Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lab Days

The last couple weeks in the lab have given me more appreciation for what archeology is all about. I loved being in the field because it was a new experience and balanced out my reading-intensive proseminar class. Last week's lab I opted to wash artifacts. The tools were simple: a plastic tub, strainer, toothbrush, screen, paper towels, a tray, and water. After filling the tub with water, one artifact bag at a time was washed with strainer and toothbrush. Once free of dirt, the artifacts were laid out to dry on the screen over paper towels and tray. The filled up screens were moved to a drying rack and the process repeats.

By 1200 my group (Vanessa, Sandra, and myself) had washed about three boxes of artifacts and took a lunch break. After lunch Vanessa and I continued washing until the labeling group inside The Cage ran out of labels (I think). The only unwashed artifacts remaining were inside a large paper bag from T-1. The rest of the DSCQHR artifacts were drying or being labeled.

Lab work, at least the washing part, is detail-oriented but not difficult. The crucial point is to keep artifacts with their respective bags, which are properly labeled with unit name, crew team member initials, date, and context (depth where they were found). To lose track of the artifact's bag would render the artifact practically useless in analysis. Since our artifacts will not be dated or otherwise examined by instruments, we were not being as meticulous as possible (ie. washing bone with water). As we saw during this week's lab, the artifacts need to be fairly clean for proper examination, comparison and photographs.


  1. As Christy mentioned, I participated in the washing of artifacts. I must admit that after a few of the larger baggies of bone fragments, rocks, bricks and tiles, I found myself cherry picking through the boxes for some of the more interesting artifacts..sorry Christy but I did save the glass baggies for you! The washing experience was really interesting and gave me a great overview of what all was found at our sight. I especially enjoyed washing the ceramics, and the more delicate items such as one of the beads and possible obsidian projectile points. However, one of the things that was not that enjoyable was how some of the bones felt less calcified and more soft once in water. Following this reaction I tried not to let the bones get too wet, although this was definitely a discrepancy I noticed within the bone collection possibly indicating the age of the bones based on the hardness factor and reaction in water?

  2. I must admit that being in the lab is easier for me than being out in the field because of my health condition- anemia. But that isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the outdoors far more.
    What I found to be true is that while I was in the lab, it was far more easy for me to organize my collected data, sort of re-vamp my field notebook, and really prepare for the site report.
    Connecting with other students like Mark & Elizabeth & Vanessa helped me get on the right track and feel more confident about the structure and content of my field notebook.

  3. It's strange, but I also kind of enjoyed the lab work more than the excavating. Usually, its the opposite- everyone could not wait to dig! Mark and I discussed how we enjoyed the detail-oriented nature of lab work, and I think professor Hartley commented something to the effect of that some people prefer different parts of the process. Although I am sad that we had to end our excavating early, I am really glad that it gave us a couple weeks in the lab. Otherwise I would have never known how satisfying I found cleaning and cataloging artifacts. Hey who knows, maybe I'll pursue a future in a museum one day!


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