Posts Tagged With: students

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.

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

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Lessons Learned in the Field

Robert Masters tackles his final student blog post by reflecting on the past three semesters’ lessons learned.

Lessons Learned in the Field

 

This semester like the previous two semesters, I am taking an archaeology class with Professor Seifert. During all three semesters, the class has had the opportunity to perform fieldwork for both extra credit and to get fieldwork experience. While I enjoy receiving extra credit for helping out with the different digs, the reason why I continue to come back is because I enjoy learning about history, especially local history. I also enjoy spending time with my fellow classmates at the digs and helping new students with the proper excavation procedures. Another reason why I enjoyed participating in digs is my enjoyment of just digging holes. This is completely different from my childhood where I would dig randomly and not take any precautions. Now after digging with Professor Seifert, I can still dig holes but at a slower pace. The reason for our slower pace is because we are digging in a scientific manner and are interested at what the ground contains, while also looking at the different layers of soil known as stratigraphy. Stratigraphy can tell us different things from soil composition, to habitation layers, and sometimes within these layers, we can find features such as postholes, trash pits, or privies.

The most important thing that I learned this semester while performing digs is not to jump into a clean hole. The reason is that we take pictures at different depth levels to show the stratigraphy for each unit (hole) that we dig. By jumping into the hole, I messed up the floor of the test unit, meaning I had to re-clean* the floor that was already clean before I jumped into the hole. This is probably one of the big things that I will take away from my experiences performing digs with Professor Seifert. Since this is my last semester at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus, I will not be digging for extra credit, but I may still volunteer and help with digs in the future. I would like to thank Professor Seifert and all the other experts that I have met though my time performing digs while participating in the many archaeological digs over the past three semesters.

*Use a trowel to scrap back a thin layer of soil exposing differences in soil color and texture.

Robert cleans off an artifact he just found at the Kiah House this semester.

Robert cleans off an artifact he just found at the Kiah House this semester.

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Archaeology Abroad

To welcome us back from Spring Break, student Jesse Costley shows us how to explore world archaeology from the comfort of our armchairs. He visits the National Archaeological Museum of Naples website and views the exhibits.

Artifacts presented in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples

When visiting the National Archaeological Museum of Naples website, the main focus is the large amount of ancient Roman and Greek artifacts. Out of the two, the Roman artifacts are, to me, the more interesting as there are artifacts from nearby Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculaneum. The museum also has an Egyptian section along with the Greek and Roman sections. The main artifacts that the museum presents are mosaics, marbles, and ceramics. Most of the mosaics in the collection were collected from Pompeii and other neighboring Vesuvian cities. The mosaics were able to be recovered after the volcanic eruption covering the city in 79 AD.

A specific artifact that I thought was interesting was the mosaic titled Battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius III. This artifact was one of the largest mosaics found in Pompeii. The mosaic depicts the battle of Issus between Alexander the Great and Darius III in 333 BC. The battle marked the end of the Persian Empire.

Battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius III

Battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius III.

Another mosaic that I found interesting was one titled Portrait of a woman. The mosaic was found in Pompeii and depicts a woman of high class during the time of 1-49 AD. The features of the woman depicted were realistic as it showed the woman having wrinkles and bags under her eyes.

Portrait of a woman

Portrait of a woman

Another artifact that I found interesting was the Doryphoros sculpture that was found at via delle Scuole. I found this interesting because it reminded me of the classical Roman/Greek statues that everyone pictures when they are told about a sculpture.

Doryphoros sculpture found at via delle Scuole

Doryphoros sculpture found at via delle Scuole

From the mosaics to the sculptures, researching the origins of these artifacts was great. I really enjoyed looking through all of the exhibits via the National Archaeological Museum of Naples website. The research gave me great insight on the culture and ideals held during the time. The artifacts also told me how advanced Greeks and Romans were for their time. After this assignment I have new outlook on mosaics and sculptures and look forward to visiting more museums.

Source:

Museo Archeologico Nazionale Di Napoli, http://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/it/

 

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“Digging for Dummies”: Newbie Archaeology at the Kiah House

Next in our student series is Andrew Brocato blogging about his first experience with field archaeology. Andrew joined us for several days at the Kiah House.

