Field Projects: 2005-2011

A cooperative project of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Middle Tennessee State University, the Bledsoe's Lick Historical Association, and Tennessee Division of Archaeology.

Project Directors: Kevin E. Smith and Emily L. Beahm

Results from June 5, 2006

On June 5, we will be conducting an orientation lecture from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm on the MTSU campus.

We will begin on-site preparations on June 6.

Results from June 6, 2006

"Starting up" an archaeological project is a tedious and time-consuming task that rarely makes The News. It's only at the end of the project -- if you find something -- that makes all of the preparation and work worthwhile.

Preparations for our summer field project this year started several months ago -- but the real work began in setting up our field camp, lab, and excavation area several weeks ago in mid-May. Thanks to the assistance of the McKee family, our excavation area was bushhogged in preparation for the "digs." After that, John Garrott and Lee Myers assisted in getting it mowed down, raked, and mowed again. Note the four-foot high grass at the edge of our excavation area below -- without the help from community folks, our excavation area would have looked the same today!

Today, we started off at 8:00 am getting our field lab cleaned out, setting up tables and chairs, and preparing for our next five weeks of work. Our tasks also included hauling and organizing the half dozen truckloads of equipment and supplies that will keep us working for the next month plus.

Thanks to the patience and hard work of the students -- we were half a day ahead of schedule by the afternoon. We completed laying out our north-south and east-west grid system that will serve us throughout the rest of June and early July.

By mid-afternoon, students had received their training in how to lay out their excavation units -- placing nails and twine precisely on the corners of two-meter square excavation units.

Before we closed up for the day at 4:30 pm, we had already begun stripping the sod from six excavation units looking for evidence of the stockade or wall that surrounded this ancient town around A.D. 1250 or so.

On Wednesday, we will be moving "full speed ahead" on investigating this incredibly important prehistoric Native American town site with modern archaeological techniques.

Results from June 7, 2006

Today, Emily Beahm (field assistant) and I arrived on site about 7:30 am from Murfreesboro to unload equipment. Our excavation units are covered in black plastic to protect them from the elements (and wandering deer!).

Our team is divided into six three-person "crews" -- each working on a separate excavation unit. Our excavation units are squares two-meters on a side -- all carefully tied into our recording system. Our first goal during the "dig" is to complete a long excavation trench that will hopefully cross the ancient wall that once surrounded the town. This wall was described in 1820 by R.E.W. Earl, the first known person to "dig" at the site.

Today, we managed to complete the first 10-centimeter level in most of our excavations. Four of our crews are working close together on different segments of our trench...

While another two crews are working about twenty meters to the west...

As always, we don't expect to find a tremendous amount of important artifacts in the first ten centimeters -- this is the most heavily disturbed portion of the "plow zone." As a plowed cornfield for many decades (until the 1970s), this upper level of soil has been turned and churned many many times over the past 200 years. The remnants of the relics left behind by the folks that lived here 1000 years ago have been battered and broken by the plow and tractor.

Despite the plowing, we are already turning up tiny fragments of ancient pottery, flint chips, broken stone tools, and the teeth of animals butchered and eaten over 1000 years ago. As we proceed into "Level 2" (another ten centimeters or about four inches) we expect the pieces of pottery, flint, and other items to increase in size -- while the plow general reaches 8-10 inches around here, the disturbance and breakage becomes less and less the deeper we go.

Our first week is always relatively slow and perhaps not too exciting for outside observers -- students are "learning the ropes" of how to excavate, recover artifacts, make records, and get into the daily routine. As the days pass and we delve deeper into the mysteries of the Castalian Springs Mounds, we feel certain our progress reports will bring exciting discoveries.

Keep checking back!

Results from June 8, 2006

The day began very pleasantly -- uncommonly cool for June and remained quite comfortable all day. At about 7:00 am, the morning sun streaming through the trees lit up the dew-covered spiderwebs throughout the high grass near our excavation area.

While pleasantly cool for this time of year (and remarkably "un-humid"), the winds were gusty and our tent shelters occasionally were tempted to demonstrate their additional skills as airplanes. Rather than spending the time to stake them down, we decided to work without them for most of the day.

Our project is -- first and foremost -- a course designed to train students in the methods, skills, and techniques they need to perform as professional archaeologists in future careers. As such, our progress during the first week is always slow from the "outside perspective" -- much of our time is taken up with individualized instruction. But, our crews are doing a super job of learning fast, asking questions, and making this intensive experiential learning process a success.

Today, we focused on two specific areas -- surveying equipment and excavation technique. While our "site grid" provides the two dimensions of north-south and east-west, archaeological record keeping requires careful control in three-dimensions (including elevation or depth). We use a transit to maintain that third dimension. Below Jesse records elevation measurements at the transit while Rebekah holds the stadia rod in the distance at our elevation benchmark.

Students also continued practicing their excavation skills -- learning to excavate squares with flat bottoms and straight sides. Below Lacey and Robin are finishing the cleanup on Level 2 of their unit.

Elsewhere on the site, Rebekah checks the depths of their second level to make sure they are ready to close out the paperwork on it and start on Level 3.

During most of they day, students also experienced another common feature of archaeological work -- curious sightseers. We had a number of visitors from the local community today checking out what we were doing. Among the curious sightseers were some local folks with more ominous interests. Noting some twenty large mammals (in other words -- our archaeological team!) staying fairly still in the middle of a field, a dozen of so of the local buzzards soared above us most of the day. A few of them landed nearby to take a closer look.

Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, it isn't hot and humid enough (yet) for us to provide a snack.

Later in the afternoon, we were visited by a local newspaper reporter who examined our excavations and discussed the project with the students. Below, he is chatting with Richard and Natalie while Beth works on her sidewalls at the lower left. At right, Meagan is continuing to level their excavation area.

While we are still working in those upper plowed areas -- as we proceeded "deeper" today, we began to encounter increasing amounts of artifacts left by native peoples over 800 years ago. Fragments of shell-tempered pottery are becoming more common and larger, along with small triangular "arrow points." In most of our excavations, another 10 centimeters or so will bring us down on top of the undisturbed "midden" or garbage deposits of the people who once inhabited this town.

As the students become more confident with their newfound techniques and skills (and more familiar with the "routines"), we begin to move more quickly with our work.

After work, a few of us checked out the swallow population in the main hall of one of the barns on the property.

We have high hopes for Friday and Saturday as we proceed beneath the plowed areas into "undisturbed archaeology.

Join us again tomorrow (and then next week) to keep up with our discoveries!

Results from June 9, 2006

Once again, we were surprised by another lovely June morning (not too hot, not too humid, and a light breeze). Our teams continue to practice different selected skills each day.

Today, we focused on two skills: shovel skimming and trowelling. Shovel skimming, as opposed to simply "digging" with a shovel, requires a relatively precise use of the shovel blade to remove a thin slice of earth. Properly done, this leaves a clean fresh-cut surface in which soil stains can readily be seen. Below, Barrett practices this new technique.

We can often remove the plowzone rapidly with the shovel -- evidence of postholes, pits, and other prehistoric cultural features have already been "homogenized" in this zone by years of churning, turning, and mixing by the plow. However, as we proceed beneath the plowzone into more intact soil layers, we have to proceed slowly and cautiously so that we don't destroy something before we know that it's there. Down at the other end of our slowly emerging trench, Ryan and Erica are honing their skimming skills as well.

Somewhat later, Ryan discovered this recently deceased shrew in the grass. While resembling a mouse or vole in some ways, this little fellow is actually a rather agressive insectivore (certainly not as timid as a mouse!). While it may have accidentally been trampled as we uncovered our excavation units earlier in the day, shrews are often frequently killed by other predators (cats and the like) because of their resemblance to more familiar rodents. Once killed, their bodies are often abandoned uneaten -- shrews have a very strong musky scent gland that makes them unpalatable.

Also during the day, students were practicing their trowelling skills. The trowel is probably one of the most recognized "archaeological tools" by the general public. Knowing when to use a shovel and when to use a trowel is a skill that takes time to learn. For final examination and photography of an excavation level, the careful removal of a very thin layer of soil with a trowel across the entire unit provides a clean and professional looking surface. Below, Katie illustrates that she has mastered this technique (along with her teammates!) with a nicely flat, clean unit.

While examining the freshly cut hay next to our excavation area, we also discovered an abanonded nest left by some of our local red-wing blackbird couples.

On Saturday, we will be working with volunteers from the general public -- giving them a chance to try their hand at archaeology.

Results from June 10, 2006

During each of our MTSU field school courses, we offer the opportunity for interested volunteers to participate in our project as the public outreach and community service aspect. Today was our first "Volunteer Day" for 2006. Seven students gave up their Saturday to work with these volunteers -- and in many instances to learn from them as well. While some of our volunteers were trying their hand at archaeology for the first time, most have been volunteers on many professional archaeological projects across the United States (and the world in some cases!). Volunteers today included a number of membgers of the Middle Cumberland Archaeological Society -- an organization that has been a partner with MTSU for many years now.

Our thanks to our volunteers today: Georgia Dennis, Ellis Durham, Elaine Hackerman, Paul and Dahlia Newton, and Judy Shook.

With the help of highly experienced volunteers and dedicated students, we made some substantial progress today. Below, Ellis Durham -- one of our most skilled and dedicated volunteers -- works with student Alex Bird to clean up one of our western excavation units. Ellis has volunteered on just about every MTSU field school since 1995.

In this area, as we excavated down into Level 5 (40-50 cm below the current ground surface) we discovered some very intriguing linear soil stains that could turn out to be the narrow trenches excavated for wall trench houses. In the photo below, one of these linear soil stains is shown during the process of cleanup.

