Monday, December 1, 2014

A Good Day - by Emily B.

Emily B. and Melinda B. screening at the Dana Adobe
Today was a good day. It started with a delicious bowl of frosted flakes and a cup of hot coffee. Everyone was just getting up, so I just hung out and enjoyed the morning. I've lived in San Luis Obispo County all of my life, and I have only spent one weekend in Lopes Lake before this trip. It's pretty amazing how beautiful it is here. Only a few miles away and I feel like I'm in another world. We piled in the car and drove to the Dana Adobe. I never knew it existed before this trip, which is sad because there is so much history in it. I loved reading all of the articles for this week because they are all about my home town. My team worked with Gilbert, Christina and Sarah (all from Albion Environmental) today, which was super fun and intimidating! I never thought I would be interested in historical archaeolgoy but after today I would consider it in the future. We worked with a 2 x 2 meter unit and a 1 x 1 meter control unit. At first it was frustrating because we could not stake our nails in and had to back-stake all of the corners, but after uncovering a possible stone barn foundation, it made sense. Everyone was super supportive, communicative and patient which really helped take the pressure off. Overall, this experience has been life changing!

Public Outreach at the Dana Adobe and Our One Hit Wonder Hip Hop Career by Melinda B.

Melinda B. excavating at the Dana Adobe

My favorite day of field school was Wednesday the 23rd of July. I knew from the start that we were going to be doing an outreach presentation that evening, but there was so much more in store that I had no inkling of! I started the day in the field lab, doing a general sort of material that we had excavated. Mid-morning, the group of us that had been assigned to present the historic excavation that evening were pulled from our tasks and asked to clean up the units as much as possible, sweeping away as much of the dirt that had gotten back into the cracks between the rocks. This was both for the event that evening and for the continued use of the historic excavation as an interpretive tool for the Dana.

When lunch rolled around and the crew chief that was in charge of the historic excavation, Gilbert, went walking off into the distance, I asked why – and when the response was that he was going to go look at a cut bank to see if it was the source of any of the building materials that we had uncovered, of course I tagged along. The three units that were excavated in the historic section of the site had uncovered an incredible floor composed of a variety of building materials, including some possible decomposing granite and large rock cobbles. Many of the crew chiefs had commented on how interesting this was, both because the landscape we were in was extremely sandy, making large cobbles rare, and because no one had seen anything like the possible decomposing granite before. When Gilbert and I got to the spot we were aiming for, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the rocks there did indeed match the possible granite that had been found in the excavation. One of the things that I enjoy most about archaeology is the inherent interdisciplinary aspects of it. In this case, having a basic concept of geology was very applicable.

The public outreach event that evening was focused on sharing what the field school had done, as well as giving people a general idea of archaeology, how the archaeology firms work with academic programs, and how we all work with the Native American community. Representatives from the Dana, the local Native American people, and Albion Environmental all spoke about their roles and interactions with the field school students, many of whom stressed the benefits of collaborative efforts such as this. Next on stage was Dusty, our fearless leader. He explained the Cabrillo field school, and then handed it over to us students! Groups explained all of the different steps and processes of our excavation, including methods, lab work, prehistoric excavation, and historic excavation. Everyone did a fantastic job with their presentations, and all the attendees were interested and enthusiastic.

Melinda and her group's presentation
After the outreach event, it was my team’s turn to lead the group discussion. However, Gilbert convinced Dusty that we should be given the opportunity to do a rap instead – and Dusty agreed to a 2 minute rap and 2 minute interpretive dance. Marcy started us off with a dramatic mike drop, I threw in a verse or two, Kaitlin had some sweet rhymes and even threw a citation in there, Dayan is hands down the next Slim Shady, and Nate was completely on point – brought the whole thing home. We proceeded to interpretive dance the different phases of archaeology, including survey, digging, screening, and some sweet impromptu moves. It was an excellent and fantastic way to end the evening – or as the beginning to a great night, for those who night hiked to the lake – but that’s not my story to tell.

Happy digging! -Melinda

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Look into an Archaeologist's Detailed Daily Journal - Dayan

Archaeologist Dayan
06:10  Day begins slightly later than usual, failure to rise at first light makes coffee and bagel consumption hurried. Morning preparations are still completed with adequate times prior to briefing.

07:20  Briefed on the days activities, teams assignments remain the same as day two of excavation commences. We are informed of the loss of one crew member over the night, this serves as a sobering reminder of the transient nature of life, and the need to adapt quickly to changes of circumstance & fortune in the field. One team must continue handicapped through the day’s excavation, though the situation may be rectified through changes of personal over the rest of the week.

07:40  We depart to site, still no success at leaving during the scheduled departure time (07:30) but this is an improvement from the previous mornings.