“Digging for Dummies”: Newbie Archaeology at the Kiah House

I am currently taking Ms. Seifert’s Introduction to Archaeology course. She has partnered with Dr. Johnson-Simon from Savannah State University to begin excavating on the grounds of the Kiah House in downtown Savannah. The Kiah House was built in the early 1900’s and was at one point a public museum that catered to anyone who would go visit. I have no prior experience in any kind of excavations, and the first day I had arrived I was a bit nervous and had very wild expectations. I wore a t-shirt, pants, and boots with thick soles on the bottom for the first day. That was not the best choice of attire, and I can recommend that shorts would be much better since it is getting warmer now, and I also would recommend comfortable shoes instead of boots. The boots kept hurting the soles of my feet, and when I was on soft soil or using the sifter, it was hard to stay standing steady in my boots. On the first day, I began to assist in digging one of the two test units that we established. For the unit’s locations, we chose the backyard of the house and the side yard where it was elevated because these places are most likely to have artifacts since backyards are where people spend a lot of time and potentially bury or dump garbage or broken materials.

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Andrew screens soil looking for artifacts next to the unit. (Photo credit: Dr. Deborah Johnson-Simon)

The first thing I noticed was the meticulous setup before actually digging the test unit. We marked out the rectangular shape of the unit using spikes and string, and then began selecting the tools and setting up the sifter near the unit. I must admit I very much wanted to just begin digging to see what we could find. This urge to just keep digging without any care in the world was one that I had to keep fighting the entire time. We began to dig the initial layer of topsoil, and I was extremely pumped to finally begin digging around to see what was there. But I learned something about archeology that I had never learned from movies and other popular media, which was the agonizingly slow progress made in an actual archeological dig and the tedious paperwork. We only would dig a shallow 10 centimeter level at a time then do a set of paperwork for each level. Now it was not difficult work, but it was challenging to maintain a 10 centimeter level on an incline using large shovels. It was tedious and at times frustrating with all the roots that I and my fellows kept on running into. The easiest way I found was to dig very shallow and to just try to skim the ground when I was digging instead of trying to force the shovel too hard through the dirt.

We also had to periodically dump the soil into a sifter to look for artifacts. This took a long time on the first day because there were only three of us working at one unit. Due to the soil and the general types of artifacts we were finding, it usually took all three of us to properly sift through it. Later when there were more people, it became easier, and we found a lot of ceramic, brick, coal, and nails. This was not too surprising since I surmised our unit to be a trash pile of some kind, and the brick and nails are common artifacts found when excavating homes. A little deeper down we began finding some glass and bits of decorated pottery, which was very fascinating to me. While we were digging, we took periodic water breaks and some ate some food we had brought. Overall the excavation was fun, and I learned a lot about how to properly excavate a site. I learned the hard way at times and the constant urge to just keep digging until I found something was hard to fight back, but I had fun all the same.

For more information on the Kiah house, see the Friends of the Kiah House Museum website.

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The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

Anna Peters visits the Savannah History Museum, a museum noted for their use of local archaeology and artifacts in their exhibits.

The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

On February 11, 2018, I paid a visit to the Savannah History Museum located on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Tricentennial Park. Overall, I enjoyed walking through Savannah’s history from pre-colonization (before 1733) to our modern culture. I also had the pleasure of visiting two additional exhibits, one showcasing the life of Juliette Gordon Low and the other showing the material and artistic culture of southern quilters. The permanent exhibits included artifacts from pre-colonization to colonization, steam locomotion, a Savannah dentist office, the Revolutionary War, and public archaeology in Savannah. My two favorite exhibits of the self-guided tour were the Central of Georgia Railway Company and Dr. Belford’s Dental Office.

The Central of Georgia Railway Company was established in 1835 because cotton shipping through the Savannah port was diminishing. Their rails eventually stretched from Savannah all the way to Macon, GA. Ultimately, the initial process of building this large railway lasted eight years and was completed in 1843. At that time, it was the most extensive railroad in the world. The museum showcased many intact artifacts ranging from tickets, pay stubs, and handbooks to dishes, teaware, and conductor hats. The museum also has a life sized steam locomotive displayed in the middle of all the exhibits.

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Objects from the Central of Georgia Railway displayed at the Savannah History Museum.

