Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Week Six - Tara Schwartz

Saturday was our public archaeology day, when I woke up that morning I felt like I was going to die. I am not a good public speaker and having to gives tours the whole day made me very nervous .On the car ride there I kept going over in my head what I should say to the people about each site. I was the first person to give a tour that day; they were a lovely couple, who seemed very interested in archaeology. After my tour it didn’t seem so bad and I actually wanted to give tours the whole day. Most people that came to the site were the students’ families. I thought there would have been a lot more people there. I think Carin’s favorite part of the day was when BRAVO found the bayonet. That Saturday was a good day to have Public Archeology day.

That last week of file school had to be the most interesting. We drew a profile of the camp kitchen. I am glad I did not have to draw a unit; it looked like it took a lot of concentration and too I have no artistic abilities. We also drew a picture of the rock scatter, but we only drew the units that we opened up on Saturday which contained lots of post holes. The post holes give an indication of something that was there during the revolutionary time. There are many interpretations of the rock scatter, the main one is that it was a work place for the soldiers, it’s kind of difficult to say what they were making there though.

Wednesday we got to excavate the feature that was in the camp kitchen. I think we found more artifacts that day then any other day of field school. Paul and Nikkie were the lucky ones because they found a sword blade and a saucer in their unit which indicates that officers were using the kitchen. There were other artifacts found there like a button, a metal piece that could have been to a frying pan or a cauldron.

My favorite part of field school was when we got the awards, my awarded was the “I suck at this / most improved award”. It was a cute little idea to gives us these awards; they really described us well. I am definitely going to miss field school. I love the people that I worked with I could ask for better friends.

Week Six - Meghan Shirley

Some say that there are two sides to every story. After six long weeks, the 2009 Temple University field school could tell those people they’re dead wrong – at least when the story in question is being told about an historical landscape. A physical place, an oral history, a group of soldiers in a winter encampment – over time these things are snowballs rolling down a hill, gaining a new layer with each revolution, each layer containing its own myriad of interpretations, each building upon those that came before it. To seek a definitive answer, an accepted truth, a list of facts, an end to all inquiry – as students of historical archaeology we quickly learn how futile this search would be. In the preface to her book entitled “Valley Forge: Making and Remaking a National Symbol,” Lorett D. Treese discusses the professional historian’s view of history, the idea that there is not one, or even two, truths but many, many interpretations of what we seek to know and understand about the past. As she points out – and as we’ve seen firsthand this summer – Valley Forge has not one, but several histories. Over the course of six weeks, we’ve been introduced to some interpretations of these histories and uncovered many others ourselves.

Although this last week of excavation has been a short one, nobody can say we haven’t succeeded in going out with a bang. With the help of Dan Sivilich and BRAVO, joining us at the site for the first time this summer, Saturday’s public archaeology day was excitingly successful. It’s likely no one expected the complete bayonet found a mere four inches deep in the soil less than a stone’s throw away from one of the spots we’ve been excavating. Did a Continental soldier drop it accidentally or was it being used for something other than its intended purpose? At this point the latter may be the best guess considering the fact that a collapsed piece at what would have been the point of fixation to the musket seems to have been physically, maybe intentionally, altered. BRAVO also found many other metal artifacts like musket balls, nails and buttons, several of which came out of the ground in a linear cluster first identified in 2007. As the members of Dan’s team swept the surrounding area, we excavated several new units in the spot known as the rock scatter, first opened in 2007 and thought to have maybe been a work area of some sort. We found some bone, some ceramic and, interestingly, evidence of six post holes possibly running in two different – but not parallel – straight lines through three different units. Considering the situation of the soil marks in relation to one another, one line of posts was most likely erected first and eventually torn down before the other went up. What may be a small flint wrap (part of a musket) was found in the bottom of one of the excavated post holes.

A few days later we completed plan view drawings of the rock scatter units and the post holes they contained, as well as the units we’ve excavated at the camp kitchen and the long trench they revealed. This technical drawing can be time consuming but is extremely important as documentation of what our units are telling us at crucial points in excavation. After drawing we effectively destroy what we just put down on paper as we continue to dig. The last few days we’ve done just that, troweling out the rich, dark soil of the camp kitchen’s trench feature in groups. In units 204 C and D two of our classmates uncovered what looks like an iron sword blade, as well as two pieces of what appear to be a tea cup saucer made of decorated creamware. These artifacts lend more evidence to the notion that there were officers in the area, for they are the ones who would have used such a vessel and carried such a weapon. Pulled from other parts of the feature were musket balls, bone (some with marks indicating butchering), charcoal, an iron pot handle with copper rivets and plating, a badly degraded button, a fairly large chert core and pieces of burned earth.