As the day proceeded, these soil stains became a bit more clearly defined, but many of them still remain difficult to interpret in the tiny "window" that we've opened up into this site. Archaeology is in some ways like working a jigsaw puzzle -- but in our case, we have to find enough of the pieces before we can start putting them together. And, unfortunately, we don't have the picture on the box top to help us along! At the close of the day, however, we are optimistic that we MAY have discovered part of the ditch for the palisade surrounding this ancient town. While we'll have to investigate this further next week and the weeks afterward to confirm our suspicions, the stain outlined in the photograph below holds strong promise. It seems to line up with a similar segment of trench discovered about 20 meters to our south when the waterline was replaced along US 25 in 2004. Thanks to the records of the archaeologists who conducted that project, we are able to match up our discovery with what they found almost two years ago.

To the east, we closed out two of our excavation units -- having reached undisturbed "subsoil" without any signs of postholes, pits, or other cultural features. These two crews will move several meters to the north on Monday to open new excavation units.

In the other two eastern excavation units, however, we hit some promising features. Below, volunteers Georgia Dennis and Judy Shook work with Beth and Brandy.

The photograph below shows a small linear concentration of charred wood named with the unprepossing title of "Feature 3." When we identify interesting stains or concentration such as this one, we assign them numbers and then sketch them and photograph them before excavating them further.

Unfortunately, this concentration turned out to be a rodent burrow filled with charcoal. Fortunately, however, it was a clue to what turned up beneath it -- a large posthole filled with charred wood (possibly a post burned in place -- although we'll have to wait until next week to confirm that). The mouse or other rodent had burrowed through the posthole and the charred wood had later filled up the burrow that was just barely on top of the posthole.

In these two units, we'll continue excavation looking for other postholes and features that might be related to this recent discovery. But that will have to wait until next week. The crew and project staff are taking a well deserved break on Sunday! Check back with us next week!

Results from June 12, 2006

With hopes that noticing it doesn't "jinx" our good luck thus far -- the weather has been very cooperative with our project during the first several days. Today was slightly overcast, not too humid, not too hot, and just about perfect for "digging."

As we take off the plastic covering our excavation areas each morning, we do a quick inspection to make sure that we don't have any uninvited guests who moved in during the previous night. In the past, I've found everything from five-foot long snakes to a snoozing skunk to black widow spiders. Thus far, we've had nothing more startling than a few crickets -- and a few dozen teeny-tiney spiders. The one below is about half the size of the end of a pencil eraser -- and is carrying a mass of babies on the back.

Today, we closed out two of our excavation units -- having reached the undisturbed clay subsoil beneath the plowzone with no signs of features. When "closing out" excavation units, we carefully record the "profiles" or "side view" of the walls of the excavation units. These records are our interpretation of the layers of soil that we have excavated through. Below, Meagan, Bekah, and Jesse are drawing the south wall of their excavation.

Directly east of them, Richard and Natalie are drawing their south profile, while Brandy prepares the north wall.

In our westernmost units, the complex set of features uncovered on Saturday caused us to pause and do a similar, but slight different kind of recording -- a "plan view" or drawing of the bottom of the excavation. Below, Katie, RObin and Lacey are discussing strategies for their recording tasks while Erica and Ryan do the same in the background.

Meanwhile, Ms. Beahm (Field Assistant) and I laid out four new excavation units about 20 meters to the north. Below, Emily and I are using a bit of basic geometry to triangulate the locations of these areas.

As an example of the slow and careful process that we use to record our progress in sensitive excavation areas, the photographs below show the same excavation unit at about 11:00 am and 4:00 pm (the rock in the yellow circle is the same rock). The first photo shows a few scattered limestone rocks and some hints of soil stains -- the second photo shows the same area a little more than an inch deeper. In that photo, we have begun to expose the top of a relatively dense midden deposit containing numerous limestone fragments, broken pieces of Native American pottery, and an even more complex set of features. It will take us most of tomorrow -- and maybe Wednesday -- to sort out what happened in this area about 1000 years ago.

While on a trip to pick up some more lumber to serve as weights for our plastic, we caught two wild turkeys "grazing" just over the crest of the ridge from where we're excavating. Turkey season is over -- and they know it!

As we excavate beneath the plowzone, a number of interesting artifacts begin to show up -- not particularly valuable for their dollar value, but valuable because of what they can tell us about the daily lives of the native peoples who lived here ten centuries ago. Below, a handle for a tool is shown in place -- it is made from a deer antler tine. Note the similarity in size between the handle of the trowel and the antler handle.

We also discovered a broken and discarded "celt" -- a term that we use for a woodworking tool similar to an axe. The axe is heavily polished, worn, and broken -- but parts of the "bit" remain intact (indicated by the arrows).

As we progress into our second week on the project, we are beginning to develop an understanding of the soils on the site, the different distribution of artifacts and features in our small "window" into this vast site, and will begin to move both faster and slower as the conditions warrant. Keep checking back with us!

Results from June 13, 2006

Another beautiful day for archaeology at Castalian Springs in June -- bright sunny day, but not too humid and a lovely breeze. When we arrive a bit after 7:00 this morning, a majestic red-tailed hawk was perched atop one of the haybales across the field from our excavations. He/she declined to wait for me to get a closer-up photo -- so just take my word that the speck below is a hawk!

Fortunately or not, we don't have a lot of photos for today -- your field correspondent was tied up actually having to do physical labor today. While I prefer that the students get the opportunity to experience the hard labor of fieldwork, sometimes I have to step in and try to figure out what we're looking at before I can tell them how to proceed. Today was one of those days.

In our westernmost units, we began excavations into that complex set of features described yesterday. While we didn't have an answer at the end of the day on exactly WHAT we're finding -- we have moved into areas that are largely undisturbed by the plow and have some spectacular information for the archaeologist. We are now discovering large fragments of broken pottery discarded almost 1000 years ago by native peoples. The photograph below shows on of these pieces in situ -- or, "as we found it in the ground.

As the day proceeded, we excavated several hundreds of fragments of pottery, stone tools, and animal remains -- two beautiful fragments of a jar and plate are shown below.

Elsewhere on the site, our other four student teams opened new excavation areas today -- and made some great progress. Sometime tomorrow, I expect all of them will be discovering some additional new and exciting information about this ancient native town.

Our dedicated and exceptionally hard-working student teams have moved a giant amount of dirt in the past week. Our progress in just one week has been stellar -- and entirely due to their excitement, interest, and true dedication to the goals of our shared project. I couldn't ask for a better bunch of team members. As the photo below indicates, our screened dirt has become a noticeable feature on the landscape in its own right.

We also had some able assistance from Dr. Hugh Berryman -- forensic anthropologist at MTSU -- who volunteered this afternoon.

And, we want to acknowledge the able-bodied help from a recent graduate of our program at MTSU -- Mike Warren. An "alum" of the Castalian Springs project from last year, Mike has been out several days to lend his labor to the project in general and to share his experiences with the new students on this long term project.

Results from June 14, 2006

I'm pleased to note that we had yet another beautiful day to be outdoors in Castalian Springs. Our red-tailed hawk friend was once again perched on a haybale when we arrived.

We took a brief trip up to the hilltop overlooking the site to get some semi-aerial photographs of our excavations. The green expanse is the area where we're working this year -- you can see most of our excavations covered with plastic near the treeline in the distance.

On the circuitous drive through the fields to get to the hilltop, we passed our "tom turkey" from day before yesterday and a beautiful doe -- neither of them waited for me to get my camera ready before darting into the high grass and trees. Both are a reminder, however, of the tremendous value of this 132-acres not only for archaeology -- but also for the wildlife that will find refuge here as houses and subdivisions spring up seemingly overnight along US 25.

In our westernmost units, we continued to investigate the series of features discovered last week. The "feature" is a very large apparently square or rectangular pit excavated by the native inhabitants of this town hundreds of years ago. Although we haven't fully exposed the feature yet, it appears to be about 4.5 meters east-west (about 14 feet) and possibly around the same north-south. The photograph below shows an exploratory excavation into the feature. The yellow line running from left to right is the top of feature in our excavations. The yellow arrows show where the feature extends into other excavation units. The blue line to the right of the photograph is the edge of the feature -- hard clay subsoil.

Later in the day, we continued excavations in this exploratory cross-section -- revealing the bottom of the feature. It has been fairly heavily burned (the yellow arrows point to the exposed orange-red fired bottom of the pit). This may well prove to be a spectacular discovery as the next few days proceed.

To the north and east, some of our new excavation areas produced some truly intriguing sets of features -- a giant set of postholes, trenches, and other features that we will be investigating over the next couple of days. The photograph below shows one of these units -- the yellow lines outline an extremely well defined trench -- this is either a segment of the palisade line that we've been searching for or a very wide wall trench for a house occupied by prehistoric peoples almost one thousand years ago. The areas outlined in blue appear to be part of a house wall -- probably a wall trench house. The segment at the bottom of the photograph appears to be a wall trench -- while the upper circles are postholes. While preliminary, I suspect that the wall trench has been partially destroyed by plowing -- a bit of it is preserved, but elsewhere only the postholes in the bottom of the trench remain. The white circles are another series of postholes probably representing part of a house wall. On large native towns occupied for several centuries, we often find that houses have been built and then rebuilt on the same location one or more times. The pattern of posts that formed the walls can sometimes be difficult to sort out -- but in this case, it looks fairly clearcut. We'll be expanding our excavations in this area to see if we can identify all of the walls for this house (and its multiple rebuildings) along with checking to see if our trench MIGHT be the palisade line.

