Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back Fill + Back Ache = Back Home

Ahhh....The last day at the site. So bittersweet. We can't wait to get back home, but we are all a little sad to be leaving.  All of the excavation is over, but now (cue dramatic music), begins the back filling.  After 5 weeks of careful excavation, now we get to dump all of the dirt that came out of the units right back into them.  Listen to me when I say, keep your dog, because a shovel is NOT your best friend.

Are you lookin' at me?

Ok, backfilling goes a little something like this...shovel shovel shovel....dump.  Shovel shovel shovel....dump.  Some of us are really good at shoveling, and some are really good at dumping....but rarely does a shoveler dump or a dumper shovel, it's just the way it is.

A quick demonstration by Adam on how to properly hold up a shovel. Thanks Moody!!!
While the dirt is being dumped back into the units, the spreader/stompers take care of business on their end...the dirt is spread throughout the unit and stomped down.  Our goal is to leave the site as closely to the original condition as possible.  Even though you can see where we excavated right now, within a few months, the forest will reclaim it and nobody will even know we were here. 

That was NO slight of hand, those units disappeared!!

Backfilling wasn't the only thing we were doing today...Eileen went with Dr. Livingood to collect topography stakes that were left during Total Station Mapping, Kevin went to collect all of the flagging tape that marked our trails, Bryce took down our makeshift bridge over muddy waters, and Amanda and crew took apart the tool bin we lovingly (or disturbingly) referred to as "the pine box".  After all of these jobs were finished, everyone met at Block 1 and helped finish backfilling.  The whole process took under two hours!  Mainly because we are all so awesome.  Just sayin'.

Els OWNED that site!!! (But what did that lunchbox ever do to her?)

King of the Mountain....One of these days, all of this could be yours, kid.
Once everything at the site was finished, we brought all of the excavation equipment back to camp, cleaned and oiled the tools, and repacked everything for the trip back.  Once again, it's all bittersweet.  We'll miss our friends, new and old, but we probably won't miss the snakes, ticks, mosquitoes, horseflies, wasps, spiders, humidity, 100 degree days, and the 6 o'clock mornings.

Tim D.  The hardest working man outside of show biz.

Goodbye McCurtain County. Hello Norman, ibuprofen, calamine lotion, air conditioning and sleeping in!!!

Michael Carlock, Eileen Schaumleffle, Justin Anderson, and Bridgett Kiefer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finishing Up

Once again, today was a very hot Oklahoma day (100 degrees according to Eileen's car dashboard!) and sadly, today also marked our last day of excavations.  And what a day it was!  Even as several teams continued to take down baulks and complete documentation of features, others spent the day backfilling the finished units.  Quite amusing to see dirt carefully being taken out of the units, while just a few feet away, dirt was being shoveled back in as efficiently as possible!

Shelby carefully takes the dirt OUT

While the guys quickly put it back IN

In the midst of ordered chaos, more visitors, including Dr. Susan Vehik, Dr. Robert Brooks, and Dr. Lee Bementarrived to see what all we've been doing these past five weeks.  We were excited to show them around!

We all know that archaeology sometimes requires working in awkward and highly uncomfortable positions, but Dawn took the prize today as she excavated a feature.

Dawn really gets into her work

After a long, hot, but productive day, we were finally done with five weeks of archaeology, and it was time to get a little crazy. We cheerfully tossed rocks, sticks, and random dirt into the units, tramped wherever we pleased, and generally made a mess of our once immaculate units!   

Wild and crazy Elsbeth

Tomorrow we will return to the site to backfill the remaining units and make sure we haven't left anything behind, but the hard and rewarding work of archaeology fieldwork that we set out to do has been completed!

Bridget Kiefer, Michael Carlock, Eileen Schaumleffle, Justin Anderson

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Archaeologists Dig Cold Sodas

Today was another hot day, and that seems to be the trend for the rest of the week. But we got up with smiling faces and went out to the site, ready to work. Dr. Scott Hammerstedt, who has been working at another site doing magnetic testing with the gradiometer, was able to join us this week at the main site this week.

