As we close up our units on Cornhill Street, it is cool to reflect on what we have accomplished in the past three weeks. My unit, number 26, faced the initial challenge of removing six inches of gravel from the backyard we were digging in. It took us the entire first day to clear the space so we could even map out our site. The first few days of digging produced few finds aside from an ever-growing collection of rusty nails, causing my friends to joke with me about the validity of the work I was doing.
Last Monday however, was when things got exciting. We hit a cement wall in the southwest corner of the unit and as we continued to dig down we found muddier and muddier soil. At one point we gave up our trowels in favor of a ladle. The muck that we ladled out smelled like sewage, so we initially believed that it might have been a privy, however, despite our best efforts it continued to fill with water, leading us to conclude that it was more likely a cistern. In any case, it had clearly been filled and covered up more recently since we found plastic bottle caps inside. This week we uncovered what appeared to be a complete lamb skeleton. The skeleton had been a source of excitement for everyone because it is rare to find a fully articulated skeleton in an urban context like Annapolis, where most of the animals that were around were used for food. Therefore, when there are animal bones they are in pieces or broken. Even if there is a whole skeleton to find, it is not laid out together. Particularly it was exciting for me because I could now prove to my friends that I wasn’t just puttering around in the dirt all day, but was in fact doing real archaeological field work. It was really painstaking trying to take the bones out of the ground with as little damage as possible. The bones were extremely brittle and fell apart very easily. Despite this I feel very fortunate to have found these items within my unit at my first archaeological field school. I understand the frustrations of the units where not very many artifacts were recovered, but the combination of our two major finds at unit 26, the privy and the lamb skeleton, show that we aren’t just digging for fun, or to find our way to China: but that there is history waiting out there for us to find and to understand.