The Art of Profile Drawing

Unit 4 north profile drawing.

Unit 4 north profile drawing. Source: Audrey Schaefer

Drawing a straight line between given dots on a plane is considered to be an easy task, but it is the importance of every line you draw and the dots you connect that really matter in the world of archaeology. As you may or may not know, archaeology is a destructive science. As an archaeologist excavates to deeper depths in their unit, they are destroying each level of soil they remove. Any evidence located in the layer being excavated is only known and understood by the archaeologist that is excavating it. Once removed from the context of both the soil layer and the unit, the information is then lost forever.  In order to prevent loss of information, archaeologists take precise, detailed notes of their excavations. These precise notes consist of pictures, forms and reports, profile drawings, and detailed field notes.

For a greater understanding of the different methods of archaeological note taking, one must first understand a few terms. The first, most used, piece of information is the provenience data. This data is repeated and copied on every piece of note-taking material. The provenience information consists of: the site number, unit number, level, date, initial of excavators, and bag number (if it’s a bag consisting of artifacts). A unit is the precisely measured off area where one will dig. In Annapolis, we have four units, each being a 5-foot by 5-foot square. The idea is to dig as wide as you would dig deep. It is known that we will not go deeper then 5-foot in Annapolis, therefore we dig 5-foot units. When digging down the unit, an archaeologist must have the keen eye for spotting changes in soil layers. These differences can be characterized by changes in soil color, soil texture, and presence or changes in amount of inclusions. These are then “translated” into a standardized description called a Munsell. Inclusions are any piece of material (gravel, brick, coal, oyster shell) that may appear in the soil. Once the archaeologist reaches a depth in their unit where no more artifacts or changes appear, they begin the units closing procedures. This area, with no more artifacts or changes in soil, is referred to as sterile. To ensure that they have reached sterile, the archaeologist will dig slightly deeper down.

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The Infamous “Rat Hole”

Rodent burrows on the north of Unit 2.

Rodent burrows on the north side of Unit 2.

Unit 2, my beloved unit, has come across quite a feature in the past few weeks. Not just a rodent burrow, but the beginnings of a rodent condominium. In a site like the one we are digging in, rodent burrows are not unusual, but they are incredibly frustrating. After Dr. Jocelyn Knauf’s lecture, I found myself reviewing the information we have learned in the past several weeks regarding context, and the effect the rodent burrow has on the interpretation of our unit.

According to “Artifacts and Active Voices: Material Culture as Social Discourse” by Mary Beaudry, Lauren J. Cook and Stephen A. Mrozowksi, in an archaeological context, the deposits of an urban area often result from rapid depositional episodes. These episodes can include many stratigraphic sediment layers, which can be missed if one is not careful. These layers can correspond with changes in household-level events such as changing waste-deposit systems or water/sewer management facilities.

Stratigraphic layers or features can be identified through their texture and color. To the untrained eye, they are sometimes difficult to discern, but under the careful watch of our TA’s, we have been fairly successful at identifying each layer. With the emergence of the rodent burrow, which cut through a separate feature as well as the rest of the unit (and continues outside of the unit), it has become more difficult to identify the stratigraphic layers.

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Unit Five’s Unusual Find

This past week while excavating our Unit (a 5’ by 5’ measure of restriction), in Annapolis, my group partners and I came upon a very novel and exciting new discovery. The suspicion of an absence of a specific soil type was raised by the evidence of a borderline separating two apparent soil types within a small defined area of the unit. I immediately brought this unexpected find to the attention of others. After slowly and carefully scraping away the surface layers, we were able to conclude that indeed something different was going on here. However, we were not aware yet of the unique formation that was about to be re-brought into view.

