2003 Field Session
Winslow Site - 18MO9
The 2003 Tyler Bastian Field Session in Maryland Archeology got off to a soggy start on March 23rd. Due to nearly continuous rain over the prior month, the Winslow site was pretty much a muddy mess from the very beginning. Despite the conditions, a large number of Field Session regulars were on hand to help set up for the 11 day session. Dr. Joe Dent even began the educational program, covering the details of laying out a working grid, a task that he had accomplished prior to our showing up for the session.
Meanwhile, other folks worked to unload trucks and place equipment where it would be ready for use. Members of the party that were going to secure the site for the duration of the session prepared their campsite.
One of the first major problems that had to be tackled was relocation of the porta-pottie. The contractor had placed all three of our porta-potties nearly a half mile down the road, making a trip to the "little archeologist's room" just a little difficult. With the effort of a handful of brave souls and an intrepid pickup driver one of the "facilities" was transported through the mud to the site.
One of the last tasks of the day was to remove the MHT van from the site. On discovery of the fact that it was completely mired in the mud, efforts were made to push, pull, then finally, drag the vehicle to a more reasonable location. In fact, ONLY four wheel drive vehicles have been able to traverse the mud and swamps that surround the site. Just as everyone was ready to leave for the day, Dan Coates and Jack Davis arrived with the lab tent, unit canopy and water barrels. The folks staying behind were able to set up the two small army tents (one to house the publication and sales items and the other to house Dan) and the registration canopy.
Saturday morning, 24 May, dawned cold and wet. Site personnel woke to the daunting task of trying to make sure that some work could be done on site. Fortuneately there were many tasks that still needed to be done once people began to show up.
One of the first jobs was to set up a dry spot for Kelsey to run her lab operations. The tent was quickly put into place and tables, chairs and other equipment were moved into position.
Next, the crew assembled the new canopy, purchased by the Maryland Historic Trust, and moved it into position over the first units scheduled for excavation. This canopy has turned out to be extremely valuable during the rainy session.
In spite of the rain, our eager crew went to work to prepare the area for excavation. The canopy provided great protection while squares were established and lines laid to mark their boundries.
In traditional "Field Session" eagerness, units were opened and screening of soil began quickly. The first few centimeters of soil turns out to be a silty claylike material that has to be pushed through screens like Play-Doh through a shaping mold. Once through that layer, the job becomes a little easier with the subsoil consisting of sandy loam.
The first lunchtime lecture was presented by Richard Slattery, who came all the way from Iowa to tell us how he spent his youth searching for sites along the banks of the Potomac River. His stories exploration of these sites, including Winslow, revealed the many differences between early archeology and our current methods. His adventures provide contrast with the usually simple chores we face. Canoeing up the Potomac looking for sites noted by John Smith in his earliest exploration of the area, does not even remotely compare to our ability to, usually, drive easily in and out of the site. This talk helped many of us to understand the activity that has been taking place on the Winslow site over the past 70 years.
Tyler Bastian, our first Maryland State Archeologist, also provided lunchtime educationment with his lecture on the excavation of the Bigg's Ford Site. This rescue operation provided data about early settlement of the Potomac area. Two villages actually overlap on the route of a pipeline that was being laid through the site. This site may provide some great opportunities in the future as well.
In an effort to learn more about the people of the Potomac River Valley, we hosted Dr. Stephen Potter, archeologist for the National Park Service, for our special lecture on May 28th. Over 25 of our associates assembled at Rockwood Manor for an enlightening and entertaining expose of the people whose village we have been studying for the past two seasons.
Dr. Potter's lecture, titled Power and Politics in Ancient Washington, covered a range of topics, including speculations about the layout of villages of the period, political relationships between tribes of the area, and details about the state of those tribes when European contacts were first made. Following the lecture, Dr. Potter stayed to chat, answer questions and sign copies of his book on the subject. All-in-all, this was a wonderful opportunity for those interested in Potomac area pre-history and a delightful evening for those in attendance.
On Thursday, May 29, ASM President, Carol Ebright, presented her lithics lecture for the massed troops. She covered the typical types of lithic material found in the Potomac area including Quartz, Quartzite, Chalcedony, several types of Chert, and Rhyolite. She told us about their geologic origins and the properties that make them useful for toolmakers.
As the weekend approached, signs of dry weather ahead came with it. After a clear day on Friday, Saturday started with light sprinkles then cleared up to provide a nice, if a bit chilly, day. Rain kept threatening through most of the day, yet the participants kept at it. A combination of poor weather and the prospect of a long muddy walk into the site made this field session one of the least attended in recent history.
If rain could keep attendees away, one tradition went on like clockwork. On Saturday, May 31st, the usual social night took place at Rockwood Manor. Joe Dent joined us for an evening of food and festivity. (All right, we ate till we were ready to burst and then sat around talking shop for a few hours.) A light shower passed over while we were busy gorging on sandwiches and cole slaw. It looked like the worst weather had passed us on by. On return to the site we found that at least an inch of rain had fallen, only a few miles from our festivity.
Sunday morning dawned cool and breezy. During breakfast, our screened cooking shelter decided to collapse in the wind and was packed away. Soon participants began appearing in the next field, bringing comparisons of something from a science fiction movie, or the scene from Field of Dreams where the ball players emerge from the corn. However, units were quickly bailed and work began in earnest. Once emptied and "de-wormed" several units were left to dry through most of the day. Other units were opened and things began to look promising.
As Myron Beckstein continued to work he began to come across some large bones. While the original owner remains unknown, it was probably a deer or other large mammal. Efforts to expand the unit were undertaken and by the end of the day the area had been lain bare for inspection. As the work proceeded, hopes that we had found an undisturbed rubbish pit grew.
Monday, the last day of the session, turned out to be one of the best, at least as far as the weather was concerned. Desire to complete several on-going projects drove the participants to get to work quickly and clean up the work of the past 10 days.
The work performed on this last day paid off in big ways. Post molds were found in a unit that is adjacent to last year's post mold discovery. This indicates that we have found another house structure! A real exciting find. The units in question were cleaned up and carefully photographed. Once again the canopies proved to be useful, this time as sunshades.
While some people were finishing last tasks in the field, others were busy breaking down our operation for the season. Tents were taken apart and folded up for transport, lab equipment was packed and all of the artifacts were taken down to the lab at American University. By the end of the day, the field looked much as it did when we left last year.
The field school from American University will continue to work on the site for a few weeks. Hopefully we will begin to get a better idea of what took place in this village on the Potomac. This has been, after all, the real goal of this session.
Even though it was wet out here, many participants made the most of it. Some dash for shelter when the rain comes while others work right through the wetness. Either way we have been doing some great work for Maryland Archeology.
Each day brought new adventures and unsuspected surprises. Even through the most dismal days there is usually a ray of sunshine peeking out in the end. Whether it is in finding new features, discovering Joe Dent's literary review talents or finding out that Charlie Hall picks an awesome tune, the experiences are fantastic.