Directly to the east of the excavation above -- but about ten cm higher (about 4 inches) -- the crew has already identified some probable features related to the house. The yellow circles are possible postholes -- the large size of two of these suggests they may be interior support posts for the house (which are usually two-three times as large as the wall posts). The area outlined in blue is the top of a larger feature that is "harder" and contains flecks of charcoal and pieces of burned clay. This is in a good place to be the hearth or "fire pit" in the center of the house. We will continue our investigations here as well on Thursday.

Only three and half more weeks to go on our project this summer -- we have already discovered that this ancient native town has many secrets preserved beneath the plowzone. We will uncover many important bits of information over the next few days and weeks -- thanks to the hard work of the students. We will also set the stage for future projects in the coming summers.

Finally, I will mention our appreciation for the many dozens of visitors that we've had to our project over the past week and a half -- we appreciate both the interest expressed by the citizens of Castalian Springs and the information they've shared about the property on which we're working and their lives in this community.

Keep checking back -- we will be reporting new discoveries every day in the field now!

Results from June 15, 2006

Our day started once again with a beautiful morning. While still a wonderful day for fieldwork -- both the heat and the humidity picked up enough in the afternoon to be noticeable. Probably a taste of things to come. We didn't see our hawk friend this morning, but another doe was sighted on the back side of the property.

When we uncovered our excavations this morning, we discovered a couple of guests -- a field mouse (who escaped into his burrow in the field before I could snap a photo) and a shrew (trapped in one of the deeper excavations). Unlike our friend from June 9, this one was captured in a bucket and released in the field.

In our northeastern units, we continued investigations of the possible palisade trench and house patterns today. Our interpretations have changed a bit as we investigated these areas further. Yesterday, one of our excavations looked like this:

Today, further investigations yielded a more refined picture. The features outlined in black are possible postholes that don't yet seem to fit into a pattern. Those outlined in white appear to be a series of posts for a house wall that turns to the east. Those outlined in blue are a series of possible postholes for a wall probably associated with a second house. The trench outlined in yellow is our possible palisade trench.

Directly to the east, our further investigations revealed some additional features and refined our understanding of some from yesterday. Yesterday, our interpretation looked like this:

Today, we examined these further. The stain outlined in yellow turned out to be a shallow irregular shaped pit -- not much we could tell from it. The area outlined in blue remains a possible hearth -- we'll excavate it on Friday and see how that turns out. The smaller circles outlined in white appear to be a line of wall posts that match up with the other wall shown in the photos above.

As always, investigating these features is slow and painstaking work -- we stop to make records, drawings, and photographs at each step in the process. Below, Bekah, Jesse, and Meagan are mapping a recently excavated feature in their excavation unit.

In order to examine the possible palisade trench, we had to open another unit to the south to see how far the trench extended. Below, Richard and Brandy are doing hard labor in the afternoon heat to see if the trench continues.

While their crewmate Natalie makes the "wheelbarrow run" up the rapidly growing backdirt pile...

During the day, I excavated a 50-cm long section of the palisade trench to see what it looked like. It is an exceptionally well-defined and deep trench that certainly appears to be something more than a wall-trench for a house. By the end of the day, Richard, Brandy and Natalie had already revealed the top of the trench continuing another two meters to the south. On Friday, we'll continue investigations on this feature.

Elsewhere on the site, we continued investigating the large pit feature in our western units. With some massive efforts by the students and a volunteer (Robin, Lacey, Katie, Erica, Ryan, Alex and Georgia) we managed to get two new excavation units down to reveal the top of this feature. It now appears to be a large probably circular pit -- in the photo below, the yellow line shows our current "outline" of that feature. In the exploratory excavation -- note that we've cleaned it up and the red-orange burned soil at the base extends across the entire bottom of that exploration.

From a different angle, the yellow shows the outline of the large circular pit -- the blue shows another pit feature showing up at the lower right. Figuring this one out -- and excavating it -- will take another several days.

More news on Friday.

Results from June 16, 2006

Another great day to be outdoors in Sumner County -- the heat and humidity have both picked up a bit, but not to the point (yet!) that it is a burden.

I spent a bit of time early this morning trying to persuade some goldfinches to come close enough for a decent photograph -- no luck there. Three of our raven or crow friends were in the field next to our work area, though, and one of them agreed to pose briefly for a photo atop a hay bale.

Each night, various colonies of ants build their homes beneath our plastic. Usually, these are the familiar "anthills," but this morning one of these colonies left us a curiously question-mark (?) shaped hill -- we have lots of questions left to answer. But, probably, their question was more like -- "Why the heck do you people dig us up every day?"

Mid-morning, Drs. Tanya Peres (one of our project research faculty) and Jackie Eller from MTSU dropped by to inspect our progress.

In our westernmost excavation areas, we continued our exploration of "Feature 4" -- the large (apparently) circular pit and possible structure. Although much of the day was taken up with taking notes and making drawings, we began excavation of the "midden" filling several sections of this feature today. Below, Ryan and Erica begin excavation of the rounded corner in their unit.

As we expected, this ancient garbage deposit is filled with interesting artifacts of "daily life" used and discarded by the people who lived at Castalian Springs a millenium ago. A fragment of deer antler -- most of the larger tines have probably been used as tools.

Many large and small fragments of pottery -- including this large rim portion of a storage jar.

And, intriguingly, we are retrieving numerous fragments of fabric impressed pans. The "decoration" on the fragment is the impression of fabric or textiles on the "bottom" of the pan. Just as we sometimes use discarded clothes and other fabrics as rags after they outlive their primary purpose, ancient Mississippian peoples used their discarded fabrics to line the molds for these pans. They could then use the fabrics to lift the pan from the mold. Since the clothes and other textiles created by these peoples rarely survive over the centuries, these impressions in ceramic are often our only way to reconstruct the multitude of everyday and fancy fabrics they created. At Castalian Springs, many of these pans may have been used to evaporate the mineral waters from the springs to produce salt and medicines.

We recovered a number of these pans last year across the highway in our digs (see the entry for June 17, 2005 for example).

Similar to last year, we are also recovering fragments of a special kind of flint or chert. The fragment of flint or chert shown below is a very special kind of stone available only on the western course of the Cumberland River in Stewart COunty and along the Tennessee River. Called "Dover Flint" -- this highly prized material was traded throughout the eastern United States. This fragment made its way to Castalian Springs from Dover, Tennessee or thereabouts.

On Saturday and through the next week or so, we'll continue investigating this feature and its contents.

In our northeastern units, we continued investigations of the possible palisade trench and house patterns today. In the photograph below, Georgia Dennis captured me instructing several students on how to excavate the feature we thought might be a hearth or fireplace.

It now appears to be more likely a pit feature filled with garbage, but still interesting.

Our crews also completed exposing the feature that we believe to be the palisade trench -- in the photograph below, I've included yellow arrows showing the edges of the trench, but have left the points between for your evaluation. The trench is very clearly evident running from left to right in the photo. We'll be opening several new excavation units on Saturday to see if we can follow this feature a few meters further to the north and south.

Two of our crews have worked super-hard in four excavation units so far -- and found little or nothing for their labors. Nonetheless -- their efforts have provided important information for our overall team effort. Where things are "not" is just as important in developing our understanding of this ancient town as where things "are." Small consolation in the absence of the "thrill of discovery" -- but Barrett, Jonathan, Beth, Jennifer, Tracy, and Lynne have maintained good spirits throughout. Maybe in the next pit... Below, Lynne, Tracy, and Jennifer lay out some new excavation units for Saturday.

Excavations will continue on Saturday with help from a number of volunteers. Check back and see what we find!

Results from June 17, 2006

With the exception of the heat and the humidity, we had a great day on the dig today (the breeze helped out a lot!). But, I think I'm safe to say that all of us created a bit more "sweat equity" in the project than on previous days.

Today was another of our "public outreach days" -- where we invite interested community members to try their hand at "real archaeology." Several of the students in the class show up each weekend to work with community volunteers.

Our thanks to the volunteers who took advantage of the chance to work on this project today: Lindsey Bowman, Howie Brainerd, Betty Callis, Edie Crane, Georgia Dennis, Ellis Durham, Ann and Matt Funkhouser, Elaine Hackerman, George Heinrich, Caroline Kiev, Robert Miller, Mary Saums, Judy Shook, Catherine and Elizabeth Stewart, Jennie Walker, and Mike Warren. Georgia and Mike are both alums of our archaeology program and frequently share their expertise (and labor) with current students. Other volunteers include individuals from the Middle Cumberland Archaeological Society -- many of whom have participated in archaeological projects across the country (and world). Several of today's volunteers have participated in many of our MTSU field projects over the past ten years plus.

We worked on several different areas today with the help of volunteers. One of our primary goals is to open some new excavation units to see if we can hit the trench for the town wall at some more distant locations. Sixteen meters to the south of our known trench, we opened two new units that will hopefully reveal evidence of the continuing town wall.

At the screen below, Lynne works with volunteers Elaine and her mother and brother while Tracy shovels at the right.

While in the next unit, Richard and Natalie work with volunteers George and Mary in the search for another section of the palisade trench.

To the north, Jesse works with volunteers Caroline and Edie investigating Feature 9.

We also expanded our investigations of Feature 4 -- the large circular (?) pit/structure in our western excavation areas. Below, Brandy works with volunteers Katherine and Elizabeth while in the background, Howie, Ellis, and Alex work on the same feature in their units.

Here, Ellis and Beth are carefully exposing fragments of limestone, pottery, and animal bone in the pit fill.