By following this border between a very white mix of coal and ash soil and a very rich brown soil we came upon a very distinct horseshoe shaped deviation. The shape was clear yet unusual in appearance. However, its purpose and means of formation was very unclear. As instructed, we began to carefully remove some of the richer brown soil from the interior of the horseshoe to make sure this ash did not reappear inside indicating that the level of stratigraphy had a burrow in it in this location. In the search for this soil we came upon a notable amount of large bricks that were appearing within this portion of the unit. Large bricks were also observed within this same level on the exterior west side of the horseshoe but their occurrences were not so dense and possibly unrelated. In the continuation of the excavation past this ash layer we came upon even more bricks, all within this same limited area.

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Unit 5

Archaeology in Annapolis has been a blast this past week and a half. I’ve learned so much more about Archaeology and the process of Archaeology in the past week than AI thought I would ever know.

There have been many quick adventures and learning curves; such as immediately breaking a shovel. On the first day. But, it was a great experience to go through so that we know how to act and react when a situation arises, with a little bit of improvisation (we had to use a flat head shovel instead), and some modified filed notes (because we changed the type of shovel we were using, we had a slightly large STP); the Standard Test Pit (STP) we had been digging went on to be completed successfully. STPs are designed to do exactly that, test the area, or survey the area to determine whether or not a site is in fact present, usually determined by whether or not there are artifacts present- an artifact being any item that has been acted upon by a human (if a natural resource), or pieces of an object, if not a whole object, that belonged to a human such as discarded toys, ceramics, pipes, tools, etc.

After the tiny mishap on day one, I get assigned to Unit 5; which is a lovely little 5 X 5 (5 feet by 5 feet). The space that we are digging was selected for a unit because when we were digging STPs we found artifacts such as coal, brick, and other material items of interest in that particular area in the yard. I and my unit mates are told that we are digging in what was allegedly a garden at one time. Interestingly, some of the artifacts that we are finding, and some of the layers of dirt actually seem to verify the idea. Such as we dug down into a layer of ash, which may have been in the so called garden to promote healthier soil for plants to thrive in. We have also recovered seemingly obscene amounts of coal inclusions, and continue to find more coal as we dig through more layers.

In addition to things that support the theory that there was a garden in or near the spot we are digging in, we have also found other potentially random artifacts, including brick, glass, and fragments of ceramics, pennies, and old rusty nails. There have also been fragments of hard plastic in some of the levels.

I am very curious about what all the bricks, which appear to be random inclusions, got to where they did and why they are in that formation since they do appear  to be buried in a random pattern; and I look forward to digging more to see what else we can find.

 

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The Construction of Urban Infrastructure and the Process of Governmentalization – Lecture by Prof. Matt Palus

Today, Prof. Matt Palus visited Annapolis and gave a lecture relating to his dissertation topic involving the use of infrastructure building by governments in order to organize the society to optimize its control and authority. Dr. Palus studied public utilities such as electrification, and enclosed sanitation within Annapolis and its surrounding suburb of Eastport.  Traditionally, archaeologists had not seen value in studying these modern conveniences as something that could answer questions about societal structure.

Dr. Palus contends that the government’s mandate for connection to public sanitation services, the discourse related to the improvement of public health, and the acceptance of the government directive by the citizenry constitutes ideology. According to Mancuse large systems such as these transform societies. The primary concern of the people becomes the maintenance of system. The apparatus becomes a form of control.

Additionally, Foucault’s theory of the creation of self-discipline by creating the sense being perpetually monitored is reinforced when the government becomes governmentalized is evident in the city where public services are controlled by the government and social statistics and the apparatus of security are applied.  The measures of the population, the functioning of the economy, and the maps of sewer lines are examples of such statistics. As for the apparatus of security, census takers, health officers, and those responsible for public works are seen as examples. The street lights and sewers themselves are seen as apparatuses of security and become the material culture of the government.

