Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 10: Lab it Up!

Happy Friday! Today, the studious students spent the two hours in the lab, as if they were children given a shiny loonie to spend in a candy store. Everything was gobbled up quickly, and with smiles.

Today we discussed various topics: the individual projects, history of the excavation site, artifacts found throughout the week, what we are trying to accomplish this year, and next weeks schedule. (See a picture below of some of the artifacts found in previous years.)

Here is a quick little list of who is doing what for the individual projects:
Verena - Detailed illustrations to scale of key artifacts. She will be submitting a portfolio of her line drawings.
Andrea - Photography of key artifacts, and some photos of excavation sites. She will be submitting a disk of clear, crisp, and detail oriented photographs.
Sean - Level bags analysis. He will be sorting, weighing, and counting the submitted finds in the level bags, as he takes over the lab.
Nadia - She will be providing a detailed analysis on any artifacts that Bob gives her, focusing on dates of artifacts. This involves researching companies, company histories, designs, patents and the estimated ages of artifacts found.
Suzannah - Focussing on excavating the cabin on the hillside, and nearby areas, and providing detailed drawings, and photos of different angles.
Paul - Research into wooden features found on site, specifically planks by the bathhouse to see if there was a structure there. He will be submitting photos and illustrations to scale, and in overall relation to the nearby ofuro (the Japanese bathhouse).
Anja - Researching one of the two depressions, but she shows more interest with the curious depression near the ofuro (opposed to the depression that was thought to have been an outhouse that contained perfectly preserved bottles in it).
Max - He will be researching the mystery chair, fire pit and foot stool with less focus on the age of the chair, but more on the measurements, line drawings, and photos that he will be submitting.
Andy - He is in charge of the overall report preparation.
Rikki - Submitting a report on soil samples, after researching what was done in the area before. For example, the area thought to have been a garden. This involves Rikki doing soil samples from a few areas, near the gardens/rockery, and producing comparison samples to the rest of the area. She will also be seeing what seeds and pollen the plant life indigenous to the area produce for comparison to the previously collected seeds and pollen found in garden area.
Simon - His priority is to figure out the minimum # of bottles found at the site, then categorize them (eg: by colour, shape, manufacturer), and identify bottles. Simon would like to work more specifically with beer bottles and hopes to find a range of dates of when they might have been produced. With this information Bob would like to do a comparison to figure out how many bottles were used for things like medicine, beer, food, creams, etc.
Brittany - She is incharge of all of the inventory, and correction of previous documented artifacts, for the last 11 years.
Bora - He will be surveying the western slope, higher up than the hillside cabin in order to look for evidence of cultural activity over the last 100 years. Bora's report will consist of a list of what he found, and where he found it.
Sonya - Her report will consist of all the info on artifacts found from the submitted artifact forms, drawings, photos, and descriptions.
Jessi - Continue to work on the blog, and submit a summary report.

These projects are all very engaging, and will all be very detailed, and Bob is the master who is organizing it all! Although everyone has a project that will require them to work on it during school hours, the majority of the class will still be excavating daily.

Before you leave this blog to enjoy your weekend, there were a few more artifacts found this week worth mentioning. First off, the lovely Nadia unearthed some fabric and a button! Also, Simon found a Pons hand cream bottle, and what is probably a Heinz bottle was also discovered. Heinz bottles are a common find on the reserve, mostly because the company was already well established in the 1800's.

Okay, over and out until Tuesday, because Monday May 24th is Victoria day, a statutory holiday for some of the Canadian provinces. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 9: All Hail Archaeology!

All Hail Archaeology! Or, at least that was what Mother Nature thought today. After a mystical and sunny start, some time around 11:30am it started to hail on the field school students (a few times). Have no fear though, because the students were prepared and are tough! They worked through the hail, because of the dedication to learn, and the excitement of the days unearthings. (The picture below is blurry from my panic to document the excitement.)

Today was very engaging. We had another visitor, who is lovingly referred to as "Tin Can Guy" by the field-schoolers, and as Spencer Kitson by normal people. Tin Can Guy is a former student who participated in the field school of 2007, and became attached to his project on tin cans. He has subsequently turned into the go-to-guy on cans (see picture below). Spencer lent us his expertise today, when we asked him to inspect the unusually shaped cans in Paul and Bora's plot (mentioned yesterday).

The unusual cans were rectangular in shape (see picture below), and are now suspected to have contained a spam-like meat within them. This possible explanation of the contents, in addition to another very curious metal can that Spencer thinks was for beer and began production c. 1935, will hopefully help us determine or narrow-down the date of when these were deposited and how long the camp was used for. These cans are the first of their kind to have been discovered on the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, which may help strengthen Bob Muckle's hypothesis that there were Japanese inhabitants between 1920's and the 1940's Japanese internment. More research will be done to find out specific dates, contents, etc., and you will be kept posted!

A few other entertaining events occurred including documenting and the removal of all the intact glass bottles, tin cans, and boot artifacts before the long weekend. Anja was super excited with her bottle.

The students also continued to find more artifacts today, for example Rikki and Verena (pictured below) found some more pieces to a battery in their heavily rooted plot.

Yes, this was the last field day for this week, and we only have three field days next week because of the long weekend. (Brittany looks shocked at the thought, in the photo below).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 8: Dig, dig, dig!

