Field School: Week 6

You know what’s a really great workout?  Bailing water out of holes.  Two days of rain this week meant two mornings of scooping water out of units that looked like swimming pools, dragging buckets around to dump them, & I have pains in muscles that I didn’t even know existed.  But we had a day off from digging, so I guess that’s something?  I think it’s easy to forget how incredibly hard this work is until it’s the end of the week & all you want to do is eat dinner & go to bed at 8:30.

I re-watched all of the Cinema Sins videos of the Jurassic Park movies – & realized how many times they refer to paleontology/paleontologists as archaeology/archaeologists.    Archaeology is the study of human cultures through material remains.  Archaeologists do NOT study dinosaurs!  We also don’t like it when you touch our stuff.  We have to keep track of exactly where each pile of dirt & each item in it comes from.  If you visit an archaeological dig by all means ask questions – but please don’t touch things without permission & DEFINITELY don’t move them!

This knowledge of where each item comes from is called its provenience.  This concept is related to the term provenance, which has to do with tracking the ownership history of art pieces – something that comes up a lot in cases of Nazi-looted art & the like.  Archaeological digs are built on grid systems, with each square assigned a unique identifier.  The entire area of St. Mary’s City is divided into numbered 10-foot squares, & each of those is in turn divided into 4 5-foot units which are dug individually.  As we dig each unit, we keep track of the stratigraphy within it – the layers of dirt as they were laid down over each other in the past.  The earliest layer is at the bottom, with new layers deposited on it so that the most recent layer is at the top.  Within the stratigraphic system there might also be features – things like post holes that are now just a different color of dirt because the post rotted away or was removed & the hole filled back in.  Each layer & feature in each 5-foot square is given a letter designation.  So for example, in one 10-foot square you’d have letters for the topsoil layer in each of the 5-foot units – A, B, C, & D.  Under the topsoil, you’d have a new set of letters for each unit’s plowzone layer – E, F, G, & H.  If a feature shows up, it gets its own letter.  So, if you’re digging the northeast corner of square 4506, the topsoil layer might be layer C, the plowzone under it layer G, a ditch dug through it & since filled in layer K.  The same layers or features in the other three units of that square get their own letters.  Then, each item you dig up goes into a particular bag – things from the topsoil go into a bag labeled 4506 C, plowzone into 4506 G, & anything found in the ditch into 4506 K.  Provenience is so important because the context of an item – where it was found & what it was found with – is vital to understanding what it is & what it means to the site overall.  Without context, OK you’ve got a cool thing, but it doesn’t tell you much.  With context, you might be able to say when that ditch was filled in or what a certain room was used for – you can connect it to the objects in the same layer or the ones above or below, & to the site at large.  Basically, context is everything & provenience is how we maintain our knowledge of that context.

Four weeks from now I’ll be back in Florida!  This summer seems like it’s taking forever, but I’m sure when I leave it will feel like it flew by.

This Week in Awkwardness: The Resurrection of the Website

I have officially reopened my Smugmug site!  If you are so inclined, you can now purchase prints of the best photos featured here on the blog as well as others from my wanderings.

I’ve also been adding to my Instagram, (gaining double-digit followers was exciting for some reason) although I pretty much just stick them on there at random since I’m posting old stuff and putting them in any kind of order is no fun.

I’m DOOONNNEEEEE with spring semester!  I’ve got almost a month to relax before I head off to Maryland.  I don’t even know what to do with my evenings anymore, now that I don’t have something to frantically read or write for class the next day.


Added to the Travel Map:

Keys Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park, California – abandoned; accessible only by guided tour.

Cinnamon Bay Plantation, Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands – ruins of an 18th-century sugar plantation.

Amatol, New Jersey – ghost town that was once a munitions village.

Fort Ord National Monument, Salinas, California – abandoned military base.

Zamskhang Palace, Sumur, India – abandoned ruin but so hard to get to that it’s still full of amazing Buddhist statues & silk paintings.

Museum of Failure, Helsingborg, Sweden – who doesn’t love a good fail?

