2008 Field School Blog

Blog from the Field

The annual NPS/PSU/WSUV Public Archaeological Field School is advertised as being “public,” in order to encourage the greater community to experience archaeology on a personal basis. Each of the university students enrolled in the course is trained to be an interpreter, and all members of the public are invited to the site to be briefed on the day to day progress of the excavations.

To broaden this perspective further, the staff of this year’s field school is attempting a weekly blog on the progress of the field school. This is an experiment to reach as many members of the public as possible-whether they are able to come personally to the site or not.

This year’s archaeological field school focuses’ on the site of a ca. 1851-1880 U.S. Army Company Mess Hall built at Vancouver Barracks, on what is now the west end of the former U.S. Army Parade Ground.

Below you will find entries from the students’ daily journals, as well as photographs of the excavations, the students, and the various artifacts and features as they are being encountered. They express some of the hardships, elations, and educational qualities of being involved in an archaeological field school in a public, urban setting.

Students excavating near the site of the soldiers' mess hall.

Bob Cromwell

Representative artifacts from first two weeks of field school
Artifacts found during the first two weeks of the field school include brick, nails, glass, and ceramics.

Bob Cromwell

June 24, 2008—Laura Lang:

“It seems certain that there is an association at this point between the first two units (PG36 & PG37) and the new ones (PG45 & PG46), because of initially similar depositional layering of materials. Tomorrow will tell us more as we move to Level 3. At this point, I cannot hypothesize much more than a fire took place. Are we on a wall edge? One inside of a structure, or outside? Could a massive cluster of nails represent a burned down building wall—or? Could it have been a storage shed?”

June 25, 2008—Alysia Wright

“I think that the three units (PG40, PG41, and PG42) are excavating on the edge of a trash pile based on the quantity of artifacts as drawn in Fig. 7-2. Also because we found several pieces of vessel glass under our brick feature (Feature 802). In contrast, it seems that remains of a collapsed building would have window glass, which we have not found much of in any of these three units. We will likely have to continue excavating to find out more.”

June 27, 2008—Irene Alvarado:

“Today we are working on unit PG37. We’re going to be excavating around the feature. We’ve only shallowly skimmed with a trowel so far. We haven’t found anything but a nail.”

“We have troweled 5 cm so far. I have only found one piece of vessel glass. Still nothing!”

July 1, 2008—Selena Rose Roloson:

“Feature 801 has eluded us. We searched Unit PG46, PG45, and PG37 to no avail. As the feature draws back there is a slight profile in the orangey sediment of the outer east wall of PG36. But a trained eye can see these features and hypotheses on which unit to open up next. Searching for the rest or our feature. Where o’ where did Feature 801 go?”


July 2nd, 2008—Leslie Jones:

“We are in the lab today and I am still working on the biggest pile of brick ever. We cleaned a hinge and a few buttons along with some other things. Cleaning artifacts is important, but doesn’t take much skill. However seeing all of the other things everyone has found is cool. The gossip is fun too. My group is a lot of fun.”

July 5th, 2008—Luis Beal:

“We trowelled the bottom of PG50 Level 2 to the top of the rocky level 3 and uncovered quite a few artifacts that were designated as being from level 3. After we uncovered the rocky layer, we took ending elevations for level 2. We found various pieces of glass, a few nails, lots of brick, and some sort of a buckle, and a piece of bone.”

July 9th, 2008—Seth Defayette:

“We are going to observe a Magnetometer demonstration (a device which measures variations in the earths magnetic field caused by ground disturbances—providing clues to the location of buildings and other habitation areas), and then I and the other lab people will be excavating on the Parade Ground (myself, Amber Smith, Luis Beal). I have not been assigned a unit yet, but I will keep you posted today. PG17 is open now; an old unit from last year. It contains wooden planks...I hope to see it!”

July 11th, 2008—Debra Barnett

“Elsabeth and I were assigned to work together to draw a plan view map of the floor of PG 47,48, and 49 showing the placement of the wood feature and animal bones. Elsabeth gave me point readings using meters sticks laid out North to South and East to West, a skewer, which I plotted on graph paper that I had already measured out for the plan view. We started with PG 49 carefully placing the Northing and Easting points on the map then connecting the dots. A fairly accurate drawing of the wood feature and mammal bones on the floor of the unit emerged. Our entire afternoon took up the task of plotting the feature and mammal bones fragments in PG 49 and then PG 48. But our day ended before we had time to read elevations. We will finish up the plan view tomorrow.”

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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