We also had two other visitors today, Dr. Paul Minnis and Dr. Pat Gilman, both archaeology professors at The University of Oklahoma. They drove four hours from Norman to observe the work that we have been doing over the past month. They also brought along a few bags of delicious, cold sodas! Thanks guys!

Scott and Elsbeth preparing for a photo

With only a few days left of work, it is crunch time. Everyone is working very quickly (but still accurately, of course) to finish out our last week. Thursday will be spent back filling, and Scott had the wonderful idea to be productive by screening our loose dirt over the unused units to speed up the process.

 Kevin Logan taking full advantage of our new screening location
Quite a few baulks (the walls between units) were taken down today in order to reveal what is underneath them. This information is crucial to understanding the layout of the structure. Sometimes artifacts are found in these, and today, Nick found a point that was only slightly damaged. This isn't the first time this has happened at our site! In addition to the artifacts, more defined corners of the structure were identified.

 Nick Wood displays the point found in the balk
In Block 3, the units are all but finished, and most of the day was spent cleaning unit walls and drawing profile maps before the unit is backfilled.  We have decided to leave the burned rock cluster in place, in case we get the opportunity to excavate more of this feature.

Truet Hinson, Richard Jaggers, and Justin Anderson clean and map profiles in Block 3.

By this point, we have almost reached subsoil in all the units. The depth of the units have been increasing with shoveling and troweling all through field school and we are hoping that all the information Elsbeth wanted will be revealed by the end of the week. There will be extensive lab work and research once the site has been excavated, but most of that will be in the air conditioning!

Eileen Schaumleffle, Mike Carlock, Justin Anderson, Bridgett Kiefer

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday, June 21: The home stretch.

Today we began the last leg our field school adventure. We have lost the use of the vans, and are now traveling via convoy to the site, packed into any vehicle capable of handling our numbers and the gravel road into the forest, champion of which is Eileen's Dodge Durango, proud carrier of eight, seen here with a view from the front seat.

Work continued in the units, with the majority of the day being spent on mapping and bringing other units down to level.  We bisected the hearth in the center of the structure in Block 1, and removed approximately 10 bags of soil for flotation in Norman.  Mike bravely took on the task of pulling them up the mountain in the cart, which he promptly regretted.  In Block 2, Patrick Livingood and crew finished excavating the domestic feature and took the remainder of the unit down a few levels, to the transition to sterile clay.  In Block 3, one of the units seems to have hit sterile at 110 cmbd, although Amanda is forcing them to excavate another level into the clay to be certain.  In the other Block 3 unit, Bryce recovered what may be the medial section of another Dalton point just east of the fire-cracked rock feature.

Trey measuring the depth of a unit

Kevin creating a map from coordinates taken by a partner in the unit.

Though we did not set any records or have any ground breaking revelations today, it was a record setter as the hottest day we have had yet on site. After returning to camp we were informed that the weather forecast advised against any outdoor activity today. Our only options regarding this suggestion are to huddle within the air conditioned bathrooms, or weather the heat in the same manner we weathered last week's storms, with a quiet dignity and stoic demeanor for which we have become known.

Mike demonstrates.

We take comfort and solace from the heat in the homemade ice cream left over from Sunday night, provided by Ms. Ellie of J-D Trail Riding Camp, along with strawberries and wild black berries, "fresh from the mountain," in her own words. Thanks again, Ms. Ellie.

Signing out, Justin Anderson, Mike Carlock, Eileen Schaumleffle, and Bridgett Kiefer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 4 Wrap-Up: Postmolds and Fire-Cracked Rock

Last week was the second-to-last week of the field school, and as our time in the field is winding down, we're starting to uncover more and more exciting archaeological finds.

In Block 1, Elsbeth Dowd and her crew reached the full extent of horizontal exposure in the Caddo house area and started to concentrate on working their way down through the burned timbers to the floor of the house and below.  They have now been able to identify one of the center support posts from the interior of the structure, an area of burned soil that likely represents the hearth, and several wall posts.  Next week, the pressure is on as they must finish taking units down, mapping in post molds, and excavating house-related features!

 Elsbeth Dowd trowels over the burned soil in the structure hearth.

