Saturday, April 30, 2011

Today was just lovely, it is the fourthe day on site and the fifthe week of the quarter. A bit of a slow start for me getting to class on time, but I did! I was ready to get my notebook back and read where my progress can begin, and I am glad to see there are definitely areas for me to work on. I noticed a change today in the whole atmosphere of class and environment. The winding breezes could be seen along the North Easterly hillside creating a waving within the grasses which are just beginning to touch golden, although are still mostly verdantly green. I enjoyed taking a breather before the start, watching with eyes and ears the life around me. The lovely birds in the sky flocking, the sounds of mating pairs around and in the trees. I constantly make jokes about the turkeys but even today their feathers shone of an iridescence comparable to a phesant's. The scent of fully blooming Hyacinth has died down and now I can scent something else, scotch broom maybe, or possibly it is honeysuckle growing wild on the Mission grounds. My fellow students are even in a much calmer vibration with their stress levels lowered. This was definitely a much better start to the day.

TEST PITS!!! Galore! and teams. The was the first day we started broken into small teams and set directly set upon a task. Today I was grouped with Janna and Krysten for a 50cm test pit. It was mostly square, in the rectangular sense. Breaking ground is literally what we had to do, break it and roughly as the top 10cmBS layer was caked like earthen ware stone. We found a few odd rocks, and animal's burrowing hole about 10cm long to measure, but not much else to speak of. The next 10cmBS went much faster and the soil became easier to both dig and crumble our way through. The three of us took turns digging, screening and recording, and we all laughed together. The wind turned to breeze close to noon, and the Sun began to beat down. Our team blazed through the last 30cmBS which was pretty much like soft clay material. between 20-30cmBS we did find an abundance of charcoal, however much of our remnants were so soft they would crumble when we tried to separate them from the soil. As lunch was called I grabbed a long stick to mark an open pit and we left much of the larger tools at the pit under the impression there would be another group rotating in to dig pit 6B. I am not sure if that happened, but I am still proud of our little pit.

With lunch over and most of us still in a food coma or stuper we were directed to a nice shady tree for to hear a light lecture from a Ms. Phoebe. While I never did hear the answer if it was Sunny with an O or U, it was a great bit of an icebreaker to see scholastic networking last beyond the moments in school. The topic was paleoBotany and what the two definitions of the samples could be. Macro remains would be seeds while Micro remains are much smaller and can tell a story several hundred years long, much like tree rings. She talked about the importance of the different environments for the micro remains of pollen to exist in a preserved state. Phoebe was very clear on the different dating techniques being used for each as well as proper collection techniques. Since I learned about Phytoliths while doing a report on Paleobotany it was great to hear someone actually talk about them and that to study them is not some random side recording, but it can be an actual study placed within an archeological site. She made some excellent points and reminders about a site being a conglomerate of what data each scientist wants to uncover from the site.

After Phoebe's chat the team rotated to Hand Augering with David. Hard earth only gets harder in areas where water might flow upon but not settle within. We were just South East about 30M of the large Eucalyptus nestled with the Almond trees. This core sampling was an exercise in more laughter because really what could you do when twisting, much weight and torque then more twisting just produced 2cm of below surface pure core. This was definitely a trial in patience and determination which accumulated in a few possible grape seeds and orange brick slivers. Oh and the enjoyable image of the class participating a moment of earthenware pinch pot making from the 50-75cmBS soil which is so similar to what I used to work with in my pottery classes. Phoebe even came to enjoy some Augering and screening time. She was just lovely to have around. Sadly the day ended too soon, however it was definitely a long and exhausting day overall. I am looking forward to the next one.

Friday, April 29, 2011

An Interesting History of Mission San Jose

Having read all that has been posted since my initial entry i am all at once seeing the value of this tool for communication. Since I missed last weekend I am very much looking forward to our day tomorrow and to getting some more time with the "DSCQHR shovel bum tribe". Just the process of going through my field manual and documenting my thoughts and observations has been a revelation for me. My learning curve is steep and I accept the challenge 100%.
Always one to want to understand context, I have taken a book out from the library that is giving me a look-see into some of the past conceptions of just how Mission San Jose came into being. "History of Mission San Jose 1797-1835" by Father Florence McCarthy published in 1958 is a great insight into a colonialist/religious view of how and why the Mission exists. It is so steeped in racism and prejudice that it is almost laughable. Still it helps to understand the milieu of this place and all that happened through the first third of the 19th century. I would very much like to find one that is more realistic and covers up to the present day if anyone has suggestions. Having said that for me, reading this book will help me to appreciate the site and to be able to have even more questions and conjectures on how this little "slice" of the earth reflects the past.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 23, 2011 Day Three: Mapping Surface Artifacts and Shovel Pits

On this day, when I arrived I saw Professor Hartley setting up the transit that we have been learning to use these past few weeks. Fortunately, the Anthropology Department agreed to have it calibrated! A small group of students were working up the hill, on the east side of the site, with some of the surface artifacts that were found last week.

I spent some time this week noting our topographic setting. The site is covered with grass of varying heights. I noticed some animals burrowed several tunnels in the area. I imagine their presence is a usual problem for archaeologists. However, it was interesting to see what the deeper soil looked like, from the animal’s tunnels, especially since at this point we hadn’t broken any ground. There are little purple flowers in the grass, as well as clovers. Turkeys sometimes walk through the field, and I feel like they’re getting a little closer each week!

