Today was our last day excavating, and it was difficult to motivate ourselves considering it was so cold and, thanks to the Daylight Savings Time shift, sunset had been moved to the middle of our class time. Our phones told us it was only forty degrees Fahrenheit when we started the afternoon, and by the time we left it was probably at freezing—everyone was ready to call it a day.
In QG4, we spent the afternoon finishing and cleaning our trench. There had emerged a distinct separation, even depth-wise, between the rock-filled and dirt-filled contexts; we leveled everything out and made sure the edge between the two was clean.
In QG3, we frantically worked towards bringing the extension down to the same depth as the rest of the trench, and since today was our last day to get work done in the field we didn’t stop until we hit rock bottom—literally. The reason for extending the trench was to see whether a set of rocks in the southwest corner were arranged in any sort of pattern, hinting at being the foundations of a house (or really any structure of consequence). For two hours we used enormous picks and shovels to remove four contexts worth of dirt. In the process we managed to pull out several pieces of dark blue rounded glass that probably belonged to the same bottle and what we believe to be the stem of a ceramic teacup handle. Unfortunately, the rocks didn’t indicate any sort of organized formation.
Those of us sifting had a lot to get through, at least from QG3. We began working through context two and successfully made it all the way down to context five. Early layers had more silt-y soil, while it got slightly darker and more clay-based as we went down. The types of artifacts remained consistent with the rest of the trench as well—there was plenty of brick, ceramic, glass, and metal (although we admittedly began to collect less of the smallest pieces of brick for quantity’s sake). Nothing we found was particularly exciting beyond a few pretty pieces of ceramic.
Many of us wanted to try using the Total Station (since it was our last day and so many of us hadn’t had the chance), and so the trenches seemed a bit quiet while Andy relayed his extensive knowledge. We took levels for both of the trenches and made sure we had enough extra measurements to give context to our work and cover whatever information might be needed later on. Meanwhile, Linda, entirely wrapped up with two jackets and a scarf around her head, oversaw the rest of us. We spent most of our time simply lamenting the cold.
Looking back over our six weeks of excavation at the end of the afternoon, somebody made the comparison that QG4 represented a very academic approach to archaeology, where the process wasn’t focused on finding things but rather taking a neat and organized approach, whereas QG3 represented a hurried attempt to reach new depths and find whatever was buried below. This observation seems somewhat true but highly qualified: in QG3 we were intent on uncovering the foundations of the President’s House, and so we worked goal-oriented; in QG4, especially once we hit the foundations of a pathway, we didn’t feel quite as pressured and so worked a bit more process-oriented. It doesn’t seem as though one is necessarily the “right” way to do archaeological work, rather two approaches that depend on the nature of the dig.
It’s been an amazing six weeks in the field; now let’s see what it’s like in the lab!Ian Callender, Monica Roth