By the close of the day, we had made some substantial progress in completing the first level in the feature. On Monday, we'll complete the 10-cm level and map the exposed artifacts before proceeding with a second level.

The garbage filling the pit continues to include a fascinating collection of broken pottery -- including more of the fabric impressed pottery.

The crew is resting up after a second hard week in the field -- excavations will resume on Monday morning bright and early.

Results from June 19, 2006

While the day was not too hot and overcast, it was a bit wet and muggy after the rain last evening. The day began with bailing the water from our plastic.

Unfortunately, some pinhole leaks in the plastic covering some of our excavations left them too soaked to work on today. We carefully bailed water with buckets and sponges and let the units dry for today. While problematic for us, the frog below was clearly thrilled with the new "ponds" we created.

We worked on finishing excavations in several areas -- mostly excavating plowzone in some new excavation units that have revealed little to us yet. We cleaned up the section of palisade trench for photographs -- in the photo below, the fill in the trench shows very nicely.

We also began excavating the two-meter long section of the trench in one of the units -- unfortunately, the lower half of the fill in the trench was soaked with water apparently seeping along the length of the buried ditch.

The fill in the trench continues to yield a few sparse Mississippian period artifacts -- fragments of pottery, animal bone, and an occasional interesting artifact like the "nutting stone" shown below. The stone has a small hickory nut sized pit on each side -- generally, these are interpreted as tool for breaking open hickory nuts and/or walnuts.

We also completed excavations down to the bottom of the plowzone in two units where we were hoping to find a continuation of the palisade ditch. Instead of the straightforward trenchline we were hoping for, we seem to have discovered a section of trench or ditch turning at several right angles (outlined below in yellow). We're still cleaning and interpreting the top of this feature, so it will be another day or so before we have a better picture of this feature.

However, it seems at least possible that we have discovered one of the "bastions" or towers that are frequently found on town palisades of this era. The map shown below is from the Rutherford-Kizer Mounds near Hendersonville (about 17 miles west of our site). During the early 1990s, our excavations at the site included investigations of a long segment of palisade trench similar to the one at Castalian Springs. Along that segment, we excavated two of these bastions -- the arrow on the map points to one of these bastions. What we found today MIGHT be something similar to this feature at Rutherford-Kizer -- only time and a bit more excavation will tell.

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate over the next few days and we'll be able to continue investigations of these features. Your web reporter has an evening lecture to attend in Nashville on Tuesday night after our day in the field, so the web pages for Tuesday may not be posted until Wednesday evening!

Results from June 20, 2006

Our early morning arrival at the Castalian Springs site was greeted by a lovely fog creating a view of "Mounds in the Mist." Our excavations are visible at the left under our plastic -- with the main platform mound at the right.

The fog settling on the spiderwebs throughout the fields created a landscape filled with nature's architecture -- the photo below shows only one of the hundreds of amazing webs highlighted by the dew, fog, and early morning sun.

Unfortunately, while appreciating the mysterious vistas created by the morning fog, I also know that a nice Tennessee fog in June is an excellent indicator that your sweat glands will get a workout later.

We continued work in several excavation areas in the morning. Jesse, Meagan and Bekah opened a new unit to expose the rest of the deep and enigmatic pit feature excavated on Saturday.

Elsewhere, we completed excavations of a 2-meter long segment of the trench for the town palisade.

And, six meters to the north, we exposed what appears to be another 2-meter long segment of the palisade trench. While not very visible in this photograph, the "in person" view of it was fairly convincing as we closed up for today. We'll continue investigating it on Wednesday and hopefully will have a fuller report then!

We continued excavations in a couple of other units, but have nothing to report from there yet -- elsewhere on the site, our "digs" were delayed by waiting for the contents to dry from our leaks night before last.

Having moved an enormous amount of dirt in the past couple of weeks with good results, I decided we should take a little break from the field excavations this afternoon (particularly given that the 90+ degree heat was exceeded by the humidity level!).

We packed up our tools at lunchtime...

And moved over to our field laboratory after lunch to wash up some of the thousands of artifacts recovered from our excavations of the last two weeks.

The photograph belows shows part of the artifacts from a single "lot" or bag from our excavations. The artifacts includes dozens of fragments of pottery, stone tools and manufacturing debris, animal bones discarded from meals a thousand years ago -- and yes, a few rocks (well, they looked like they might be something important when they were covered with dirt). Our rule of thumb when excavating is -- "when in doubt, put it in the bag!"

We adjourned from our labwork at 3:30 today -- many of the crewmembers headed west to The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson to tour the summer archaeological excavations there and to hear a lecture on the last couple of years of excavations on the South Cabin. Mr. Daniel Brock, our guide and speaker for the evening, is currently the Archaeologist Supervisor at the Hermitage -- he is also an alum of our Castalian Springs Archaeological Project at Bledsoe's Fort (from 2001) and a graduate of our MTSU archaeology program. Our thanks to Dan for hosting our visit.

Our digs resume on Wednesday morning with good promise for some new and exciting discoveries -- the weather predictions this evening also offer a good promise that our sweat glands will get some solid exercise.

Check back tomorrow!

Results from June 21, 2006

Each morning, I usually arrive early enough to spend about 20 minutes exploring different parts of the 132-acre new state land acquisition at Castalian Springs. Scattered on the rocky uplands and along the springfed streams on the property are a number of chestnut oaks -- the one below has suffered a lightning strike sometime in the past, but still makes a grand picture against the early morning sky.

Scattered throughout the high grass in locations too rough or rocky to cut for hay, multitudes of milkweed plants like those shown below are getting ready to bloom. The plants are named for their thick white sap -- a broken stem or leaf leaks the milky looking fluid. Milkweed serve as the only host for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay their eggs on the plants. The eggs then hatch into caterpillars, which dine on the leaves of the host plant. The leaves are poisonous to many animals (including humans). While the caterpillars are immune to the toxins in the leaves, eating them makes the caterpillars and adult monarchs poisonous to most predators.

The dire predictions of rising temperature and humidity for today proved to be precisely on target. Even the local buzzards declined to circle over by late morning (the brief shade when they zoomed overhead would have been refreshing!). Because of the heat index, we make good use of our shelters (equipped with UV shielded tarps), and drink plenty of water on frequent breaks as we work slowly but consistently.

Bekah, Meagan, and Jesse completed removing the plowzone in the new unit next to our deep posthole/or pit -- exposing the top of yet another complex feature. As shown below, it does look as if the partially excavated pit once contained a large post (circled in yellow) -- along with a large scatter of burned clay. It now looks as if our first guesses several days back were both right and wrong -- we originally interpreted the "posthole" as a possible hearth. That was not quite on target, but it did lead us to investigate further to the east and expand on our information on this feature. A post of this size was probably the central support post for the roof of a building -- perhaps matched with the lines of small wall posts. The scattered of slightly plowed disturbed burned clay will probably prove to be either the remnants of collapsed walls of the structure -- or another "Possible Hearth." We've mapped and photographed the initial exposure of these features today -- and will work further to excavate them in the next day or two.

We also continued investigations of other features next to the "palisade trench." What we had originally interpreted as some rat burrows running off the side of the palisade trench turned out to be rat burrows (rodents love to burrow in and around walls and houses). Underneath those rodent burrows, though, was a real feature created by the ancient inhabitants of this town -- a narrow oblong trench parallel with the "palisade trench." The upper "rodent runs" are shown below in yellow, with the Native American feature outlined in blue.

While we're not quite certain of the function of this short trench today - it has yielded a number of pieces of mica, including the large fragment shown below. This shiny mirrorlike substance was imported to Castalian Springs from North Carolina -- usually this material was only accessible to higher status or wealthier individuals and was used for jewelry and adornments.

Far to the west, our intrepid crew of Tracy, Jennifer, and Lynne continued to tackle the beginnings of a short trench into the base of Mound 1. We are hoping to determine if the current rise is actually a "backdirt pile" from the 1890s excavations or the actual original location of this mound. While we anticipate few artifacts from these investigations, they are a critical part of figuring out how this town was arranged and laid out.

Our units back to the west that were soaked from the rain earlier this week were finally dry enough to continue work on "Feature 4" -- the large pit/structure. We completed excavating the upper half of the trash deposit filling this feature -- the photograph below shows the multitude of burned limestone fragments, pottery sherds, and animal bones.

In the edited photograph below, the current outline of this enormous pit is shown in yellow. We'll continue our excavation here on Thursday and Friday.

In the afternoon, we also began our practice of rotating two of our six student crews into the lab each day under the supervision of a crew chief. This practice not only transforms our artifacts from "lumps of dirty stuff" into clean and analyzable objects, but also gives 1/3 of the team an afternoon out of the heat to recoup.

More news on Thursday -- promises to be another scorcher.

Results from June 22, 2006

When I get out of my car at 7:30 in the morning and almost immediately start to sweat without doing anything more than standing up, I don't need Nostradamus to predict that the day is going to -- well -- "suck" for archaeological labors. During our morning "team meeting," we reviewed our safety protocols for working on days like today and prepared ourselves for a slow workday with lots of water and rest-breaks (except of course, for the two crews that were looking forward to their afternoon in our shady lab washing artifacts!).

With sensitive features under excavation in almost every unit scattered across the field, I was kept busy today moving from unit to unit monitoring progress, providing advice to students, and guzzling a couple of gallons of water in between.

When we opened our units this morning, we discovered that a pair of "homesteaders" had claimed one of them... The pair of voles (aka meadow mice, orchard mice, and field mice) had established an extensive set of runways beneath the grass. We captured them and released them away from the units.

