Tag Archives: Fieldwork 2013

First solid day of diving!

Our field season is officially underway, with 2 days of work in the water under our belts. Today was our first day actually diving, with Dave Howe, Dawn Cheshaek, Bob Jimenez and myself on site. Dave graciously took boat duty, ensuring that our equipment was organized and assisting us with the tools we would need to get ourselves situated on site. The rest of us each spent about 3 hours underwater today, and a lot more time working topside. For those terrestrial archaeologists out there that often comment on the slow pace of underwater work, this is a statement well founded in fact and you’ll get no disagreement from me.

Our goals for today were to pin down the site area where we will be testing and to deploy our underwater grid. I am happy to report that both of these goals were achieved. We spent the morning and part of the afternoon examining some areas of the river that had been identified as likely candidates for the exact site location based on previous researchers descriptions, overlays of maps from old site reports, and our own observations from years past. A number of colonial brick were present in this area, and we may have found some remnants of our elusive ballast! Preliminary field identification places it as a type of Dolomite, which is not typically associated with this area.

An example of Dolomite, having a similar appearance to lithic finds on our site.

The previous maps had been rendered prior to widespread use of GPS, and without the aid of any accurate geospatial points being set nearby, so they were a little off. We were able to follow some of the clues left by previous researchers though, and found a spot matching the description to the letter. Once we settled on a location, we assembled our survey grid which will be used to help guide the excavation of test units and recording our work.

The grid is constructed of PVC pipe with 1x1m divisions. The outside perimeter uses 3/4 in. pipe, and the interior uses 1/2 in. It is staked at two points in each corner using rebar to ensure that the entire grid stays in place, in it’s direct north-south orientation. The mapping frame uses string line to divide it into 20cm squares to aid in plan view drawings of each stratigraphic layer we excavate. This will be attached to the frame using flat bungee cords to hold it in place. While this system went together very well on land, deploying it underwater caused a bit of concern. Surprisingly though, we were able to place it on site with only minor issues. The pictures above show the grid on land, for anyone wishing to use a similar system on their own sites. In total, it measures 4x8m, although it was originally intended to be 6x8m. During initial assembly, this seemed too large to be able to handle for our purposes. The grid was assembled on the beach, then pushed out to the site by divers. It was expected that it would float for a while, until it filled with water, but it actually sunk very quickly.

We did not have time today to get any pictures of it underwater, but I will try to have some in the next few days to share. Our next step is to surround the site with a floating silt curtain to help insure that our work doesn’t cause any damage to the river environment or the main channel. After this, we will be ready to get started with testing the site. We’ll update as we go, so please check back or click the follow button on the right hand side of the page to be notified via email of any updates.


Scott and the crew


Update on field work

It’s time to make this blog active again, as we will be returning in just a few weeks to the St. Mary’s for our first season of excavation on 18ST647. If you’re just joining us, or have forgotten, this site consists of a distribution of ballast stones along the 17th century shoreline of the St. Mary’s River, adjacent to the active town centre of St. Mary’s City, Maryland’s first settlement (1634). We will be opening up several test trenches to explore what lies beneath the ballast, and attempting to determine what it is that the site represents. The working hypothesis is that the site is an abandoned sailing craft dating to the later half of the 17th century.

This page will be updated frequently over the next few months, so check back often, or click the ‘Follow’ button on the upper right for email alerts for the updates. We’ll be digging between 15 and 30 June, so this will be the main period for information to come out. And if you’re local to St. Mary’s, feel free to come visit the museum where you will be able to observe both terrestrial and underwater archaeology taking place, along with a lot of other very interesting exhibits.