MCAP Field School, Day 7: Let the excavation begin!   2 comments

by Dr. Tanya M. Peres and Cori Crenshaw

Today 9 of the students finished the last five auger tests (for a grand total of 98!), 2 students assisted Joey  with elevation readings, and the rest of the group worked with Dr. Peres and Kelly to set up the laser level, lay out three 2 m x 2 m excavation units, and set up the screening area.

Kate McKinney and Field Assistant Joey Keasler take elevation readings on the auger tests.


Working the screens, field school students (L to R): Cori Crenshaw, Pam Hoffman, Blake Meador, and Callie Lopeman.

I warned the students yesterday afternoon that in the coming week we needed to remain flexible, patient, and open to learning as we transitioned from the auger survey to actual excavation units. They have asked me many times where we would open units, and I always answered “I don’t know yet.” This might seem vague, and probably the students think I was a bit exasperating, but honestly, I did not know. Since no professional excavations have ever been conducted at this site, we really know very little about the size, depth, and type of deposits. One of our goals is to figure these out. How much area do the previous occupations cover? How deep are they buried (i.e., how much sediments will we need to excavate before we find intact evidence of past occupations) and how deep do they go? Will we only find evidence of past peoples via the shells they left behind, or will we find remnants of houses, fire pits, and other residues of daily life? The auger survey helped us to collect preliminary data on some of these questions. So, with these data in hand, we placed our first excavation units.

Our first excavation units were placed in an area where we know we have dense shell deposits that completely disappear within a 5 meter area. What we do not know is where they exactly end, and how they end (do they just stop completely, or do they fade out?).  So, we triangulated in three units, but opened only the two on the ends.

Opening of excavation units. Dr. Peres and Callie Lopeman work with JoBeth Simon (holding the stadia rod) to take opening elevations on Unit 3. Zack Whitehead and Abigail Hyndman (foreground) continue busting sod on Unit 1.


We will excavate in arbitrary levels — in other words, we determine how thick each level is. By convention we are using 10 cm-thick levels. This means all artifacts and features from this 10 cm level will be recorded together. Depending on what is revealed we may modify the strategy to smaller levels. All of the soils we excavate are screened through 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch mesh. We have some super-sweet double-decker screens custom-made by Stoney Knoll Archaeological Supplies. We will use smaller screen sizes (1/16-inch and 1/32-inch) when warranted (special features, column samples).

MCAP’s double-decker screens.


At the end of today this is what our Unit 1 looked like:

Kelly and Abigail clean Unit 1, base of Level 1 for photos.

While we are not very far, we are sure to have many exciting days ahead learning about the rich history of the people that lived on this beautiful stretch of river long ago.

Student Blogger: Cori Crenshaw

Field School Student, Cori Crenshaw, at the screen deck.

Hello everybody! My name is Cori Crenshaw and I’m a junior at MTSU. I’m in the process of double majoring in Anthropology and French with a minor in Biology. I get the pleasure of blogging on our very first excavation day! Exciting, I know! I have waited for this day since my childhood. At the beginning of the day we finished with our last couple of BATs (bucket auger tests) and were able to start opening our very first Unit! We gridded three units (1,2,3) and started schnitting (aka, shovel skimming) in Unit 1 and Unit 3. I did not schnit today, but instead helped screen with one of our much larger screens that are used specifically for screening through sediment that we collect from excavation units. It’s actually a very interesting contraption, it consists of one screen on top of another, the top screen containing 1/4 inch hardware cloth and the bottom containing 1/8 inch hardware cloth to catch the much smaller field specimens. I spent my afternoon going through buckets of sediment with my fellow students Callie Lopeman, Jobeth Simon, and Pam Hoffman. We had a great time screening together while finding some sizable pieces of lithic! All of this combined with our luck of having such fantastic weather formed the makings of a pretty great day in the field!


2 responses to “MCAP Field School, Day 7: Let the excavation begin!

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Great photos! Sod busting sure can be a lot of work in the sun, but it’s worth it for the emerald edged excavation shots!

  2. The grass looks spray-painted! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: