Today was the backfill day at the DOTMON site (AZ:CC:4:62 (ASM)). After all the excavating, screening, and paper work, the perfectly square hole (a 1x1m unit) we made in the ground must be backfilled and the site returned to its original state…almost. It is next to impossible to bring it back to how we found it, but we try. This practice is predominantly to clean up our mess and prevent injury, we did put in a 40cm pit after all.
Unlike the meticulous efforts archaeologists put in for excavating, back filling looks barbaric, with an almost haphazard technique of throwing rocks and tossing dirt into the unit. But it isn’t without symbolism. A common tradition is to place a historical item in the unit before sealing the unit. In our case Dr. Hard had tossed a few coins with recent dates in the unit. He said that these were for the next archaeologists who dug the site. It was our way of saying we were here, and now we are part of the history of this site.
Here I am shoveling dirt back into our unit at the DOT MON site (AZ:CC:4:62 (ASM)), while Dr. Hard (far left) and Robert Gardner (just to the left of me) pick up excavation tools.
Today Dr. Hard’s excavation crew (Megan Brown, Overton Lesley, and Robert Gardner) began to excavate unit Rock Ring A on the DOT MON site (AZ:CC:4:62 (ASM)). My fellow excavators dug into 3, 10cm levels successfully, while I filled out site forms, tags, and screened for artifacts. I wanted to dig so badly that I could feel the trowel burning in my back pocket, waiting to get dirty. But, there were other important tasks that needed to be taken care of before it was my turn to dig a level. Dr. Hard taught me the importance of testing the unit soil and the different types of soil that sand, silt, and clay can make when combined at different percentages. I also learned how to compare the color of the soil with the Munsell soil chart. I then mapped out level 1 and 2 after it had been completed. I felt cool being able to “eyeball” measurements onto the map. I had a blast, or created a blast of dirt while I screened for artifacts. To my surprise I found a lot of obsidian flakes, even in lower levels that were close to bedrock.
Here I am “creating a blast of dirt” while screening the unit’s dirt.
The important unit/level paperwork I filled out. This paperwork keeps the excavation organized and will be a vital piece of the puzzle for compiling the report and for laboratory analysis.
Today Andrea Thomas and I continued our excavations in our beloved rock ring designated ‘Feature E.’ It continues to yield interesting results, however, it is very much more than frustrating trying to dig through bedrock – yet we push on! So far we’ve recovered the base of a projectile point, a mano (used for food-grinding purposes), and a suspicious formation of five rocks in the middle of our feature. We will also took flotation samples from the fill underneath those rocks to see if we can get a hold of datable charcoal. A day in the life of an archaeological field school student is sweaty and overwhelming at times, but always exciting and rewarding as well. Today I learned how to create a profile map to understand the stratigraphy of the Northeast and Southeast Quadrant units; this type of map aids in the understanding of the various soils found in the feature, as well as the fill used to create a floor for the structure.
Here I am hard at work on excavating the Southeast Quadrant unit, level 3 of Feature E
This is a picture of the profile map I drew with the help of Andrea Thomas and Megan Brown providing the profile measurements
Today I worked with Ian Bates and Lori Barkwill-Love at Round Mountain (AZ:CC:4:61 (ASM)) on Test Unit 4, which is a 1x1m unit just inside a terrace wall. When digging in Test Unit 4, we found this white chert core in level two of the unit at roughly 50-60 cm below the datum. What I found particularly interesting was that the exterior of the core was made of chert, whereas the interior was calcium carbonate. When rubbed with finger, the carbonate leaves a white residue much like chalk. In fact, chalk is a form of calcium carbonate however, I cannot confidently identify this object’s material as chalk. Calcium carbonate is a combination of carbon, oxygen, and calcium and is believed to have been formed indirectly due to an organism intrusion. An example may be a bacteria or a secreting organism such as a bug or ant. We all found this particularly interesting since a core is the beginning rock that is struck for the creation of stone tools, and although chert is a widely used rock for tool creation, calcium carbonate is rarely used for flaking stones for tool production.
This is the white chert core we found in Test Unit 4, level 2.
Today was the last day on the Duncan Doughnut site (AZ:CC:4:63 (ASM)). This whole week we uncovered well preserved bones, charcoal, and flaked stone debitage on a site that could be a sheet midden. I learned a lot working on this unit along with Dr. Hard and Ashley Jones. We started off with a 50 x 50 cm unit because of the slope. And because of this I also learned how to stair step the unit. Going down by 10 centimeters each level the length of the unit kept extending to a point where we needed to stair step to see a lower level without extending it too far and removing a cultural feature. This site really helped me get to know what excavating was about, and it was exciting. We made sure that each level was measured correctly and the forms of each unit were completed before we moved on to the next level, especially being vigilant about our bag log numbers. I was getting into the rhythm of documenting and excavating. During the screening process, however, I needed Ashley’s assistance every time I came upon a heat spall, which I thought were flaked stone debitage pieces, but were in fact pieces of rock that pop off when a rock is put into a fire. But within time my eyes started to focus on shapes and colors to find artifacts, charcoal, and bone. Today was the day when we finally hit soil change. From the ashy soil to orange brown, indicating the end of the sheet midden. Everything that we did this week lead up to this and I was happy to see this until the end of the excavation.
