Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ring around the rosey pocket full of artifacts!

I have found myself to be the "floater" of the site which is actually working quite well for me! Taking the tour of the units week by week has been beneficial in the sense that I get to see what is going on in each unit! Working in the trench a few weeks ago let me gain some experience working in a larger unit which was awesome, the mother hen of the trench Amber was great at giving her crew guidance and leadership while we worked at excavating the largest area. During the first 10cm when I was with the crew we uncovered several pieces of glass and chunks of brick. I was only with the crew at T1 for a few hours where I helped screen mostly, the majority of the artifacts showing up were structure pieces and glass. After working with T1, my help was required at CU 3 with Andrew's team. CU 3 may be the most interesting unit I have worked in so far, they seem to have to have the most identifiable features in situ. Around 15cm bd we began to uncover a large cement looking stone/curb looking object. Also there are many pieces of terra-cotta looking pipe and structural pieces showing up. Their soil is extremely bioturbated, which was confirmed by our friend Mr. Gopher that showed up toward the end of the work day by poking his head (and dirt) our of one of the sidewalls. Work was slow the day I was with CU 3 because we had a 1/8th screen and our silty, claylike soil was not cooperating. This last weekend I was placed in CU 1 with Andrew, Hiroto, Ritchie, and Robert. These guys were awesome, I really enjoyed working in this unit, we managed to get to Level 4 by the end of the day, as of right now our Level 4 is waiting for completion underneath the tarp! Close the the west sidewall in Level 3 we uncovered a curved piece of terra-cotta roof tile or pipe that was quite large, also we are uncovering more and more sandstone layers as we progressed to Level 4 and on. We have also found quite a bit of nails in this unit, at the end of the work day last weekend as we were beginning work on Level 4 we began to uncover a LONG! nail in the east sidewall. Hiroto was the king of wet-screening and wants to progress down as far as possible so hopefully his energetic attitude will propel CU 1 past Level 4 on our last day! I'm hoping to visit another unit on our last day, but anywhere I can be of service I will be happy to help!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Notes from CU-1

Howdy folks. Just wanted to catch you guys up on the goings on in CU-1. As of the end of work last Saturday, we broke ground on our fourth level. In the interest of time we taking this level down 20cm instead of the customary 10cm. Apparently all the fun stuff is happening in the other pits as all we've found so far is mostly small glass shards and some ceramics. No beads, no whole bricks, no interesting bones.
We do have a pretty long, intact nail sticking out of our sidewall that we will work on extracting once we get back to digging. We also found a fairly large piece of Terracotta pipe that we've been told was likely used for irrigation. At roughly 25cmbd we located some of the same sandstone that other pits have reported finding as well.
One thing I would like to point out as well, is the innordinate amount of asphalt we've encountered across the site, and I wanted to know if there was any ideas as to why we would encounter it where we have so far. CU-1 seemed to be plagued with the stuff between 20-30cmbd.

Anyways, that's all I've got for now, see you in Lab on Saturday.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Christy, Ken, David B. and I were back at CU2 last Saturday, 21 May 2011. We did all the same stuff as last week, but with more awesome this time! We work really great together as a team, and made a lot of steady progress on our excavation pit.

We started off by smoothing things down to the bottom of Level 3 (26 - 36 cmbd). The ground in our pit was really rocky in the north/southwestern half, and all full of silty clay soil in the north/southeastern bit. I was having quite the fun time with the pickax, loosening up the ground to get through the last few centimeters, when -- kerCHUNK! I hit a big something and saw a slash of red peeking through the dirt. I started digging around to find the edges of the object, and what do you know? Nothing left for it but to jump around like an idiot, yelling "I found a brick, I found a brick! I found a WHOLE BRICK!" And then to do a happy dance.

"PELFREY!" I yelled. "We got something for ya!" David P. came over, and he got happy too. Started talking excitedly about how all the bricks from this one local company had maker marks on them, and maybe this one would too! (Except with my luck, it'll probably turn out to have been exactly where I took the huge chunk out of the brick with the pickax. Sigh.)

I went diving for the brick to yank it out, but Bossman David B. told me to leave it in situ, since it was located at the very bottom of Level 3. We would officially excavate and log it for Level 4. Argh! Want! That's like having a loose tooth, and your parents keep telling you not to play with it. But we left it there, and drew a sketch of its location on our Excavation Pit Level map page, and took a bunch of photos... here's another one! 

I got to finish logging all of the artifacts from Level 3. I really like organizing and counting and logging and bagging and stuff. It's so wonderfully meticulous! I offered to do it for Level 4 as well, but was told I needed to let someone else (i.e., Christy) try it out too. Anyway, here are all of the little baggies of bone and metal and glass and ceramic and structural bits that we found in Level 3. (That little red and white plastic strip is a measuring tape that David P. either made or brought to pass around; each red and white square is a centimeter. Pretty cool, huh?)

 The day progressed in a wonderfully steady, productive way. We all got into a rhythm of digging, hauling, screening, chatting, and taking little breaks; the day just flew by.

I'm really bummed about missing the lab day next week. I would LOVE being a part of washing and cataloging our finds, and especially getting see what other people have been pulling out of the ground! I'll be up in Oregon next weekend, so this is a request for folks to take and post pics, okay? Pretty please? :)

See you in a couple weeks... I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day Weekend!


Max & Janna


CU2 Crew

Our Humble Excavation Site

Video #3

The Raw and The Uncooked

Here are rest of the videos from Saturday. It looks like I will have to upload them one at a time so I will just # the clips rather than give them fancy titles. All the footage is unedited, so watch out because I have been known to curse like a sailor and I'm the narrator. I hope these videos enhance the blog experience for the participants and others who may view this site.

