Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Student Alexandra Cutler at Kincaid Mounds, IL

Alexandra (second from left) at Kincaid Mounds

When I arrived at Kincaid Mounds, my excavation experience consisted of digging flower beds in my mother’s garden. I had just finished my freshman year at UE and had never attended an archaeological field school. While the various terms and techniques from my class notes were still fresh in my mind, I was eager to put them into practice and make them tangible, especially at such an interesting site. Kincaid is a Native American burial ground from the Mississippian period located about an hour away from SIUC, the field school’s sponsor, in Carbondale, IL. During the four weeks I spent there, I feel that I learned more than I had in my entire life. It also reinforced everything I had already learned in my first year of college. In addition to lab time, our crew arrived on site at 7 am sharp every Monday through Thursday morning and worked on the remains of a burned communal structure until 4 pm; every Friday was a half-day. The hours were long and hot but filled with plumb bobs, trowels, and total stations – all tools I had previously never heard of but gradually learned to use under our TAs’ careful instruction. My style was soon established: I always managed to dig a couple of centimeters deeper than the prescribed measure, but my screening and troweling skills weren’t too shabby. The treasures that resulted at the end of each day justified all the hard work: daub, potsherds, flakes, points, charcoal, and – on the very last day! – two large, nearly whole animal effigy pots. After freak storms, countless sunburns, and daily sing-alongs, we left with bonds as deep as the units we dug and an experience that will benefit our careers in archaeology for a lifetime.

Alexandra is a sophomore Archaeology and Creative Writing major at UE.
To learn more about Kincaid Mounds State Historic Site, click here.

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