Today I got to go visit an archeology dig that is going on at a project I used to manage. The new road is going to go through an area where artifacts were thought to be located. It was interesting, but they aren’t finding as much stuff as they thought they would. Some archeologists find some really neat stuff, but this type of stuff is more about pottery shards and arrowheads, if they are lucky. In this case, they found the stem of an arrowhead. It is this tiny little piece of slate, but it seems intentionally shaped.
They started out by setting up a grid over the whole site. They dug holes every ten meters to find out where any good things might be and then dug trenches with a backhoe to get down through a few layers and get a better look at what was there.
If the trenches seemed productive they would then start digging 1 meter square plots. Things they are looking for in addition to artifacts they type of soil. Obviously if they hit bedrock there won’t be any artifacts. But even if they hit clay, there won’t be anything since clay is put down long before people were around. In this area they were digging mostly in sandy silt, but it was in a wooded area, so there were also a lot of roots. The good thing for them is that there were no pebble or rocks, so pretty much if they found any rocks, then they were put there by people.
They have found pottery shards. The type of design of the pottery tells them how old it is. They were able to find thousand year old pottery shards. They look for changes in the soil color. If they find one patch of dirt of a different color, that might indicate a post was there and rotted. And that would mean there was a permanent settlement, so that would be a big deal. While they have found some differences in color, the area is also subject to periodic flooding, so it could just be a layer of mud that washed in. They also found some rocks that were used in fires. These are called “fire cracked rock”. But they just look like rocks to me. They started digging at this site in October, so for about five months they have been out digging. Most of the diggers are not trained archeologists, but “field technicians”. Still, they all seem to really like digging and possibly finding stuff, although this site seems to be less productive than others.