Field School 2015 – Week 2
Anna Olson, Macalester College ‘13
“The Mole Hole”
The first week of fieldwork is always a bit odd. Archaeology boils down to the same basic principles (provenience, context, binders full of recordkeeping, familiar and comforting jargon, dirt, unexpected invertebrates, sore shoulders, finding mud in your hair later) no matter where you dig, but every site is different. Thankfully, entering an archaeological dig as a field school student is the perfect excuse to ask plenty of questions.
Perhaps the best part of the first week of fieldwork is getting to know your fellow students and the staff. There’s no icebreaker quite like manual labor. Cooperation comes quickly when you have a difficult task at hand and a mole to battle.
The pair of students working in the square nearest the arbor at Farthings uncovered a small feature, which might be an American Indian hearth. The second pair of students started their square later and have found ceramics and lithics.
My partner and I got lithics, a sherd of “scratch blue” ceramic (an 18th –century ceramic), a lead shot, and a tiny, furry nemesis who tunneled through our carefully troweled square and caused us no end of frustration.
Incidents like this make me remember that for all the precise documentation and attention to detail we put into archaeology, we have no way of controlling variables nature throws at us. Moles do not care about our grid system and will dig wherever they please, unlike the archaeologists digging according to a map of coordinates. We don’t get to take sneak peeks at the soil under our feet, and not every square will be perfect or turn up that ideal, telltale artifact. The whole site tells its story only if we work methodically and synthesize the information from all the separate squares.
Despite the mole and the rain this week, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made getting the hang of the Farthings site at Historic St. Mary’s City. While this isn’t my first field school, I’m still learning every day. All of my previous experience came from working at an archaeological site in Ireland, and I chose to attend the HSMC Field School to get some much-needed American archaeology experience. I hope to hone useful skills this summer and fill in gaps in my knowledge, not to mention enjoy working in the lovely, green Maryland outdoors. It feels good to get back into the swing of things and literally get my hands dirty.
Anna is a graduate of Macalester College, Minnesota. She is currently looking at a number of graduate programs in Anthropology/Archaeology in the U.S. and the U.K. She is particularly interested in Public Archaeology.