In Block 2, Mike Carlock and his crew, along with professor Patrick Livingood, powered through 20 cm of sterile clay to end their western portion of their unit at approximately 90 cmbd. They then started excavating the Caddo domestic refuse feature in the eastern portion of the unit.  They recovered numerous sherds from several vessels, and found a large, flat, fire-reddened rock in the base of the pit.  Elsbeth Dowd was so excited to see the sherds that she got them out and started sorting them the minute we brought them in from the field!

Elsbeth is excited about the pottery from Block 2!

Finally, in Block 3, we made a very exciting, much older discovery.  As we took both units down in 10 cm levels, we dug through about 40 cm of Caddo deposits, went through a stratum where there was no discernible soil change but a much higher percentage of small, water-sorted rocks, and then, at approximately 55-60 cmbd, began recovering strictly lithic debitage and Archaic points.  On Thursday, we recovered a Dalton point in the northern unit, which could be as much as 10,000 years old.  Later that day, in the southern unit, as we continued to expose a large cluster of fire-cracked rock, we recovered a second Dalton point, sitting on the very western edge of the feature.  These are some of the few artifacts of this age that have been recovered from intact soils context in southeastern Oklahoma.  We also have taken two charcoal samples from the feature, and will be submitting them for radiocarbon dating.  The rock cluster is large and extends well beyond the walls of the units.  Using an auger, we have been able to estimate that it may measure as much as 2 m east-west by 2 m north-south!

Next week is going to be very hot and very busy as we attempt to finish all of the features located around the Caddo house in Block 1 and the rock cluster in Block 3.  Check back for updates on our progress during the last week.

Amanda Regnier
Oklahoma Archeological Survey

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Uncovering an older past.

Today there was a vast amount of progress in the last few days of week four.

Over at Block Two, Jared and Mike Carlock slowly uncovered the domestic feature. Two of the pieces were decorated and one was a rim sherd . We troweled the feature and got to use bamboo tools for very delicate work. We also used spoons to dig up the feature, which contained a vast amount of pottery. We also did a profile of the soil stratigraphy in the deepest part of the unit.

Four of the five of the groups troweled Block One for a photograph. Troweling can be a tedious task, especially with limited working space and lots of root disturbances in the way. It takes a lot of people to hold up a tarp for a shaded photo of a finished level of a unit.

The Block Three team made an amazing discovery. All the fire-cracked rocks in Block Three, could indicate an Archaic feature. Their was one Dalton point that found in each unit. Dalton points date back to 8000 to 9000 B.C.E.   In Block Three they have dug down one meter, and even though they hit clay they are still finding artifacts, which is unusual for this area. Clay is usually sterile (yielding no artifacts.)

Dalton Point
Burned rock feature

Today's Blog was written by Jared McLaughlin, with help from Adam Lane, Jamie Haener, and Shelby Richison.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back to Work

After a nice break due to weather yesterday, we returned to the site today for a productive day of work. In one of the Block One units, we uncovered a very nicely decorated pottery sherd.

                                           Here,Tim is at work screening dirt for artifacts.

 This cluster of rocks which was found in block three
      may be the remnants of a hearth.

                                        We found this pottery sherd decorated with applique and incising.

We also discovered what appears to be more charred timbers.  The most important event today was the finding of a post mold in one of the main units in block one.This is probably the remnants of a center post. By analyzing the layout of the center posts of the structure, it may be possible to make an assessment of the cultural affiliation of the group that inhabited the site. In this area, we also found what Adam thinks are the un-charred remains of a post.

Today one of the shovel testing teams found the tip of a projectile point which was the cause for some excitement as these tests rarely yield anything but lithic flakes or pottery sherds. In block two, we reached sterile soil at 70 cm but continued to 90cm to be sure we were in sterile subsoil. After reaching this depth, the profile wall was cleaned up. As the weeks go on, we are excited by what each days work reveals and look forward to learning more.

Blogged by Adam Lane with assistance from Jamie Haener, Jarred Mclaughlin, and Shelby Richison.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oh the Places We Go!