North Field, Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands – site where atomic bombs were assembled and loaded before being dropped on Japan.

This Week in Awkwardness

My time living & working on Mackinac Island has left me with a bizarre fascination with little islands.  There are dozens of them on my list of places I want to go, scattered all over the world.  There’s something intensely unique about an island.  Each one is its own little world, especially if the only way to get to it is by plane or ferry.

I was also discussing plantations on Facebook this week.  I admit that I think the houses themselves are really cool, and of course they’re interesting and important from a historical perspective, but they’ve been way over-romanticized.  “Come have your wedding at this place that was built on the backs of slaves!”  Yeah…no.  Maybe people just can’t really connect with the slavery aspect as something that actually happened to actual people, I don’t know.

Speaking of historical perspectives, I hope all my teachers like the in-depth historical backgrounds of everything, because I can’t stop writing that way even when I’m supposed to be working in the present. :/  Good thing I’m going into archaeology, they appreciate historical perspective.

I signed up for my LAST SEMESTER of classes!  I’m taking Digital Archaeology in the fall and I’m REALLY excited about it.  I also managed to test into second semester German, so my little bits of studying over the last few years actually got me out of a whole class!


Added to the Travel Map:

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, Ellenton, FL – only plantation house left in Florida.

Ushant Island, France – westernmost point in France; also sheep, lighthouses, seafaring history, etc.

Hampi, India – ruins of Vijayanagara Empire’s capital, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hudson Highlands State Park, Cold Spring, New York – lots of hiking trails.

Cornish Estate Ruins, Cold Spring, New York – abandoned mansion in the woods.

Also apparently the Hudson River Valley is just packed with amazing ruins.  I don’t know why I’m surprised, there’s already several of them on my travel list.

This Week in Awkwardness

Do you want to show off your obsession with Stranger Things AND help the National Endowment for the Arts?  David Harbour’s t-shirt does both!

I started working on my trip to Maryland.  I’m planning on taking Amtrak’s Silver Star from Tampa to Washington, D.C., so I FINALLY get to go on another train adventure.  Or the Silver Meteor, but that would require taking a bus from Tampa to Orlando – bleh.  It’ll be some silver celestial body anyway.  Then I was contemplating possibly getting to D.C. a day or two before I’m supposed to move into the dorm and seeing some things.  Hopefully they’ll send me a schedule of any field trips we’ll be taking over the summer, maybe the stuff I want to see is stuff they’ll be taking us to see anyway.  Probably not the International Spy Museum though.  That I’ll probably have to do on my own time.

Maryland will be the fifth state that I’ve lived in over as many years – that seems kind of insane, it feels like forever since I left Tennessee but that really was just in 2013.

Train trip, new state, digging stuff up – should be a good summer!

This is my 100th blog post!

Also I’ve been thinking about a graduation gift to get myself in December.  Maybe a GoPro.  They shoot time lapses and they’re waterproof, two things my Canon M isn’t capable of without modification.  Could be fun.

I’ve got my class schedule all planned out for MY LAST SEMESTER O_O.  Finally I’ll get to take some in-depth archaeology courses, up to now the offerings have just not worked out for me.


Added to the Travel Map:

Tangalooma Wrecks, Moreton Island, Australia – shipwrecks just off the beach.

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar – wild rock formations.

Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah – tons of rock art.

Longyearbyen, Norway – northernmost city in the world.

International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C. – pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

Barron, Washington – ghost town.

Canyon Falls, Alberta, Michigan – waterfall in a canyon.

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah – 100,000 archaeological sites.

Bagan Archaeological Zone, Myanmar – the “Plain of Pagodas,” 2,000+ temples.

Ōkunoshima, Japan – this is the island with the zillion rabbits, but I’m more interested in the ruins of the poison gas factory.

This Week in Awkwardness

I was accepted into the field school in Maryland that I mentioned in my last post!  I’ll be spending 10 weeks in St. Mary’s City this summer digging and learning and probably sweating a whole bunch.  St. Mary’s City was the original capital of Maryland, and the 2017 field season will focus on the 1634 house of Leonard Calvert, the colony’s first governor.  The home later served as a rebel holdout, Maryland’s first statehouse, and an inn, so there’s a wide slice of Colonial American life happening on this one little patch of ground.  Should be an interesting summer!


