A Happy Lab

After a month-long hiatus, students are employed again in the lab with the work of washing artifacts so that they can be cataloged and analyzed. After the flurry of activity and discovery during excavations, lab work involves more methodical preparation before reporting findings, which unfortunately means a lack of compelling blog post material. The process of the lab is an important step, however, in getting us to the point where we can say something interesting about the artifacts that we gathered and the sites we’re researching.

Students Norma, Paige, Jennifer, and Taqwa wash artifacts from Wye. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

Students Norma, Paige, Jennifer, and Taqwa wash artifacts from Wye. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

The students–some new, some who worked in the lab last year, and some from the field school this summer–have been trained in how to wash the artifacts without damaging them, scrubbing hard materials with a wet toothbrush and more porous or fragile materials with a dry brush. This semester it is, as Dr. Leone called it, “a happy lab.” By this point in the semester, they need little supervision as they work diligently through the bags recovered from the Wye House.

As they go, the students ask questions that help them understand more about the human and natural processes that act on artifacts before they are uncovered by the archaeologist. A question about the strange corroded appearance of some of the glass pieces prompted a discussion about “diseased” or “devitrified” glass, in which the material has broken down from being in the soil and resulted in a patina. The students work at their own pace, and learn by doing and asking.

Some students have begun to catalog the artifacts from the Annapolis sites, and the graduate students will start to write their report. This work, for Annapolis and the Wye House, will continue all year.

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