Today the field school had an unexpected twist: our first visitor! Tad McIlwraith, an instructor at Douglas College, is a cultural anthropologist with an amazing blog (check it out here). This morning he was shown around the excavation site by Bob Muckle, who also gave him some information on the program (students, projects, why we were excavating in that area, etc.). Hopefully we will continue to have such pleasant visitors! (See paparazzi picture below)

With the day being bright, sunny, and warm, the soil was ever so easy to sift through, but that could also be because the mossy surface layer was completed the day before. While screening through the sediments, many students found the basic glass pieces and what appears to be a metal pipe.

When not sifting, multiple excavation units were discovered to be holding precious artifacts. Paul and Bora's unit contained more than the 1 pair of leather boots found yesterday, but several more today, in addition to their intact glass bottles and cans. They hit the mother-load, and all within a 2 x 2 meter square! (See picture below). Also, the Suzannah and Max pair seem to have collected several parts to a battery, what might be a man-made rock formation, and a sheet of metal on their plot. What could it be?

The day went by quickly, as did the week, with only tomorrow left as the last field day (Friday's are always lab days). I am told that time flies when you are having fun, and apparently so.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 7: Start Digging!

The rain came down today, and only on the 7th day of the program which is surprisingly late considering the Seymour Conservation Reserve is in the rain shadowed North Shore mountains. Nevertheless, the students were ready to get started.

This morning was exciting because the students got to start digging! The eight sections in the excavation grid were assigned to 7 pairs of people (except for Brittaney, the 15th student who had a unit all to herself).

The students dug in different layers, starting with the surface layer, and then going on down to the 0 - 10 cm dbd (depth below pit datum). The surface layer consisted mostly of moss, and the layer below was mostly decomposing logs, tree roots, charcoal, and some truffles. After the surface layer is collected, it is taken in buckets to be sifted through to make sure that no artifacts were missed (see picture below of Brittaney filtering away), though the moss made this challenging. This was much more easily done with the second layer. The biggest find today was by Bora and Paul, who found two leather boots in their unit, and most of the other students found small pieces of glass. This was the only assignment today, and it will be continued on tomorrow.

PS: A special thank you to the Northwest Coast Archaeology blog for mentioning our site. The NCA blog, written by Quentin Mackie, is a very interesting and in-depth. Check it out here!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 6: Archaeologists at Work!

This bright and sunny Monday morning the wild herd was sectioned off into smaller groups and given several tasks to work on.

One of these tasks included surveying the land south of the camp for artifacts and unnatural terrain (like large depressions, or unusual rock formations). The method used for surveying involved the four members of one group to stand 5 meters apart, and walk in parallel lines through one particular area. They were combing the forest, and it worked! Sean might have happened upon some sort of foundation, Andrea found an aqua (as in blue, not necessarily for water) bottle completely intact, Jessica (that's me) recovered a very large unnatural depression, and Simon might have discovered a small bridge. Pictured below is an image of the depression, that seems to have a rock lined wall, and (although it is difficult to see in this particular photo) a decaying wooden beam is going across the surface along the left hand side. Curious.

Another task was handed to a crafty pair (Paul and Rikki) and their job was the fashioning of benches for the gang to all sit on during the morning and afternoon meetings. Don't they look proud?

Andy and Suzannah were in charge of setting up the first excavation units. This involved sectioning the excavation site into 2 meter quadrants, and this took place in the northern part of the site. Since a portion of this site was used in the field school a few years earlier, they had to look in areas already excavated to locate the older quadrants to keep the same grid system.

While inspecting the excavation units after surface clearing, Bob Muckle found this years first documented artifacts! Exciting! With the first object, Muckle had originally thought that it looked (from afar) like it might have been part of a bullet casing, but after going over it, he now suspects that it is the core from a small battery (pictured below). He had also uncovered a washer, and what appears to be a thin metal foil seal, possibly for a bottle (think about the top of a champagne bottle).

Later on Muckle also found something of heavy interest, using a special technique. The trees in the area of our site are all second or third growth, which essentially means that the trees came after the logging camps. Bob had pointed out to the herd that one fun way to look for hints from the past, artifacts, or (in my opinion) buried treasure, is by looking in the hole produced at the base of uprooted trees. Bob was demonstrating this, and coincidentally found a fully intact clear/transparent bottle. What are the chances of that?! (Below is a picture of the uprooted tree base.)

Well, Mr. Muckle went in for a closer look. Pictured below is the stunning artifact. A Bud Light Lime bottle, estimated to have arrived there some time between 2009 and... yesterday night!

The rest of the gaggle participated in either more surveying on the east side of the camp, or else they helped out with clearing more brush, logs, and other obstacles that might get in the way from identifying features. Oh they were working so hard! Brittany excitedly showed me one of their finds today, pictured below. It's a leather boot!

At the end of every field day, each student has to have their Field Notebook entries completed. Here is another picture of Rikki, sitting so proudly, while filling out her notebook on the custom made bench that she and Paul put together.

May 16th Public Event at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park

On Sunday, May 16th the project had a display in the annual summer kick-off public event in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. The display attracted hundreds of people, many who left with a better understanding of archaeology and how it contributes to a better understanding of local history.

There were several displays by various organizations at the event. The archaeology project shared display space with others interested in history under the large white awning.

Field school alumnus Kaylen Riedlinger explains the project to interested youth in the picture below.

The public had a chance to read about the project, see and touch collected artifacts, and discuss the project with the project director and student volunteers.