MCAP Field School Day 4: How deep can we go?   5 comments

Today we continued on with our auger survey — and I hope you aren’t getting bored of updates about it yet!


We weren’t able to meet our goal of 20 auger tests today because several of them went very deep — which takes a lot of extra time and crew members. One of the Murphy’s Law of Archaeology is that anything interesting will turn up at the end of the day or on the last day! Near the end of today we were finding very interesting sediments — interesting from a paleoenvironmental standpoint. We want to learn more about ancient flood and deposition events along the Cumberland River, and deeply buried soils are the key to understanding those. In this particular auger test we wanted to see how deep the sandy deposits were, so we kept adding extensions on to the auger. In the end field school student, Zack Whitehead, drilled it over 6 meters (just over 20 feet!) deep!

Zack holding up the auger (over 7 meters with extensions).


For the past two days we have tested what we consider to be the main part of the site. The artifact concentrations and soils above and below them are very interesting and given us a lot to think about.

Here is all of the soil from one 2 meter (approx. 6 1/2 feet) deep auger test, laid out in sequence on a tarp.

Auger test soils.

To me that soil picture looks like a mirror image of the 10YR page out of the Munsell book:


As expected, we have recovered a lot of shell and fire-cracked rock (or FCR as we like to call it).  Fire-cracked rocks are lithics/stone that were used to line earth ovens or hearths (or in some cases heated up and put in containers to cook food or heat water). The stone’s repeated exposure to high and prolonged temperatures caused it to change color, texture, and in some cases crack. We interpret these as evidence of human occupation, typically of a daily/domestic nature. If you really want to know more about FCR you can find some good sources in this bibliography.

Fire-cracked rock.


It is too soon to tell what any of this really means, but we definitely have some interest in exploring these areas further later this season.

Today’s student blog post is written by Pam Hoffman, a current Senior at MTSU.

Pam Hoffman emptying a bucket auger into the screen.

I get the privilege of graduating in December with my degree in Anthropology and minors in Archaeology and Criminology.  I have envisioned this since seeing an active excavation site in Williamsburg, VA. I have thoroughly enjoyed my studies at Middle Tennessee State University.  Field school has been every thing that I hoped it would be and so much more.   We have learned about soil types, different artifacts and how they play an important part in our archaeological record.  Every piece no matter how small is significant.  I have definitely gotten more efficient at setting up a site, augering holes and screening through the various soils.  Clay soil can really slow the process down but you just push through, literally.


Today we were visited at lunch by Dr. Valerie McCormack, one of two  archaeologists with the Army Corps of Engineers in the Nashville District.

Dr. Valerie McCormack gives a brown bag lecture to the MTSU Field School.

She elaborated on her daily duties and responsibilities of her position.  We learned the differences between working with the Corps and working with the Forestry Service and the federal laws that come into play with each.


Finally, we had an Apache helicopter fly over the site (twice)! They are impressive!

Apache helicopter fly-over.


5 responses to “MCAP Field School Day 4: How deep can we go?

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  1. Good work! 🙂 Love the blog.

  2. I know, it lets me live vicariously through all of you! 🙂

  3. Glad you like it! Thanks for the feedback!

  4. I really appreciate these field blogs, especially he student bloggers. It helps a lot that Dr Peres is tech-savvy.

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