Week 8 (Wednesday Lab)

During this week’s lab block, students in the Wednesday lab group were granted a third and final day of fieldwork, since last week’s rain had cost them one last week. We were fortunate enough to have good weather, but evidence of earlier rain could be seen in the fungal growth, wet soil, and speed at which the Cannon river flowed past the mill site. As in previous lab periods, students split up into working groups focused on DGPS mapping, locating and recording information about archaeological features, and continuing excavation in the two trenches. As this was the last day that either lab section would be working at the Waterford mill site, extra steps were taken at the end of the lab period to clean up the site. Particularly, all the metal stakes and bright pink tape that had been placed throughout the site during initial surveys were removed. Trenches were not backfilled, as we had not penetrated enough layers of soil for that to be necessary. Additionally, the state of the trenches after recent storms illustrated the speed at which they would soon be naturally filled.

Over the previous excavation days, several features were identified but only on the last day of lab were they fully mapped. This was both on paper, with sketches of each of the sites, and using the GIS mapping equipment. One of these features was the back wall of the second mill building, which was connected to another wall closer to the original site. In the process of following each of these formations, a pile of cans and various pieces of colored glass were found along one of the walls. The GIS team mapped each of these locations in order to get a more complete picture of the site. Another group was in charge of drawing some of the features and locations around the mill, such as the lower section of the main mill building closer to the water. Because of its proximity to the river and a rainy spring, we were not able to excavate there, nor were we able to excavate near the wall further along the river by the campfire. However, the GIS group mapped each of these locations as well, meaning future iterations of this class have a head start if they choose to do more excavations at the mill site.

The final day of excavation was quite productive, with both excavation groups getting through a good amount of depth, and putting several buckets worth of dirt through the sifter. Both excavation groups contended with the dampness of the soil as a result of recent rains, in addition to coming to the end of the high artifact density that near-surface excavation at this site yielded.The four students working in the first trench worked in subgroups of two, so that while one subgroup was sifting a bucket, the other was proceeding with the excavation and working on filling another bucket. The group working in the trash pit trench found, as in previous weeks, copious amount of charcoal and metal scraps, in addition to several pieces of glass, plastic and ceramic. Of particular note were a large metal item, which may have been an automobile component, a ceramic sherd that bore the name of the company that manufactured it, and a hollow, bulbous item that could have been either ceramic or rusted metal. Less was found in the second trench, as was consistent with the other excavation periods. Students excavating in the wall trench found a smattering of nails and metal shards, in addition to a large piece of a ceramic artifact. By the end of the excavation period, both groups ensured that they flattened the floors of their trenches, as well as removed the corner stakes and the perimeter tape surrounding their trenches. Trenches were left in such a state that nature could take its course in refilling them.