Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back Fill + Back Ache = Back Home

Ahhh....The last day at the site. So bittersweet. We can't wait to get back home, but we are all a little sad to be leaving.  All of the excavation is over, but now (cue dramatic music), begins the back filling.  After 5 weeks of careful excavation, now we get to dump all of the dirt that came out of the units right back into them.  Listen to me when I say, keep your dog, because a shovel is NOT your best friend.

Are you lookin' at me?

Ok, backfilling goes a little something like this...shovel shovel shovel....dump.  Shovel shovel shovel....dump.  Some of us are really good at shoveling, and some are really good at dumping....but rarely does a shoveler dump or a dumper shovel, it's just the way it is.

A quick demonstration by Adam on how to properly hold up a shovel. Thanks Moody!!!
While the dirt is being dumped back into the units, the spreader/stompers take care of business on their end...the dirt is spread throughout the unit and stomped down.  Our goal is to leave the site as closely to the original condition as possible.  Even though you can see where we excavated right now, within a few months, the forest will reclaim it and nobody will even know we were here. 

That was NO slight of hand, those units disappeared!!

Backfilling wasn't the only thing we were doing today...Eileen went with Dr. Livingood to collect topography stakes that were left during Total Station Mapping, Kevin went to collect all of the flagging tape that marked our trails, Bryce took down our makeshift bridge over muddy waters, and Amanda and crew took apart the tool bin we lovingly (or disturbingly) referred to as "the pine box".  After all of these jobs were finished, everyone met at Block 1 and helped finish backfilling.  The whole process took under two hours!  Mainly because we are all so awesome.  Just sayin'.

Els OWNED that site!!! (But what did that lunchbox ever do to her?)

King of the Mountain....One of these days, all of this could be yours, kid.
Once everything at the site was finished, we brought all of the excavation equipment back to camp, cleaned and oiled the tools, and repacked everything for the trip back.  Once again, it's all bittersweet.  We'll miss our friends, new and old, but we probably won't miss the snakes, ticks, mosquitoes, horseflies, wasps, spiders, humidity, 100 degree days, and the 6 o'clock mornings.

Tim D.  The hardest working man outside of show biz.

Goodbye McCurtain County. Hello Norman, ibuprofen, calamine lotion, air conditioning and sleeping in!!!

Michael Carlock, Eileen Schaumleffle, Justin Anderson, and Bridgett Kiefer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finishing Up

Once again, today was a very hot Oklahoma day (100 degrees according to Eileen's car dashboard!) and sadly, today also marked our last day of excavations.  And what a day it was!  Even as several teams continued to take down baulks and complete documentation of features, others spent the day backfilling the finished units.  Quite amusing to see dirt carefully being taken out of the units, while just a few feet away, dirt was being shoveled back in as efficiently as possible!

Shelby carefully takes the dirt OUT

While the guys quickly put it back IN

In the midst of ordered chaos, more visitors, including Dr. Susan Vehik, Dr. Robert Brooks, and Dr. Lee Bementarrived to see what all we've been doing these past five weeks.  We were excited to show them around!

We all know that archaeology sometimes requires working in awkward and highly uncomfortable positions, but Dawn took the prize today as she excavated a feature.

Dawn really gets into her work

After a long, hot, but productive day, we were finally done with five weeks of archaeology, and it was time to get a little crazy. We cheerfully tossed rocks, sticks, and random dirt into the units, tramped wherever we pleased, and generally made a mess of our once immaculate units!   

Wild and crazy Elsbeth

Tomorrow we will return to the site to backfill the remaining units and make sure we haven't left anything behind, but the hard and rewarding work of archaeology fieldwork that we set out to do has been completed!

Bridget Kiefer, Michael Carlock, Eileen Schaumleffle, Justin Anderson

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Archaeologists Dig Cold Sodas

Today was another hot day, and that seems to be the trend for the rest of the week. But we got up with smiling faces and went out to the site, ready to work. Dr. Scott Hammerstedt, who has been working at another site doing magnetic testing with the gradiometer, was able to join us this week at the main site this week.