The other exhibit is a recreation of Dr. William T. Belford’s dental office. For over 60 years, he practiced dentistry here in Savannah working most of his time alone, with no assistant or receptionist. He also continued to use his older equipment well into 1970s until his death in 1980. He purchased his equipment in 1919, so just place yourself in his worn dentist chair and imagine his tools chipping at your teeth. Yikes! Displayed in cases below the reproduced office are some of these actual tools and aids for common teeth problems, with papers and little booklets applying to his work.

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Part of William Belford’s Dental Office.

The Savannah History Museum should be on every tourist’s “to-see” list and even citizens that need a little brush up on their own town’s history. The museum does its job educating people on Savannah’s history by incorporating hands on activities and involving public speakers dressed in period clothing. Even the horrific wax figures can help a child or adult understand what it was really like to live in that period of time. The continuation of donations and public outreach can really make a big difference in future enhancement of the museum’s exhibits and continue to educate the oncoming generations.

For more information on visiting the Savannah History Museum, click here.

Another student reviewed the Savannah History Museum several years ago. See her posting here.

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A Push for Local Archaeology

Unna Yared continues our student series with a personal reflection and a newcomer’s view of Savannah and its historic and archaeological importance.

 

A Push for Local Archaeology

Our history tells the story of who we are and where we came from. It can help to shape our future through lessons from the past. One major way we gain information about the past is through artifacts found using archaeological methods. Savannah is an example of a city rich in history. That history contributes heavily to an ever growing tourist industry, in the form of multiple museums to year-round ghost tours. A sense of unique identity can be attributed to the city’s architecture and artifacts. Now, this cherished history is in danger due to the increasing demand for newer buildings without the proper archaeological ordinance in place to protect the very history that makes Savannah the city we all know and love.

An archaeology-specific ordinance would go beyond the protection of architecture and surface level landmarks. According to Citylab.com, a new archaeological ordinance in Savannah would allow for developers to continue building in Savannah, however now a “city-appointed archaeologist” could help oversee the project to ensure artifacts were being handled properly. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation actually listed the city as one of the 2018 “Places in Peril” due to the serious lack of local archaeological regulations (Savannahnow.com). A push to protect Savannah’s underground history is not new. For years, advocates, educators, and historians have tried to create positive change in favor of this ordinance to no avail. So if we know that this is an important issue that affects the city of Savannah as a whole, what can we do to convince lawmakers this is worthwhile?

The main concern, as it is in most other things, deals with money. Developers worry an ordinance while affect their construction projects with no real incentive on their end to care about the preservation of these subterranean artifacts. Since Savannah is a growing city that relies on corporations and businesses to continue building in the area, local government cares about their opinions and if an ordinance will affect construction. However, Savannah’s history is one of the biggest pushes for tourism, especially in the downtown area. More artifacts equal more history, which equals more potential tourism and money. The visible architecture and structures are not the only historical part of Savannah worth preserving. If archaeologists have the chance to find more artifacts that add to this history, tourists will come. Aside from the increased business and money this could bring to the city, incentives for the developers themselves may be a strong way to push for this ordinance. As much as archaeological research should be about the preservation of our history, unfortunately the reality is that money very much matters to the people who make these kinds of decisions.

I have only lived in Savannah for the past three years, but something about the city has stood out to me more than simply the good food, beautiful buildings, and even the history. It is the sense of pride held by those who get to call Savannah home. To those that are proud to be Savannah natives, I challenge you to do even further research on this ordinance. These artifacts are part of the reason why Savannah is the city you all love today. If you want to ensure that this city keeps growing to be as great as it always has been, then get involved with local government. Push for an ordinance to be included on the next ballot. Do whatever you can to highlight the rich history of the city so all of us may have better knowledge of the past instead of only narrow-minded concern for the future.

Bibliography

Archaeologists Are Worried About Savannah’s Building Boom.” CityLab. N. p., 2017. Web. 26 Feb. 2018.

Georgia Trust: Savannah’s Underground History in Peril.” savannahnow.com. N. p., 2018.

Web. 26 Feb. 2018.

Is This Southern City the New Brooklyn?” Vogue. N. p., 2017. Web. 26 Feb. 2018.

