Sunday, September 9, 2012

Student Lydia Maurice at New Harmony

This past summer I participated in USI's field school in New Harmony, Indiana with several other students. The first day we stayed inside, listening to our instructor, Dr. Mike Strezewski, explain what we would be doing at the site and what kind of things we would be looking for.  He explained to us that we were looking for pottery left behind the Harmonists, a group of people who came from Germany to start a utopian community at the site.  After that first day, we drove out every morning to New Harmony and began setting up our units.  We practiced digging straight down 10 centimeters at a time until we got the feeling of maintaining a flat surface across the bottom of the unit. At the end of each section, we had to fill out paperwork describing the unit and what we found in the soil. We found many bricks and rocks as well as some pesky mole holes that always seemed to appear in the unit I was digging. We also had to describe the soil color and texture, any charcoal or organic material within the soil, and, most importantly, if there was any mottling within the soil.

Lydia poses with dig mascot, "Christoph Weber."
After going down about 30 centimeters, we took all our units down to the same level and some features began to emerge.  While some of us worked on digging and cleaning the units, others screened the dirt, looking for pottery sherds and other artifacts that could tell us more about the people who once lived there.  Every morning two people would clean the artifacts we had found the previous day so we could better identify what they were.  Many people came to visit the dig while we worked, and if Dr. Mike was busy one of us would explain what we were doing at the site. We worked out at New Harmony for five weeks and only had to leave early one day due to bad weather conditions. Towards the end of the dig we also took half a day to visit a local potter and got to try making our own pottery.   
Fragment of a chamber pot found at New Harmony.
Overall I took a lot away from this course and gained some new insight as to what it was like working at a dig. Working at New Harmony taught me how to work with others, take careful notes and measurements, and handle delicate artifacts.  As much fun as I had, this dig helped me realize that, while I liked digging, I preferred doing the paperwork and the cleaning. I would recommend the New Harmony dig to anyone who wants to get out there and experience some cool local history with new people.