2009 Field Report 2

June 19, 2009

Bags unpacked, refrigerators stocked, trowels and plums in hand… The 2009 Heidelberg University Archaeological Field Crew is in the house!

Like surfers in search of the perfect wave, we arrived this past week from distant, and not so distant places, from California and Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, drawn here by the perfect dig, a site unique in both the richness of its archaeological artifacts and the stories of challenge and hardship they reveal. We have come to the Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison site.

[image] Illustrated here is a map of where we are excavating. Johnsons Island is a reasonably sized landmass just north of the city of Sandusky. Until recently, the only transportation to and from the island was by boat. In the 1970s, a causeway was built to service the quarry.

Just as was done by our predecessors, JI Field Crew 2009 will be posting a weekly report of our activities on Johnson’s Island over the next five weeks. After much discussion among ourselves, we have decided to take a different approach this year, and depart from the collectively written, itemized accounting of the week’s work (often chock-full of references to “2 x 1 m sections” and the “plow zone subsoil interface”) that has been the norm for field crews over the past few summers.

Instead, the responsibility for reporting each week has been assigned to one of the three “dig teams” into which we have divided ourselves, the better to work the site effectively and to share the workload. This week’s report serves as the “scene setter,” and as such is along the lines of the more traditional collaborative writing approach. Starting next week, however, each weekly report will reflect the individual styles and approaches of those on the dig team who wrote it.

Photos by Juli Six

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The canopy in this photo is designed to protect current excavations from the elements. Pictured here is our fearless leader, Dr. David Bush. Tim Connolly sharpens his trowel before digging. The trowel is the key tool in the kit of any archaeologist.
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A laser level assists us in monitoring the depth of our unit. This helpful device has been nicknamed “the angry bucket.” The team hard at work. Hannah excavating.
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A plastic scoop is used to clear away loose soil. Tim carefully screening the soil from his unit Groups C and D searching for artifacts in excavated fill.
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As we excavate, easily identified artifacts are deposited in a red plastic container. Features, visual representations of discontinuity in soil composition, are marked with colored push-pins. A completely outlined feature.
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A unit’s location in space in time, known as its provenience, is recorded using a dry-erase board. A properly marked unit, ready to be photographed Field specimens are bagged and collected on a board for review.
[image] [image] The rest of the day’s events are recorded in next week’s post.
At regular intervals, artifacts collected are sorted and counted. Lunch is taken a short distance from the canopy.

Comments (5)

  1. Tyler Putman says:

    Today was a warm one on Johnson’s Island! We uncovered several particularly interesting artifacts, including part of a glass umbrella-type inkwell and a bottle base with a glass pontil mark in the hospital units, and embossed glass and decorated ceramics from Feature 40, the hospital latrine we’ve begun to excavate. Tommorow promises to be just as good as we continue to expose the subsoil in the hospital and work into a deeper zone of the latrine. Tonight the students are in the lab working on processing the hundreds of smaller artifacts we find on a daily basis – glass and ceramics, nails, brick, and much more. One of the dig teams is also working on refitting a kaolin pipe bowl uncovered last week. Stay tuned for another field report soon!

  2. Marcia George says:

    As a volunteer, it’s exciting to be immursed in the discovery process with the field school students. This site allows me to see what’s been going on when I can’t be out at the site as well as what is happening in the labs, so it is extremely interesting to see what is revealed as the process continues. Tyler mentioned the refitting of a kaolin pipe bowl. I was curious if there were any markings on the pipe and if so, what kind? Also, I was wondering what the field students are finding most interesting as they become more familiar with the processes and artifacts. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  3. Juli Six says:

    Wednesday, Company A (Tim, Phil P., and myself), assisted by Dr. George, moved to the latrine around 10:30am. The latrine, being provenience oriented, requires more meticulous troweling than plowzone units. There I discovered mostly shards of glass including an amber bottle finish (the entire top rim) and a piece of an aqua blue medicine bottle base. Quite exciting! Tyler came across the neck of a bottle (possibly green-we can’t tell yet) which as of quitting time Thursday is still below depth and in situ. Wed. evening our Company worked on refitting the kaolin pipe we uncovered in one of our hospital units. To answer Dr. George’s query, it appears to be smooth all over. Tyler observed that it was a common mass-produced item. There are no distinct markings from what we can see, however the stem (not included in vessel cluster) may have been decorative.

    Personally I very much enjoy the wildlife we encounter on site as well as en route. The most peculiar being an ostrich, a peacock and a tree-climbing groundhog.

    Today it reached 100 degrees inside the tent. Tim found the only field specimen which was a rim shard, which I believe was clear.

    More soon…

  4. Marcia George says:

    Juli, thanks for the descriptive update! As you proceed in the lower depths of the latrine, more and more materials and features will be uncovered and it does get quite exciting to observe and interpret as you peel back the layers. Try to stay cool and keep us posted!

  5. Amanda says:

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