In light of the material artifacts found and the features in the land itself, we interpret this particular area as being, once upon a time, the site of a camp kitchen. Many finds bring us closer to an answer – or at least a likely answer – to the question we’re posing. Yet it’s true that some things come out of the ground after so many years and only lead to more questions. Case in point: three pewter 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment buttons found on site at Washington Memorial Chapel. One was found last year, 2008, in the same units of the camp kitchen feature that just a few days ago yielded the sword blade and creamware – our 204 C and D. BRAVO turned up the second one north of the camp kitchen area. One button, no red flag. Two buttons in different areas, maybe a coincidence. But after one of our classmates pulled a third button out of unit 205 D in the same camp kitchen area as the first, all sorts of questions came up. The Pennsylvania regiments supposedly encamped at what is now known as Wayne’s Woods under the command of General Anthony Wayne – not in the area we’re currently excavating near the chapel. So was the 2nd Pennsylvania actually there? If not, where were they situated? Were they separated from the others stationed in Wayne’s Woods and ordered to instead build their huts alongside the New England troops under General Varnum? Was our chapel site a work area or maybe a place where uniforms were being delivered? These are some of the many possible ways to interpret the finding of these three buttons in the chapel area. Hopefully further research and excavation will produce a more definitive answer.

As field school comes to an end, the search to uncover all that this site has to tell us certainly doesn’t. Yet after six long weeks we can all say we’ve become a part of this landscape – and carved out our own piece in one of its many layers of history – forever.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Week Five Summary

This week has focused heavily on getting ready for our big day – Public Archaeology Day! It was Saturday, August 8th, from 8:00am – 2:00pm. In preparation for our hoped-for crowd, the students spent much of the week cleaning up previously excavated units in order to be presentation-ready for Saturday. We invited the public to come and experience our excavation through our museum exhibits in the Chapel, through site tours of all of the various parts of the landscape, and through helping the field school screen the soil in order to find artifacts from the encampment of the Continental Army.

In terms of actual excavation work, we had to shift focus a bit. A storm early in the week really left us with a wet and silted-in potential hut site. Monday we cleaned up the perimeter excavation units, and left it all open to dry out. The rest of that day we moved up to the camp kitchen. This is a site that I am really excited to continue excavating, but it requires a lot of patience and slow-moving. We expected to find the continuation of our dark organic feature which denotes a kitchen trench. We had to be highly vigilant in order to spot it when it first appeared – it is quite difficult to distinguish from our dark, soft topsoil. Luckily, we came right down on it, just where we expected, and it even curves around the earthen mound as a typical kitchen should.

We also laid in units for our Public Day, returning to our 2007 area of excavation to revisit an indentified clustering of artifacts. We expected to find only artifacts, no features in these four new squares…which of course meant that we found not one or two, but six post holes on Saturday. You can read a more detailed description of Public Day itself below.

Though there was intermittent rain this week, we persevered through it in order to knock down bulk walls and make clean, clear areas of excavation; as well, we spent a long time drawing the features we have identified. It took much of Thursday just to map the overhead (in archaeology the “plan”) view of the newest hut feature. The students were each responsible for part of the feature, with the understanding that all of their drawings would fit together in the end. Technical drawing is such an important part of our record-keeping jobs, it’s really pertinent that the students learn this skill, and learn it well! We will try to scan in a drawing as an example sometime in our last week.

In terms of artifacts, it was a quiet week – our most exciting find came on Friday morning as the class was troweling back the camp kitchen feature. We discovered ANOTHER 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment button! We discovered one in the fall of 2008 in the camp kitchen trench, thinking that it had just moved from the area where the Pennsylvania brigades were encamped to our south in Wayne’s Woods. When we discovered another one in a different part of the site, we got suspicious. Now a third 2nd PA button, and the second from our kitchen, suggests something else is going on here. I don’t know what yet, but we will be sure to update when we have an idea! Until then, one week to go….

Stay tuned!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Public Day!

Public Day 2009 was a rousing success. We had a great turn out and many awesome finds. Here are just a sampling of pictures from the day:

Carin providing early morning instructions to the class before Public Day begins.

Scott and Emily, taking opening elevations for an excavation unit.

BRAVO's excellent exhibit, detailing an English Brown Bess Musket in it's complete and disassembled forms.

Meghan working the screen with on of today's volunteers.

