Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 18: Lab Rats

Ah Friday, the last day of the week. The students were in the lab, not feeling like rats, but more like something has been accomplished and studious, after doing a review of this week, and after discussing the status of the individual projects.

We also went over surveying techniques and how to properly fill out inventory forms so that everyone's work remains consistent. One of the topics that came up, that will be hammered out this weekend, is that there are two names floating around for ball and yoke bottle stoppers composed of metal and ceramic. We have a laminated poster from the URS Corporation Archaeology Laboratory (pictured below), and they call the stoppers either a "lightening stopper" or a "lighting stopper", so Verena will be looking into what the more uniform term is.

Bob brought up something of interest that might help explain to students why some metal wire was found on site. Often loggers would use a bottle, with wire attached to it, and hang it up in the tree they are working on (the bottle is pictured below). The bottle would have been filled with oil, and used as a lubricant while sawing.

Something that will be looked into next week, by Rikki, is the bone pieces found near the ofuro and the garden (which are next to each other). Originally it was thought that these bone fragments were used to increase the pH of the garden area, but now an alternate theory has been brought forward. Calcium deposits are made if bones burned in a fire (that is hot enough), leaving behind white, small fragments, that are very hard. The bone particles could have been evidence that the inhabitants of the logging camp were burning their food garbage under the ofuro, which would help fuel the fire under the ofuro (the japanese bathhouse), and prevent the attraction of animals to the site. Another interesting thing is that these bone pieces could be an indication of diet.

Next week the students will be finishing up the excavation, because it is the possible last week to do so. The camp will start to be broken down on Wednesday (taking down the tents, removing flagging tape, cleaning screens & other objects for storage), as well as starting to backfill the excavation units. Thursday and Friday will be held in the lab, with the possibility of students preparing for the final exam.

The final exam sounds really fun! Essentially, students must complete an archaeology site inventory form, which is a form that archaeologists produce when they find a site and register it with the provincial government. The form requires information that includes a scale drawing on a map that includes certain features, the precise access to site, the latitude and longitude, the altitude (through reading contour lines), and a description of what was found.

Bob has mentioned that students learn a lot when they work together, so his rough plan is to get the students to do a practice exam in about 3 to 4 groups, and then in the final week they will be broken into different and smaller groups again. They will go to a specific area, and pretend they are the first people to access this site. If the small groups have consistent facts and ovservations, then it is more accurate, because more things are collectively noticed. Then, on the last day, the actual exam is done individually. It sounds like a fun challenge!

Well, that was it for this week. Monday will be spent in the field! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 17: We Can See Clearly, Now the Rain is Gone

Ah yes, the rain that was predicted never came, and instead the field school participants were met with glorous beams of light that broke through the forest ceiling.

It was interesting though, because the dried up creeks became active with life! Bob saw the streams and informed us that he had never seen them flow with water before. Finally the man made bridge has a purpose!

Because of the added warmth, sifting was easier for everyone which allowed the day to be more productive. In the photo below you can see the main dig site in the eastern part of the camp. Please note all the roots that have been exposed, and the amount of sediments removed from the excavation units. It is amazing, that after going below 20 centimeters below the surface, artifacts are still being found in units (some of these units were even thought to have been sterile last week). The ability of the forest floor to absorb, move, break down, and warp artifacts is a complex and amazing process that deserves more attention than a mere mentioning in this blog (but alas, I am unable to do so). Please compare the picture below to May 19ths photo here to see the difference that one week and almost one hundred artifacts can make (even though the two photos were taken at different angles).

All of the sediment that was screened will have to go back into the site, once all of the units have been declared sterile. This process is called "backfilling", and is a task likely to be designated next week to some hearty volunteers.

You can also make a fun comparison of the Hillside Cabin area's progress. Below is a picture taken today, of the east view, and here is a picture from June 1st's blog entry. More planks have been exposed, and several metal nails and metal bits have been found, even underneath the ever persistent tree roots.

Speaking of the Hillside Cabin (Viva Moss Vegas!), Suzannah was able to find out more about the lid, discovered in that area, that I declared in yesterdays blog as a trash can top. She was able to make out more writing on the lid (pictured below), by finding more pieces of it while screening. Now we have reason to believe that the lid says "McCLARY'S", which is probably the "McClary Manufacturing Company" that makes wood stoves, and it is referenced in a fun little article here. McClary's later joined forces with 5 other companies to become "General Steel Wares Limited". Suzannah also found a piece belonging to the lid that had the number 3 written on it, which McClary's put on some of their products. So the lid, probably isn't a garbage can lid after all.

