Digging the Kiah House

Next in our student series, Martha Flores shares her experience as a first-time archaeologist a the Kiah House.

My experience at the Kiah House

The Kiah House (505 W. 36th Street, Savannah) was the first archaeological project I worked on. Working at the Kiah House has benefited me in many ways. Because I am a kinesthetic learner, the hands-on aspect of archaeology has strengthened my classroom knowledge of archaeology. Learning about archaeology in class is different than actually doing it in person.  Physically doing the process of archaeology helped me reinforce the material, but it also made me engage with my community. My experience at the Kiah House has helped me understand and really appreciate archaeology.

When I first arrived at the Kiah House, I was amazed with all the work the previous volunteer students had done. There were two test pits: one on the side of the house and the other in the backyard. I was amazed with both test pits, because you could easily see all the layers of dirt. This had a major impact on me because I clearly remembered talking about stratigraphy in class and looking at previous archaeological photos. It was nice to see something we talked about in class and put it use. While we began to set up, I saw many familiar tools, and by the end of the day, I was really familiar with the tools.

Volunteers were responsible for recording data, digging, sifting, and more. Sifting was my favorite part of the archaeological process, because you never know what you can find. I was excited to find artifacts. There were two sifting stations and both stations found similar and different artifacts. Although sifting was fun, it was also tiring; my arms were sore for two days. I also helped collect data, but I did not do any digging, because I did not want to get stuck in the pit, and I was happy sifting.

Working at the Kiah House has helped me have a better understand of archaeology. Yes, it reinforced by class knowledge, but it also gave me a better understanding of why people do it and the hard work necessary. It was exciting to see what I could find, but the context and the history behind the artifacts and site was also exciting. I started at the Kiah House not knowing what we would find but we ended finding keys, bones, marbles, and more.

At the Kiah House, I met several people; some were there because of school, others because they cared about the Kiah House, and some who were both. I was ecstatic to see my classmates and myself on the news supporting something historical. I felt like we were giving something back to Savannah, a city I grew up in. I was happy and grateful WTOC came to film what we were doing at the Kiah House. We sent a positive message to our community.

Working at the Kiah House was an experience that has helped me understand archeology but also appreciate the history of Savannah. Doing hands-on work helped me strengthen my knowledge of archaeology, rather than just learning about it in class. I hope more people from my community come together to volunteer to learn about our history and maybe one day possibly save a historical location.


Martha screens artifacts with fellow Armstrong students at the Kiah House. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Deborah Johnson-Simon)

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