2019 Week 4, Part 1

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Field School 2019 – Week 4, Part 1
Chris Rico — University of Minnesota Twin Cities



“The Field Season Heats Up”



Where does the time go? We are already into the 4th week of our adventure in historical archaeology at St. Mary’s City. It’s hard to believe that we’ll already be at the half-way point of the program next week! This one was as busy as any other and full of great finds and good fun.


Sometimes contemplation can help with artifact identification

On Monday, we arrived back out on site from a restful weekend eager to get back to digging. The Maryland Summer came into full swing this week and Monday was just the start of it. The humidity was high, and we were flirting with a rainstorm towards the end of the day. Luckily, the rain held off and we were able to get a full day in. We are all very pleased with the progress we have been making on several new units opened towards the end of last week as we had already hit subsoil in some by the end of the day. I think we’re getting the hang of things!


Tuesday kept pace with the heat and the progress made on Monday. Because of the large storm the previous night, we started our morning bailing water off the coverings of the units. To my surprise, most of them were still dry as the water had not penetrated through the top! This allowed us to make a lot more progress, and a feature began to be defined in the unit I was working in. Additionally, we have discovered what appears to be a garbage midden which extends into the corners of three of our units—Jackpot! One man’s trash in another archaeologist’s treasure as the materials in these middens have the potential to tell us an enormous amount about what this area was like during habitation. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to dig into it too much as we ended the day early to study for our midterm exam the next day.


Wednesday was the day some of us were dreading more than others: exam day. I can say for myself that I was all over the map in terms of how I thought I would do. I felt confident going into the exam, but my heart sank when we were handed the test as the formatting was different from what I understood it would be. Luckily, as I started to go through the questions, I was pleasantly surprised. Our teachers and field experience had prepared us well for this test. Though it was a challenging exam, it turned out to be no sweat for anyone in the class. Because of the potential for rain storms the rest of the day, we were able to take a long lunch and come back for a lecture and a movie on the history of archaeology done at St. Mary’s. Did you know, the first recorded dig conducted here was in 1799!? [Editor’s note: while technically true, “dig” might be a strong word – in July of 1799, a group of medical students broke into the burial vault of Royal Governor Copley and his wife, Anne, and opened their lead coffins. Their exploits were highly destructive, but fortunately descriptions of the event survive.]


Ceramics and tobacco pipe fragments found in the plowzone layer of one of our excavation units

After a day away from the field we were excited to be back digging on Thursday. However, the heat was at a dangerous level this day. Breaks were plentiful, and our site supervisors were sure to keep an eye on everyone. We were visited by a field school alum in the morning and his young son, William helped us do some sifting. Everyone was very happy to have Will’s help as he was a great morale booster to have on this hot day. We had a push up contest, which Will won by a long shot. Will also taught one of the students his ABC’s… Here at St. Mary’s City we work and play hard!


Friday was a nice break from the heat as it was cloudy and windy most of the day. Sofia, a fellow field school student, had a great day digging up a large portion of the garbage midden in her unit and was finding large artifacts with every pass of her trowel! Some of what she found included: a very large pig’s tooth, a pipe stem, and several large pieces of glass and ceramics. I got to work up a large but delicate piece of glass with a dental pick before I was back in my unit attempting to further define the feature in it. By the end of the day the heat had begun to take its toll and we were all ready for another restful weekend while still looking forward to what we might find next week!