The Art of Patience

Sarah Skoropa

I wake up May 31st ready for my first day of digging in the field.  I put on my field clothes and a red bandana tied like Rosie the Riveter and emerge from my tent, my mind racing with thoughts of what the day entail.  Images of myself failing to meet  expectations flood my mind.  I take a deep breath and enter the poll barn where all the food and supplies are held, ready to face the day ahead.


I eat my cereal and await instructions.  Dr. Goldstein calls all of us together and starts announcing where we will be digging (the gravel knoll or west of the palisade).  I’m in the second group called up, I’m assigned to the west palisade and my partner is a girl from Northern Iowa who I have not yet met, her name is Laura.  The half of the group assigned to the western palisade start heading to the site.  I start to get excited, we spent all of yesterday crawling through the grass surveying.  We were looking for any artifacts found on the surface.  Out of a whole work day of about 15 people doing this all we found was a small pot sherd.  That’s it.  It was not what I expected for my first day in the field.  But here it was, I was walking towards my first site, ready to be knee deep in dirt and artifacts.  Boy did I have a glamorized idea of archaeology.  We get there and I find out, none of the pits have been placed yet so we have you use survey equipment to plot them out.  It takes until lunch time.

So now I’m really excited, finally I will actually get to dig!  I was wrong again.  Before you can start really getting into the ground, you have to take off all the grass which is called the sod zone.  It took the rest of the day.  The next day we finally get to start level 1, the first 10 cm of our unit.  I’m thinking this is it, this is when we are going to really start! All day we are digging and screening and digging and screening, we are not finding anything but I’m thinking its fine, no one else is.  Then I hear about the groups on the gravel knoll.  They are finding animal bone and pot sherds and post molds and rolled copper.  All we have found are rocks.  I keep going, if I am not going to find anything at least I will learn the technique.  The TA’s keep saying “This is the layer to find things!” and we get different soil colorations and they get excited about that, but it all turns out to be nothing.  Finally at the point when I assume there is nothing here and that the data we will gather is that there is nothing at the pit, almost 30 cm down, we find a pot sherd. I’m ecstatic, I take a picture and put it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  Then we just keep finding more and more, and after two weeks since we started digging, we find a rim pottery sherd from a collared pot.  Its amazing, two weeks of digging and we have something! Every day of those two weeks had been an exercise in patience.  When I came out of my tent that first day I expected the biggest lessons to be the techniques, little did I know it would be patience.