We also had two other visitors today, Dr. Paul Minnis and Dr. Pat Gilman, both archaeology professors at The University of Oklahoma. They drove four hours from Norman to observe the work that we have been doing over the past month. They also brought along a few bags of delicious, cold sodas! Thanks guys!

Scott and Elsbeth preparing for a photo

With only a few days left of work, it is crunch time. Everyone is working very quickly (but still accurately, of course) to finish out our last week. Thursday will be spent back filling, and Scott had the wonderful idea to be productive by screening our loose dirt over the unused units to speed up the process.

 Kevin Logan taking full advantage of our new screening location
Quite a few baulks (the walls between units) were taken down today in order to reveal what is underneath them. This information is crucial to understanding the layout of the structure. Sometimes artifacts are found in these, and today, Nick found a point that was only slightly damaged. This isn't the first time this has happened at our site! In addition to the artifacts, more defined corners of the structure were identified.

 Nick Wood displays the point found in the balk
In Block 3, the units are all but finished, and most of the day was spent cleaning unit walls and drawing profile maps before the unit is backfilled.  We have decided to leave the burned rock cluster in place, in case we get the opportunity to excavate more of this feature.

Truet Hinson, Richard Jaggers, and Justin Anderson clean and map profiles in Block 3.

By this point, we have almost reached subsoil in all the units. The depth of the units have been increasing with shoveling and troweling all through field school and we are hoping that all the information Elsbeth wanted will be revealed by the end of the week. There will be extensive lab work and research once the site has been excavated, but most of that will be in the air conditioning!

Eileen Schaumleffle, Mike Carlock, Justin Anderson, Bridgett Kiefer

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday, June 21: The home stretch.

Today we began the last leg our field school adventure. We have lost the use of the vans, and are now traveling via convoy to the site, packed into any vehicle capable of handling our numbers and the gravel road into the forest, champion of which is Eileen's Dodge Durango, proud carrier of eight, seen here with a view from the front seat.

Work continued in the units, with the majority of the day being spent on mapping and bringing other units down to level.  We bisected the hearth in the center of the structure in Block 1, and removed approximately 10 bags of soil for flotation in Norman.  Mike bravely took on the task of pulling them up the mountain in the cart, which he promptly regretted.  In Block 2, Patrick Livingood and crew finished excavating the domestic feature and took the remainder of the unit down a few levels, to the transition to sterile clay.  In Block 3, one of the units seems to have hit sterile at 110 cmbd, although Amanda is forcing them to excavate another level into the clay to be certain.  In the other Block 3 unit, Bryce recovered what may be the medial section of another Dalton point just east of the fire-cracked rock feature.

Trey measuring the depth of a unit

Kevin creating a map from coordinates taken by a partner in the unit.

Though we did not set any records or have any ground breaking revelations today, it was a record setter as the hottest day we have had yet on site. After returning to camp we were informed that the weather forecast advised against any outdoor activity today. Our only options regarding this suggestion are to huddle within the air conditioned bathrooms, or weather the heat in the same manner we weathered last week's storms, with a quiet dignity and stoic demeanor for which we have become known.

Mike demonstrates.

We take comfort and solace from the heat in the homemade ice cream left over from Sunday night, provided by Ms. Ellie of J-D Trail Riding Camp, along with strawberries and wild black berries, "fresh from the mountain," in her own words. Thanks again, Ms. Ellie.

Signing out, Justin Anderson, Mike Carlock, Eileen Schaumleffle, and Bridgett Kiefer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 4 Wrap-Up: Postmolds and Fire-Cracked Rock

Last week was the second-to-last week of the field school, and as our time in the field is winding down, we're starting to uncover more and more exciting archaeological finds.

In Block 1, Elsbeth Dowd and her crew reached the full extent of horizontal exposure in the Caddo house area and started to concentrate on working their way down through the burned timbers to the floor of the house and below.  They have now been able to identify one of the center support posts from the interior of the structure, an area of burned soil that likely represents the hearth, and several wall posts.  Next week, the pressure is on as they must finish taking units down, mapping in post molds, and excavating house-related features!

