Today’s blog post brought to you courtesy of Nathan (MA in History).
Sounds of shovels striking the ground and soil being sifted through screens means DAY TWO of the MTSU Archaeological Field School at Magnolia Valley has begun. Students arrived this morning refreshed after a well-deserved night of sleep; sore, but enthusiastic to learn and dig more dirt.
Dr. Peres runs the field school as “on-the-job” training. As she told us earlier, “I’m not concerned with your comfort, that is your responsibility. I’m teaching you the skills necessary to get hired as professional archaeologists.” This sentiment, coupled with the fact our field school is certified through the Register of Professional Archaeologists, means we will be prepared and qualified for any job we are hired on.
Today we continued our Phase I work in Area A; a designated location where we are conducting tests to determine the site’s potential for further excavations. One group of students continued working with Tim on the geophysical survey. They even were able to operate the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to collect data points. GPR lets us “see” below the surface and pick out anomalies that we will want to further investigate in the coming weeks.
The remainder of the students broke into teams of two to continue the shovel test survey we started yesterday. Shovel testing is the most commonly used survey method on professional (CRM) archaeology projects…in other words, get used to digging small round holes! This method is important in locating culturally significant materials and identifying any soil disturbances caused by humans. We completed the shovel testing in Area A by the end of the day today. In advance of that, I, along with Jesse and Joey, and one other student, put in transect lines in Area E — the next destination for our survey work.
MTSU Archaeologists and students put in transect lines in Area E.
Transect lines are important for Phase I, as they provide a measured grid for organized work and allow us to record where we are working in both horizontal and vertical space. Jesse showed us how to use the compass to lay in a baseline. We then ran transect lines at 90 degree angles off the baseline, putting pin flags at 20 meter intervals. These flags mark the locations of future shovel tests.
Pin flags. We are already regretting our choice of green pin flags.
Having the opportunity to learn how to accurately lay in transect lines using low-tech methods (tape and compass) solidifies what we have learned in the classroom.
Nathan helps to move the tapes for transect work in Area E.
Tomorrow we begin surveying in Area E — tall grass = high probability of ticks and chiggers. We also have a 100% chance of rain tomorrow….so Area E may have to wait until Thursday.