While some students worked with the GPS to locate the distance and angles of each surface artifact from the SW point, the rest of us worked with the transit to do the same. I feel like this week it was much easier to use the transit, and I feel pretty comfortable with the knobs that control focus and direction. To get the angle, one student held a plum bob over the artifact. Another student, using the transit lined the string up with center of the scope, making sure it was focused. Then, by looking where the two zeros line up on the screen, we figured out the degrees of the angle. We measured the distances with a meter tape, and later a stadia rod. It was interesting to learn how to “break” the tape measure when dealing with hills. It was something I had wondered about, and the answer was surprisingly simple. We broke the hill into separate sections and held the tape level, above the ground. I recorded small descriptions and took a picture of each artifact. After reading some other people’s posts I got some great pointers for the future. It had not even occurred to me to include something to compare its size! Next time I think I too will use a quarter to show the artifacts size in pictures. I expect we’ll actually measure the items later, but it’d be nice for the photos.

In the afternoon, we began our “shovel pits.” Brenna showed Andrew, Maria, and I how to use an auger. It was really exciting. I could probably use one or two more tries to really feel comfortable using the transit, but it was nice to start going into the earth. We began by checking the length (1m) of the auger and diameter of the bottom portion (15cm.) Then, by twisting the handle we turned the bottom barrel portion, digging a hole. Quickly, I realized that it required a bit of strength to start the auger. I happily let Andrew start it. Every 20cm we dug, we stopped and sifted the dirt. We also recorded a description of the soil and took a sample of it. We recovered quite a few interesting items. Some will have to be tested, and some will have to be looked at closer before we can know for certain what they are. We found what looked like pieces of tile, burnt bone fragments, a piece of modern metal, and pieces of glass. The soil change was dramatic. I was shocked to see it get so clay-like it would hardly go through the sifter. It then grew very sandy with “lome” or chunks of decomposing granite.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 23, 2011

Its a new day, but day three at site DS-QHR. This days insights come from marking the angle and distance of artifacts found via surface collection prior. Many of the artifacts found in the previous day's work were flag for perseverance for today's task of mapping, distancing, and angling. With the information collected today, a more detailed map, following each artifact's description as well as location, can be plotted to scale and position.
While a group of us learn how to individual utilize the transit to obtain the information previous stated, two other groups each lead by a graduate student went to the northeast area of the site to do auger work. Each group were to auger down 1m to see if any artifacts may be found. They were to also record the dirt composition and color for later reference and stratigerphy.
During the second half of the day, test pits were created at the far east section of the site. Four teams of three to four people excavated two test pits each. They were to be 30cmx30cm going to a depth of 30cm. Each level was to sifted at 10cm increments. The test pits were labeled as follows: 1A-1B, 2A-2B, 3A-3B, 4A-4B. My team excavated test pits 3A and 3B. We were able to sift 1B down to 30cm and found 2 animal bones. The sifting of each layer was done with 1/4 mesh screens. All artifacts were bag for further analysis.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Surface Artifacts

Last Saturday's class (23 April) was the most engaging yet! While I enjoyed many aspects of it, my favorite part was documenting some of the surface artifacts we found. Even though I'm still a bit wobbly when it comes to reading the Transit, I love having the artifacts we found all logged and described and labeled and photographed. Mmmm, data.

We logged seven artifacts before breaking up into groups; it might be that there were a few past the seven I participated in. (Can someone let me know?) I'd already photographed all but the last one when I heard Sandy say, "Oops, I haven't been using anything to show scale." D'oh! I borrowed a quarter from Christy, re-photographed the seven artifacts, et voila! Posting them here, for fun. (I know I'm not the only one who took photos of all the surface artifacts... I hope nobody feels like I'm stepping on toes! :)

Artifact 01 : Burnt clay w/thumbprint, or just an oddly shaped rock? Hmmm.

Artifact 02 : Piece of thin, weathered green glass.

Artifact 03 : Flat, thin sedimentary stone (caliche?)

Artifact 04 : Chunk of thick, glazed, white ceramic.

Artifact 05 : Burnt ground, possibly charcoal, in situ.

Artifact 06 : Three pieces of dried wood.

Artifact 07 : Non-human long bone.

I've really been appreciating the sense of teamwork that our group brings to the site on Saturdays. Everyone helps everyone else, whether that looks like giving tips on how to read the stadia rod, or shouting out the artifact coordinates for the fifteenth time. I've also really been appreciating the mix of graduate and undergraduate students. As an undergrad, I'm seriously grateful for the experience and knowledge that those more experienced students amongst us share with the group. It's both inspiring and humbling to realize how much there is to learn!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 3 On-site

This week I finally felt like it made sense to wear cargo pants and carry a trowel. We did a lot of work! I enjoyed plotting, drawing and recording the artifacts. Its not a complex process, but somehow, seeing artifacts in my notebook is quite different than seeing scattered flags in the field. I can begin to categorize and theorize about the artifacts and why they are there. It seems that we have entered the realm of "real" archeology.

Around 1600 we split into groups for subsurface surveying with shovels, buckets, screens and all. The class made some good finds like historic nails, ceramic, glass, and animal bones, which were collected in labeled bags. There seems to be more artifacts than we originally thought, even if they are only small fragments. I wasn't too excited about breaking out the shovels, only because it was so late in the day and I was out of food and water. I'll be better prepared next week!