08:20  Arrival at site. Weather conditions appear satisfactory, although the cool temperature and lack of sun is probably only a brief respite from the tiringly hot weather we have become accustomed too.  

09:40  Weather persists. It provides a comfortable working environment, although the fog banks cast an ominous feeling across the site.

10:00  Work continues in the same fashion as the day before, nothing of note though the rigor of this sort of slow progressing digging takes a greater toll on my mental energy than significantly longer days of survey ever managed too.

10:16  Nate was deprived of coffee during the morning preparations, after an exchange is negotiated between Fernando and Nate to relieve caffeine withdrawals a lively discussion occurs over the merits of different leaves, and their respective preparations to produce the best tea. The origin of Arnold Palmer’s celebrity is questioned.

10:30   While creating context records we go over again the use of Munsell colour charts.

10:42  Team adjacent to ours discovers a single horseshoe, as well as a cow bone of presumably historic origin. This seems to possibly confirm records indicating site being a barn/animal storage facility. This said, the lack of documents mentioning the barn subsequent to 1870 makes me uneasy.

10:54  Although discerning the separation of contexts within our unit is a difficult task, we begin to prepare specific buckets for excavated soil; 001-Rock , 002-Sand , 003-Overburden , 004-Granite(or DC[Decomposing Granite]) respectively.

11:06  I loathe the word ‘problematic’ more than any other in the English language.

Dayan excavating a historic feature
11:28  Bucket separation proves to be troublesome, but we progress fast through the control unit and then into the rest of our 2x2m quad. I ponder the use of quad when the overall measured area is not square or divided into four sections. There is a high chance missing something obvious, but the terminology will continue to irritate me until it is made clear.

11:46  Dark weather continues.

11:52  Four bulbous, glowing, reptilian eggs are recovered from North West corner of Barn/Feature 1 area. Eggs are quickly collected and taken off site into one of the many unmarked sheds located on the Dana Adobe property. Inquiry regarding the eggs is quickly diverted, and I feel it is best to stop asking questions. I wonder if ulterior motives for the site’s excavation exist, although it is tempting to investigate the storage shed perhaps some doors are best left unopened.

12:14  Work is paused for lunch break.

12:22  During lunch break I hear mention of a peculiar putty circulating the other teams. Though the origin of this particular putty is undetermined, it has apparently been known to prevent the many manias which can afflict those exposed to sun for an extended period when smeared. Aside from practical uses of sun protection, the putty gained infamy when employed by the brujeria-practitioner guerillas of the Shining Path, who apparently gained a sickening blue glow and unrivaled power after application in the final days of sieging Lima, or so I am told.

13:00  Work resumes, it remains not very physically taxing but mentally much more difficult than survey work. Still it feels like I’m getting alright at this much quicker than I would have expected prior to field school.

13:58  My energy and will to continue has returned. I am reminded and inspired by Helmkamp “He who walks alone always walks uphill, but beneath his feet are the broken bones of flawed men.” 

14:24  We are given a brief overview of Harris matrices by Gilbert. I notice the first name of this Harris character changes between group he instructs, which makes me wonder what the man’s real name was. It is great to have geological(or perhaps he did something else? I’m not sure) protocol named after you, but I could easily mistake this Harris for the one of line fame. His matrices make sense though, and even with horror stories of giant matrices I think I could complete them with relative ease, or so I hope.

14:47  The skies fill with birds of ill omen,

-- remaining log entries damaged and unreadable -- 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My First Day of Excavation - authored by Emily B.

Emily and Melinda Screening
Today I woke up around 5 am to get ready for our second week of field school.  I gathered my things, ate my breakfast, and left around 7:45 am.  Driving to Dana Adobe in Nipomo, California I thought about the skills I had learned the week before, hoping the things I remembered would help me this week.  I was excited to see familiar faces when I drove up to the Dana Adobe around 8:45 am.  Everyone seemed pretty excited for the coming week and the excavation portion of field school, I was very nervous.  We started by setting up tables and chairs in the front, or East side of the house.  The volunteers surprised us with donuts, coffee, and hot chocolate, which was awesome!  During our orientation we learned about the cultural diversity of the site.  We learned that the Dana Adobe is both Prehistoric and Historic, which means different processes and procedures.  Research questions for the prehistoric period sites include: How has landscape changed culturally and naturally? What are the connections between the Clovis point and paleocoastal evidence?  The historical period research questions include: What is the identity of a rancho?  Who were they and what did they do here?  What was the cultural and natural landscape change?  We also discussed previous findings on the Dana Adobe property and future projects for the historic site.  These future projects will be community based and educational for visitors about both the Adobes past and the Chumash who inhabited the area.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Message from Crew Chief Kaely

