Student Blog — Field School Reflections

Here are some words from Tim, who has been on a few of our past projects! — Kate

The past three weeks have been packed full of learning and experience from the Trent University archaeological field school, and it’s been great. All course participants seem to be enthusiastic about participating which makes the experience enjoyable for all. The field school has taught me a lot about the standards and guidelines for archaeology in Ontario as well as refreshed some of the knowledge I had already gained through other archaeological excavations.

The field school provides experience and the required knowledge to partake in archaeological excavation. For the most part, the course has been excavating site BcGn-17, an historic settler site, which is now known to contain an historic drain feature in addition to a well. Site BcGn-17 is situated alongside Pioneer Road, Peterborough, east of Trent University, Symons Campus. The site is on fertile land that had been clearcut, allowing for expansive farming opportunities. A new Indigenous archaeology site BcGn-28 has been opened as part of the field course, located on Trent University property on the Lakefield Road, on the northwest side of the Otonabee River. Both sites reveal evidence of past habitation and the habitability of the region. There was access to water, lumber, and fertile soils.

Excavating the units at these sites has been time consuming but enjoyable. Excavation is not for the faint-hearted nor the weak-limbed. Shovels are our best friends. The field we are working in on BcGn-17 contains, at least, 30-40 cm of fill soil. The top 10 cm of topsoil is outright disposed of before we reach a level at which the soil begins to be screened for artifacts. The number of artifacts which show up is high, especially since there is still not any clear idea of what the area might have been historically. The site continues to produce brick and mortar as well as what looks like planked cedar, but no foundations have been found.

The features that prove there was once construction on the site are the drain, the well on the edge of the farm field, and a post hole for a telephone pole installation. The drain itself is known to stretch on for quite a distance under the field, but what it was draining is unknown. Comprised of fieldstone, the drain also seems to have a segment in which brick and mortar is appearing. For the most part though, the drain is just stacked field rocks that have been reburied. It was most likely built to drain some form of building or cellar.

The smaller artifacts that have turned up are various objects that could be found in a garbage dumping zone and on a working farm. Various nails and spikes have been uncovered, including horseshoe nails which suggest the site made use of horses at some point. Glass, ceramics including large sherds of transferwear from dishes, pipe stems and bowls, and buttons have been unearthed.

As the field school draws to its inevitable close, I am still looking forwards to finishing as much work that we have planned as possible, including opening up a new unit. The drain continues to be a puzzle, although perhaps the planned new unit will answer most of the remaining questions. Otherwise, I think I need to come back and audit more field courses next summer.

— Tim Stumpf

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