A mammal mandible fragment from AZ:CC:4:63 (ASM)
Small mammal humerus fragment from AZ:CC:4:63 (ASM)
Unidentified mammal bone fragment from AZ:CC:4:63 (ASM)
Today was a spectacular day and truly a rare opportunity. Dr. Art MacWilliams, Hayley Fishbeck, David Barron, and I explored a Cerro de Trincheras site nicknamed the Sanchez site just outside the town of Safford, Arizona. Our crew meandered around the site, performing informal survey, and located constructed terraces and walls, over 80 rock ring structures, and an array of cultural material such as flaked stone, Early Pithouse ceramic sherds, and groundstone. At the end of the work day even though we were ready to leave, we still took the time to take in the view of this beautiful landscape and bask in an opportunity of a lifetime.
This is an example of a spectacular broken granite metate found laying out on topsoil at the Sanchez site. This was just one of many artifacts scattered all threw out the site.
Art MacWilliams taking in the breathtaking view one last time, while Hayley Fishbeck, and David Barron find themselves unable to let go of identifying surface artifacts.
Working on the survey team has been amazing! The Duncan Valley is so rich in archaeology, yet so understudied. We first surveyed, identified diagnostic materials, and mapped a fascinating Post-Classic Mimbres site with 50-60 rooms that’s very near our primary archaeological field site near Duncan, Arizona. The ceramic sherds are lovely, and give us clues about the age of the site and its continuity of occupation. The only drawback was the snakes…including at least one rattlesnake. I had the bright idea of looking for artifacts under mesquite bushes and was a little too close for comfort to one. Note to self: avoid reaching under foliage after a good rain or on a cool morning. It will not end well.
John Roney explaining the ins and outs of using a GPS (From Left to Right: John Roney, Overton Lesley, Gabriella Zaragosa, and Megan Brown)
A cute walking stick on Gabriella Zaragosa’s hat
Gabriella Zaragosa and Megan Brown about to set out to flag artifacts!
The next day (6/18/15) we surveyed in the area adjacent to the Post-Classic site and found…drum roll…a pithouse grouping and lots of very early ceramic sherd!! It’s pretty clear from our work in the Duncan Valley that people have been living along this stretch of the Upper Gila for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It’s wonderful to get a sense of that continuity. Maybe an excavation here next year? But in the meantime, we’ll initiate a new survey tomorrow and hopefully discover another site!
A little friend the team met while surveying
My day was spent surveying the eastern base of Round Mountain. It was my task to flag important flaked stone and ceramic artifacts on site SF-04. John Roney briefly explained the diagnostic attributes of flaked stone I needed to look for, such as the bulb of percussion and the striking platform, as well as how to distinguish between rocks and ceramic sherds before I scanned the ground. We then moved on to an early 1900s railroad camp where I learned how to create a survey site map. I was in charge of drawing the site map and documenting all artifacts found within the map. It was a very productive day that included a small side step into historical archaeology, which included artifacts such as pieces of varying colors of glass and bullet cartridges from varying caliber sizes.
In this picture I am documenting the flagged artifacts in the survey site map.
David Barron and I receiving instructions on where to search next for artifacts.
Today I was apart of the survey team led by John Roney and Mary Whisenhunt. We learned how to use a GPS to record discovered artifacts and to create site outline points for site mapping, both on paper and in GIS digital mapping. These two pictures show two of the sites discovered near the base of the Round Mountain by the survey team. The first site, located on a river terrace overlooking the Gila River, is a possible post- Mimbres site based on the pottery sherds found around the site’s several masonry pueblo roomblocks. The second photo shows a rock ring not unlike the ones found at the top of Round Mountain. This site was also found on a river terrace overlooking the Gila and held two projectile points that date the site to a similar period as the Round Mountain site. Both sites were previously undocumented by archaeologists.
The flags seen in the photo were used to mark the location of pottery sherds. Not pictured, the several rattlesnakes that inhabit the ruins.
A rock ring located during survey
Our first group field trip (06/13/15) was to the Gila Cliff Dwellings in the Gila National Forest. The ancient puebloans of the Mogollon area of the North American Southwest. Dendrochronological dates collected from wall wooden posts from this site places occupation to approximately 1275 AD.
View of the dwellings after short climb up a hill, and right before you can explore within the rooms
A view of various rooms from within the dwellings.
A few of the group checking out a room that actually has remnants of paint on the wall, as well as hand prints in the wall mortar where the original inhabitants constructed specific sections of the wall. (In picture from left to right: Overton Lesley, David Barron, Mary Whisenhunt, Kimberly Martin, Robert Gardner, NPS volunteer, and Kristina Solis)
The Graduate Students: (from left to right in back row: Lori Barkwill- Love, Kristina Solis, Ashley Jones. In front row: Mary Whisenhunt and Andrea Thomas)
Dr. Robert Hard discussing the site with a National Park Service volunteer
Students taking a breather and admiring the site. (In front: Stephanie Dooley. In back from left to right: David Barron, Lori Barkwill-Love, Mary Whisenhunt, Overton Lesley, Rosa Compean-Molina, Haley Fishbeck, Gabriella Zaragosa, and Megan Brown)
Another fascinating aspect of the Gila Cliff Dwellings tour was the rock art in different areas of the park. The group explored different areas surrounding the main dwellings and located various rock art drawings created with a red organic paint.