Monday, May 25, 2015

First Week of Arcadia Mill's 2015 Field School!

We have returned! It was a beautiful week back at Arcadia for field school!!

In the beginning of the week, we spent time with our Principle Investigator and Arcadia Site Manager, Adrianne Sams, who gave a tour of the previously excavated areas on this expansive archaeological site. She also gave us an overview of the history of Arcadia and talked about the Simpson Family who once owned Arcadia Mill. Katherine Sims, our Field Director, gave us more information about the excavations of the Simpson family home which was started by the previous 2014 field school. Jan Lloyd, the director of the UWF archaeology lab, was kind enough to come out and share her knowledge about the types of artifacts our new students were likely to find in our excavations this summer. In the picture below, Jan is teaching students Robert Love, Robert Cornforth, Hanah Brock, and Ken Newquist the difference between several types of stoneware we find often in Arcadia-era deposits.

A portion of the ten week field school will be spent in attempting to locate the cabins of domestic slaves the Simpson family owned prior to emancipation. Continued research of Arcadia's enslaved population is the primary research goal of Katherine Sims's Master's thesis and it will hopefully contribute additional information to the history of Arcadia Mill. Previous research suggested that there might be archaeological remains of slave cabins to the east of the Big House. Since the land to the east is private property, Katherine obtained permission from fantastic landowners to investigate the possibility that these slave cabins were located in the vicinity. We are using non-invasive remote sensing methods to obtain an idea of where these structures might be before starting small target excavations.

With this knowledge, we got to work! In order to use the various types of remote sensing equipment at our disposal, we first needed to set in a grid using a total station and several on-site datums. The students learned to set up the total station over a known point (datum) and use it to find new points like grid corners. Below, you can see Ken Newquist and Robert Love are setting up the total station over the main permanent datum on-site.

In the picture below, Katherine Sims shows Hanah Brock and Robert Cornforth how to level the total station -- an important part of accurate measurements!

To obtain precise measurements, we use a total station to measure and record distances with accuracy down to the millimeter. The total station shoots a laser to a prism positioned on top of a stadia rod (seen below) which reflects back to the total station. This process allows the total station to record its position in three dimensional space. Dani Mount, one of the supervisors, is holding the stata rod and prism over a datum to finish setting up the station. 

The first type of remote sensing equipment we used this week is called a GPR, or ground penetrating radar. The GPR sends energy waves into the ground and measures the rate at which they bounce back to the antenna. Since bricks, rocks, tree roots, and other buried objects are made of different materials of different densities, these energy waves bounce back at different rates that can be recorded and measured by the GPR computer. As a result, this technology can give us a 3D image of what is buried  in the ground without having to dig it up first. The grid we are using below is 20 meters by 20 meters and often includes large oak trees which can make towing the GPR an interesting dance of cords and technology. Ken Newquist is towing the GPR while Jennifer Melcher, UWF archaeology's very own technology wizard/guru, is carrying the computer harness that records each line of data while Hanah Brock learns how to operate the computer.

In conjunction with the GPR, we are using another type of remote sensing equipment called a gradiometer. The gradiometer, like a metal detector, is useful for finding metallic artifacts. However, it works on a different principle. Rather than just looking for metal, the gradiometer measures the magnetic field in the surrounding area and compares that to areas nearby. This process produces a map that shows where the magnetic fields are aligned in a particular pattern which can signify bricks, sandstone, burned clay deposits or other objects that are different than the surrounding soil. The lovely Jennifer Melcher is carrying the gradiometer over grids 5 and 6.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: We finished our first shovel test on Friday! Late Thursday afternoon, we chose an arbitrary spot on the Simpson Lot to get an idea of what the stratigraphy looked like in our current area of research. In the first level, we found small brick fragments, a handmade iron washer, hand-molded soda lime glass, iron cut nails and SIX peach pits. Below, you can see a few of the artifacts we found.

When we continued excavating on Friday, we found larger brick fragments, sunpurple glass, more cut nails, and even a wrought iron spike. These types of artifacts are good temporal markers for the period when the Simpson House stood. Very promising for the first week of field school!

Stay tuned for more updates next week!

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