Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Field School Update: Week 1 is Done!


    We are heading into our second week of field school with only a thunderstorm standing in our way from digging today. However, with plenty of washing to do, we are taking shelter in the lab to clean all the various artifacts uncovered from our topsoil units last week. We have an extensive amount of artifacts such as ceramic sherds, glass, brick, charcoal, slag (found in ash deposits), burnt pieces of wood and other materials, bone, nails, metal materials, marbles, shell, tokens/coins, figurines, ballast (smooth rocks used to weigh down boats), pipe stems, clothing materials and accessories (buttons, cuff links, jewelry) and so much more!

    My name is  Emma Kate and I am a field school student here at Strawbery Banke. Our essential goal for our field school is to not only reach the original workers' trench of the Yeaton-Walsh house, but also recover evidence through artifacts and features. This will help us interpret what life was like for those who lived on this site in the past and we will eventually relay this information to the public and visitors to the museum. The Yeaton-Walsh house is under the Heritage House Program, which will renovate and restore this house to its original historical-state, while providing office space for the surrounding community. To assist in this program, our team of field school students and staff will conduct an excavation trench around the house foundations to collect and record archaeological materials before construction begins on the house.

                                                   

    We are learning and gaining experience in many things within field school such as mapping, interpretation to the public, paperwork, measuring and recording of units, screening, collecting and recovering artifacts, site preparation for photography, and washing. All of these various skills not only assist us in understanding and recording the site, but also prepare us for future archaeological and historical activities in the field. Last week we began our first day of field school touring the historical grounds of the Strawbery Banke Museum, learning and observing the archaeological history and architectural history/preservation to many of the building sites. This gave our field school team insight of what life was like here since the 18th century as well as ideas of what types of materials we might find at our own site. For the rest of the week we worked on excavating the topsoil level of our site. We discovered a large pipe, spanning across two of our units. This was our first artifact to be mapped on our site. Next, there were four features uncovered in a pattern demonstrating a possible fence line. We mapped and investigated these four features and were able to tentatively identify three of the four as ashy refuse pits and the fourth as a larger refuse pit of mostly deposited animal bone. After completing excavations of the topsoil level, we now begin our second week excavating the fill level to our site.


    Highlights from week one have included various finds of interesting and unique artifacts that will help us interpret the story of those who inhabited the Yeaton-Walsh house or spark our imaginations and opinions on what some artifacts are and what they were used for (such as the bear/pig/wolf figurine). Also, an interesting and important field trip to the Portsmouth African Burying Ground Memorial, where we learned of an earlier archaeological excavation that uncovered a cemetery for enslaved Africans that was later created into a memorial to not only honor those forgotten, but symbolize the collective history of Portsmouth. We were introduced to an African symbol called Sankofa, which stands for "Return and get it - learn from the past." This symbol represented the intent of the memorial and its historical connection to the history of Portsmouth. After learning of this important symbol and its connection to the archaeological history of Portsmouth, we can adapt the meaning of Sankofa to our own archaeological goals and exploration of the Yeaton-Walsh house in learning from its past.

That's all for now - back to digging!

- Emma Kate

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