Robert Masters is next in our series of student posts. He writes about his first experiences doing field archaeology and how that relates to our understanding of history. Stop by our dig at the Sorrel Weed House tomorrow (Feb. 17) and see our student archaeologists in action!
As a first time participant in historical archaeology with Professor Seifert, I have learned a lot over my recent trips to both the Benedictine Monastery and Freedman School as well as the Sorrel Weed House. Participating in the digs taught me a lot about how archaeology plays a major role in learning about the past, especially here in Savannah. What surprises me is how Savannah does not have a city ordinance to allow for archaeology at construction sites where artifacts are found. Since Savannah has many historic buildings and was the first settled city in Georgia.
The two sites that I visited have given me some insights into how past people have lived. What surprised me is how much work it takes to perform an archaeology dig. When I first visited the Benedictine Monastery and Freedman School, I realized that archaeology is not just digging over a large area as I thought. Instead it involves digging smaller test pits from which we gather artifacts. While learning how to dig, I realized just how scientific an archaeology dig site is: from mapping to getting soil samples to determining what kind of soil is found to using the metric system when measuring the depth and size of the test unit.
Before beginning the dig at the Sorrel Weed House, the class was told of their ghost tour and how there is a story of a possible skeleton buried in the basement where we began our dig. Once we began to dig we found bones, however, we realized that the bones we were finding had been butchered and were too big or small to be from a person. In saying this, I found it interesting how archaeology was able to provide evidence that not all ghost or haunted stories are completely true and that it is good to have all the facts to back up a claim before telling the story to other people.
Archaeology plays a major role in being able to learn more about our culture. By not having a city ordinance to allow for archaeology digs at construction sites, the city could be losing precious artifacts that relate to the city’s past and thus is destroying the city’s history. I have learned a lot from my first two digs and hope to go on many more in the future. In addition, I encourage everyone to get involved in preserving our city’s history so that it may be preserved for generations to come.