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5 Worst Fictional Movie Archaeologists

Ray Phipps continues our student series by ranking the worse movie archaeologists by their sins.

The 5 Worst Fictional Movie Archaeologists

To be an archaeologist it takes patience, dedication, and years of training. Definitely not the most glamorous profession or rewarding in a monetary sense. It is, however, rewarding to see your countless of hours of hard work pay off by piecing together parts of history. With that in mind we can understand why Hollywood veers so far from what actual archaeology is and leans more towards “adventure archaeology” or, simply put, looting. This sells tickets and funnels money into the pockets of Hollywood stars. As an avid movie goer, I can respect some of these movies for their sheer entertainment factor, but as a student of archaeology I can’t help but cringe at some of the anachronism of these same movies. So, I’ve decided to compile a list of five of the worst archaeologists in movies.

5 – Indiana Jones (all four movies) played by Harrison Ford – Probably the most iconic fictional archaeologist of all time and one of the worst at conducting archaeology. In the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Arc we see Indy and a rag tag group of individuals trudging through a remote jungle with the guidance of what appears to be an ancient map. Ah yes, the classic treasure map folded away in your pocket, exposed to the elements and probably ruined forever. We’ll just move on past that and get to the good stuff. Indy races his way into this ancient site with no data recording, destroying countless artifacts, and destroying ancient pressure plates (that surprisingly still work after hundreds of years) all for a piece of gold. Now while he ignores the most basic approaches to conducting actual archaeology, it can be argued that few artifacts he does retrieve he intends to preserve, as we can see from one of his famous lines “It belongs in a museum!” Still, not enough to absolve him of this list.

4 – Benjamin Gates, National Treasure part I and II played by Nicholas Cage- Now Gates isn’t actually referred to as an archaeologist in this film, he does call himself a “treasure protector”, which is part of what an archaeologist does, but his definition of treasure probably differs from mine. Gates somehow manages to steal the Declaration of Independence in order to discover a hidden message on the back…by using lemon juice! I don’t think I have or ever will meet an archaeologist that would ever recommend doing that to a document. Throughout the movie Gates somehow bumbles his way into finding these priceless artifacts with little to no help, data recording, or equipment. Thankfully they only managed to make two movies and not finish with a trilogy of bad archaeology.

3 – Daniel Jackson, Stargate played by James Spader – An archaeologist by trade, Daniel is asked to inspect an ancient Egyptian artifact that turns out to be a portal to another civilization. That’s it.* That’s the extent of any hint at real archaeology in this film. Part of an archaeologist job is to learn more about a civilization, and Daniel has a portal that goes directly too one still thriving. Instead of finding artifacts though Daniel and his team spend more time destroying…everything they come across. I feel like all the artifacts in the British Museum stand a better chance with a stampede of elephants than anything in this movie.

2 – Everyone in all of The Mummies – Did anyone root for the bad guys at some point in these? No? Must have just been me then. Somehow, they reinvented Indiana Jones with two people, Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz). Rick being the whip cracking, pistol waving hero and Evelyn the smart, studious scholar who is supposed to be an expert in Egyptology, but is actually pretty terrible at it. They claim to want to preserve many of the artifacts they find, but for some reason they have this really nice house with a lot of artifacts on display. Anyways, they manage to steal the Book of the Dead and for some reason, Evelyn, can’t manage to read the text with her mouth closed; therefore, they unleash a scary-murderous mummy thing that they were warned about. Unfortunately, they managed to put things right (to my dismay). On the bright side, maybe this movie will help deterring looters from digging up ancient tombs.

1 – Lara Croft, Tomb Raider played by Angelina Jolie twice – What? The name doesn’t explain my reasoning behind putting this at number 1? Fine, there is absolutely nothing in this movie that can be seen as archaeological. Croft is simply a looter who masquerades around the world with little to no clothes on hunting for treasures, destroying priceless artifacts, making ruins out of ruins, if that’s even possible. Croft stands alone at the top of this list as the absolute worst portrayal of someone with any inkling of archaeological background.

 

[*Editor’s Note: If I may nerd-out for a minute, I would argue that Daniel Jackson does use his archaeological skills, because he uses his anthropological skills. He does participant observation while living with the people at Abydos. He even stays behind and marries into the community! And of course, later in the TV series, he continues to use his archaeological knowledge (although often to fight bad guys) and is always arguing with Jack O’Neill (two ll’s) about preserving information and sites.]

