Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Next?

I’m sure it has become obvious that the end of a field school doesn’t quite mean the end of digging, or archaeology in general. Field school is often clouded with excitement and discovery, however it is safe to say that field schools are just a taste of the work that archaeologists do. ‘Every day archaeology’ isn’t always as exciting or glamorous, and usually consists of digging shovel test pit surveys, monitoring other bouts of digging going on, and contributing many hours in the lab washing, sorting, etc., all of which are extremely important and needed in order to conduct the best possible research.

The Masons using their backhoe
After finishing up the digging around Yeaton-Walsh, Alix and I had been approached about digging around the bathrooms located near the Jefferson House. A new handicap ramp is to be attached to the bathroom, making it more wheel-chair accessible, but in order to begin the construction, a series of shovel test pit surveys have to be done along with a written report, which then gets sent into the state. After these steps have been taken, the state will then either approve the construction plans or they will reject them. This interaction between archaeologist, government, and usually third party (i.e. construction workers) is quite common, often times overlooked. It becomes important for Institutions such as CRM (Cultural Resource Management) firms to be available to conduct these pre-construction surveys and to ensure that the locations being worked on are safe to do so, and aren’t archaeologically sensitive.
One of the shovel test pits 

Shovel test pits help us look out for important digging spots in the least invasive way possible. Prior to digging, we do research, take notes, map out the location, and then begin to work. Just like your usual dig site, these sites are also handled with care, even when nothing shows up. 
Alix and I have begun digging 50x50 centimeter squares, going approximately 3 feet below surface, where the new posts for the ramps are to be laid out. As we dig these shovel test pits, we sift, observe, and take notes. They are almost like tiny units.

Alix likes to remind me that this is good way to find out whether or not CRM is right for me upon graduation.  I’ve mentioned once that I am still an undergrad in college, coming into my very last year, so with that I’ve already been playing with the idea of what exactly happens next. Part of what I have taken away from my internship here is insight into what I want to do with archaeology after I graduate, my options being: go directly into grad school or take a year or two and throw myself into CRM. For many archaeologists, CRM is a rite of passage into the career of archaeology. It’s beneficial because it allows for a constant gain of field experience. This often helps those who wish to go back to school as it lessens the burnout of jumping directly into grad school. Many of the archaeologists today are employed in a CRM firm, and when asked about whether or not they enjoyed it, most, if not all, spoke  about the positive experiences and skill sets they gathered from it.

As might be assumed, while doing the shovel test pits around the Jefferson house, I realized that I still enjoyed this aspect of archaeology. The more practice I got with the shovel, the better I was due to familiarity. This helped me make the decision to go into CRM upon graduation, hopefully helping me pave my way to grad school in the future.  I believe it’s really important to mention projects, such as the construction of new ramps, as well as fields such as CRM when discussing archaeology, because I feel it’s more honest and realistic to those who want to go into archaeology as a career. Having been allowed to learn this new skill set and learn about other roads to take after graduating, Archaeology has become even more relevant and important to me now than ever.  

Just keep digging.

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