Saturday, May 29, 2010

Week 1: A Rundown

Wow, we can hardly believe that the first week of field school is over.  The students have done great work this week, and we are impressed with how much they have already learned and how they have all held up in the face of a few poisonous snakes, one big thunderstorm vs. a few leaky tents, and many, many tree roots.  We have made great progress in our excavations!  In the Block 1 area, the 2 x 2 m test units have revealed burned timbers, presumably from the structure.  We are still trying to reach the floor to find post patterns and figure out how the structure was built.

 Working in the Block 1 Area

To get a better idea of the site boundaries and the locations of the most intense areas of prehistoric activity, we are excavating 30 cm round shovel tests across the site along a 10 m grid.  This week, the shovel tests revealed two new areas of interest at the site.  In one test, the base of an Archaic projectile point and lithic debitage were recovered from approximately 40 centimeters below surface (cmbs).  This area is northeast of the Block 1 area, closer to the edge of the terrace, where the flat landform drops off into a slough that parallels the Mountain Fork River.  A 2 x 2 m test unit was started in this location.  We recovered decorated Caddo sherds and a projectile point from the upper levels and hope to encounter some undisturbed Archaic artifacts in the soil stratum below the late prehistoric component.  Shovel testing will continue next week.

Patrick Livingood has been training students on how to use the total station for surveying while also creating a contour map of the approximately 30 acres that make up the site as well as the surrounding area.  The pine trees and undergrowth have posed somewhat of a challenge, but they have allowed the students plenty of practice in creating upwards of 30 survey stations.  While everyone enjoys the long weekend, we'll be looking forward to see what we find next week! 

Amanda Regnier
Oklahoma Archeological Survey

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roots, Snakes, and Charcoal

Another day where everybody showed up on time at 6:00 am, more or less ready to leave. Again, we received our assignments before departing and set out without much incident (aside from Bryce, who locked his keys in his trunk). The drive to the site was much smoother than before, as the survey truck didn't almost hit a deer on the road to the site, unlike every other day so far.

Upon arrival, everybody gathered their tools, drank some water (hopefully), and headed to the site. Here, we started where we left off hurriedly the day before. We mapped out one unit, began digging the first level of another, and opened up yet another off in the woods. The other teams continued troweling the floors of their units so they could map them out by the day's end.

On the way to open up the unit where we recovered and Archaic point in the forest we saw, well, another snake. Luckily, Kevin was there with his snake hook to relocate it to another area of the site.

Sneaky Snake

As the day moved on, several interesting finds showed up. One unit discovered a spread of burnt timber along their floor adjacent to some flat rocks. This helps illustrate that the residents here may have had their house burnt down after its use had been exhausted.

Once the copperhead was moved away, a number of artifacts were recovered from the unit off in the woods, although none of them were Archaic, including the chalcedony point below, which was recovered along with numerous decorated Caddo sherds.

After a long day, we ended up with some satisfying results and headed back to camp. Also, yes, Bryce ended up getting his keys out of his car.

Bryce Denton, Sarah Dumas, Meghan Hemric, Richard Jaggers

PS: Group E will miss you!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away

We got off to an early start once again, and no one was late this time.  Yay!  After getting our assignments for the day from Elsbeth, we all loaded up the van at 6 A.M. and headed back to the site.  Once there, we unloaded the vans and brought equipment down to the units and started to excavate.  Once again, we found pieces of charcoal and lithic debiatge, and we learned how to map features such as burned posts found within the units.

One of the units is completed.  After reaching sterile soil and failing to find any features or recovering substantial amounts of artifacts, it was backfilled and a new unit location was selected.

We began taking pictures of the units in order to document our work and for later research purposes.  While the units were being excavated, another group of students and professors were creating a topographic map of the area  to be used for further research.

As the work day was ending, a storm blew through, and we set the world record for packing up and and covering a site.  Another day of good work completed!  Now it's time to break into our groups and work on artifact washing, cooking, blog writing, kitchen cleaning, and figuring out how to time travel to make the weekend arrive faster.

Meghan Hemric, Sarah Dumas, Richard Jaggers, Bryce Denton

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Roots are evil.

Today we woke up at 5 AM, very sore from yesterday's work. We met in the parking lot and discussed a few things before we left, and then we hit the site. Today was special because Nick celebrated his birthday today.

Well, happy birthday, Nick, you're on shovel testing duty! All the poison ivy you could want! We split into our groups to work on our units, while some people went to do shovel tests and others to do GPS mapping.

