Weeks 6-7 7/12-7/16 & 7/19-7/23

Howdy all,

These last few weeks have seen me back at the SEAC HQ in Tallahassee performing the often overlooked task of “lab work”.More than 75% of archaeology takes place in a lab and not some exotic, far-off local. I’ve been working on analyzing artifacts from the Palo Alto Battlefield (PAAL) in Texas and the Andrew Johnson Historic Site (ANJO), two amazing locations with incredible histories to tell through their material culture.

Lab work is pretty much what one would imagine it to be–sitting around with a bag of washed artifacts trying to determine what it either is or what it could be. Metal artifacts are especially tough because, unless they’re bronze or copper, they’re usually covered in a thick, hard layer of rust and corrosion. The majority of the artifacts that I’ve analyzed from PAAL have been musket balls, canister shot, and cannon balls. It’s almost as if they were shooting at each other out there or something. As for ANJO, ceramics and glass have been the principle artifact that I’ve been running into and let me tell you–at first everything looks the same. One sherd looks just like another, but after a while of looking, reading, taking it over to the comparative collection, reading some more, you get an eye for it.

My favorite sherd type though has been the Ironstone. It’s back history is amazing–there’s actually no iron in the paste (the substance that a vessel is made of) at all! It was a misnomer to keep competition from getting the recipe and allowing the Masons to corner the market on this amazing, refined earthenware type.

Finally, my last task of the week has been a rather important one–reading, editing, and helping proof the Shiloh Mounds Archaeological Report–a document more than a decade in the making. It’s a daunting 650 page monster, but like Captain Ahab completing it will be my white whale.

The more I think I’ve put a finger on what “archaeology” really is, the more it surprises me.


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