Monday, May 23, 2011

First Week of Field School 2011

Welcome to the blog for the 2011 Arcadia field school! You are invited to follow along as this year's crew of students learn the principles of field archaeology (some for the very first time) and help the UWF Archaeology Institute gather valuable information about one of 19th century Florida's premier industrial complexes, all while wearing more sun block and mosquito repellent than is probably healthy.

While the 1990 Arcadia investigations documented the structural remains of water-powered industry such as the foundations of the textile mill and sawmill, the 2009, 2010, and 2011 field crews have been building off of a foundational survey conducted in 1988 that located residential deposits in the uplands surrounding Pond Creek. Recovering additional data in this location will give important insights into community organization and economic status among people living and working at the mill. Highlights from previous field schools at Arcadia can be found on the sidebar and include the recovery and documentation of thousands of artifacts from the antebellum period such as medicine bottles, ceramic fragments, pipe bowls, and even leather boot heels. Past crews also discovered brick and local "ironstone" piers that held up a structure or group of structures that potentially housed some of the Mill's workers.

This year's field school aims to continue the efforts of previous years through shovel testing, trenching, block excavation, remote sensing, and digital mapping to locate evidence of additional structures and other features on the landscape such as roads and trash deposits associated with the community. These techniques will help piece together a better idea of what it was like to live and work at Arcadia.

This week began with clearing the underbrush at a location that we call “Area A.” Recent hurricanes have damaged the tree cover in this area, making it possible for smaller plants to turn what was once relatively clear of obstructions into a jungle in a matter of months. This gave the crew plenty of machete practice.

The next task was to add a few reference (or datum) points to the on-site coordinate grid for our total station, a machine used to take precise spatial measurements. While some archaeologists like to use an arbitrary grid for their sites that places a point at “x=1000, y=1000” and references all other points off of that, Arcadia uses the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) coordinate system that assigns a unique value to every location in a region. While it might take a little longer to label bags and photo boards (UTM Coordinates in this area are seven digits long), this system has the advantage of making the data much easier to put into a digital Geographic Information System (or GIS) for analysis.

Finally, we finished off the week with shovel testing. Archaeologists work from what they know to what they don't know, so we dug 50cm round shovel tests between rows of tests made by earlier field schools just north of a small logging road directly north of Area A. This was done in order to more accurately determine the village's boundaries. A couple of shovel tests had at least one period artifact in them, including a piece of transfer-printed whiteware. One shovel test had a fragment of local "ironstone," a type of sandstone known for its high iron content that gives it a characteristic red color. Since ironstone was not native to area A and had to be cut out of a quarry to the south, this could point to the existence of additional structures in the area. However, there are several negative tests with no cultural material in them, which suggest that one of the boundaries of the village might be the logging road.

Check back later this week for crew member bios, more pictures and some additional details concerning our work this year.

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