I'm not much of a blogger myself and because I am so new to archeological field work I find that I have less to say than some of the more experienced students and bloggers. I frankly don't know WTF I am doing on the site it is all a learning experience for me. Because of this I don't feel there is that much I can say that hasn't been said more eloquently by a classmate. These videos are one way of adding my observations to the blog. I totally encourage any of you to grab the other camera next time and randomly film what you see.

As some of you know my interest lies in documenting and cataloging materials rather than looking for them, hence my move towards museum studies in my next graduate program. I feel I will make a better lab worker than a field worker in terms of archeology.

That being said I am enjoying the work and being outdoors it beats a lecture hall any day of the week with the kind of weather we have in the Bay Area this time of year. : )

Just a photo of my partners in crime....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lab lab blab bla blog

As ALL of you should know by now, we have started to process materials from DSCQHSR in the lab facilities on campus. Now I want to warn some of you: before you get your hopes up about chem tables, lab coats, fancy machines that go *ping* and closets full of materials at our disposal, this is an archaeology lab. Which means it is a facility located in the least desirable place on campus (a basement) and is slightly larger than a maintenance closet. It could be worse: I've worked in a lab that was converted from a bovine invitro fertilization clinic. No joke. Count your blessings.

After the coordinated efforts of Richie, Charles and myself, and the wisdom of Margie, we managed to clear space, and muster up trays and washing utensils to process our finds. There was some talk of 'letting Dr. Miller' know what we were up to, but I chuckle to myself about him wandering in and finding unknown artifacts in the cage and being reminded that yes, indeed, there is an archaeology field school offered through the department this spring. Surprise!

The lab experience is favored by some students of archaeology: it is here you get a clear look at what is being recovered in the field. As time goes on, and as we become more judicious in what we bag from our screens, we will see less rocks and more 'artifacts' in the lab. Remember: archaeologists are only interested in modified or manufactured materials, we aren't interested in rocks unless they're modified or part of a structure. Item 2 to remember: if you bag it in the field, it still needs to be processed in the lab. Save yourself the time down the line and determine whether something is worth saving in the field. If you're not sure, always ask one of the crew chiefs, but by now everyone should be pretty familiar with the cultural materials we are concerned with documenting and saving, as well as the size of certain materials like Tile (if it is smaller than a quarter, don't bother). Rocks: if they're not smooth, shouldered or rounded, chuck 'em. Pretty rocks are indeed pretty, but not useful to us archaeologically.

We plan to hold lab hours next Wednesday and Friday, and we need to get started documenting these materials and constructing a database to quantify this data for our final reports! David B. has provided artifact labels and a spreadsheet template for data entry. This Wednesday, 25 May, I will have students continue with washing artifacts, and begin creating labels and entering data for our site surface finds and individual units. Busy week ahead!

matrix change: Keanu Reeves not included.....

Star Date -311615.4109271943 (21 May 2011)

No one was raptured from job site today. *Whew*

We broke ground 3 weeks ago (finally!) and most of the students seem pretty happy about jumping in and getting dirty. Everyone is being rotated amongst the units on a weekly basis, with the exception of the crew chiefs and assistants, giving everyone an opportunity to experience different excavation strategies and artifact finds. Two of the units in the southern portion of our excavation area (CU3 and Trench 1) have yielded materials associated with California prehistory, though with the amount of bioturbation in this area, stratigraphically placing these materials is impossible. For example, within minutes of T1's discovery of an unfinished obsidian projectile point (roughly the size of a thumbnail) I discovered an obsidian tertiary flake on the ground surface adjacent to CU3. Gophers might be fuzzy and 'cute', but they can really foul up an archaeologists job, not to mention a vegetable garden.

Last week was a good bead week: within almost 20 minutes of wet screening materials there were 3 recovered in the screens and one recovered in my unit (*that I am aware of). The two specimens from my unit are both white, one is glass but the other has a seed or shell like opaqueness. Unfortunately, I did not have my jewelers loop on hand to look at it more closely.

The excavation pace in CU4, the unit I have been assigned too, increased over the second half of day 3. After relinquishing paperwork duty to Jaime, and borrowing Dani from T1, Mark and I jumped in and blew through Level 3 in just over an hour. We couldn't have accomplished this without the screening efficiency Dani and Tung. Those two rocked the wet screens enabling Mark and I to dig like steam shovels. Periodic trips to the screens to dump dirt also allowed me to get my jeans soaked and dirty, which not only refreshed me on the hot day, but also aided in the sense of accomplishment. There is no such thing as a clean archaeologist. *note: If you see one, especially if they're wearing clean white clothes, approach with caution armed with a BS meter. Ergo, if you meet one who doesn't have a twisted sense of humor, run.

The next excavation day will be June 3rd. We plan to divide our unit in half, reducing the size from 2m x 1m to a 1m x 1m unit. We are also shifting our arbitrary levels from 10cm increments to 20 cm increments in order to increase efficiency and enable us to determine an accurate stratigraphic profile of our unit. After blowing through an asphalt slurry layer at 5-25 cm, we have encountered really thick pliable clay soil. While it is relatively easy to remove, its consistency makes screening difficult, though not impossible.

Looking forward to returning to the site in two weeks!

Site Walk Up

When I have some time after work I will post the other videos. Keep in mind I have borrowed two Flip Cams from campus if anyone else wants to video stuff from the next excavation or lab session let me know.