Excavation 2015

ANP 464: Field Methods in Archaeology


During the summer of 2015, MSU Campus Archaeology Field School excavated behind the Hannah Administration building. High concentrations of historic artifacts were located in the area that led to it being the excavation site for the summer of 2015.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 7.29.54 PM.png                                                    Image: Red dot is the point of location of the excavation. From MSU Interactive Campus Map.

The field school was five weeks long, teaching: excavation techniques, daily note recordings, mapping the floor, identifying possible features, and recording elevation level. It was a great way to start out the summer!

Many techniques were learned spending my summer outside in the rain and sun. Overall, I learned how to carefully excavate a site and identify features and stratigraphy. There were a total of 5 units excavated behind the Hannah Administration building; my partner and I excavated Unit A.

IMG_4070.jpg                                      Photo: Unit A

Morning routine involved taking notes about the weather, personal thoughts, the date, level, etc. Elevation was also tested every morning to make sure there wasn’t a change in it from the day before. This was important because the rain would cause the elevation level to change. Therefore, by testing it every morning we lessened the probability of digging too deep or not digging deep enough.

For each level, we dug 10cm down. While digging we collected artifacts and made notes of any features. So multi-tasking was crucial to make sure nothing was missed. Some of the artifacts we collected can be found on the campus archaeology lab tab (https://vangpa1.wordpress.com/cap-lab/). We found fragments of artifacts but also whole bottles.

After completing and getting approval to move onto the next level, my partner and I would then map the floor (http://www.archaeologywordsmith.com/lookup.php?category=&where=headword&terms=living+floor). Mapping is a method of recording features and artifacts on the floor, in our case, using a measuring tape. By doing so we are able to see changes throughout levels. This was important because we found features that continued to get larger while others disappeared. Also, mapping allowed us to see when a feature started and stopped, if ever. Part of mapping included testing soil color using the Munsell Soil Color Chart. We used this on parts of the floor that displayed any changes of color from the larger color floor.

18963792559_51802c0fce_o copy.jpgPhoto: Munsell Soil Color Chart

Another key component to excavation is cleaning the walls. By having the floor and the walls meet at a 90-degree angle we lower the risk of the wall collapsing. When I first started to clean the walls, I would have a difficult time finding the most comfortable technique. After Ian and Jeff taught me their way of cleaning the walls I began to develop comfort at tackling the 90-degree angle.

My favorite part of the field school was being able to practice and perfect my skills. At first I knew very little about field schools and its expectation, but after taking this course I was able to grow and be more confident about my skills. This experience had led me to continue on with an internship in the lab.

11430131_10153378916123415_8689263134504854133_n.jpgPhoto: Summer 2015 excavation site

Below is a video I created for the course, focusing on screening. I chose this topic because it is important when anyone is trying to collect artifacts that are either covered in dirt or too small to notice.

I would like to thank Ian, Hunter, and Kristin for screening and being a part of my video.