Okay! Yes, the Hillside Cabin has been my focus this week, but look: we had another visitor today! Ken Barbour from Capilano University's Communications and Marketing department stopped by for a couple of hours to visit the site.

Barbour was very interested in what we were doing. He got the ol' grand tour while he took photos for the school, and he also got to meet our darling Sebastian (pictured below), who was an adorable, but injured, rabbit.

The funniest thing that happened on site today was probably Max's afternoon assignment. Bob was saying that when the Metro Vancouver had introduced him to the site seven years ago, they had found it because someone had been going around collecting artifacts, and placing them on top of these large tree stumps. The tree stumps are often hollow on the inside, so Max's job was go around on top of these stumps with a 5 foot pole to see if any artifacts had fallen inside the decaying hollow centre (pictured below). Even though the artifacts would have been taken out of context, the people who were hunting for them probably only hid the ones of value, so it is still ideal to find them and document them.

The other digging areas were also well underway. Paul, helped by Simon, excavated under the wooden beams (picture below), and Rikki was back in the field today (instead of the lab), while she performed her control samples (to compare with the other samples from the garden sites).

Ah yes, the sunny day in the field will be followed by the Lab Day, which is taking place tomorrow. In the lab we will be going over everyones accomplishments from this week, including any interesting facts and artifacts found, in addition to status updates on the individual projects. We will also have the pleasure of another visit from Ken! Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 16: Cabin Fever

Another adventurous time unfolded today at the hillside cabin (aka Moss Vegas). Together Suzannah, Andy, and myself continued excavating the southern unit with enthusiasm, and music. As of yet, there has been no sign of cabin fever. How could there, with so many events unfolding?

The most exciting thing to mention was that Suzannah's metal basin, discussed in yesterdays blog, was indeed confirmed to have been a trash can lid! (Pictured below with it's handle)

The text on found on the lid, "McG" or "McC", can be read and will hopefully prove to be useful in identifying the manufacturer and the year of production.

This afternoon I excavated the southern border of the southern unit to uncover many roots, while Andy and Suzannah dug around the eastern border. The eastern border, where the garbage lid was found, is where a rock feature was uncovered (pictured below). The best theory we have, for the existence of the rock feature, is that it was used to support the cabin because it would have been easier and faster to create, than to level out a solid foundation. Just on the surface of the feature, these two metal sheets with rimmed edges were found. (pictured below). We are not yet sure what these are for.

Two other artifacts that Suzannah uncovered were a piece of glass that seems to have been warped, possibly by a fire in the area, as well as a very straight and young looking nail.

Throughout the southern unit, two types of nails have been uncovered: thick nails about 3.5 inches long, and thin nails about 2.5 inches long. A theory behind the various sizes of nails is that the smaller nails would have been used for the roof of the cabin, and the larger nails were used for the foundation of the cabin. We also have found several clumps of metal shards in the eastern part of the site... could it be that the cabin had a metal roof?

What happens in Moss Vegas, doesn't stay in Moss Vegas, and the level bags filled with nails and metal shards, as well as the artifacts were carted off to the laboratory to be seen once again on Friday.

There was also damp and misty weather today, making "sifting in the rain" a bit of a challenge, but Nadia, Andrea, and Anja managed to do so just fine!

The rest of the archaeologists were keeping busy and out of trouble working in the lab, or excavating on the east side of the McKenzie Creek site. Pictured below are Paul, Simon, Max, and Bora washing their hands away in the collected pools of water in our tent before lunch.

Tomorrow the class meets once again to continue the dig, and possibly a visitor from Capilano University. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 15: The Chronicles of the Hillside Cabin

Today this blog will chronicle the adventures of the Hillside Cabin at the McKenzie Creek site. Suzannah, who's project is to excavate the Hillside Cabin and produce a detailed report, directed Andy and myself (Jessi) to do her bidding. Ah, the life of an underling.

The hillside cabin is on the west side of the field school excavation site and is, as you might have guessed, on a hill. Before we started our work at the cabin site, Bob Muckle showed us something of interest. (See picture below).

A few years ago Muckle had some students excavate in a small area downhill to the cabin. The weather was sprinkling today, and Muckle is an avid believer that the best excavation finds are often in the rain, because shiny objects are more noticeable, things seem to be washed off, or brought up to the surface somehow. In this old excavation area he spotted a Ponds jar, some glass, and a piece of a brown jug. Perhaps these artifacts found their way down the hill from the cabin. In the picture below, Muckle & Co. are standing to the right of the old excavation area.

There was something strange about the old excavation site though... there was a cedar tree that was cut down, and for some reason the people who chopped down the tree never moved it. In the picture below, the horizontal log has the blunt end where it was chopped, on the right.

