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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!