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Artifacts Impacting Archaeology

I am pleased to present our third student series of blog posts. We have a very big class this semester, so we’ll be traveling a little farther afield for some of our topics, but I think many will tie back to Savannah in small and big ways. Up first is Alexander Vandegrift, writing about battlefield archaeology and its effects.

Artifacts Impacting Archaeology

When many think of archaeology, they think of those who still preside around Egyptian tombs, or those who dig upon hundreds to thousands of years of history. But, many neglect those who dig in the strata of the recent past, such as battlefields. If it was not for archaeology, we would not have The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, where archaeologists and patriotic volunteers have dug battlefields to find missing in action military personnel. Just recently in 2015, 36 Marines that were presumed killed in action were found on a Pacific Island near where the Battle of Tarawa occurred, and were returned home to receive an honorable burial. But, for those who dig in the remnants of the Vietnam war, still face battlefield dangers.

I have always respected those who still approach historical battlefields to find artifacts, historical anomalies from what we have theorized, and still missing-in-action personnel. But, with the number of battlefields created in the recent past, specifically Civil War era to Vietnam era, one would have never of thought of the dangers that could still be present to archaeologists.

With the production of artillery rounds, and other ordnance during war time, not all weapons and ammo are stamped as “safe and ready to use”. This leads to unexploded ordnance lying dormant for years within the strata of the Earth until disturbed accidentally by someone or something putting weight upon the area, or moving soil to recover an artifact. Many of these “duds” still cause damage today because of the eroding black powder or materials within the bombs become unstable. Some have lead to deaths, while others lead to serious injury.

One of the many reasons this happens is because logs, counts, and mapping of minefields can be rare or records are lost during war time. With the rise of insurgency and guerilla warfare tactics, many mines or IEDs during the past were merely placed and forgotten about, only with the hope that it would hit its mark. In fact, there are still regions within the world, predominantly Cambodia and Vietnam (excluding the Middle East since it is a still active war zone), where certain areas are secured off from the public because of the dangers of unexploded or still active mines.

Now, this does not mean that you can always find unexploded ordnance in battlefields, but it is possible anywhere within the world that has had contact with the making, transporting, or history of having explosives for any reason. Per example, in November of 2016 an unexploded cannonball was found near Broughton and Barr streets by a group who was doing an excavation in the area. Luckily, Fort Stewart Army EOD and Savannah Chatham Police Bomb Squad conducted a controlled explosion within the site, while being viewed from an aerial position by Helicopter Eagle 1, to ensure citizens were not within the vicinity. The bomb site and controlled explosion resulted in zero casualties.

This speaks volumes. When a military unit or insurgency operates within an area, they need to keep maps and counts of all mines that are placed, as well as retrieve with full counts after war time. When dealing with instances such as Savannah’s, one must be careful and have keener senses when one notices something unusual within the site you are digging. When situations are carried out correctly and carefully, life can be preserved and chance of injury can be nonexistent. Those who were digging within the area that found the cannonball made the right decisions by backing away and calling the right units to handle such a situation.

 

Sources and for more information:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/bodies-us-marines-killed-world-war-ii-found-remote-pacific-island-1510021

http://savannahnow.com/news/2016-11-29/savannah-chatham-police-army-eod-destroy-civil-war-era-cannonball-unearthed-downtown

http://wsav.com/2016/11/28/civil-war-era-cannonball-landmine-found-at-an-savannah-excavation-site-metro-bomb-squad-perform-controlled-explosion/

http://gpbnews.org/post/cannonballs-found-destroyed-savannah-construction-site

 

 

 

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Discovering Archaeology

Our next student blogger is Nicole Wentz, who discusses her discovery of anthropology and archaeology during her college career.

I never really thought about what interested me until I actually came face to face with college and the “bigger picture”. I’d always been told I had a knack for drawing and assumed I’d just become an artist, simple as that. But did I really want to be told what to draw for the rest of my life? It was whilst pondering this question, slumped over on my parents’ couch, my mother made the offhand comment. “No, you know what you want to do? You want to be an archeologist. Like Josh Gates.” Josh gates just so happens to be the host of a few shows my mother and I used to love watching together: Destination Truth and Expedition Unknown.