After Muckle showed us this, we went up to the cabin with a few goals to complete today. The first thing we did was bring all of the needed supplies up to the cabin area! We took over a tree stump that is now lovingly referred to as "the locker" (pictured below).

We then proceeded to document the artifacts previously found on the surface in the area. E.g., Various sizes of nails, and a bottle stopper (which I am pointing at below).

The other major artifact that had to be documented was the three large shards of window glass found just downhill from the cabin next to a creek. In the picture below Suzannah is pointing to the glass.
A close up:

The next job to be completed was the setting up of the excavation units over the cabin frame. I left this task up to the official excavation unit setter-uppers. Suzannah and Andy ended up forming two units over the the cabin: the south unit, and the north unit.

As these two were working away, I adventured around the area to document the site so Suzannah would have photos to refer to, for her project, before we started digging. In the picture below, Suzannah is standing in the cabin, and the red flagging tape near the ferns in the photo is where the window glass, and some nails were discovered.

Below is a picture of the Cabin's East view.

West view:
North View:

South View:

Muckle directed the three of us to start excavating the south unit, because this is were he had found stove parts in the past, and there are probably more hiding in the same area. Of course, within the first half hour of excavating the surface level Andy found a stove piece! Naturally, my camera battery died, but Bob was kind enough to take some photos. Pictured below is the circular piece, which had a lot of diagnostic information on it: text! On the back it says "reversible", and on the front it says "Stover Mfg Eng Co. Freeport Illinois". Here is a link to a short Wikipedia article on them here.

Suzannah found what appears to be a metal basin, or perhaps even a garbage can lid, also on the surface level of the south unit. The artifact is very shallow, but with a large diameter. See the picture below!

Overall, a great success! We haven't even started the first level yet, and already two major artifacts were uncovered. The adventure continues tomorrow.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 14: Bottle Breakdown

Happy Lab Day! The weekend is over, and the gang collected today in the laboratory which was really nice. Not that it matters, but it was raining so some people were pretty happy about staying inside. (Pretty please, don't tell Bob I said that!)

Today people worked on their projects in the warm classroom, and for those who can only do their work in the field, they assisted the others.

Nadia had some help with her researching of artifacts, which is going pretty well! (See her smiling below)

Tin Can Guy also had some help -- picking up glass pieces from the fluted/tapered catsup glass bottle he knocked over, ever so gracefully, this morning (see picture below for a frustrated face). Thankfully, after the bottle breakdown, Nadia was able to use her keen memory to help her find information on the bottle based on its diagnostics. Nadia found the site, linked to above, that provides an excellent and accurate sketch of the "catsup bottle" (on the right) that is identical to the one uncovered by the fieldschool. Because the bottle was documented in the 1922 bottle catalogue, but we don't when it began or ceased production yet.

Buttons (aka Sean) has the very important and seemingly tedious task, if it weren't for all the awesome people helping him, of organizing all the level bags. The level bags contain all of the items found that are not considered to be artifacts, but are still good for collecting information to document the context of the dig site, for example: glass shards, tin can bits, seeds, etc. Sean sorts the bags into two categories (in the future there will be more): surface level, and sub-surface level. He then opens the bags, cleans the objects, double checks for any artifacts that could have been level bagged in error, separates any relevant pieces (eg: tin can lids for minimum number of tin cans found on site), and finally he will separate all of the dried off pieces into categories (eg: leather bits, glass shards, metal shards, etc.). Seans helpers are photographed below! (Suzannah, Max, Verena, and Bora)

Anja's project is to create a report on the two depressions found at our McKenzie Creek site. In the past other students had excavated and produced a project for the "depression near the ofuro", but the physical copies have gone missing. So, instead of giving up, Anja has gone to the handy dandy students field notebooks!

Some of the legendary Muckle Field Notebook Laws are to create detailed daily entries that contain information such as:
-the unit coordinates where you are excavating
-the depth below surface
-sketches of artifacts found
-description of the survey method used
and very importantly, especially in Anja's case, any artifacts found (and their artifact numbers)

Anja will figure out, through the fieldnotes, what artifacts were collected near the depressions by the students who created the lost report, along with any other significant details. The second depression is the "outhouse depression", and there was never a project assigned on it in the past, but the area was excavated, so Anja went to the two students field notebooks who dug in that area to see what other information can be gathered. Essentially, Anja is trying to create an itemized list of artifacts from these two areas. (Anja, pictured below was too blurry in my other photo of her, so I am posting this one!)

The day zoomed by again, and we will be back in the field until Friday. Until tomorrow!