For the past 2 semesters, I have been working in the Archaeology in Annapolis Lab in Woods Hall. This is my first year at Maryland, and I wanted to get a feel for the work being done in the archaeology department. Dr. Leone’s Archaeology in Annapolis program was a major factor in my decision to transfer to Maryland, so I welcomed the opportunity to get to work with the artifacts from previous field school sessions.
The other undergrad students and I were involved in multiple steps of processing the artifacts from washing, sorting/classifying, cataloging, labeling, mending, and completing a minimum vessel count. Many of the artifacts we worked with related to Kate Deeley’s research on African American communities in Annapolis. Kate helped us grasp the concept of minimum vessel counts and stressed the importance of each step in the process of labeling, mending, and identifying rims in order to determine the minimum count of vessels located within the site. This data, when used in conjunction with the ceramic types and other associated remains, creates a view into the lifeways and social status of the people that occupied the area. For example, one site yielded a large number of sherds of whiteware ceramics with nearly matching shell edge designs. They were similar in color and style, but not exact matches. This might lead to speculation that the people could not afford to purchase more expensive sets all at one time. However, you must be careful not to make assumptions based on any one interpretation of the artifacts. Having matched sets may represent status but, according to Kate, this could indicate that these particular residents were interested in putting together a set of these dishes, but not necessarily concerned that they be a perfectly matched set. That is just one of the many valuable lessons I learned in the Annapolis lab.
One of the unexpected benefits of working in the lab was the involvement of the PhD program student assistant directors. Kate, Beth, and Ben are a wealth of information and are always happy to give input and advice. They are intimately involved in the excavations and are utilizing this research for their PhD projects. The enthusiasm and generosity of everyone in the lab have really made me excited to join them this summer for a session in the field.