Day 4 at the Prairie Dig

Tomorrow we fill in our units, so today was technically the last digging day.

By now, I had met everyone else who came today, though we had two new people. A freshly finished student, and the former archaeologist of our Prairie, the man who discovered our site.

For the last few days a volunteer who came from the Prairie volunteers was part of my unit team, along with an ecology student. Both of whom I began to really like a little more each day. Especially the Prarie volunteer. She went out of her way to teach me, and point out things like the impact point on flakes, what some *arbitrary* words on the paperwork meant. I was glad to have her near by, and she told people I did good work.

So, we took our feature down one level,  (10 cm) and found some great pottery sherds and a variety of bones and lithic flakes. I did find myself learning new things today in everything that I did.

First I learned a little more about lithic flakes, and I screened some amazing finds including a probable mouse jaw, which was so tiny.  (And my Aunt found a point in her unit!)

On my glove, under an inch long, tiny jaw.

We cleaned up our feature, finished it, and recorded its depth at 140 cm from the surface. Then, I watched as we took a pollen sample. (Soil for pollen testing at layers in the feature) Then, we needed to collect a float sample. I didn’t know how to do it but I sort of volunteered, since I didn’t mind digging into a deep pit feature which was getting to arms length from where we had to be situated.

Pollen sampling.

A float sample is a large sample taken from the feature which will be basically mixed with water, and passed through a screen, and it collects all the finds, even tiny ones.

We needed to take a lot of dirt, and our feature kept producing finds, which we wanted to bag. But we had to leave them in the float sample, because we weren’t recording this ‘level’. I dumped the bucket of sample into the sample bag, and off it went.

Yes that’s a tooth on a jaw, for the flotation sample.

While I was taking the dirt for the float, I asked the professor who was one of the three in charge of the dig if I could see the magnetometry results. He excitedly agreed to show me them, and proceeded to explain what we were looking at, what features we found from this print out and where he wants to dig next year.

He’s pointing to my unit on the results!

Soon I noticed other units being recorded and closed. I began to watch the section profile being measured and drawn, and a very bubbily and willing helper volunteered to take apart the screens. I hadn’t done that, I wasn’t sure how they did that, or that they even did. (Though now I suppose it makes sense.)

And then, in the middle of taking the screen apart, our dig lead called for volunteers to take a sediment sample. Of course, I had to volunteer myself. I figured it meant walking to wetlands, through the unmowed, thissle-ridden, patch of bushes. But the actual pushing down of the pipe to get the sample became nearly impossible even with four people working together.

We decided to see what we had and call it off until we had a better tool or area. This became especially apparent as we tried to empty the sample onto a tin foil. The tool was so stuck in the mud. Literally. Our dig lead had to bang it on a cement wall, with me watching and waiting to catch the sample.

We were using one of the bunkers to push against a hard wall but also to have a safe place to get this sample out. The bunkers are crazy, they’re from when the land belonged to the military as the largest ammunitions factory in the US in WWII. These bunkers held tnt and dnt… between 1940 nd 1996 the ammo produced here was used in by the military up until Vietnam. Some pieces still belong to the Government and it is still being broken into pieces to be given to the Forest Service for this grassland site. The concrete bunkers were placed so if one went off it wouldn’t create a chain reaction. They were like a cool damp echo chamber.

We didn’t get much sediment but we tried, it needed a different tool, and now we know. So we recorded the sample for posterity, lab work, maybe for a student to learn how to sample pollen from. I know it didn’t go nearly as planned but it’s still gives me a working experience to how taking a sediment sample should work. (So many firsts today!)

At the end of the day, two units were still active and we began to cover the rest with tarps, to be covered tomorrow with fill until next year. Actually it’s much like our hypothesis for their seasonal use of the site, ha! (Dig a pit, fill it in, return and resue the pit…maybe?)

Anyway, we finished taking tents down, and lining the trenches. And tomorrow we just fill in the dirt. Just as soon as Isaid goodbye to my new favorite unit with pit feature… I whispered (see you next year!)


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