — Kate

As we start the last week of excavation there is a building sense of anticipation for what else we will find as we open finish up our final units. Throughout the field school we have changed excavation placements. This has had a significant effect on our findings and our spirits. We have been finding so many interesting artifacts.

My first unit was abandoned due to the placement and I was moved closer to the center of the artifact distribution last week. The difference was immediately noticeable. It was the most artifacts that I have ever found to date.

For many of us this is our first field school dealing with historical artifacts and for others it is their first field school ever. So every find is exciting, throughout the day you will hear shouts from all over the site about something cool that has been found. A new exciting instance from last week was the discovery of some copper artifacts on the site.

I was moved to the new site today to do my evaluation. We have to walk into the site from the road. Unlike our other site we are off the road surrounded by woods.

This is a middle-late woodland site. At first I wasn’t hopeful of finding anything but as we dug down to 20cm we started to get larger and larger pieces of pottery, faunal remains, charcoal and some lithics. I am so sad that the field school is coming to a close.

— Kyla Richer

A rainy morning

We had some rain this morning, so we decided to split the team into two groups, one beginning with James learning about the applications of GIS and archaeology, and how all the archaeological information we have collected including maps, plans, artifact counts and spatial location are used in interpreting a site. The other group was with me, and we tackled some finds processing including provisionally tagging and counting washed material and washing some of the artifacts we have collected this season.

At break we swapped groups and that took us until lunch time.

Half of the crew washing artifacts!

After lunch, the sun had come out so we split the party again, with some going to the Indigenous site, and the rest with me to the historical site.

Work continued on open units this afternoon. Susannah, Justyna and Tim finished the unit they have been working on, and Adam and Kelsey jumped back into their unit (they had been at the other site). There is a dark middeny stain quite visible in the unit, where most of the artifacts are concentrated. This continues into the unit to the south which sadly will remain unexcavated this season!

Kelsey standing on the dark organic soil in their unit.

Alyssa worked on cleaning back her unit and drawing a plan and profile. Tomorrow she will be able to section the feature in the unit and draw the profile for that.

Sebastian profiled the wall of the drain in his unit, and tried to excavate deeper to see the bottom of the drain but alas the drain just keeps filling everything with water!

Abigail and Melissa worked hard on getting their unit cleaned up and down to the equivalent level of Sebastian. Abigail found water right at the end of day so that means that unit is done too.

Dramatic reenactment of Abigail hitting the water table

We were hemming and hawing about opening that new 2×2 since we had lost half a day of excavation time, but we decided to go for it. It will be all hands on deck tomorrow to get that unit exposed!

Tomorrow will be a busy day, as it is our last full day of excavation. Michael and his crew need to place a couple more test units tomorrow at the Indigenous site which need to be finished and backfilled by end of day. We also have some loose ends to wrap up before we are finished (most notably this new 2×2!), but I am pretty confident the crew can apply the skills they have learned and practiced over the past four weeks to get it done.

Student Blog — Reflecting on my time at field school

Here is a nice piece from Josh sharing some of his thoughts and experiences about the field school. — Kate

My experience with archaeological field school has been one of the most incredible months of my life, and for good reason! Since I was just a little kid, I’ve dreamt about becoming an archaeologist, and with this field school, I finally got to live that dream and see firsthand what it entails. Even though I come from a long working background doing remote work in all environments and weather, the experiences I’ve had in this journey have been incredible, and honestly, I am a bit sad it is coming to an end.

I started field school with a hefty amount of archaeological theory in my back pocket, but no hands-on experience to speak of. On the first day, while doing a historical tour around campus, I bent down to tie my shoelace and ripped my pants pretty bad right down the middle! Needless to say, not a good start. On the other hand, right from the get-go I started making friends who were all interested in the same stuff I was. In addition to that, I found that I got to know some amazing people and had an great time just talking about whatever came to mind and getting into the flow of what can be a fairly strenuous manual labour job at times.

During this field school, my primary focus was the central unit, and as it turns out, the deepest on site at 65cm in depth. I got to work with an incredible guy named Sebastian, and together we became fast friends and became equally attached to our unit as it sat right on top of a section of the stone feature that characterised the site. From laying down spikes to mark the corners of our unit, to actually doing the work of shovelling through topsoil and screening, and finally reaching the stone feature was all an interesting and thought-provoking experience. By the end, we even got to dismantle a small section of our feature, and see inside of it, which was a bit of a mind-boggling experience, as Sebastian pointed out that we were the first to see into this stonework for over 150 years.

Additionally, I was able to test my skills in various other ways, from making a separate 1x1m unit, to helping to clear an old well, to simply enjoying the beautiful days outdoors. These are the kind of experiences that I personally will never forget, and having James, Kate, Dan, and Michael as our supervisors was so much fun. It was nice to joke around with them and be able to ask questions regarding archaeology in a very practical way which has helped me gain a clearer understanding of the state of Ontario archaeology more-so than any class I’ve been in so far.

Besides these incredible experiences, it has really driven home that this is exactly what I want to do, and while not every day will be easy or even enjoyable, the nature of the work resonates with me in a way nothing else has before. I can’t wait to further my academic career, and eventually my working career in a field that so far has brought me so much joy. And if the people along the way are even half as fun as this group, I know it’s going to be an amazing journey.

–Josh Hesse