Friday, July 27, 2012

Student Carly Herrud Participates in the Island Archaeology Program in Maine

I didn't know what to expect on first experience of my first dig, let alone my first field school. What I came to find out was that a lot of effort is put into archaeological fieldwork, and seagulls are evil during their nesting season. I spent one week in summer 2012 working on Smuttynose Island as part of the Island Archaeology Program through the Shoals Marine Laboratory in Maine. Smuttynose Island first entered the historical record during the colonial period, when it was used for fish processing, most often giant cod. There was also a tavern that once stood on the island, but there are only two buildings left standing: Gull Cottage and the Hayley House.

Carly (right) in her trench.
I got to experience digging from the sod all the way down to Level 8 (prehistoric) in a standard 1 m² unit with my trench partner, Danielle. The number of artifacts we collected during one week was astounding. We found copious amounts of smoking pipes, glass, ceramics, and plenty of fauna (animal bones). Fish bones were the most common find, but we also found multiple cat skeletons in our unit. Danielle even found a lithic (stone tool)! Professor Nate Hamilton of the University of Southern Maine was the head faculty overseeing this excavation; the assistants were his former students Lindsay and Katherine. Even though most people were from schools much closer to the island than me, everyone was so nice. I’ll always remember Nate’s phrase of choice whenever we stumbled upon a cool find: wicked!

This experience was not only new to me because it was my first field school, but the living conditions were new to me as well. All of the students working through the Shoals Marine Laboratory resided in dorms on Appledore Island, which was a short boat ride away from where we worked. Shoals is very energy conscious, having purchased a wind turbine and composting toilets for the dining hall. With this awareness came the unfortunate limit on even navy style showers, which made cleaning up every day after field work nearly impossible. Dirtiness and aggressive seagulls aside, I had an amazing experience learning the basics of archaeological excavation and enjoying the beauty of this island environment.


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