Added to the Travel Map:

Belle Isle, Richmond Virginia – once a Civil War prison, ruins of various things, trails, etc.  (Incidentally, why are there so many parks called Belle Isle?)

Fairfield Hills Hospital, Newton, Connecticut – abandoned psychiatric hospital.

This Week in Awkwardness

Last year when I went to the Florida State Fair I was so enamored with it that I wrote a whole post about it, so of course I had to go again this year.  I didn’t spend as much time there because of course I’d seen the permanent exhibits last year but I still loved it.  God I love fairs.  They’re just the best.  Florida State Fair is the best.  Go to it.

I sent in my application for an archaeological field school in St. Mary’s City, Maryland!  It’ll probably be a little bit before I hear whether I’ve been accepted or not, but here’s hoping!  I’ve applied almost two and a half months before their deadline, so hopefully I won’t have any issues with space availability.  If I get in I’d love to take the train up from Tampa.  I’ve been dying for another train adventure, but there just aren’t that many places to go from here.

Also I hurt my knee crashing an electric scooter.  Not even the kind that really wants to be a motorcycle, like a child’s foot-powered scooter with an electric motor in the bottom.  Just wiped out on the sidewalk right next to a busy road.  Possibly my most ridiculous injury ever.


Added to the Travel Map:

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter, Indiana – dunes, woods, lake, ya know.

Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology, St. Petersburg, Russia – founded by Peter the Great with curiosities acquired in his travels.

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier, Australia – a garden in a collapsed cave.

Corregidor Island, Philippines – WWII ruins.

Boodjamulla National Park, Lawn Hill, Australia – beautiful river gorge in the outback.

Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland – where I’m hoping to do my field school this summer!

 

This Week in Awkwardness

Everything that’s been happening in American politics lately has really made me notice how incredibly diverse USF is.  All day long I hear different languages as I’m walking around campus – Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, French, who even knows what all.  The other day in sociology my teacher was looking for the African American viewpoint on something, he pointed at a black girl in the first row & asked if she was African American, she said no, she’s Haitian.  Guy behind her, nope.  The next person was Nigerian, the one after him was from St. Martin.  And the teacher is Brazilian!  Another of my teachers is Dutch, my neighbors are Sikh, two of my classmates are Russian.  It’s amazing.

I signed my apartment up for clean energy for $10 extra per month!  Or at least I think I did, the email I got said they’d be in touch but I haven’t heard anything….  Anyway, if you’re like me & pine for solar panels & windmills you can’t afford, check with your power supplier to see if you can pay a little extra to support their projects.  Here in Florida of course electricity just falls from the sky pretty much continuously, so there’s solar arrays all over the place.  I also decided to buy some rope & clothes pins so I can hang my laundry to dry on my patio instead of using the dryers in the laundry room.  Every little bit helps!

I’ve spent most of the last year figuring I would go to the summer field school that USF runs at George Washington’s boyhood home in Virginia, so OF COURSE this is the year they decide not to do it…  It’s OK, there’s a zillion field schools, including one in Maryland that I had considered going to that I think I’ll apply for.  It’s longer, I think it’s actually cheaper, and I might even get more credits than I would’ve with the USF one.

This semester I’m studying a lot of past anthropological theorists who use language that we find appalling today. I literally can’t write the words “primitive” or “savage” without putting them in quotes, even in my own notebook that nobody else will ever see.


Added to the Travel Map:

The Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, Massachusetts – stained glass globe that you can walk through – only place in the world where the entire surface can be viewed without distortion.

Convento de Cristo, Tomar, Portugal – castle built as the headquarters of the Knights Templar in 1160.

Olšany Cemetery, Prague, Czech Republic – oldest cemetery in Prague, a literal walk through history.

St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, D’Hanis, Texas – ruin.