Those words hit me like a sack of brick and all my thoughts came to a halt. Archaeology had never even crossed my mind. I enrolled in an Introduction to Anthropology class. It only fueled my growing curiosity and amazement. After spending almost 19 years filling my head with colors and shapes and lines, I felt as if I knew everything about art, that there was nothing left to teach me. My anthropology class did a complete 360° turn on my knowledge and suddenly I didn’t know anything. Everything was knew and everything amazed me. Now I know that despite common misconception, the cave man never existed and perhaps Homo sapiens did not arrive in the Americas from across the land bridge like I was previously taught in high school.

Next, I hopped right into Archaeology of the Southeast and immediately was intimidated. Everyone in the class seems to know so much more in this area of study, so I felt lost and very behind. Despite this, I wanted the experience and more importantly I wanted to know. I took the opportunity to participate in field work at both the Monastery site and the Sorrel-Weed House.

In Seifert’s Archaeology class, I’m getting to learn a deeper view of how people came to the Americas and how nomadic people developed into groups with diverse languages and complex social structures and evolved into civilizations like there are today. It’s incredible to think about how Pre-Clovis Native Americans created tools out of nothing but chert! Technology was built up from almost virtually nothing. Nothing but rock. Would you be able to have come up with the idea of striking rock to create something that had previously never existed before?

As I’m taking this class, I can’t help but find connections between all my classes that help a general understanding of history fall into place in my mind, instead of it being a jumbled mess of dates and events. I’m coming to understand how humans evolved and how many contributors are involved to get humanity to where it’s at today. Archaeology of the Southeast, Civilization 1, and Art History have all shown me how mind-blowing the development of early language and social structure is, along with upgrading technology and creating art and architecture. Really, it’s all so incredible!

In the field work, I’m getting a chance to rediscover history personally. This class has opened up a whole new set of opportunities. It’s all so very exciting, and there’s still a lot more to learn. History is always changing as archaeologists, anthropologists, and many more continue to ask how, why, when, and where. There’s much in this field of study that is still unknown, and so the people within this field continue to search for the answers.

So many people find history to be boring and not an area of interest that often times archaeology is completely overlooked as a subject, as I had at first. This is really such a shame as in reality this field of study is so important with ongoing projects all over the world. Professor Seifert’s attempts at spreading public awareness locally ought to be applauded and hopefully Digging Savannah will lead to support so one day Savannah will be more involved in archaeological matters, as this city has such a rich history waiting to be rediscovered and explored.

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The Dirt on Archaeology

To celebrate the last day of classes (unless you are an unfortunate soul with Friday classes), we have another student blog post. JC Jones gives us the Dirt on Archaeology.

That’s right we’re talking about the dirt, or more appropriately soil. Specifically the layers of the soil. Its most commonly associated with the passage of time. Different layers in the ground are slowly deposited over time, and eventually this leads to distinct layers. When I was working at the Benedictine Monastery and Freedmen’s School site, usually the soil was differing shades of gray. It was bland and somewhat disappointing to be honest. In class we heard about how cool stratigraphy could be, and then we finally go out to dig and there is barely any difference.

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Test Unit 5 at the Benedictine Monastery and Freedmen’s School showing subtle changes in stratigraphy, or layers of soil and rock.

Then I got the opportunity to participate in a dig at the Sorrel Weed House, and this showed me the second and more useful side to stratigraphy, features! We were working in the carriage house basement, and we had to remove a brick floor to get to the soil layers. Once that was done a major difference in the soil could be seen. Most of the soil was the same color, but to one side of the test pit was a large black semicircle. Basically someone in the past had dug a hole and filled it in again. It’s a fairly simple task, but being able to see that decades later is amazing. Then as we started digging down further, the soil had other changes, and the excavation was done using natural layers. Every dig I’ve ever done has been based on arbitrary levels since there was little variation in the soil, but this was different. These different features and layers had me pondering on how they were created. What did people do to cause this change in the soil, or is this natural? This experience has opened up a whole new area of archaeological investigation to me. I’ll never underappreciate the color of soil again.

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Completed test unit at the Sorrel-Weed House, showing more dramatic soil layers and features.

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