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Field School 2016 – Week 6
Sarah McCoy — St. Mary’s College


“Stones, Bones, and Moles”




Field school students Sabrina Wandress and August Rowell work together to map a brick path while Laura Keeran trowels in the foreground



Week six has already come and gone! This week had two amazing lectures that covered vastly different subjects. We began the week by spending the first half of Wednesday doing some field work screening, and then the fun began! That afternoon we were educated about Mount Vernon by Dr. Luke Pecoraro. His lecture was filled with unique facts and history about the land and house once occupied by George Washington and his family. He ended his lecture by including a list of ten interesting artifacts from the site. Needless to say, by the end of the lecture we all wanted to take a trip to the site to see the fascinating home and what its lands had to offer.






Two proud artists displaying their work (left: Sabrina Wandres, right: Sarah McCoy)

On Thursday I was formally introduced the wonderful transit, or total station. This lovely machine helps us get elevation levels as we work. I can honestly say that leveling this machine is a pain, and I have never been so irritated with a bubble in my life; I am referring to the leveling bubble of course. Sabrina mapped out the bricks from the unit we were using the transit for and did a great job.




Later that afternoon we were visited by Dr. Doug Owsley the Division Head of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Natural Museum of History. I have been looking forward to this lecture for weeks! The inner nerd in me was so fascinated throughout his excellent lecture. He brought two skeletons with him, a male and female. He allowed us to lay out the skeletons anatomically, and even told us how to distinguish a male skeleton from a female skeleton. Dr. Owsley was very thorough with explaining to us the bones of the body and what the bones can tell us about a person. He explained to us the stories behind the skeletons, and we were shown parts of the skeletal remains of former St. Mary’s City residents from the colonial period. Dr. Owsley has done a superb job in his career and has helped so many families with his forensic anthropology work, and we were so appreciative that he took the time to educate us.



Field school students keeping cool with semi-frozen rags

Friday started out with a bit of a scuffle around the units. Once we pulled back the unit coverings we were greeted by a mole. It was adorable, but we did not want it in our units for obvious reasons. This little critter gave poor Travis quite the run-around—literally. Travis tried carefully placing a bucket in the path of the mole, but unfortunately the mole outsmarted him. Who would have thought that a man with a PhD would be outsmarted by a tiny mammal? [Editor’s note: This description of Friday’s mole encounter is the opinion of this post’s author and does not reflect the official HSMC stance that Dr. Parno would never be outsmarted by a “tiny mammal.”] Eventually, I grabbed some gloves a carefully caught the mole. We continued digging and cleaning up the units. That day the contemporary bricks were taken up.



Field school students Alaina Wall, Sarah McCoy, and Laura Keeran work as our future-archaeologist visitor looks on



Saturday featured more shoveling and troweling. We started the day bailing water from the units, and this is always a fun way to start the morning. Later, more plow zone was removed from one of our units and I think Laura found a record for the day of three pipe stem fragments in one spot! I was honored with the opportunity to do some drawing of a feature found where the bricks were. Boy was it fun (sarcasm), but Ruth was impressed and I can now connect dots and shade! Before lunch we were visited by an interested onlooker. A young boy was so fascinated by the digging we were doing! He most certainly is a future archaeologist. We ended the day with screening and cleaning up the units.


Pipe stem with rouletting decoration

Pipe stem with rouletting decoration




Sunday had wonderful weather! There was an amazing breeze that lasted throughout the day. We began with learning some fascinating information about the burials at both St. Mary’s City and Jamestown discussed by Ruth. One can certainly see that she loves her job because she talks with such enthusiasm about the history of the city. Later, we started more screening from the units and some TLC on the walls of units. August found an awesome white clay pipe stem fragment with some beautiful designs on it.


Right before lunch I suffered my first archaeological injury while screening and sliced my finger. Later, we were greeted by more visitors and a very curious little girl who was quite interested in the artifacts. After lunch, I was assigned to do some troweling in one of the units that has some features. I love troweling! Overall, this week went very well, and it was nice to end on such a nice and breezy day.