Welcome! You have tuned into your local blogging station of field schoolers with your host Jamie Haener. Here with me today are Shelby Richison, Adam Lane, and Jarrod McLaughlin. Today didn't start off like our normal Tuesdays out here in the field. Almost all of us woke up to a lightning storm. No worries though folks because we are all a-ok! The storms passed through by 5 am and after that the skies were clear and sunny. The day started off with some nice artifact washing in a competition for the coolest artifacts! The winners of the contest were Block 2 who cleaned some nice looking Archaic points.
For the second part of the day a group of us ended up at the local "place to be" Shelia's Cafe. Here is Adam Lane and Jarrod McLaughlin with a quick summary of Shelia's Cafe:  Shelia's is an economical place to run for food in the local town of Smithville. One can eat a hearty hamburger and fries for the low low cost of less $5. Below is a photo of a majority of our group who happened to end up at Shelia's unknowingly at the same time!

Let us not forget now our favorite place for milkshakes. CJ's Corner is the hopping place to be, each night they have someone from our field school group going to buy milkshakes and just to hang out. Some of our favorite pastimes at CJ's include checkers, frisbee, and accidentally thinking that the feeding trough is a wishing well.

Our feature trip for the day was a rain day field trip, after lunch, to the Choctaw Nation Museum. The museum was in a very nice building which used to be the Choctaw capitol. The museum helps all who go there learn about the times and trials of the Choctaw peoples. Outside of the museum was a very large and rather beautiful village reconstruction that is worth the visit. 

ATTENTION ATTENTION today big foot was said to be spotted by many passerby's in Shelia's Cafe. He was said to be about 6'7" and his head hit the ceiling. Below is a supposed photo of "Bigfoot" that was given to us by a local.

Okay, so it's just Justin, but at 6'7", it's an easy mistake.

Thank you for tuning in today to our field schooler update.  Please stop by tomorrow for another daily report!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Week 4 and Going Strong

It's week four and Adam Lane, Jamie Haener, Jared Mclaughlin, and myself, Shelby Richison, are blogging this week. Everyone is still getting up at 5:00-5:30 in the morning, leaving camp at 6:00, working 'til 11:00 when we have lunch, and 30 minutes after that back to work until 2:00 in the afternoon. When we get back everybody splits up into their designated "teams" of four to five people to do a different chore every week. Our group started out cleaning up after dinner, then we spent the last two week artifact washing and sorting, this week we are blogging, and next week we are on cooking duty. And without further ado, we'll now blog about what we found at the site today.

Adam worked with Bridget today in a 2 meter by 1 meter unit (normally units are 2 by 2 meter squares). It is hoped that the unit will contain the edge of the structure, but at this time, only small amounts of charcoal have been found. That was Adam's take on the matter.  He's very serious about his troweling.

Jared worked with Shelby for a few hours. We troweled down to level, which was 25 centimeters below datum. Our unit is a two by one, an l-shaped unit. Troweling can be tedious, but we are seeing more progress everyday. Sarah Dumas sprayed foam around the post molds (charcoal), to help preserve the charcoal, and also to do wood sampling.

I also worked on Block 2, the unit scheduled to go down into the Archaic occupation.  The soil below 60 centimeters is clay, which is hard to sift, and takes longer to screen.

Below is a photo of an arrow head that was found in Tim and Cory's unit.

Jamie worked with Justin and Bryce today with the gradiometer. We each got a hang of holding it level and walking to the beeps rather quickly.  Our job for the day with the gradiometer was to see if we could find unmarked historic graves at Fort Towson. We had a great time and can't wait to help those at Fort Towson to understand more of what is happening under the ground.

In Block 3, we have reached an intact Archaic floor, which is quite exciting.  We recovered two more Archaic points, for a total of five from the unit, along with abundant debitage and a large Johns Valley chert core.  In the southeast corner of the unit, we encountered a large cluster of burned rock at 70 cmbd that may represent an Archaic hearth.

Adam Lane, Jamie Haener, Jared McLaughlin, Shelby Richison

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 3 Wrap-Up: New Units and House Excavation

During our third week of field school, we exposed more of the house in Block 1, found our first domestic feature in Block 2, and started new units on the other side of the site in Block 3.  And this was despite losing half a day to the rain.

