Archaeology Blog

2023 Field School Week 5

By: Taylor Gantzert

At the beginning of the fifth week of Poplar Forest’s field school, students learned about the tools that archaeologists use to categorize and analyze the data collected in the field. Among the most important tools is a suite of computer programs referred to as GIS (Geographic Information Systems). These systems allow archaeologists to accurately place each excavated area in a digital map that can also include additional information about each specific context. When completed, this map looks just like a coordinate plane or sheet of graphing paper with neatly organized boxes. The creation and use of a physical grid system is visible in the July 4th event timelapse video shared below.

This year’s July 4th celebration was well-attended, with over 1,200 visitors to the property and a large portion coming to directly participate in the ongoing excavations behind the 1857 Slave Dwelling. Poplar Forest was happy with both the high turnout and the interest in archaeology from guests of all ages. Students in the field school class were able to share the findings from over four straight weeks of progress spanning multiple open 5 ft. x 5 ft.  units extending to the east from the 1857 Slave Dwelling. We had many great conversations with guests about the nature of the artifacts collected, the types of features that were discovered, and the ways in which archaeology continues to contribute to our understanding of history.

After the July 4th celebrations had concluded, students and staff continued to excavate the 5 ft. x 5 ft. units, uncovering a large number of artifacts spanning time periods from the early 19th century to the very near past. The recovery of such great physical data also afforded the opportunity for all to practice the critical skills of mapping and profiling. These forms of data recording allow archaeologists to accurately represent soil composition and stratigraphy, contributing to an ongoing understanding of human interactions with the natural environment.