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Published: August 21st 2007
I recently began working as an archaeological technician for a local Plano-based company. I am very excited to be working for them because I have always heard good things about this firm, and also because they have several local projects coming up over the next couple of months. My first assignment with them is to perform test excavations near a creek in Wylie, TX. We are finding mostly small fragments of bone, but we did find a large cache of lithics (rock or stone altered by humans) and some projectile points in one of the pits. No one knows the age of the site yet. The reason they are excavating this site is because when they were surveying the area last year they found a really unusual piece of pottery that is not typical for this area.
All of the test pits were dug with a back hoe first until an area about 15X15 feet wide and 4-5 feet deep was dug out. Then we get in the pits and start excavating in 1X1 meter units. You can only do 10 cm at a time, then you level that off, screen your dirt for artifacts that you missed, and then
start on the next 10 cm level. Most of our units end up being 3-5 levels depending on what we find.
I feel very lucky to have found work that allows me to stay at home, so I will enjoy this while it lasts. Also, the crew for Geo-Marine is very professional and helpful towards each other. It is a complete change from the Arkansas experience. We start at 7:00am every morning, and end around 3:30. It is tiring, but I love it. I feel like I'm doing a strenuous workout for 8 hours, but it gets a little easier every day. The most tiring thing (aside from the heat and humidity) is just lifting yourself and your bucket of dirt up and out of your pit. I don't even want to think about how many times a day we do that, but your bucket usually fills up every 20 minutes or so. My arms should look pretty buff after a couple weeks of this! 8/23/07
Fun With Spiders
When you are doing an archaeological excavation you need to map out your entire site with GIS equipment. We use the same tools that surveyers use. Today, my boss
Down the ridge, with the spiders...
worked the computerized unit and I worked the prism, also called the "dummy stick" because the person on this end just stands there & holds the thing still (there is a level and you have to be accurate) while the other person gets a reading. The entire unit costs around $8000, and the prism itself is a couple grand.
So I am going where my boss tells me to go, and inevitably I was sent to stand in an extrememly brushy area next to the creek. I could see spiders everywhere, but I'm not scared of spiders, so I just brushed them away and continued about my business. As I'm standing there trying to hold the darn thing straight, I noticed a small, brown orb-weaver in defense posture that was a little too close for comfort next to my arm. So I just kept an eye on her and held the unit straight for the couple minutes it takes for a reading. My boss shouted 'done' and I started to walk back. I looked down to make sure the orb weaver didn't hitch a ride. It hadn't, but the largest freaking garden spider I have EVER seen was attached
to my forearm!! It had to be at least 3 inches long. I screamed like a five year old girl!! And of course dropped the $2000 piece of equipment!! I ran out of the brush going "get it off!! get it off!!!" and my boss was just shaking his head, laughing his ass off. And bitching about the fact that I dropped the prism. It didn't break, thankfully, so I get to keep my job. LOL 8/27/07
A Cool Find...
So far when I have participated in excavations, it seemed like the really cool finds were all in other pits except mine. Today, however, I found something really cool! I uncovered a bone tool. It was about 4 inches long, and the end of the bone had been sharpened into a fine point. It was most likely used for tasks like punching holes in leather. We use a lot more shovels than trowels at this site due to limited time on this project, so the blade of my shovel knicked it and broke the tool into four pieces. I was upset about it, but the breaks were clean and it can probably be reassembled fairly easily. The point of
It rained last night...
They don't call it Muddy Creek for nothing!
the tool did not break, at least. 8/30/07
Is that thunder?
Wylie had some major downpours last night! Rain is not usually much of a problem as far as hindering the excavation because we usually cover the test pits with tarp. If rain gets into the pit anyway, we bail the water out. It's actually easier to dig in wet mud than dry clay, but it is definitely messy! My shoes were covered with so much mud by the time we left the site that it was hard to lift my feet!
It looks like this is our last day on this site. The company who is funding the excavation wants to wait before moving on with further study here, so I will go to work on other projects in the meantime. The site turned out to be interesting and warrants further investigation. Hopefully we will return to it soon, but for tomorrow I will be helping in an excavation in Blue Ridge, TX, and next week I am going to a project in East Texas.
I love that I am able to do different projects while working for the same company. It takes the stress out
Daryl, the crew chief
I know I left my test pit here somewhere...
of having to start over and find a new assignment every time a project ends. It is also nice that I will be working with people I already know in East Texas. I have such a cushy thing going that I am afraid I am getting spoiled! You would never guess from my appearance at the end of each day, though. We get so dirty that I had to walk into my old bank after work the other day and my friend Kim just started laughing at me. : ) It's hard, physical work but I really enjoy what I'm doing.
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