Archaeology Blog

Field School Week 5

by Savhanna Long

This week was very exciting for our Field School students, as they finished up their units from the Stable Survey and moved onto the area behind the South Tenant House! The students began to close up their larger 5’x5’ units that were focused in areas of particular interest due to their artifacts and features, or area of non-movable human activity that leaves outlines in the soil. They also found some very unique artifacts this week, including the label located on the back of a fragment of earthenware ceramic that shows the name of the design. Going up to the South Tenant House, which is the only slave quarters still standing on the property, they continued excavations that had been worked on the previous year by the Poplar Forest Field School.

In conjunction with this week’s lesson about the importance of public archaeology, they got to interact with people visiting for the Fourth of July celebration. They were able to show off all the interesting and unique artifacts they found to both kids and adults who were interested in learning about archaeological techniques and the material culture that can be found at the site. Medicine bottles, large fragments of ceramic plates, liquor bottles, nails, bricks, mason jars, and more were found within just a few inches of digging. The students had a blast telling families what they’ve been learning about in these past weeks about the property, artifacts, and archaeology.

In the lab this week, students learned about floatation. Flotation is used with a soil sample taken from a unit where there was a particular interest in any smaller artifacts that could be found. This process removes all dirt from sample, leaving behind macrobotanical remains and smaller artifacts, like pieces of brick or clothespins. They learned how to separate and collect the two types of remains: the light fraction, which is mostly plant materials like roots, and the heavy fraction, which contains brick fragments, mortar, and charcoal. Plus, the water was great for cooling off in the heat!