Week 6 (Wednesday Lab)

Aaron, Maanya, and Apoorba
Archaeological Methods
May 10, 2019
Weekly Write-up- Week 6

Due to inclement weather, the Waterford Archaeological Team (WAT) worked on artifact cleaning inside the classroom instead of traveling to our usual fieldwork location at Waterford Mill. Our objective was to organize the artifacts into groups based on their material categories. We washed and sorted the collections that we had discovered up to this point from the fieldwalking survey, the gridded survey at the Waterford Mill site, and excavation trenches 1 and 2. Due to the variety of artifact sources, we divided ourselves into groups with each team assigned to artifacts from a particular trench context, survey unit, or gridded survey square.


WAT carefully unpacked the artifacts from their bags unloaded them onto trays for thorough cleaning.

20190508_170654.jpgFigure 1. A cardboard box containing artifacts from the Waterford Mill Archaeological Site.

Organizing the forms:

As WAT moved on to the organizational step of the archaeological process, forms and paperwork took the central stage along with the material collections. Sam W. and Clarissa organized the forms and rechecked the data to match with the material collections. Clarissa proceeded to make an inventory for the washed and unwashed bags of materials to help accelerate the process of analysis over the coming weeks.

20190508_153955Figure 2. Sam W. and Clarissa maintain an organized structure for keeping track of the locations and labeling conventions for each artifact source.

20190508_152957.jpgFigure 3. Sam W. and Clarissa report to Professor Knodell regarding their task. Meanwhile, Sam A. and Loren remove dirt from ceramics of Trench 2.

Division of labor:

Everyone divided into teams to keep track of the artifacts we were cleaning. Maanya, Arya, Lena and Miyuki undertook the cleaning process for the materials collected during the field walking surveys. Aaron, MJ, and Holland worked on material remains recovered from trenches, the primary artifacts being from trench 1, context 2. Emily, Anne, Clara, Sam A. and Loren focused on collections from the gridded surveys.

Brushing the dirt off:

This was a crucial step in the archaeological process since it enabled us to get a better understanding of what the artifacts looked like before they were buried under piles of dirt and soil. The groups used toothbrushes or a tool brush to clean excess dirt from the outside of the material. Brushing off the dirt off was essential especially for materials that could not be washed. For the metal remains, the group used subjective judgement to distinguish between diagnostic pieces and pieces that lacked diagnostic qualities. They used a toothbrush and paperclip to clean the dirt off of the surface of the diagnostic pieces, which are more valuable to archaeological interpretation than non-diagnostic pieces. We appreciated the wide range of objects that the various survey groups and excavators had collected since they each have a story to tell about the mill’s past.

20190508_153004Figure 4: Maanya starts off the cleaning process for her materials by brushing the dirt away using the tool brush. Taking the dirt off beforehand makes washing easier and less muddy.

Wash em clean:

Next, for all materials other than metal, we used water to finish the cleaning process. Water was avoided for metal and other biodegradable materials to prevent further erosion and degradation. We used the LDC bathroom taps to wash the artifacts clean, and wiped them off with paper towels after. This was especially difficult for hollow objects like cans, the inside of which had to be cleaned before moving on to its surface. We encountered a number of earthworms and bugs that had found a home in the unwashed artifacts. These had to be washed off before the artifact could be dealt with. Cleaning the glass and ceramic objects proved relatively easy. The objects that were collected during the rain-showers were harder to clean because the dirt was damp and stuck to the surface, whereas for the artifacts gathered on the clear days, simple dusting and brushing proved sufficient.

20190508_153737Figure 5: Clara and Anne team up to wash the artefacts from the gridded survey while Arya shows her solidarity by recording this wonderful moment. (You’re welcome!).


Finally, the artifacts lay on clean trays to dry off. Paper towels also came in handy to speed up the process as we had limited time and a few more steps to fulfill.

20190508_153746Figure 6: Emily takes the assistance of paper towels to accelerate the drying process.

Like with Like:

The team counted, bagged, and labeled the non-diagnostic pieces, and placed all other artifacts in a distinct bag according to material. Then, the smaller bags were placed in a larger bag labeled for the square and context from which the artifacts were recovered. We labeled the initials of the person who had undertaken the survey, the type of material placed in the bag, and the survey unit/grid that the materials prescribed to. Sam W. and Clarissa traveled to each table and documented the numbers of each material type on Clarissa’s computer, which could then be used as a data set in future analysis.

img_5130.jpgFigure 7: Good organization allows us to keep artifacts organized by their context, so that we do not lose valuable information about any of our materials by failing to record where they were originally found in site. In this image, Aaron, MJ, and Holland have created a tray of objects exclusively from Trench 1, context 2, and have also divided the objects according to their material.

The future accountants:

On Thursday, Aaron, Arya, and Maanya went to Alex’s office hours where he showed us all the artifacts that had been collected by the lab groups (and gave us coffee!). Following this, we produced an inventory of which artifacts had been cleaned and which artifacts still needed to be cleaned:

Trench washed:

Trench 2, context 1- 1 bag (plastic)
Trench 1, context 1- 3 bags (glass, ceramic, metal)
Trench 1, context 2-  5 bags (metal, other, metal scrap, pottery, glass)
Trench 2, context 3- 4 bags (glass, leather, metal, ceramic)

Gridded Survey washed:

F12- 4 bags
H11- 3 bags
F-11- 1 bag of metal
F-10- 1 bag of other
H-12- 4 bags
H-13- 2 bags
H-10- 3 bags
G-11- 1 bag
G-12- 6 bags
G-13- 2 bags

Fieldwalking washed:

SU W1-01- 5 bags
SU W1-02 – 3 bags
SU W2-01- 4 bags
SU W2-02 – 7 bags

Trench unwashed:

Trench 1, context 3 – 7 bags
Trench 2, context 2- 1 bag

Gridded Survey unwashed:

G-11 (6 small bags in 2 big bags)

Fieldworking unwashed:

T2-01 – 16 bags

Blog it!

After each week of fieldwork, each member of WAT publishes a summary of his or her contribution to the project website, or blog. Finally, a designated group of team members creates a blog post each week to capture a holistic summary of all the work completed for that week, giving everyone a better sense of where we are in the process of our excavation. Additionally, this website is available to the general public for anyone interested to learn about the project.

59803229_2252253348424402_2038175849848504320_nFigure 8: Future archaeologists (from left to right: Aaron, Maanya, Arya) summarize WAT’s hard work from week 6 outside the Carleton College Classics department. WAT values civic engagement through archaeology, which is why we publish our process and research for the public to view each week on our website.  

Fun Fact of the week:

Alex “the Barista” Knodell makes bomb coffee. Drop by his office hours to witness the magic (Again, you’re welcome!).

IMG_5140Figure 9: No caption needed.