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Unit 3 Characteristics So Far

Marbles from Unit 3

Marbles from Unit 3. Source: Kate Deeley

A lot of exciting things have been happening in the Archaeology in Annapolis field school for the past several days. My group has been assigned Unit 3 and so far has made some interesting discoveries even though it is still too early to draw conclusions regarding the information we have uncovered. Despite finding an immeasurable amount of coal and brick fragments, Unit 3 has yielded some peculiar artifacts, particularly glass marbles, 3 clear ones, 1 blue and 1 green. What is interesting about these marbles is that they were all found in level B and roughly close to each other. Although it is too soon to get excited about something like that, screening soil from other levels would give us more information about the relevance of the marbles and whether there are more find.

Another interesting development with Unit 3 is the presence of a possible feature that is situated well below level B. Initially, digging through Unit 3 was somewhat of a challenge since it is elevated on its Eastern side, thus proving challenging to keep the levels aligned when excavating. It is important, however, that everything remains equal and flat if we are to appropriately draw any conclusions from our finds. While getting to the bottom of level B, the team noticed that there is a large amount of reddish clay that covers much of the layer B. There are several soft spots of soil that are situated in the middle of the Unit and are very close to each other. Although this is just a speculation, it is possible that the soft spots are a remnant of postholes that were used in the construction of some sort of a feature. Again, this is just speculation, however further excavations into these soft spots and the Unit 3 in general would give us a better understanding of what was situated in the area of Unit 3 and what was its purpose. It is truly exciting to have a hands-on experience when attempting to answer such questions.

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The Arbitrariness of Power

Here are some photos from the first week of field school. Lots of fun in hand.

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Sifting dirt through a 1/4 inch mesh screen.

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Using Munsell color system to determine soil color and a nice paper bag to collect artifacts.

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Shovel Test Pit, screen, 5 gallon bucket, ruler, sheet of plastic, Munsell book, journal, pile of dirt

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Soil sample from Shovel Test Pit (STP).

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A brick or pottery sherd with lead glaze and arching score marks.

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Returning after a hard day at the site.

I am intrigued by the idea behind Ferdinand de Saussure’s “the arbitrariness of the sign.”
These are some basic notes to myself.
What are the goals?

Surveillance.
Surround sound.
We are watching each other.
You watch me while I watch you.

In field school this spring we are looking not only at power but the oppressed. In one of the articles for the first week’s reading we learned about Dr. Mark Leone’s idea surrounding his model of ideology. Leone’s ideology is a construct of ideas for a period of time, re-presenting a particular present time in the past. In this present it is simultaneously reproducing its past with all of what is good and bad as part of this snapshot. It is a package. In the colonial package we have the power structure, an economic system, bondage and freedom, capitalism and the birth of a wealthy and powerful state, let’s say Maryland, where the cost of production that produces this package in itself contains a puzzle and a problem.

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Independent Study in the Archaeology in Annapolis Lab

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.

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Filipinos in Annapolis: Recognizing A Forgotten Past

Last summer, I found myself starting a new journey with Archaeology in Annapolis in exploring the forgotten history of Filipino immigrants in the city. From 1898 to 1946, Philippines was an American territory, allowing a mass exodus of laborers into the country as nationalists. In 1901, the U.S. began recruiting Filipinos into the Navy. Annapolis became a focal point for these U.S. Navy men who helped build the Naval Academy, served officers as stewards, and prepared meals for midshipmen as messmen. Despite this long-term presence, their contributions to the city remained unrecognized.

 

United States Navy men posing for a picture. Photograph supplied by Toribio family.

In the summer of 2012, I decided to answer these questions through my graduate internship. For months, I conducted oral interviews of members from the descendant (pre-1965) and current (post-1965) community. Despite demographic changes from the early to late 20th century – gender, socioeconomic status, and social/legal barriers – the different stories intertwined under the common themes of alienation, struggle, and transformation.As a Filipino-American, this history intrigued me. Who were these men? Where did they live? How did they carve out a life for themselves in a foreign land? What traditions did they continue to practice and what new ones did they create? What is the community like now?

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