Shovel testing uncovered some really neat stuff: a piece of decorated pottery and some Late Archaic items, including a partial point. The Archaic stuff is older than our Caddo component, but still very interesting to find.

For the people digging in their units, there was one find that predominated: roots. We're beginning to see the downside of digging in a forest. These aren't small roots; these are thick cords of some sort of supernatural material that makes them nearly impervious to harm. The most common words of the day were, "Can you pass the root cutters?"

The major find was in graduate supervisor Adam Moody's unit, where we uncovered some charcoal deposits together with what might be a charred wood post mold. Most units are on their second level and everyone is hoping to get through the plowzone soon. We got our first taste of washing and rough sorting artifacts this afternoon, and are looking forward to some rest tonight. Before going out again tomorrow, of course.

Richard Jaggers, Sarah Dumas, Bryce Denton, & Meghan Hemric

Monday, May 24, 2010

Getting Up and Running

Today, was our first day of work, and we spent most of the time getting the site set up. First, we toured the site and looked at all of the areas that we will be working on for the next five weeks. After we sharpened our trowels and shovels, it was time to get the brush cleared from the trail going down to the site and the excavation area.

Patrick Livingood, from the OU Department of Anthropology, took a crew and began mapping the surrounding area and laying in shovel test locations on a 10 m grid.

The first excavation area was placed around the test unit where the remains of a structure were uncovered last summer.  While we were clearing brush from around the excavation area we found a snake, probably a young timber rattlesnake!!  It was safely relocated to a new home away from the excavation units. After the site had been cleared, we then learned how to string out a unit, a 2 by 2 meter square, and begin digging our first 10 cm level.  Even though the digging was slow going, some interesting artifacts were found today! One is the small projectile point that came up in the screen just before we ate lunch.

After lunch we found a piece of a jar that was decorated!

By 2:30, it was time for everyone to pack up and cover the units as well as pack up all of our tools so that they would not be disturbed over night. Everyone was tired from the heat and humidity, but we can't wait for another GREAT day, just like today!

Sarah Dumas, Meghan Hemric, Bryce Denton, Richard Jaggers

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Goals of the Archaeological Project

Top to bottom: Michael Carlock, Patrick Livingood, Adam Moody, and Elsbeth
Dowd lay out excavation units in preparation for the first day of field school.

Welcome to our blog! Our purpose is to document the University of Oklahoma 2010 Field School in Archaeology at a prehistoric Caddo site in the Ouachita Mountains of southeast Oklahoma. The ancestors of the people of the modern-day Caddo Nation of Oklahoma lived along the Red and Arkansas rivers and their tributaries in an area that spans southeast Oklahoma, northeast Texas, southwest Arkansas, and northwest Louisiana at sites that date back to approximately AD 900. The prehistoric Caddo people were sedentary horticulturalists, who grew maize, beans, and squash, so they typically chose to live near the rich soils found along rivers. The Caddo worked together to build earthen mounds believed to be used for communal rituals and are perhaps best known for their artistic, elaborately decorated pottery.

The goals of our summer project are to (1) determine whether the site is eligible for inclusion on the Natural Register of Historic Places, which will protect it from any future harm, (2) collect a sample of the pottery made at the site to compare to contemporaneous nearby sites, (3) collect samples of charcoal for radiocarbon dating, and (4) collect samples of animal bone and charred seeds to better understand the diet of the prehistoric Caddo in this area.

This archaeological project began last summer when Elsbeth Dowd and I excavated a test unit at a newly-recorded archaeological site, found by USFS archaeologists. In the unit, we found decorated pottery sherds, lithic debitage from stone tool production and maintenance, a large concentration of burned corn cobs, and burned wood and earth. The amount of burned earth and wood suggested that we were probably excavating into the remains of a house that had burned prehistorically. Because we did not have a large enough crew to complete excavations, we stopped at that point, backfilled the unit, and decided the site would be an ideal candidate for the field school.

Last week, most of the supervisory staff went into the field to lay out some 2 x 2 m excavation unit locations around the burned house, which is seen in the photo above. As you can see, excavating around the tree, roots, and poison ivy will be a challenge, but we will enjoy the shade. Check back with us daily for updates from the students as our excavations progress!

Below are some links with relevant information:

For more information about the prehistory of the Caddo, please visit:
For more information about the field school and the project directors, please see:

Interested in studying Anthropology at OU? Check out the department website:

The Oklahoma Archeological Survey website has information about general Oklahoma prehistory:

Thanks for stopping by our site and please enjoy!

Amanda Regnier
Oklahoma Archeological Survey