Archaeology in Annapolis: Week 1 2012

Richard mapping bricks at Schwar's East.

Richard mapping bricks at Schwar's East. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

Archaeology in Annapolis this year has 3 different locations and the Unit I’m in is Unit 25, in Schwar’s East. We are in the backyard of a home that the owners have graciously opened up. This backyard consists of an average brick patio which laid on top of a foundation made of sand. Because the foundation had been laid in order to hold bricks, it wouldn’t consist of any artifacts because it had been handled previously by either construction workers or the homeowners themselves. This would have ensured that relatively little to no artifacts would be in the foundation before the bricks were laid.

The first part of our dig was fairly uneventful due to the foundation of a brick patio. The foundation consisted of sand and because it was The bricks first had to be removed and then the sandy foundation underneath said bricks. After that, my group called out more and more when items were found, such as glass shards, cigar wrappers, and a 1982 dime, minted in Philadelphia. I am always holding my breath whenever my group stumbles across an item of interest, hoping that it’s an item that will herald a glorious find. Despite the fact that I know better, this notion is still at the back of my mind, biding its time for the next time we come across a small artifact embedded in the dirt. On Friday, this notion was fulfilled when Duncan came across an empty .32 caliber Smith & Wesson shell casing. My entire Unit got fairly excited over this due to the nature of the find, however we had found a 1999 dime in the same level, which means that the terminus post quem, or earliest possible date, the shell casing could have been deposited is 1999. Despite this, the .32 caliber shell casing, to me, can be considered glorious for it came out of the blue and generated excitement in Unit 25.

I must admit that I have taken an archaeological methods class before and thus I believed that I felt fairly well prepared for any digging that would occur. However, I was proven very wrong and I lacked even the most basic knowledge about how to start. From the proper way to set up a site test pit to the proper way of recording data, I was woefully unprepared. The proper way to set up a site test pit is to measure out two different points which, in our case, were 4 feet apart. After this, we needed to construct a perfect square by making use of Pythagoras and right triangles. A triangle with two four foot sides would require a 3rd side measure exactly 5.66 feet. This is what we measured out twice for both sides and this made our perfectly squared site test pit. The proper way of recording field notes is to write down our site number, unit number, date, and group members. After this, a mapping of the site test pit is required which is followed by a soil color comparison. This is achieved by using a Munsell color system in order to distinguish between the varied colors. Following this, the depth of the level of the site test pit was measured and recorded.

My field experiences greatly differ from those in the classroom. I was learning mostly about theory and how exactly a site test pit was done but I wasn’t learning how to do it in the field. Despite my lack of preparation, I was, and still am, eager to continue digging. Learning these lessons now will be beneficial in my future, especially my immediate future when we start digging at the Wye House Plantation.

1 Comment
  1. Congrats on the shell casing! Gun culture in Annapolis??

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