As we delve beneath the plowzone in various areas, we are finding many hundreds of artifacts and features left by the native peoples of this town. The photograph below shows a cluster of these artifacts -- everything from pottery sherds to remnants of meals to jewelry. Nothing of much dollar value -- but of tremendous value to the archaeologist to learn about the daily lives of the people who lived in Castalian Springs way back when.

We completed our excavations of Feature 17 today -- the short trench segment that produced the mica. In the unit directly to the north, we excavated another similar short trench segment -- and will start excavating what appears to be a third one tomorrow (weather permitting!). These features are somewhat enigmatic at this point (in other words -- I'm not sure what they are!). But, in excavations at other nearby sites, we've seen palisade walls that consisted of similar short trench segments. This may be evidence of another version of the wall that surrounded the town. Then again, it may be part of one of the houses/buildings that are overlapping the long trench we believe to be the palisade wall. Give us another week!

To the north, Barrett and Jonathan worked in the blazing sun and finally managed to clearly define another trench that we think will prove to be a continuation of the palisade trench -- and probably part of a bastion or tower.

Back on the western side of our excavations, several crews continued work on "Feature 4" - the large pit/structure. Below, Ryan works on taking out "Level 2" -- removing the midden filling the feature down to the burned orange/red surface.

In a wider view, Ryan, Erica, Lacey, Katie and Georgia work on exposing the very consistent burned surface at the bottom of Feature 4 in all four units. We have laid out four additional units to expose the rest of this feature -- excavations will start on those areas on Friday, Saturday, or Monday -- depending on the weather!

Two alums of last year's field school class at Castalian Springs showed up today to assist. Below, Emily and Mike work on one of the units to see if we can find another section of the palisade wall trench.

In the mid-afternoon, some rumbles of thunder to our west and the weather radio that I keep on site for safety purposes both announced that some thunderstorms were possibly moving in our direction. Having spent about 40 weeks of the last ten years standing in the fields of Castalian Springs teaching archaeology classes, I've developed a pretty good sense of what to watch for in terms of rain and storms. Sometimes they pass around our excavations, sometimes they pass over our excavations. Given the skies today, I made the call to close up early to ensure that we were in a safer location should the hail-producing thunderstorm decide to meander eastward over us.

This time -- the thunderstorms fizzled out before they reached us. Not a drop of rain. Next time -- it might be different. Safety first!

Fortunately, we have our field lab to adjourn to on these afternoons when the weather threatens. We spent the rest of the afternoon washing artifacts.

Tomorrow -- as usual -- is another day. Fortunately, the temperature predictions are back below 90. Unfortunately, the rain and storm predictions are up to 60 percent. Our work will continue -- either in the field or the lab.

Results from June 23, 2006

The relatively high possibility of showers and thunderstorms today meant that we had to evaluate the weather situation upon arrival this morning. When I left home about 6:15, a line of small thunderstorms was headed in the general direction of our site. By the time we arrived about 7:15, however, that particular batch of storms had dissipated and we had a beautiful part cloudy and cool morning facing us.

A brief sidetrip to one of the two ponds on the state property provided us with several turtle sightings -- one of those is surfacing in the middle of the photo below.

We also found some evidence of the local deer around the pond edge...

Although stormy weather swept around various parts of Middle Tennessee today, Castalian Springs was not amongst those locations. A great day for digging -- party cloudy and partly sunny (depending on the moment) with a nice breeze. As a result, we managed to complete quite a bit of excavation -- but what we found has raised as many additional questions as the answers provided.

In the area of our possible "palisade trench" -- investigations of other features in two units converged on a simple conclusion. We have another parallel trench running across both units. Below, Richard, Natalie, Brandy, Jesse, and Beckah are excavating this second trench.

After excavation, we had two parallel trenches running the full length of these two units (the "old" one is on the left and the "new" one is on the right in the photo below).

With some consternation, while examining some other features in the same units later in the day... we discovered yet a third trench in between the other two that appears to run almost the full length of both units.

At this point, with three parallel trenches -- we will have to re-evaluate our previous interpretation of a "palisade trench." In the field, we gather information and create hypotheses that best explain what we see at that point in time. As a science, however, archaeology is also about continuing to gather more information -- as that new information arrives, we have to step back and reevaluate our earlier ideas. If the new information doesn't work with our old hypothesis, then we develop different or more refined interpretations based on that new info.

So, where are we now? While it's possible that we have three consecutive versions of a palisade surrounding this ancient town (in other words, a town wall was built, rebuilt slightly off from the original one, and then rebuilt again), this would be fairly unusual from what we know about town walls around A.D. 1250. We are retaining this as a possibility -- but we need some additional evidence to support that notion. Another possibility is that we are looking at a wall-trench building of some kind -- a house or public structure. These types of buildings are frequently rebuilt on the same site -- yielding multiple wall trenches. They are usually slightly offset to give stability to the walls of the reconstructed building -- without pest control companies, the wooden structures of this time probably rarely lasted as long as 30 years. Those are our two best alternatives with what we found today.

So, how do we decide which of these alternatives is the "best" explanation of what we found today? We need more information.

About 6 meters to the north of the three trenches, Jonathan, Barrett and Beth worked on their excavation -- if these trenches pass through that unit, we can be fairly certain that we are looking at palisade walls. A 12-meter long trench would be too long for typical houses or public buildings.

What they found only raised more questions -- they found another trench, but it runs perpendicular to those to the south. The photograph below shows where we are as of this evening. In the upper center of the photograph are the units containing the three parallel trenches -- the black lines show where two of these should probably go if they are palisade trenches. In the foreground is the "unit to the north" -- the yellow lines running from left to right outline the trench Barrett, Jonathan, and Beth discovered. The blue lines are where the continuations of the "palisade trenches" should be -- but we aren't certain we've found evidence of them yet. In the far background of the photo, the black lines cross two of our newer excavation units under black plastic -- we'll work on those on Saturday and see if we can find any evidence of multiple parallel trenches. Given our current uncertainties, our simplest solution is to "gather more information." So, the white outlined areas are excavations that we will start digging over the next couple of days.

While you scratch your head wondering if we have a clue what's going on -- the answer really is "yes, we do." We've opened the first "windows" into the earth of this very large Native American town and have already discovered a number of fascinating and spectacularly preserved features created almost 1000 years ago. We're down to two possibilities for the features in this area -- and we have a plan to test which of these two alternatives is the "right answer." We'll see what happens as we continue our investigations over the next few days.

Elsewhere on the site, we continued investigating our large pit/structure on the southwestern edge of our excavations. The tents in the background of the photo below are above the excavation units containing the various trenches discussed above. While some of our dig members worked on "Feature 4" -- we opened another excavation to expose the southern edge. Robin and Lacey are working on stripping the sod from that new unit.

Further work on the "old units" revealed an exciting new discovery -- a central pit packed full of burned limestone fragments. In the photograph below, the circular pit/structure described in several past days is outlined in yellow. The blue outline shows the limestone fragments filling the new central firepit.

In the photo below (from a different angle), the firepit is at the lower left and the burned bottom of the larger pit structure is surrounding it.

By the end of the day, the "new excavation unit" shown above was well on its way to being down on the "top" of the southern edge of the pit structure. Below, you'll see a shot across the previously excavated portion and the "new" firepit as Robin and Lacey clean up the sidewalls on the new unit.

As of today, our 2006 field season is 60% complete -- we've demonstrated that this ancient Native American town is filled with answers to questions we've already thought of -- and with questions that we are only beginning to formulate. In our remaining 40%, we'll answer a few more questions -- and we'll undoubtedly raise many more.

Fortunately, the Castalian Springs Mound site is now protected by state ownership -- we will have a chance to continue asking and answering questions for many years to come.

Our investigations of our current "burning questions" will continue on Saturday -- maybe we'll have some new answers when you check back tomorrow night!

Results from June 24, 2006

A nice break in the weather continued today -- overcast with a nice breeze and no rain to interrupt us! The high of 85 or so was much more appreciated than our recent high of 95+.

Today was the third of our four "Volunteer Saturdays" when students work with volunteers from the interested public as an outreach project. Our thanks to the volunteers for today: Edward and Marcia Beahm, Howie and Kay Brainerd, Edie Crane, Georgia Dennis, Ellis Durham, George Heinrich, Caroline Kiev, Steaven C. Robbins, Lib Roller, Judy A. Shook, and Angela Stroupe.

With the hard work of almost a dozen of our student crew members and the volunteers, we accomplished a great deal today. We worked on three areas today: 1) the three trench area; 2) the circular pit area; and 3) a set of two units to the south of the three trenches.

On the western edge of our excavations, numerous students and volunteers worked on further exposing the large circular pit/structure and interior features. Below, Erica, Caroline, Edie, and Alex continue to remove the midden/trash fill from over the floor of this feature.

The midden continues to produce a variety of spectacular objects that will eventually tell us more about the daily lives of the native inhabitants of this town. The photos below show a fragment of deer jaw, a large piece of a fabric-impressed pan, and a piece of Dover flint (probably a resharpening flake from a prehistoric hoe).

Meanwhile, Robin, Lynne, Tracy, and Ryan worked to complete the new unit down to the top of Feature 4. When we closed up today, they had removed the circa 45 cm of plowzone and flood deposits. On Monday, we'll start trowelling that area to find the southern edge of our circular pit. Below, Robin, Lynne and Tracy take measurements on that unit.

A few meters to the east, students and volunteers worked to expose and excavate the midden-filled pit described a few days ago. Below, Ellis, Richard, Jonathan, Natalie and Chris are exposing numerous intriguing artifacts.

