A Day of Archaeology at Mission Escambe, part 2

Continuing from our previous post, after dirt is excavated into labeled wheelbarrows or buckets, it is transported to one of our screening stations in order to recover all artifacts and other natural materials larger than a designated mesh size, normally 1/8 inch, although we use finer mesh, 1/16″, for pit and post features, and 1/4″ mesh for large volumes of bulk clay that has already been demonstrated to contain little cultural material.  Below is an image of soil ready to be dry-screened on a tripod screen.

The next image shows the same screen after all the dirt has been sifted and pushed through the 1/8″ hardware cloth screen.

Sometimes, dry screening is either too slow or difficult to get soils with high clay content or extensive roots through, so we use a waterscreening station set up for this purpose.  Below is graduate site supervisor Danielle Dadiego waterscreening a sample from her unit.

Documentation and record-keeping are more than pivotal for archaeological fieldwork; they are the whole reason we are doing this in the first place.  In addition to a series of field forms, maps, and catalogs, all students take detailed notes each day in their field books, recording every detail from the weather conditions and their work partners to the excavation strategies they employed and their personal interpretations of what they are seeing in the field.  Below is undergraduate student Brooke Joseph taking a moment to write in her field book.

Photography is employed at every stage of excavation, from the beginning to the end of excavation in a unit, taking images of plan and profile views for each level and feature encountered.  The image below shows Michelle Pigott taking an opening image of a new unit laid in today.

In the heat and humidity of Florida summers, our crew is fortunate to be able to have lunch each day at a nearby pavilion overlooking the Escambia River, where breezes are more frequent and the mosquitoes less intense.

At the end of each week of excavation, we take all students around the excavation areas of the site to provide a guided tour and overview of the findings and ongoing work that week, as shown below.  We conduct similar tours for other visitors to the site, which gives our field director and graduate supervisors an opportunity to get familiar with summarizing information for lay audiences.

We hope you have enjoyed this photographic essay of a day of archaeology at Mission San Joseph de Escambe.  Not all days result in equally exciting discoveries, but the slow, cumulative process of conducting archaeological science is immensely rewarding, especially knowing that our daily and weekly fieldwork will contribute to our overall understanding of the Apalachee and Spanish community that existed here more than 250 years ago in the Florida panhandle.

For regular updates on our project, which lasts through the end of July, or to read about our previous three field seasons at the site, please visit our project blog.