Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lab Work

My lab work consisted of the two in-class sessions, the make-up day on June 3rd, and two other sessions where I came in to work under Brenna’s guidance. I therefore was fortunate enough to try my hand at all the different parts of the “lab process.”

The first task I undertook was washing and cleaning the artifacts. At my first day in the lab, Brenna showed me how to place a colander in a bucket of water, and empty the contents of a bag into the water. The colander prevented some of the smaller items from getting lost. Then, taking a toothbrush, we gently removed the dirt. It was really amazing to see the artifacts completely transform once they were clean. There were so many colors besides brown! It was refreshing. For bone and metal artifacts, we took a dry brush and, without getting them wet, we brushed away as much dirt as possible without damaging the artifact. Unfortunately, I learned there is not too much you can do about rusted nails. Very carefully, we then laid each set of artifacts next to their bag to dry on a tray.

During my next experience with lab work, once again the ever-patient Brenna taught a couple of us how to catalog artifacts. We took little cards and filled in the information written on the outside of the bag onto the card. This included things like the site, type of artifact, what unit it was from, unit size, level, depth, screen size, date excavated, and who excavated it. The next day in class, I continued on this task. It was much easier to complete when the whole class was there because we did not all follow one uniform way of recording the information on the bags as we pulled artifacts out of the ground. Sometimes some bags would not have a date, or the name of the excavators. It was easier to fill in these gaps when I could run up to people and ask “does this look familiar?” and “what date was this?” Perhaps it wasn’t the most scientific approach, but I guess it got the job done.