This "trash pit" has yielded a large sample of animal bones (remains of ancient meals), pottery fragments, copper, stone tool fragments, and other remains. While we had hoped to find an extension of our "palisade trench" in this unit -- we didn't. The reason is explained below.

In the units over and around our "three trenches" -- we seem to have answered one of my "burning questions." Below, Bekah works with Howie, Kay and Lib to further identify the outlines of the large pit in this area.

Meanwhile, Jesse took on the onerous task of opening a new unit -- with great vim and vigor, he stripped the sod and excavated the entire unit down to the top of our trenches (with some able help by Howie).

His hard work seems to have answered one of our burning questions -- these are not rebuildings of a palisade trench. They are rebuildings of an exceptionally large wall-trench house. Two of our three trenches end -- but one turns a corner to the east.

While Jesse worked on this, Emily and Georgia continued excavation of the middle trench as shown below.

Looking from the opposite direction, we have two wall trenches that end without turning and one that turns to the east. The blue shows the "new discoveries" today.

So, sadly, I abandon my hypothesis that we may have found the palisade wall for the ancient town. But, happily, I acknowledge the discovery of an amazing and important large wall-trench house. Sometimes, the answers to our questions are only a few inches away beneath the earth. Between our circular pit and this large wall-trench house -- we will not be able to do much more exploration in the next two weeks. The search for the palisade wall will have to wait until next year.

We are obviously in the midst of several buildings on the eastern edge of the site -- the photograph below is from 1939 excavations of a similar site in Henry County. It shows a series of wall trench houses -- note that the one in the center of the photo has numerous "rebuildings" of walls.

Image courtesy: July 18, 1939; 16HY1 Williams Site 1HY1, Henry County, Tennessee. Photograph of "street". Rectangular trench and postmold pattern. Structures in order away from camera - Feature 15, 24, 25, 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 20. Squares 12L13 to 15R4. Direction north.; Frank H. McClung Museum WPA/TVA Archive (fhm01003)

In the next two weeks remaining to us -- we'll focus on examining the circular pit/structure and the wall-trench house in detail.

Results from June 26, 2006

Our return to great weather for digging continued today -- a little humid, but with temperatures still in the 80s, overcast for most of the morning, and a nice breeze (well, at least for those that weren't in the deeper excavations).

We focused our efforts today on three features -- 1) the trash-filled pit on the southern edge of our excavations; 2) the wall-trench house on the northern edge of our excavations; and 3) the circular pit/structure on the western edge of our excavations.

We almost finished the trash-filled pit on the south -- Barrett, Beth, Jonathan, Brandy, Natalie, and Richard continued to excavate this pit today.

Only three work days ago, we were just exposing the top of this pit...

It has produced an enormous amount of pottery, animal bones, and other artifacts discarded by the inhabitants of this town some eight or nine centuries ago. Among the several hundred objects recovered today was a spectacular example of fabric impressed pottery -- showing multiple bands of different weaving styles.

Among the several hundred pottery sherds discovered in this pit today is a large decorated handle from a pot.

And many more fragments of animal bones from meals long past -- including several box turtles.

Up to our wall-trench house to the north -- Jesse, Meagan, and Bekah exposed enough of the features to define them a bit better. With our work today, it appears that we have some overlapping posts and fireplaces from different rebuildings of the structure. The photograph below shows what appears to be a burned post (circled in yellow) along with a probable hearth (circled in blue).

With space at a premium in this ancient town, buildings were rebuilt on the same location over and over again as the years passed. With the construction techniques available and without termite, pest, and vermin control, these buildings were probably torn down and rebuilt every 20 or 30 years. Sometimes they were built the same size -- in other cases, they were expanded (probably to accomodate larger family size or increasing affluence). Given that our structure was rebuilt at least twice, we can estimate that this building was there for at least 50-100 years. In order to determine whether it was rebuilt the same size or larger, we'll have to expand our excavations to determine the length of the south wall and find the other corner on the west wall (shown in blue below).

Over on the west side, three of our crews worked to finish exposing the circular pit/structure. With apologies for the bad light in the photo below -- we have found the southern edge of the feature and are beginning work on the missing pieces in a few spots. From the work today, it seems possible that we have an "entrance" into the pit from the east (on the upper part of the photo). The fire pit in the center also seems to be a solid and well defined feature at this point. We'll continue excavations here on Tuesday -- and have some better overall photographs for tomorrow's web page.

If the weather holds, we should have a much better picture of these two buildings over the next couple of days


Results from June 27, 2006

The weather continued in our favor today -- temperatures in the 80s with some nice clouds and a great breeze.

Exploring a bit more of the new state property, this starkly beautiful but almost dead tree was the perch of one of our hawk friends this morning (sitting on a branch on the left side).

A telephoto shot shows a bit more detail after the hawk hopped over to another branch...

We continued work in our three excavation areas today (in the morning). Beth, Barrett, and Jonathan finished up excavations of the pit feature and will finish paperwork on it on Wednesday.

Over on our circular pit/structure, we completed cleanup of the next excavations for photographs and drawings. As we expose more of the entire feature, we start to get a better understanding of it. Further excavations of these areas on Wednesday will undoubtedly reveal new artifacts from the garbage filling it -- and some new clues to its original purpose and function.

Jesse, Bekah, and Meagan continued work on our features near the wall trenches today. As a reminder, we thought we had identified a large posthole yesterday (outlined in yellow)...

Below, Jesse is carefully working on that large posthole...

As the team proceeded deeper into the "possible" posthole, it turned into a "definite" posthole... The photo below shows the carefully exposed remnants of a carbonized post fragment still surviving in the hole...

Proceeding deeper, we discovered something even more amazing -- fragments of this large post are preserved unburned. We began to recover sections of red cedar like those below...

By the time we closed up for the day -- we had exposed a very large cedar post. As shown below, it is partially carbonized on one side and unburned on the other. We have hopes that excavations on Wednesday morning will reveal another foot or so of preserved post that we can retrieve for future analysis.

We were visited by two of our annual volunteers -- Will and Wade (grandchildren of our old friend Carrie Mabrey). Below, I'm showing them some of the discoveries of the day.

These guys are not just here to look though -- they always insist on pitching in full speed with archaeological "diggings." Last year, they dove into our project with shovels in hand ...

This year was not different. Richard and Natalie had started excavating another unit to expose another corner of our wall trench house... Will and Wade once again took shovels in hand to assist us in our work...

After lunch, I decided we should do our annual tour of Wynnewood and Bledsoe's Fort Park -- and postpone continuing our digs until Wednesday morning. The crew has been working super-hard and completed an amazing amount of work in only three weeks. While we have a lot left to complete -- we also need to take some "downtime" to both rest up and to expand our appreciation of the amazing historic and prehistoric sites within walking distance of where we work.

Our new friend Nettie Bates and old friend Lee Myers provided a tour of Wynnewood for the team...

And we continued our tradition of traveling the trails in Bledsoes Fort Historical Park where many past years of MTSU field schools have toiled to discover things about the past of this community and Tennessee.

Back to the "Digs" on Wednesday morning -- hopefully refreshed and invigorated for our last few days of fieldwork this summer.

Results from June 28, 2006

Another beautiful June day as our project end nears.

Our crews are working across a large portion of the southeastern corner of this ancient town. While we've moved a tremendous amount of dirt in only four weeks -- we've touched only a tiny part of the mysteries held beneath the surface.

Slow work continued on "Feature 4" today -- our large circular pit feature on the western edge of our excavations. Below, Robin carefully exposes a deer scapula while searching for the edge of this feature.

About six feet to the north of Robin, Jennifer, Lynne and Tracy are cleaning up another new excavation unit exposing the outline of Feature 4.

Once they finished their work, one more edge of the circular pit was clearly identified -- one more piece in the outline of the enigmatic but important feature.

Elsewhere, Jonathan and Barrett continued work mapping the several features in their unit. The features outlined in yellow are pits that were later filled with trash. The blue outline is a probable posthole to be mapped first and excavated later. The white outline is a small rodent burrow at the bottom of one of the trash pits.

Now and over the next few days, crew members are moving from area to area as needed to help with various recordkeeping tasks. Jennifer moved over to help Jonathan and Barrett finish mapping their features while her crewmates were busy with some tedious cleanup work.

Our work on the large wall-trench house continued -- we finished up another excavation unit to the north. The three trenches we had already identified continued all the way across this unit (shown in white, yellow, and blue). To our surprise, we also found yet another trench (in black) -- our wall-trench structure was not only large, it was rebuilt at least three times.

In addition, our large post continued to be an intriguing feature -- the photo below shows this features in cross-section. The yellow circle surrounds a large piece of intact post remaining in this feature.

In the late morning, some alums of the Castalian Springs Project dropped by to visit and volunteer. Mitch and Tyler were crew members last summer (and graduated recently). After receiving an orientation from Alex, Mitch, Tyler and Teresa opened a new excavation unit in search of the south wall of the wall-trench house.

We're at a tedious stage of work -- things will pick up as we get different areas cleaned up for larger scale photographs in the next few days.

Results from June 29, 2006

We really couldn't ask for better weather for a late June Tennessee day -- low humidity, a great breeze and temperatures in the 80s.

Our project found a "mascot" in the last few days -- this young bird has adopted us. She has shown an exceptional interest in our work -- hopping in and out amongst the units and hanging out with the crew during lunch. While her interests may be purely archaeological, we suspect the numerous worms we're turning up in the excavations may be of greater interest. While I'm not certain, I think she may be a young female red-winged blackbird.

