A Day in the Lab

Today was full of surprises!  The first came when we uncovered our unit in the morning and found that a mole had dug a tunnel straight through it.  Rodents are always a pain, but at an archaeological site they are especially obnoxious.  They move things through the soil and out of their original location, so rodent runs always get their own context and have to be excavated separately before we can continue.  I was really worried that it was going to slow us down, but together we actually got it done in about twenty minutes!  Once that was cleared we were free to continue digging through the 20th century layer, which held some great finds, including a glass marble, some ceramics, and a wig curler fragment!  We managed to get all the way down to the plowzone before lunch, but as soon as we all sat down to eat the weather turned and it began pouring rain.  We had to pack up and call it a day for digging, but I wasn’t ready to go home so I offered to work in the lab for the rest of the day!

Every field student has been scheduled for a day in the lab and my scheduled date was this upcoming Friday, but the student who was scheduled today did not have a ride home so we decided to trade.  The lab is where all of the artifacts that we gather in the field are cleaned, identified, labeled, and catalogued.  I started in the cleaning area, where we take the artifacts and carefully scrub the dirt off of them with water and a toothbrush.  It’s a very tedious process, but oddly rewarding!  Next, I was sent to label artifacts.  This process is even more meticulous, as we have to paste tiny labels onto the artifacts with special glue and then put them in bags to be catalogued.

By the time I was done with that, the day was over and it was time to go home.  I’m glad I got to experience the lab and see what happens to all of the artifacts after we recover them, but I must admit I prefer working in the field!  I’m excited to get back to my unit tomorrow, as we will be excavating the plowzone and possibly even finishing our unit, and I suspect we are going to find some great artifacts along the way!

(A wig curler fragment found in the field.)

(Cleaned artifacts organized on a shelf in the lab.)

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2 thoughts on “A Day in the Lab

    • It is a lot of fun! I really like seeing what everything looks like after it’s been cleaned off. It’s completely different than what we see when we find it in the field, and it is so much easier to identify without a thick layer of mud coating it! Ferry Farm has windows in the lab, so if you ever stop by you can watch the process for yourself!

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