Excavation Update: Group One

This week’s update on the progress of excavation group one comes courtesy of ANTH60a student, Savannah Bishop. Savannah is a Brandeis University undergraduate student majoring in Classical Studies.

Today was groundbreaking at the McGrath Farm Pilot Project! All 15 undergraduate students, 2 graduate students, 1 teaching assistant, and Professors Parno and Koh were present and ready to truly begin the excavation process here at the McGrath Farm archaeological site.

To begin the archaeological day, the students and professors loaded the necessary tools into their various vehicles and embarked from Brandeis University to the excavation site.

Arriving on site around 2:15 in the afternoon, the students broke up into teams at the behest of Professor Travis Parno. Two different sections were formed, one for the excavation of the site where the barn/agricultural structure once existed (dubbed Operation 3), and the other for the excavation of the land where the supposed bunkhouse was located (dubbed Operation 1). Co-director Andrew Koh oversaw the former and co-director Travis Parno oversaw the latter.

The site of the barn/agricultural structure is located further into the property and nearer the river and was more overgrown than anticipated. This excess of fauna resulted in the focus of the work for the day on Operation 6 to shift to the necessary clearing of the area.

By the end of the day, Operation 3 was transformed into an expanse well suited to the excavation purposes for which it is intended. In addition to the purely practical purpose of doing this, the clearing of the area gave those individuals working on the site a chance to truly gain their bearings and understand the lay of the land.

The second site, that of the bunkhouse, is located at the entrance to the property directly across the street from the Colonel James Barrett Farm House. Here the plant growth was not as thick, and so after preliminary clearing of the area, the team was able to almost immediately begin. The first step was laying out grids, which is essentially the subdividing of an area by means of making squares from nails tied with string (see below).

Group One members Makalani and Dave laying out an excavation unit
Group One members Makalani and Dave laying out an excavation unit

Once the grid laying was completed at Operation 1, the students began excavating the topmost layers of the respective grids. This was done by means of shovels and trowels, and all of the dirt that was removed was put into buckets and then sifted through. It was this process of sifting that then proceeded to provide the most excitement on this particular day.

A variety of interesting artifacts were discovered, from modern glass to peach pits. But by far the most compelling find of the day was a piece of historical ceramic (pictured below). The artifact still holds its original blue and white color and provides not only excitement in this particular instance, but also indicates the possibilities of what else has the potential to be unearthed.

Ceramic sherd found in unit 105
Ceramic sherd found in unit 105

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