This summer I spent three weeks excavating The Buried Gardens of Kampsville (TBGOK) in Illinois. It is a 2,000-year-old Middle Woodland site, dating between 50 BCE and 400 CE. Our excavations began at 8:30 am when we drove out to the site and ended around 4 pm. Occasionally we would be rained out, and a lab session would replace field work; on other days the heat index rose so high that we would only excavate in the morning. We also had evening labs consisting of washing and tabulating artifacts, or attending lectures on topics such as osteology. For the first week, we were given our own 2m x 1m unit, and we were eventually moved around to other units. I was later put in the Midden Pit, where I discovered, with my unit partner, a large concentration of pottery sherds that were photographed for the official report.
Because this was my first excavation – and the first for many of the other excavators – the supervisors of the site showed us how to use the trowels and worked with us individually on special techniques like digging through the clay with shovels. Most of what we found consisted of flakes and small pottery sherds, but we also found charcoal, clumps of burnt soil, lamellar blade fragments, scrapers, trade materials, larger pottery sherds, and animal bones, as well as the ever-present limestone and chunks of chert. I learned that limestone helps to preserve bone and shell, and in my final week in the Midden Pit my unit partner and I found 14 diagnostic shells (with hinges).
The bonds everyone formed were incredible. We lived in a dorm-like setting, so all of us grew close. Everyone had different stories about excavating, traveling to different countries and other experiences. It was sad to leave but the knowledge and experience I gained, as well as the contacts I made, will help me as I continue my career in archaeology.
Rachel is a junior Archaeology and History double major at UE.