Scott, Emily and Laura (L to R) making dirt for our volunteers to screen.

A member of BRAVO, trying to locate a metal detector hit.

A member of BRAVO with the big find of the day, an intact bayonet.

Two of our very helpful volunteers holding BRAVO's big find of the day.

Carin speaking with a group of visitors.

Another button found by BRAVO.

A concentration of artifacts BRAVO located (possibly a trash pit).

Week Five - Nikki Bond

During the first week of field school we learned about camp kitchens, and this week we actually got the chance to see a camp kitchen. Its really interesting because if you don’t know about the construction of the kitchens you could walk right pass one. This particular kitchen has never been disturbed, so when we did the excavations it was amazing to know that we were the first people to see its artifacts and features in the last 230 years.

Scott made some interesting noises that could be heard a mile away. At first we thought something was dieing and felt really bad for the thing, but as he got closer to the site we realized it was him. That’s how he passes the time during break.

The Megan’s entertained us with their constant sarcastic remarks towards one another and to the rest of us, their great.

Paul is perfect.

Laura was trawling a trash pit and hit a nest of worms. She freaked out started and screaming and running around in circles. When she started to turn purple and began to heave I felt it was my duty to step in and save her.

Marie was so quiet I forgot she was there.

Tara is a secretly a seventeen year old cheating the system. She looks like a baby, but she probably knows more than any student in the class.

The Emily’s have halos over there head with a red pointed tail coming out of there back side.

All in all every one has their own distinctive personality and we all mesh well. Field school would not be the same without any of you.

Week Five - Marie Dematatis

As the second to last week of our field school proceeded, we as students found ourselves gaining a bit more responsibility for the excavation process than when we first began digging west of the Valley Forge Memorial Chapel. We have acquired the skills necessary to independently perform tasks that we previously needed supervision for, such as screening and identifying artifacts, and laying in new units. The archaeological methods that we have applied in excavating the site could not have been learned without the unique hands on experience and instruction that field school has provided for us.

During this week we laid units and excavated in two areas that were new to us. Although there was still work to be done in the northern hut area that we began excavating last week, the water damage caused by the weekend’s intense thunderstorms prevented us from digging there on Monday. We did clean the area in the morning, but then proceeded to open new units that extended west of the camp kitchen area that was previously excavated by Carin and her field school last year. We continued to excavate this area throughout the week, and uncovered the suspected extension of a feature found last year. We uncovered a large, dark soil stain that curved around the base of a hill, which is characteristic of the trench of an encampment period kitchen. The mound that it surrounds was created because it naturally insulated the fireboxes that were dug into its sides. Within this area, we found evidence of food production with artifacts such as butchered cattle bone, charcoal, ceramic. On Friday, a 2nd Pennsylvania regiment button was found that resembles one found last year at the same site. This find is very interesting to us because the 2nd regiment was not stationed in this area, but was instead well to the south of our site.

The other new area that we laid units in and began excavating this week was the area known as the “rock scatter”. This area of limestone cobbles was excavated in 2007, and was interpreted as a work area, similar to one found in Wayne’s Woods. Melted lead, deteriorated buttons, musket balls, the base sherd of a tankard and a tobacco pipe fragment were found here. While we were cleaning the area to prepare it for public archaeology day, several metal artifacts were found including nails and a cufflink. Hopefully we will find more artifacts that will help us better understand this area on public archaeology day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Week Four - Megan Grant

This week we focused on our new area. They believe that this is also a hut because of the depression in the soil near a tree and the large amount of stone piled at the base of the tree which is evidence of chimney fall. As each group excavated their individual units it became clear that there was a definite soil stain that extended well into all of them in an almost square shape. This is interesting because it doesn’t really comply with the orders General Von Steuben gave for proper hut dimensions. It’s too soon to make any kind of general conclusion but its unusual apparent size could be due to the harshness of the circumstances in which they were constructed. It’s possible that the cold weather compelled the soldiers to build their huts as quickly as possible to protect them from the elements. Aside from evidence of features we have so far found some sherds of redware, a few nails from the 18th century, pieces of a clay pipe and a musket ball. The musketball appears to have scars from being put in with the ram rod but never fired.

On Wednesday afternoon we went to Temple and finished bagging most of the clean artifacts from the 2007 and 2008 field schools. This type of work is just as important as the actual digging. It’s interesting to compare the types of artifacts found at previous field schools with those that we are finding this year.

On Friday we definitively identified one of our units as containing the hearth of the hut. The rocks are flat and in the correct position, an exciting end to our fourth week.