We continued our careful excavations of Feature 4 -- the large circular pit-structure. Below, Jennifer, Katie, Alex, and Lacey work on various units exposing the outline of this feature.

In their excavations of Feature 4, Lacey and Robin finally found a very clear outline of the pit on the south side -- the yellow arrow points from the outside (yellow/orange clay subsoil) while the blue arrow points from the inside (dark brown midden fill).

To the west, Erica worked on finishing one more "corner" of the pit feature -- the yellow line shows the boundary between the dark midden inside the pit and the clay subsoil outside the pit.

As the digging continues -- so does the paperwork and documentation. We are drawing and photographing the "profiles" of each excavation unit -- the side view that shows the different layers of soil. The photo below shows some of the different layers of soil over Feature 4. The area above the white line is the sod and plowzone. Below that are two more soil layers -- the dark soil between the yellow lines is the fill in the pit feature.

We also had some distinguished visitors today -- Dr. Jim Knight from the University of Alabama and Dr. George Lankford from Lyon College in Arkansas. In the photo below, Drs. Knight and Lankford (center) are observing Meagan and Jesse excavating the interior of the wall-trench.

Jim chipped in with some wheelbarrow runs for the students...

We greatly appreciated their input and thoughts on the excavations, features, and artifacts recovered so far this summer.

Some of the research faculty on our project also stopped by today -- below, Dr. Tanya Peres (Project Zooarchaeologist) and Dr. Shannon Hodge (Project Bioarchaeologist) discuss our progress with Emily.

Back up at the wall-trench structure, we continued opening new units to follow the walls of this structure. Below, Beth exposes another section of the north wall of the structure...

While on the south wall, Brandy, Natalie, and Richard finished up the unit opened by our alums yesterday. The south wall trench clearly continues (outlined in yellow) and contains two intriguing pieces of burned wood (noted by blue arrows).

Over our last few days, we will be working both slowly and quickly -- finishing up our detail work and paperwork on previously excavated areas and opening some new areas as quickly as possible. More on Friday...

Results from June 30, 2006

While a bit more humid and without a breeze in the morning, we were stilled blessed with pretty good weather for the last day of June 2006. The afternoon was cloudy with a nice breeze -- although we did have a brief anxious moment or two when some dark clouds threatened to head our way. Two rain drops out of those -- we saved them.

Our "digs" continued slowly today -- not a tremendous amount of great discoveries to report. Below, Meagan continues to work on the pit feature surrounding the large post we've been working on for several days.

From another angle, Jesse works to expose the outline of this pit -- we're still not sure what this feature is.

Here's how it looked after "cleanup."

Much of the crew continued working on Feature 4 -- we weren't quite ready for a large-scale aerial photo of the feature when we closed up toady. Maybe on Saturday...

On our wall-trenches -- we continued work. On the north wall of the trench-house, we found our second corner (outlined in yellow). To our astonishment -- we found what appears to be the end of Wall-Trench Number 5 on the west wall (in white). That would mean this large structure was rebuilt at least four times. The black outline at the bottom of the photo shows several different features -- a probable small hearth and a posthole. More news on that either tomorrow or Monday.

Tomorrow is the last of our "Volunteer Saturdays." We look forward to working with our volunteers -- and hope to report back some great progress on Saturday.

Results from July 1, 2006

Today the weather shifted a bit more to the "gosh, I'm sticky" kind of weather. It was a bit hard to tell whether we were actually sweating, or just condensing some of the abundant moisture out of the air. With temperatures in the low-mid 90s (almost matching the ambient humidity), the breeze in the morning was greatly appreciated. The lack of a breeze in the afternoon was received with somewhat less enthusiasm by the crew and volunteers -- but it at least gave us something to talk about.

Arriving a bit early, we once again took the opportunity to look around a bit of the new state property. Passing the barn, we noticed some new additions -- several fearless young barn swallows were resting on the barn gate waiting for Mom to bring them some food.

We also discovered a third, very small springfed pond. Covered with algae, but home to a number of turtles.

The "shoreline" of this small pond also shows evidence of the frequent visitors from the local community -- the animal tracks include deer, turkey, rabbit, raccoon, dog, and others.

Today was the last of our Volunteer Days for this summer field session. We appreciate the assistance and comraderie of our volunteers for the day: Edie Crane, Georgia Dennis, Susan Finger, Ann Funkhouser, Elaine Hackerman, George Heinrich, Caroline Kiev, Lib Roller, Jeff Stewart, Virginia Vesper, and Mike Warren.

We also had visits from the family of several of our student crew members today -- Jesse's parents stopped by to view his "digs" along with Natalie's mother and father and Brandy's mother, grandparents, and sister.

We continued work with our volunteers on the "circular pit" and the "wall-trench house." Below, experienced archaeo-volunteers Jeff and Mike start excavations of a section of the south wall-trench.

While volunteers Caroline and Edie work with Lacey and Robin on two of the wall trenches on the west side of the building.

To the north, Lib worked with Jonathan and Beth on the north wall of the structure.

Mike discusses the weather with our old friend Susan Finger who showed up to help with the screening (her mother is supervising on the right). In the background, Jeff is excavating portions of the south wall trench, while Brandy and Richard work in the background on a new unit that revealed our first glimpse of the east wall.

Meanwhile, Jesse and Natalie worked with Georgia and George on the large post and pit that now appears to be in the center of our wall trench structure. As excavation proceeded today, we discovered a second large posthole. The photo below shows our first large posthole in yellow -- the new large posthole (probably associated with a rebuilding of the structure) is outlined in white. The blue outlines are slanted "ramps" next to each posthole used by the ancient inhabitants of this town to slide these enormous posts into the holes and then tilt them up for final placement.

The wall trenches of this building continue to produce some interesting bits of ancient garbage -- the photo below shows the pharyngeal teeth of a freshwater drumfish. Each of the holes in this bone once contained grinding teeth for this native fish.

At the close of the day, we have identified portions of four walls of the structure -- along with three of the corners. Only one more corner to go!

The photo below shows the south wall of the building in yellow -- along with the newly discovered segment of the east wall in blue.

Back over at our "circular pit structure," several volunteers and students continued work. Below, Lynne supervises as her mom cleans up a part of "Feature 4." Virginia works at the screen.

In a nearby unit, Alex works with volunteer Elaine on another portion of Feature 4.

The trash filling this circular pit continues to produce some intriguing artifacts discarded by the inhabitants of this town. Below, Tracy shows off a large portion of a cooking pot.

Alex and Elaine unearthed yet another beautiful piece of fabric-impressed pottery.

Later in the afternoon, Georgia continued working on this feature.

By the close of the day, we had exposed almost the entire outline of this four-meter diameter pit. The picture continues to match our interpretations from yesterday -- a large circular pit with what appears to be an entrance ramp from the upper left (outlined in yellow). The blue outline shows what we anticipate to be the firepit in the center of the structure.

Overall -- a great day in the Castalian Springs neighborhood. Thanks to our student crew and volunteers, we are several steps closer to understanding our two buildings. We have a lot of work to do in the next few days -- our project closes down on Friday. But for now -- a day off for the crew! Check back with us on Monday evening for another update.

Results from July 3, 2006

Today, the weather shifted from "gosh, I'm sticky" to something a lot less pleasant -- something in the range of "I'm the bacon, you're the eggs -- our site if the frying pan." We worked from 8:00 to 1:15 -- and then took lunch. With temperatures rising into the mid-high 90's on site, we moved into the field lab for the afternoon.

Much of our work this morning was slow and tedious -- finishing up details that have to be completed before we can complete our excavations. We focused on some final cleanup on "Feature 4" -- our circular pit feature on the western edge of our dig.

Below, Erica continues excavating down to the bottom of one "corner" of this pit feature.

The cleanup work continues to reveal a definitive edge on this pit -- as shown below in the area cleaned up by Robin this morning.

We should have some nice overhead shots of this feature by Wednesday evening.

Elsewhere on site, Emily and I finished up some mapping, drawings, and photographs on several units like the one shown below that has two large pits and a posthole (outlined in yellow).

Over at our wall-trench house, most of the students worked on excavating the center postholes and sections of wall trenches today.

Below, Jesse finishes up excavations of the large and deep postholes (with assistance from Meagan and Bekah)...

Brandy, Richard and Mike worked on our east wall trench -- confirming our third corner of the house. The yellow outline is the eastern wall trench -- the blue is the apparent end of the south wall trench. We'll have to confirm that on Wednesday.

Directly to the west, Natalie and Lacey worked on another section of the southern wall trench -- exposing the top of the entire trench and the two apparent small logs at the edge of the trench (in blue).

Over on the west wall, Katie, Alex, Tracy and Lynne worked on finishing excavations of several sections of the trenches of this structure.

Out of camera range, Beth, Barrett, and Jonathan opened a new unit to confirm the northwest corner of our house -- more news from them on Wednesday.

Mid-day, we had another visit from several of our much appreciated local Sumner Countians -- Mark McKee Jr., Bill Bell, and John Garrott. These gentleman have helped us out on many occasions during the project.

And then -- we headed to the shade to work on washing artifacts. In the shade up the hill, it was only in the upper 80s -- seemed like air-conditioning after the early afternoon heat. More news on Wednesday...

Results from July 5, 2006

When I arrived a bit after 7:00 this morning, it was enormously comfortable in terms of temperature compared to Monday. Then, again, that may have had something to do with the pouring rain.

Archaeology -- like any other occupation that requires work in the "out of doors" -- requires practicioners to play the cards that nature deals. Unlike many traditional college classes where a day of rain may just mean an uncomfortable walk from the parking lot, our class has to manage an 8-hour class day. And, the summer field course is also an experiential learning course -- designed to expose students to the "real world" of archaeological fieldwork. Not just a picture of it on a screen in a classroom. Our course is not exactly the same as working as an archaeological field technician -- but it is a lot closer than just sitting on campus.