Bailing water out of Excavation Block 3

In Block 1, we recovered many charcoal samples from burned timbers.  The mapping and photography work is slow and painstaking, but being able to reconstruct how the house may have collapsed is worth the effort.  This week, we hope to be able to take some of the units down through the floor to find where the posts are located.

In Block 2, the unit placed over a shovel test with Archaic artifacts, we found our first domestic refuse pit!  Undergraduate supervisor Michael Carlock spent Friday mapping and photographing the pottery sherds and rock exposed at the top of the feature and next Monday, we'll start taking soil samples and excavating it.

We opened two new units on the western side of the site, in what is now know as Block 3.  There is certainly at least one other Caddo household in this portion of the site, based on the amounts of pottery and lithics we have recovered.  Below the Caddo occupation level, on Friday afternoon, we recovered three Archaic points.

While shovel testing in Area 3 of the site, Bryce found a large cluster of fire-cracked rock.  We probably won't have time to investigate this further, but we have identified another potential occupation area at the site.

With only two weeks left, it's getting down to the wire.  This week we'll have teams mapping, profiling, and excavating features, so check back and see our progress!

Amanda Regnier
Oklahoma Archeological Survey

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day full of rain

This morning everyone woke up to rain.  Despite the drizzle, everyone got up and ready to work and it had stopped by the time we got to the site.  Everyone worked fast and furious with the threat of an impending thunderstorm headed our way.  We found more chunks of charcoal that we believe are burned timbers from the structure.  We covered the chunks with back dirt, the dirt that has already been screened for artifacts, as a way to protect it.  We learned that the dirt could have prevent contaminants such as rain from getting into the charcoal and interfering with dates we would get from radiocarbon samples.   At 10:30 the rain caught up with us.  Elsbeth called it a day to protect the units from the rain.

Scott Hammerstedt, Sara Bagley, Sarah Dumas, and Truet went to Fort Towson to do some gradiometer work. 

From there we went to Idabel to visit the Museum of the Red River.  The museum had some very nice Caddo pots.  Most of the designs were geometric designs.  After all of the pieces of pottery we have found, it was nice to see how they fit together as whole vessels.  We also got to see different kinds of arrowheads and drills like we have been finding at the site.  We took a tour through the back of the museum and saw some engraved shells from Spiro used to convey the symbolic beliefs of the people living there.

Alice Barrett, Cory Rosas, Truet Hinson   

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Archaeology With and Without Digging

Today, Scott Hammerstedt took Richard, Kevin, and Adam Lane to Ft. Towson to learn the methods of archaeological geophysics. Each of the students will get to learn non-invasive archaeological techniques throughout the coming weeks, while looking for features such as the cholera hospital and cemetery at this historic site.  After a quick tutorial and some safety tips, Scott walked us on a control grid and mentally graded us with such scientific terms like "Not bad", "could be worse", and "When it's really bad, I'll let you know."  This afternoon, we gathered around the computer to download the practice grids at the pavilion to see how our results compared to Scott's expert work.

The rest of the group continued excavations at the regular site.  A new unit was opened in our continued attempts to expose the remainder of the house floor.  Shelby and Sara Bagley found an ancient drill made of stone.  It was probably used to drill holes, perhaps in leather or wood. 

Sarah Dumas and graduate supervisor Dawn Rutecki continued on their unit.  It was slow-going because of the valuable charcoal, which will tell us what happened in the structure we are digging up.  We have to be sure and protect them from being touched, so we don't contaminate potential samples for radiocarbon dating and wood species identification! 

The excavations in the structure are getting exciting, as we are close to exposing the entire boundaries!

Kevin Logan, Alice Barrett, Cory Rosas, Truet Hinson

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Archaeology: A Slow Fast Process

Today when we arrived at the site after we left early yesterday due to a storm, we had to bail out the units. Not much water was standing in the units so it took very little time. Then we got to work. The site is on its way to being finished and by Friday, hopefully, we will be able to see the floor of the structure.