Kaely (center) teaching field school students
Cambria (left) and Kristin (right)
I was a student of the Cabrillo College Field school in 2008, and was invited (…err…maybe elbowed my way in) to be a TA for the following three field seasons. Now that I am a few weeks removed from the island time I have been asked left and right, “How was the field school?!” One word comes to mind – open. Open landscapes, open minds, open hearts. It never ceases to amaze me how curious and intelligent the students are. Their questions in the field to their lectures every night reiterated their passion for archaeology. They were constantly open to learn new concepts and theories as well as adapting to new environments and survey tactics. And it wasn’t easy. Nothing about the field school was “unrealistic” to real CRM work…well, maybe except for some of the jaw-dropping archaeology at every corner. Many times during survey I would forget that this was a crew of students, and not my work colleagues. They rose to the expectation that they were on a real archaeological survey, because they were. They never turned it off. They would stay up late with us and listen to shared field stories or talk politics of the current state of CRM. That doesn’t go away. I think the students learned rather quickly how a hard, hot, steep work day paired with a dip in the ocean and a family dinner can become addicting. That is something the hearts of all archaeologists share, and when you catch the fever- you’re in. I was able to meet up with the students again while passing through Nipomo. These were definitely not students any more- these were dirty, tired, smelly, happy archaeologists. Their maturity for the nature of the job had grown along with their vocabulary for excavation procedures- profiles, column samples, deposits, artifacts, ecofacts. I am excited to work with each and every one of them in the future, so we can tell our old stories as well. These students remind me what it is to follow something you love and that we are all in a constant state of learning. Thank you Cabrillo College Field School 2014.

Working hard!

My Field School Experience, brought to you by Mary Ellis

Archaeology, for those of you who were unaware, is
the study of human cultures from the material remains of the past. It is divided into two categories, Historic and Prehistoric. There is a fair amount of joking and rivalry associated, as can only be expected. We all study trash. This week's lesson was on the art of excavation. This excavation was a mitigation effort required by law, so that construction can commence. Excavation disrupts the Archaeological record and creates a greater need for curation, yet it is one of the only ways to access the data. This excavation was an integrated process involving survey, excavation units, dry screens, wet screens, column samples, auger samples, floatation, sorting, and cataloging. Teams of people are required to work in concert for all of this, thus interaction and communication are at the apex of this stone parabola. The sites chosen for excavation had been surveyed previously and selected by the principal. The prehistoric control units in locus one started with one by one meter control units that dug down to sterile soil, lamellae. These units were dug using arbitrary ten centimeter levels. These units were broadened to be two by one units.

The units dug in locus 2 were one by one units, dug through sterile soil, as deep as osha allows. The soil from all unit levels were dry-screened and then wet-screened by level. The cultural remains sorted counted and weighed by level and unit. There were of flakes; debitage and shatter abounded. Monterey Chert dominated the assemblage. Column samples of twenty-five by twenty-five centimeters were dug in both loci of the prehistoric units, this was sifted through smaller mesh in order to help quantify the relationship between mesh size and type of recovered artifacts and ecofacts. This information will be collected and analyzed. As far as I can see (which isn't much past my nose), our field school's intention is to teach Archaeological thought and to integrate a new generation of Archaeologists into the culture of Archaeology. I write this from the comfort of a seat indoors, on a laptop computer. Our fearless leader does an excellent job of feeding us all in the field. Pothunters and looters are almost always a problem to archaeological research. If you find something exciting, leave it be, mark it in your map, and notify the nearest archaeological society or staff archaeologist of its existence and location.

A Herculean Challenge & Zen by Rachel R.

Today was only a half-day in the field, but we managed to get quite a lot done. I got to dig my first prehistoric level control unit. We saw a couple chert flakes while excavating today, but won't know more until the dirt is screened and sorted in the lab. The soil here is all very sandy, and keeping perfect side walls on a 1x1 meter unit is a Herculean challenge. I had worked on a historic unit earlier in the week and it was interesting to learn the different procedures between prehistoric and historic excavation. For example, historic unit levels are excavated by context/soil changes, and prehistoric units are done by 10cm increments.

This means that the floors of prehistoric levels need to be completely flat, and historic levels can be all kinds of crazy shapes. Most of the morning I was in the lab sorting. I love lab work, and getting into a zen-like zone while sorting makes the hours fly by. It is incredible to me how many things can be in a shovel of dirt: teeny-tiny fragments of shell, the smallest chert flakes I've ever seen, a rainbow of glass pieces, and lots of pretty rocks that are of no archaeological value. All in all, this week has been an incredible experience. The folks at the Dana Adobe have been extremely hospitable and wonderful to work with, and the Albion crew have all been fantastic teachers. Camping at Lake Lopez has also been wonderful, and there is nothing quite like getting to talk archaeology under the stars at night.