Author Archives: hallmeg3

The Struggle for Walls

Megan Hall

These past few days, my pit partner Neill and I have been attempting to fix the walls of our unit.  The walls should be as close to straight and vertical one can cut them, so the unit stays the same size all the way down.  We are reaching the end of level five, and have been attempting to fix our walls before we go on.


Walls are supposed to be as close to vertical as you can get them, so when you stand straddling the wall, you should not be able to see it at all.  Our walls had steadily crept inward as we were digging down, so we had to cut off a lot to make them vertical.  As we have a square, Neill and I will both do two walls.  I fixed the eastern wall and will fix the southern wall, and he fixed the western wall and will fix the northern wall.


The western wall was difficult to fix, which is why it was the worst.  That is the wall where we have a twenty-five centimeter balk between our unit and Unit 2.  For now, we are leaving the balk up to separate the units, but we will take it down before we leave.  The balk is fragile, so one cannot put their weight on it; meaning that to fix the wall, one has to balance so you can look straight down, but not put any weight on the wall.  I was grateful to Neill for offering to fix that wall.

We still have to screen the dirt we take off the walls, so we have been moving slowly.  However, we have found a few sherds of pottery and some shell from the walls.  Luckily, there has not been anything of great importance, so we don’t have to worry about lost elevation and other contextual information.  If we had found a diagnostic artifact, such as a rim sherd, we would have to worry more about what elevation it came from.  A diagnostic artifact is an artifact that is indicative of the period it is from, such as a projectile point.  Projectile points have distinctive characteristics that define what time period they are from and are exclusive to that time period, so one can date them easier than a flake or sherd that lacks distinctive qualities.


We have made fair progress on our wall, each of us fixing one on Sunday.  I believe we will finish the walls and move on to level six tomorrow!  Now that we know what our walls should look like, we will be able to keep them straight for the coming levels.

Washing Artifacts

by Megan Hall

Tuesday, I worked in the lab washing artifacts for the first time.  The three of us, Caroline, Ashley, and I, washed the bags of artifacts we had collected previously.  We had four main types of artifacts to wash: bone, shell, pottery, and rock.  I have previous experience washing bone, but I have never washed shell, pottery, or rock artifacts before.

We use different methods of washing for each type of artifact to ensure the least damage.  For rock artifacts, which include flakes, arrowheads, and fire cracked rock, we submerged the artifacts in water and scrubbed them clean with a toothbrush.  For bone, we dry brushed most fragments, using a small amount of water on bone that was particularly dirty.  We brushed shell artifacts with a soft, dry toothbrush, as they crumble easily.  Pottery sherds, which are fragments of pottery, we washed by wetting a finger and wiping as much dirt as possible off.  This was a tricky method to use, but finger and brush marks can be left on pottery if one is not careful.

Our washing stations included a plastic tub with about two inches of water in the bottom, a few colanders, and toothbrushes.  I had a wet toothbrush I kept in the water for use on rock and bone, a dry toothbrush for bone, and a soft dry toothbrush for shell.  Keeping the wet toothbrush separate from the dry toothbrush helped me with speed, so I would not have to wait for the brush to dry.

Washing artifacts is extremely fun, as one can see what the artifacts look like without a skin of dirt.  We had collected a few flakes of Hixton silicified sandstone in my unit that I washed today.  This type of rock looks like sugar crystals and shines brilliantly in the sun once clean.  Washing flakes of Hixton was my favorite artifact today, because they look so different once clean.  Some flakes are clear, much like glass.  It was also fun to see what other units had found.  I even got to wash some of the arrowheads other units had found.

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However, washing can be extremely frustrating as well as rewarding.  Units may have a bag full of tiny flakes or bone chips, which one must wash.  This can be very tedious, especially when one is afraid of breaking artifacts, like me.  Also, when I opened up some bags, larger artifacts had already been broken while in the bag.  For example, in my unit we had found a rodent tooth of a pretty decent length.  When I opened up the bag to wash our artifacts, the tooth had been broken in two.

All in all, washing artifacts was a nice break from digging in my unit.  I enjoyed learning how to properly wash the different types of artifacts, as well as seeing what the artifacts looked like once clean.  It was sad to see the few artifacts that had been broken, but luckily that number was small.