Saturday, July 25, 2009

Week Three - Emily Suarez

This week on the excavation of Washington Memorial Chapel grounds, brings about a couple of rainy days that have put a damper on the summer but that have not gotten in the way of our archaeology filled days. After learning the array of techniques necessary to actually do archaeology, we embarked on the journey to a greater understanding on the methods of archaeology and just why things are done the way they are. Now that it is the third week, everyone seems to be getting much more comfortable around each other and around their shovel and trowel. We are starting to think less about the technique and more about the story that archaeology will tell. Little did we know that we would reach a new level of understanding regarding the excavation site and the rest of the National Park Service.

Monday morning Carin informed us that we would have a visitor from the Temple radio station. It was really cool to see just how much interest our dig as well as the dig in Washington’s Headquarters has generated. Later that morning we also received a visit from raffle ticker winners, Adrianna and her mother, who won a chance to be archaeologists for a day. They had a blast, as did we. Park visitors have been joining us throughout the week to hear the story of what we have been uncovering and now the students are in charge of giving the tours. Wednesday nights after the Chapel’s Carillon Concert, visitors also have a chance to get a tour of the site.

The field school has been welcomed with open arms by the church and their volunteers and they are glad to tell people about the excavation. Later on in the week during the rain, we got a chance to clean and process artifacts in Temple’s Grad Archaeology lab. It was a great learning experience for all especially because it allows one to see if they best fit in a lab setting or not. We have been fortunate to find features in the soil, which can tell us more about what might have happened during the winter of 1777. Features, as important as artifacts, seem to be telling the story of this encampment. We pay particular attention to dark changes in the soil, which might suggest the presence of post holes, or trash pits among other things. You can almost sense the excitement in the air whenever something “interesting” has been found. We all seem to stop and listen for Carin and Jesse’s verdict.

Among the many things, our site contains a large hearth with a trash pit located on the west side of it and a large amount of chimney fall to the northeast. The possible story behind the trash pit is that prior to its use as one, the hole was dug in order to mix the clay mixture necessary to construct huts. Later on it was used to discard any waste created by the brigade. The chimney fall could have been caused by the men who were hired to come back and take apart the encampment or just from normal decay. It is simply amazing how much information has been uncovered by the few things from the past that still remain, however they are the key to understanding what really happened here in Valley Forge. Another possible hut is being excavated as we speak and the camp kitchen awaits completion. Stay tuned!

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