 Bailing out soggy excavation units

Yesterday Scott Hammerstedt arrived at the camp and he and four field school students went to Ft. Towson to began the training for the gradiometer.  By they way they talk, it was a struggle to get it set up and to use it. We had to stay an hour later today when the Forest Service archaeologists came to see how the progress was going.  Dawn and Sara are still troweling down the middle unit and have uncovered another possible burned post. By the end of the week we should know if it truly is a burned post.

The Museum of the Red River Teen Camp students visited again today and they had the pleasure of shovel testing and sifting. Hopefully, they didn't wear their good school clothes today. Tomorrow is the half way point of this field season, and it doesn't seem like it has been that long.

Tomorrow people are going to start having to move some serious dirt. Like the title states, "Archaeology a slow fast progress," and it truly is. No matter how much you get done, there always will be objectives that will not get reached.

Rim sherd from the Block 1 Area

Truet Hinson, Alice Barrett, Kevin Logan, Cory Rosas

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wonkified: Desperation and Solace in South Eastern Oklahoma

The humidity was bad last night.  What new things will unfold today?  The thrill of finding artifacts that might shed new light on the Caddo culture of southeast portion of Oklahoma is a big deal and one taken seriously by everyone on board.

Justin Anderson still has the record on shovel tests. Mike Carlock has found the most projectile points. And everyone has found broken pottery and lithic pieces. The thrill of discovery is really the spirit of the adventure that is Field School 2010.

Today we had the pleasure of meeting with students from the Museum of the Red River Teen Camp, who had the pleasure of observing our efforts. Unfortunately rain had it's day. Prior to their arrival, Amanda Regnier announced that we should consider our colorful metaphors and watch our language. This soon was followed by a loud and thorough display of every four-lettered word that is conceivable to the human psyche. By lunchtime, as the water poured and the sky rumbled we retreated, running to gather the shovels and other equipment before the natural offensives had their way with our excavation.

Upon returning, artifacts were washed, meetings were held, and Elsbeth Dowd, Patrick Livingood, and Amanda Regnier gave us a brief history of the Caddo culture we were unearthing. After the lecture most of the parishioners were too tired and disjointed to stay awake, and napped in the pavilion.

Kevin Logan, Cory Rosas, Alice Barrett, Truett Hinson


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Week 2: A Rundown

We had a short four day week due to the Memorial Day holiday, and I am a little late in posting thanks to losing most of Saturday to a Benadryl shot for a raging case of poison ivy.  Even with the nasty vegetation, working in the shade is still worth it, particularly with another week of record-high temperatures!

Work became a good deal slower in Block 1 this week, as we made it through the plowzone and into intact structural deposits.  The students are now taking out everything by hand with trowels in order to avoid destroying any intact timbers or shoveling through any features.  We are still looking for the floor, and think we may have a line of three posts that forms one of the exterior walls.  Next, we'll need to expand our units to the east, where there are unfortunately some large trees in the way!

 It's slow going troweling in Block 1, but the recovery will be worth it.  Taken facing the trees to the east

We continue to find interesting artifacts in Block 1.  While cleaning the walls, Eileen recovered a knife that looks to be a reworked Archaic point.
Shovel testing ramped up this week, as we finished a number of transects in Area 1, all around Block 1.  We are surprised at how far the site extends off of the narrow rise where Block One is located and downslope toward the slough that parallels the Mountain Fork.  We found several more areas with high lithic densities and numerous Caddo sherds, which we probably will not excavate this summer, but demonstrate the potential for more intact archaeological deposits.

 Sarah and Jamie shovel testing downslope.

In the far units, known to the students as the "time out corner", we exposed a feature, which we will bisect on Monday.  Although this unit was placed where we recovered the base of an Archaic point, we have found at least seven Caddo projectile points and a number of sherds in the first three levels.  I suspect the feature may be a tree, but the students are excited about the prospect of excavating their first feature in the unit.  

We are looking forward to see what next week brings, aside from more record high temperatures and poison ivy!  Keep checking back for our daily student-written updates!

Amanda Regnier
Oklahoma Archeological Survey