 Elsbeth Dowd trowels over the burned soil in the structure hearth.

In Block 2, Mike Carlock and his crew, along with professor Patrick Livingood, powered through 20 cm of sterile clay to end their western portion of their unit at approximately 90 cmbd. They then started excavating the Caddo domestic refuse feature in the eastern portion of the unit.  They recovered numerous sherds from several vessels, and found a large, flat, fire-reddened rock in the base of the pit.  Elsbeth Dowd was so excited to see the sherds that she got them out and started sorting them the minute we brought them in from the field!

Elsbeth is excited about the pottery from Block 2!

Finally, in Block 3, we made a very exciting, much older discovery.  As we took both units down in 10 cm levels, we dug through about 40 cm of Caddo deposits, went through a stratum where there was no discernible soil change but a much higher percentage of small, water-sorted rocks, and then, at approximately 55-60 cmbd, began recovering strictly lithic debitage and Archaic points.  On Thursday, we recovered a Dalton point in the northern unit, which could be as much as 10,000 years old.  Later that day, in the southern unit, as we continued to expose a large cluster of fire-cracked rock, we recovered a second Dalton point, sitting on the very western edge of the feature.  These are some of the few artifacts of this age that have been recovered from intact soils context in southeastern Oklahoma.  We also have taken two charcoal samples from the feature, and will be submitting them for radiocarbon dating.  The rock cluster is large and extends well beyond the walls of the units.  Using an auger, we have been able to estimate that it may measure as much as 2 m east-west by 2 m north-south!

Next week is going to be very hot and very busy as we attempt to finish all of the features located around the Caddo house in Block 1 and the rock cluster in Block 3.  Check back for updates on our progress during the last week.

Amanda Regnier
Oklahoma Archeological Survey

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Uncovering an older past.

Today there was a vast amount of progress in the last few days of week four.

Over at Block Two, Jared and Mike Carlock slowly uncovered the domestic feature. Two of the pieces were decorated and one was a rim sherd . We troweled the feature and got to use bamboo tools for very delicate work. We also used spoons to dig up the feature, which contained a vast amount of pottery. We also did a profile of the soil stratigraphy in the deepest part of the unit.

Four of the five of the groups troweled Block One for a photograph. Troweling can be a tedious task, especially with limited working space and lots of root disturbances in the way. It takes a lot of people to hold up a tarp for a shaded photo of a finished level of a unit.

The Block Three team made an amazing discovery. All the fire-cracked rocks in Block Three, could indicate an Archaic feature. Their was one Dalton point that found in each unit. Dalton points date back to 8000 to 9000 B.C.E.   In Block Three they have dug down one meter, and even though they hit clay they are still finding artifacts, which is unusual for this area. Clay is usually sterile (yielding no artifacts.)

Dalton Point
Burned rock feature

Today's Blog was written by Jared McLaughlin, with help from Adam Lane, Jamie Haener, and Shelby Richison.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back to Work

After a nice break due to weather yesterday, we returned to the site today for a productive day of work. In one of the Block One units, we uncovered a very nicely decorated pottery sherd.

                                           Here,Tim is at work screening dirt for artifacts.

 This cluster of rocks which was found in block three
      may be the remnants of a hearth.

                                        We found this pottery sherd decorated with applique and incising.

We also discovered what appears to be more charred timbers.  The most important event today was the finding of a post mold in one of the main units in block one.This is probably the remnants of a center post. By analyzing the layout of the center posts of the structure, it may be possible to make an assessment of the cultural affiliation of the group that inhabited the site. In this area, we also found what Adam thinks are the un-charred remains of a post.

Today one of the shovel testing teams found the tip of a projectile point which was the cause for some excitement as these tests rarely yield anything but lithic flakes or pottery sherds. In block two, we reached sterile soil at 70 cm but continued to 90cm to be sure we were in sterile subsoil. After reaching this depth, the profile wall was cleaned up. As the weeks go on, we are excited by what each days work reveals and look forward to learning more.

Blogged by Adam Lane with assistance from Jamie Haener, Jarred Mclaughlin, and Shelby Richison.