— by Dr. Peres
We are nearing the end of our second week of field school, which means we are nearing the end of our survey work. Survey work is an important, though labor-intensive, part of archaeology. It allows us to explore a site that has never before been excavated to learn more about how big and deep the deposits are. As of today we finished shovel testing in all areas but one — the last area is for tomorrow. Why do we choose to shovel test vs. other survey methods? Shovel tests are not too big which means less disturbance to any potential intact deposits, yet they are big enough to give us a good snapshot into what lies beneath the surface.
Digging shovel tests is part skill, part art form, part determination, and part brute force. Yes, any non-archaeologist can dig a round hole in the ground, but we do it in a very systematic manner. We dig some, screen the dirt, look for artifacts or other evidence of previous human occupation, and measure the depth if we find any. We have a minimum depth we must meet, which varies by site. We analyze the soils as we dig, noting the texture, major ingredients of the soil (sand, silt, clay), and the color. All of that information is recorded and at what depth any changes occurred.
We space our shovel tests at regular intervals, typically 10 m (~33 ft.), 20 m (~66 ft.), or even 50 m (~164 ft.) apart. We place in them in straight lines parallel to one another, called transects.
To keep track of where the shovel tests have been dug in relation to the landscape and one another, we draw field sketch maps (which always have important pieces of information like a North arrow, scale, key — those are just out of the frame of the picture here). We flag each shovel test with locational and inventory information so that Tim can come back and use a sub-meter GPS (read high degree of accuracy in locating them on the ground) to plot them in digitally.
Last, but certainly not least, our remote sensing crew worked super hard and finished up the field pictured below, and then some. Tomorrow we get to pick some places to survey “just for fun” to see what we can see. I am hoping for a potential historic period brick kiln!
Check back with us tomorrow as we wind up our second week and take a much needed and well deserved break over the three day holiday weekend!