Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Week 2 Dig Diary: 6-10 June

This week the volunteers and students continued plan drawings of the survey area, which is focused on the 19th-century barn, suspected 19th-century outbuilding, and general northern side yard. The more we look, the more surface finds are there! Many plastic toys, golf balls, metal fragments, glass window and bottles fragments, shells, and as-yet-unidentified things. We lost some time this week due to rain, but the students were able to make good use of the time by re-bagging artifacts from last season in archival storage bags. In this way, they familiarized themselves with artifacts, with with some more of our record keeping techniques (there are many!), and with principles of archaeological cataloging and curation. Plus it was a preview of things to come!

The students did a wonderful job with their dig diaries this week, so I am including the entires as quotations in their own voices.

This week was a lot of fun! We continued mapping out what would have been the barn area, and we found some really cool objects in the ground and on top of the surface. Our group had a little trouble mapping out our first plot because our zero point had shifted in the earth a little, so our numbers where off, but after re-measuring our plot perimeter we were able to fix our mistake. The part of this week that I thought was the most interesting was definitely when my group started to clear away where the dog house was. I thought it was especially cool how it looked like there was just a pile of scrap wood, but when we looked underneath it we found another bottle and several pieces of metal that looked like it could have been from some kind of farm machinery. This makes me even more excited to start digging because I can't imagine whats going to appear!

The second week of class was mainly devoted to working on making the grids for the area that we will be excavating. Its a lot of scientific and mathematical work, which I am not to fond of, but what made it so interesting were the objects that were protruding from the surface waiting for us to pick them up. Unfortunately, we did have a rainy day, which meant that we were in a classroom. At first I was a little disappointed because I was dying to continue on work on site. But the time went by just as quickly when we were sorting through and re-bagging artifacts that had been found the previous year. It was exciting seeing what they had found and just made me want to start excavating that much sooner. We finished the week with only a few more grids to do, which we will most likely finish up on Monday and then follow it by doing a surface sweep and picking up objects laying on the top. I cant wait!

The second week of class we worked on mapping out the artifacts on the top of the ground and re-bagging artifacts dug up from last year. There were very interesting objects on the surface ranging from toy cars to an old piece of a broach and various glass bottles. The artifacts that we can see by just looking at the various grids tell about what the side yard has been used for over the various years; it was a play area for children, a trash pit and the living area for a pet dog. While re-bagging there were some fascinating artifacts such as a huge moral and horse tooth, some old pottery and even the lips to an original Mr. /Mrs. Potato head. While looking at artifacts that were already dug and the ones that are still on the surface waiting to be collected I continually become more eager to be assigned a grid to dig and to learn more insight into the history of the Akin house.

Due to rain we had one indoor day and two outdoor days this week. On Monday we learned mapping basics and broke into teams of three. Each team was assigned a 4x4 meter unit. Our team's unit had a collection of large stones that we are theorizing to be a part of the old stone barn. On Tuesday we had the opportunity to work with cleaned artifacts recovered in 2008. We sorted, photographed, labeled, and bagged these items. I found the objects intriguing as we are all anxious to start digging soon. On Wednesday we concluded our unit mapping. This time we had the opportunity to map the well feature. Each team member took turns in the various roles and we gained an appreciation for the details that go into each map.

Our second week at the Akin house was a productive week. We surveyed almost all the grids and found some exciting surface artifacts. Last Monday and Wednesday the class was on site and doing some final clearing of brush as well as plotting and mapping grids. About half of the grids held surface structures or artifacts, however some of the grids where almost empty. Many of the grids this week had elevations that had to be measured which seem to be the hardest part of the mapping. Tuesday was an awful day weather wise and had to be spent in the classroom. We spent most of the time bagging and labeling the artifacts from the 2008. We went through many bags and got to see some pretty neat finds while bagging. Also we got to see the changes in finds due to the depth of the bag. Overall the week was a productive, next week we start picking up all the surface finds that where found during all the brush clearing could be interesting.

The first week of mapping the site got me really pumped to start collecting surface artifacts and to start the digging process. Several items were noted while mapping, which include: glass bottles, plastic toys and fragments, rubber and golf balls, and clothing pieces. Hopefully all the surface artifacts on the barn site mean there are many more items below the surface. Another group noted the discovery of metal objects including nails and what I think was a trowel. If we are able to pull up some more tools around the barn site, we may be able to better determine what the barn was specifically used for, as well as the kinds of items that were stored inside during its functional years. This may also evidence of and insight about the barn's importance not only to the Akin family, but also about it's function in the larger Dartmouth/Padanaram community.

We continued working in the yard of the Akin house. Since we had previously learned how to properly categorize and bag artifacts, we were able to begin this process in the yard. We took the plans that we drew up the week before of the areas and began to locate each item on the key. We then grabbed orange marking flags to show where each item was. After this was done, we took photos of each artifact and feature. Last but not least, we bagged the artifacts according to the quadrant that it was found in.

This week we begin excavation. VERY EXCITING. 6/15, still working on clearing the vines (and apparently poison ivy...) and just generally cleaning up some of the yard so we can see the surface and better decide where we would be most beneficial to dig.

Also this week, our volunteer Steve pointed out some very interesting paper stuck to the inside of a plank in the small keeping room (adjacent to the kitchen) of the house - it was historic newspaper! The newspaper was stuck a few layers thick over the painted planks that, in the 18th century, were the finished interior walls of the house. The newspaper has no date but several articles are legible. The date of the newspaper helps to establish when Akin family members decided to re-do the inside of their wall, adding lathes and plaster for a more "modern" and "finished" look (and warmer winters). A quick search on a 19th-century newspaper database found a match for at least one issue that's on the wall - an article on the "Mission to Rome" in The New York Herald,Wednesday, March 22, 1848. The author expected to see the day when all Europe would be a confederated republic - sounds like he predicted the EU.