Like the real world, our project also has a deadline for completion. While earlier in the project we might have just taken the day off and worked in the lab, we are now pinched for time to finish up our tasks. It was an uncomfortable day -- we worked through the constant showers, dodged the harder rains as best we could, and completed quite a bit of work before closing up. We can't begrudge the rain -- it was much needed by the farmers and folks that live in Castalian Springs. Many a crop was saved by the rain today. Like the farmers, we wish it had happened a couple of weeks ago though!

Only a few photos for today -- the rain disagrees with my digital camera... Below, the students form several "bucket brigades" bailing the water from our plastic so we can open up the units.

I must compliment our student crew -- they understand how much "stuff" we need to finish in the next few days and chipped in despite being soaked multiple times without complaint. Many of them have volunteered to come out on Saturday after the class is officially over and help finish up if needed. Our field class is not simply about "class starts on June 6 and ends on July 7" -- it is also about 20 folks learning to work together as a team, knowing the goals, recognizing the obstacles like today's rain, and figuring out what we need to do to finish up ahead of the game. Sometimes, it's about patiently holding an umbrella over the head of your crewmate in the middle of a field in the pouring rain so their paperwork doesn't get wet while your other crewmate takes measurements.

As we packed up -- after being soaked for the 5th or 6th time -- everyone remained in good spirits. But, we're all ready for promised better weather on Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, we'll be focusing our efforts on finishing up "Feature 4" (our big circular pit/structure) and the wall-trench house.

Results from July 6, 2006

The promised "perfect weather" for archaeology did arrive today -- low humidity, a great breeze, and more than comfortable temperatures.

The entire crew worked diligently today to get us quite a bit closer to finishing up on Friday. Many of us took a short lunch -- and several stayed until 7:00 pm.

We completed most of the remaining work on our wall-trench structure today -- at least the parts of this giant building that we have exposed this summer. Other parts of the walls and interior will remain for future investigation. The image below shows a schematic (and not quite to scale) view of this building. The black squares are our excavation units while the yellow areas are the wall trenches and central posts. We have three good corners on the northwest, southwest, and southeast. Since these buildings were rectangular, we can reliably predict the location of the northeast corner.

The building was rebuilt at least three times, so there are four trenches on the west for the four different constructions of this building. We even suspect that there is a fifth construction of the building -- and maybe even more -- outside our excavations to the west. While we only found two trenches on the north and east -- there may be others outside our excavations. On the south, we currently only have a single trench -- but again, there are probably others outside the excavation area.

The photo below shows the excavations under completion of the complex set of trenches on the west wall. In the foreground, Lynne is finishing up "West Trench 4" while Alex and Katie map the trenches in the background. To the left of Lynne, the farthest left trench was completed in the morning by Tracy.

The trench excavated by Tracy yielded our best preserved evidence of the posts in these trenches. Eight small postmolds (the holes left behind when the posts decayed or were pulled from the ground) are shown outlined in yellow.

These postmolds shown below without the outlines -- you should be able to see the dark stains and carbonized wood.

On the south wall, we finished exposing the southwest corner today. Three of the four west wall trenches are at the top of the photo (the one on the right overlaps the south wall trench).

And below, the same trench during excavation by Ryan and Lacey (view towards the east along the south wall)

Earlier in the day, Lacey and Natalie finished the middle portion of the south wall.

On the east wall, Richard, Brandy and Mike worked most of the day to figure out what was going on over there -- Mike stayed late with Lynne to finish up this confusing area on the southeast corner of the building. What we found heading north in the photograph below appeared to be too wide for a single wall trench.

As it turns out, there were actually three overlapping wall trenches in this area. As outlined below, the two "yellow trenches" are earlier walls, with a more shallow intrusive "blue trench" above them. A tough set of features to figure out -- but we are now confident that we have the southeast corner and the east wall identified.

The central posts for this house proved to be even more enormous than we imagined -- the main post is 5 feet deep where the "X marks the spot." This giant cedar post probably reached 20 feet or more above the ground when the building was here.

Just to the north of our wall trench house, we also found a small lined hearth or fireplace. The yellow outline is the hearth -- the blue outline is either part of the hearth or an adjacent ash-filled post. The yellow arrows points to a section of the bright orange-red burned clay lining of the fireplace.

After partial excavation today, the fireplace looked like this -- note the brightly colored burned clay lining on the left side -- the brightly colored ash inside is the remains of the last fire that burned here some 800 or so years ago. A marvelous and sobering thought that such spectacular finds remain preserved at Castalian Springs.

At any rate, at the close of the day, our wall trench house looked something like that below -- about 8 meters east-west and 10 meters north-south.

Over to the west, many crew members continued working to get Feature 4 ready for the "big crunch" excavation on Friday. Erica and Ryan work below on profiles and notes.

With the mapping and photographs completed, we'll take the remainder of the rocks and fill from the bottom of the structure on Friday and see what else we can learn about this other building.

Another long day coming up tomorrow... Now, at 10:23 pm, your web reporter is signing off!

Results from July 7, 2006

Another day of "perfect weather" for archaeology -- at least as far as Tennessee in June is concerned! We really couldn't ask for better for the last day of our project for 2006. But, we'll ask at least for the same next year when we return for another summer dig :-)

When Emily and I arrived this morning a bit after 7:00, we discovered our white feral cat friend hunting his way across the field towards out excavation units... While it might be a coincidence, we suspect he may have internet access -- and was interested in our little bird mascot mentioned on our web pages a few days ago. He fled on our drive-by.

Thanks to the intensive work of our student crew today, we finished off our excavations at the wall-trench house today. All of our careful drawings and paperwork are completed, photographs done, and we're ready to return these ancient features to the protection of their earth covering.

The photograph below is looking south along the west wall of this building...

While we have touched only a small percent of this building, we have found all four walls and three of the corners. The same photo below shows the west wall trenches in blue, the north wall trenches in yellow, and the south wall trench in white. We'll retain these same colors through the next series of photos...

Looking towards the southeast, another angle on this building.

The same photo below shows the south wall in white, the west wall in blue, and the central support posts outlined in black.

And finally, looking towards the east, a final angle on this building.

The same photo below shows the south wall in white, the west wall in blue, the north wall in yellow, and the east wall in red.

We're pleased with what we were able to uncover and discover about this building in 2006 -- much more will remain for future years.

Over on the western edge, several of us worked our "hinies" off -- as quickly as we could while still keeping up with our records and doing full justice to this important feature from circa A.D. 1250. We were able to complete a much better outline of the feature by the end of the day.

The 20 plus wheelbarrows of midden that we removed today from this feature yielded an enormous amount of pottery, flint, and other artifacts. And yet, with sadness, we were not quite able to finish every part of the feature. It does seem to be a below-ground circular building with an entrance on the east-southeast. The photo below shows the outline as finished today.

In order to finish out our excavation project today, we had to stop our excavations here before we were completely finished -- we needed time to do our maps, drawings, photographs and other recording. We'll come back to this area in the future for further investigation.

Behind the archaeological scene today, our crew members also finished our "close-down" work -- dismantling our shelters and packaging them carefully for next year's students.

And getting our excavation units ready for backfilling. All of our excavations will be filled back with the soil we removed to restore the landscape to its appearance when we arrived. Below the ground, however, our excavations are lined with plastic -- to mark these areas permanently as places we have already investigated. The photo below shows several of our excavation units as we left them today.

Thanks to our friends the Garrotts, we have a front-end loader at our disposal for finishing up the "heavy work" of filling our excavations on Saturday morning.

Although today was the last official day of our summer field class -- I appreciate the many students who volunteered to show up for one more day on Saturday to help with the backfilling. That extra effort gave us the time to do justice to the important places and things we discovered this summer. In only five weeks, we've discovered a great deal about this ancient Tennessee Town. Thanks to the purchase of this site by the State of Tennessee -- our tiny window will not be the last into this ancient site before it is destroyed. Many years and decades of future students, archaeologists, and interested citizens will be able to visit, contemplate, and investigate the mysteries of what was the first "county seat" of Sumner County.

A great crew on a great project.

And now -- we close off for Summer 2006. Check back with us again in Summer 2007 for another project at Castalian Springs.

Results from July 8, 2006

For those diehards who just couldn't resist checking one more time on the 2006 web pages -- a few shots of our team of volunteers closing out the site...

Before using the front-end loader to do the bulk of the filling of our excavations, we carefully protect the features we discovered from possible damage by the heavy equipment. This involves some hot, sweaty labor...

Below, the trenches of the house we discovered are being carefully filled by hand with clean dirt.

The bottoms of the units are then carefully lined with plastic. In the southwest corner of each excavation unit, we place a "message in a bottle" (outlined in yellow below).

As shown from last year, these plastic bottles contain an archival tag with descriptive information about the excavation unit. These bottles have been a big help in the past when we came back to a site again and our benchmarks had vanished or been destroyed.

Then the backfilling began in earnest -- the photo belows shows the students spreading the dirt as I drive another bucketload in the backhoe.

After the dirt is placed back in the holes, the sod that we carefully saved in a separate pile is spread over the units to help prevent settling and to discourage the growth of intrusive weeds in these areas. The photo below shows several of the units after they were "closed out."

We took a final trip to the top of the hill today to take a photograph of our site after we finished "cleaning up." On June 14, our excavations looked like this...

Today, as we left, the site appeared like this...

More news next year...