Time flies when you’re excavating. Every day, work begins with putting up tarps or “sunscreens” above our units and it ends with tarps being taken down. Endless sweat and hard work result in numerous artifacts and nice features being excavated, which are the basis of archaeological research.
My partner, DeWitt, and I spent all week digging the big feature (F 377) that is situated in the middle of our unit, Sq 617. We collected and mapped all artifacts that were either bigger than a quarter or temporally diagnostic, which is the standard method of the Center for American Archeology. Mapping an artifact, or piece-plotting, requires that you record three spatial coordinates: an X value (or how far away the artifact lies from the west wall of the unit), a Y value (how far away the artifact lies from the south wall of the unit) and a Z or depth value (how far below datum the artifact lies). Along with these coordinates, we also record how the artifact was situated, which can be flat, angled, or vertical. We can use this spatial information to reconstruct the artifacts and the feature by plotting the coordinates in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software. It’s a useful way to analyze the deposition, function, and abandonment conditions of the feature. In the coming weeks, I will be learning GIS along with my Chinese colleagues.
Not everyday is devoted to fieldwork. This Friday, we visited the Illinois State Museum and its associated Research and Collections Center. The museum exhibitions are excellent. They provide a lot of information about how life formed and developed on Earth. Along with global changes, the museum focuses on the climatic and geographic changes that have occurred in the area of the present day state of Illinois. It has contemporary relevance. The exhibitions about prehistoric peoples in Illinois are very lively. I really enjoyed seeing the Hopewell pipes that were carved into the shapes of birds. The figurines have such interesting cultural style. If a museum can have both quality exhibitions and research at the same time, it’s a successful one.