Student Blog — A Month of Reflections – My Experience of the 2023 Trent Ontario Archaeological Field School

Here’s Erik’s take on his field school experience. I have really enjoyed reading these student reflections about their experiences. — Kate

Unfortunately, my time participating in this year’s Trent Archaeological Field School has come to an end. Over these past weeks I have had the pleasure of learning and working alongside my peers under the guidance of Kate, James, Michael, and Dan on a project that provided consistent engagement and reward. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the excavation of several different units across multiple sites, partake in the re-rediscovery of a well at BcGn-17, gain practice in a mapping exercise using a theodolite, and briefly begin cleaning some of the artefacts uncovered by the crew, amongst other activities, an overall well rounded experience. The following is essentially a step-by-step account of my experience participating in the 2023 Field School.

The well after being cleared back by Teika, Fraser, and myself, was located north of the primary excavation area.

After completing our first day of the field school, in which we were briefed on the background of the Nassau Mills region and specifically site BcGn-17, I was given the privilege of joining Teika in beginning a search for re-rediscovering the well on this site; a day later we were joined by Fraser. For a first assignment it was a rather daunting task, but fortunately for me Teika has plenty of CRM experience and helped me with the more technical components of excavating, such as the squaring of walls, and tips on efficient trowelling (both of which I still need to improve at, but am a lot better at due to Teika’s help.)

Tired Fraser and Teika after exposing the first level of the well’s rocks.

After completing our excavating work at the well, I was reassigned to complete a mapping exercise which James had set up to give us practical experience using a theodolite and translating the data to a technical map. Working again with Fraser, and joined by Kyla and Janet, we were required to find the GPS coordinates of each artefact flag laid out by James and then establish the locations for one by one metre units at five metre intervals. For mapping half of the artefacts, we used tape measurers to calculate their location relative to the datum, and for the other half we used the theodolite. After gathering their locations, we drew up a map and plotted their locations (as I do not have a photo or copy of the map, Fraser’s blog post “The Art of Mapping” does feature a rough version of it.)

Within the following days, I was assigned to complete a one by one metre unit examination under the supervision of Michael. Working with Sebastian, we rather quickly were able to reach subsoil and complete our unit – I believe it was at this site that I uncovered my first artifact, which was a small white ware porcelain sherd ( which I do not have a picture of). After completing a unit form and profile plan, we closed the unit and returned to the main site.

For the next several days, I worked on a two by two metre unit at the south east end of the primary excavation area. This unit took up approximately a week of my time at the field school, as it was taken down from about ten centimetres to forty, being mapped and profiled at twenty and thirty centimetres, and pictured at forty. Undoubtedly the twenty to thirty centimetre layer provided the most artifacts, including two large blue transfer print porcelain ceramic sherds (which I do not have pictures of). For this stage of the unit, I worked with Alyssa and Cierra, who told me about a unique set of archaeological t-shirts featuring their favourite and least favourite aspects of archaeological fieldwork (for example, “artifacts” = good; “bugs” = bad.)

After this unit was closed, I was sent to a new site, BcGn-28, directed by Michael, which is where I would end up concluding my time at this field school. At this site, I was again working with Cierra on excavating a one by one metre unit adjacent to where a large quantity of pre-contact artifacts had been located. This unit turned out to provide plenty of related artifacts – mainly earthenware ceramics and faunal remains, but also two lithic points and a metallic pin/fish hook. But while the topsoil provided many artifacts, the unit’s subsoil did not; instead, the most notable aspect of the unit was a potential feature in the unit’s south-east corner, which is most likely a posthole.

Now, as I conclude my account of participating in the 2023 Trent Archaeological Field School, I would once again like to thank the course’s instructors for their guidance and help in making this field school incredibly enjoyable and helpful. Additionally to my peers, many of whom I have gotten to know much better than previously before, for being a phenomenal crew to work alongside of. Besides for an unfortunate encounter with BcGn-28’s resident poison ivy, there is little I have to say about this field school not living up to my expectations of what I had hoped to learn and experience.

–Erik Wright

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