Thursday, July 6, 2017

Welcome to “Tent City”



The Archaeology Field School in Ohio at the Balthaser Home Site, was a unique experience that you just cannot repeat. I have learned that Archaeology in on itself is about looking at the bigger picture and not getting stuck in the mindset of a 1X1 meter test pit. By taking in the entire site you gain the image of the homestead, the workshop, and the Hopewell way of life. Not only did I connect to the Hopewell, but also with the individuals that joined me on the field school trip.

All the students set up their own living areas at the Jackson Lake Campground, similar to how the Hopewell set up their own hamlets (4-5 families living together in one area). When everyone arrived on the first day they set up their tents and were in different groups together. We (Bloomsburg Students) set up a “Tent City” in one area and the Geneseo in another. Both schools started out as separate groups in the beginning, but came together in the end to form one complete group.

Overall, field school was a learning and connecting experience that I will remember for a long time to come. Archaeology is a repetitive excavating of units, notes, and sifting (screening for anything that is cultural from the units); down in the dirt you go. Although, every unit is different whether you get a post mold, a pit, or something else. Starting with the first day you quickly discover that dirt sticks to you as sand does from the beach. You never know if you are getting tanned from the sun or just have dirt on you. Not only did I gain knowledge about Archaeology, but also gained knowledge about myself which helped me to come out of my shell and make friends that I would not have been able to if I did not get this great opportunity to come to Ohio.

      Alyssa Theurer, sophomore anthropology major

The Field School Experience


Reflecting upon my experiences so far at the Balthaser Home Site, I have learned so much, not only about archaeology, but also about myself. I was apprehensive that archaeology would not come to me intuitively, and that there would be many challenges for me to face. However, Dr.Wymer from Bloomsburg and Dr. Pacheco from Geneseo University were crucial in helping to direct the dig in the field and sharing their knowledge of the culture called the Hopewell.

They created a stress-free, hands-on working environment in which the students can learn the basics of both archaeology and organic flotation. Their influence has helped me become more self-confident in knowing my own strengths as a leader, as well as helping others achieve their potential. This experience has provided a fantastic opportunity for meeting inspirational peers, as well as making connections with possible future colleagues. Overall, I have seen fantastic sites, made connections with wonderful professors and peers, and completed a part of my education which will doubtlessly assist in my future.

A specific experience which tested my determination happened to be the excavation of one of the largest Hopewell post-molds (discoloration of soil due to the decomposition of a wooden post) found within the Balthaser Home site, called Feature 136. When we originally saw the soil discoloration, it was dubious as to whether there was anything to be found below the surface. My partner from Geneseo and I were quite surprised as we continued to excavate down, down, and down. At times, it was discouraging to have the professors instruct us to keep digging, especially because the space we were allotted to work in was the size of a shoebox.

Thankfully, my partner and I created a routine of trading off responsibilities so that we could keep our work balanced. Our post-mold was so large that it reached around eighty centimeters below the ground surface, making it likely a large central or interior post for the overall Hopewell structure. The post-mold contained charcoal, bits of burned bone, and burned pottery, which could provide crucial information in creating an overall picture of the Hopewell way of life. Much information will be gleaned from the research done at the Balthaser Home Site, but the students at the field school will also walk away with many life lessons and experiences which cannot be repeated or replaced.

      Anne Snyder, senior anthropology, French, and psychology major

Dirt is Fun


I decided to be a part of the 2017 Ohio Archaeology Field School because I have had a lifelong interest in archaeology. I didn’t know exactly what I would experience, but I did know it would be a learning process with a lot of work. On my first day in the field, I was hesitant to sit in the dirt on the ground. I don’t mind dirt, but was worried about what bugs might crawl on me. Now, coming to the end of the field school, I sit on the ground with no hesitation. I have had so many ants, spiders, etc. crawl on me that I have grown used to it. The first week was overwhelming with how much I learned, and I am still learning different terms and processes in the 4th week. With my various team members, we found many features. However, the last feature was my favorite part of field school.

I worked with three other people to dig the dirt out of this test pit. At the end of the work day, I started leveling the test pit to see if there were any features in it. As I scraped, I saw darker areas in the center of the test pit. It was confirmed to be a post mold feature perfectly centered in the unit. I dug half of the post mold out which revealed it went 70 cm below surface.

I dug out more of the feature to put in a soil sample bag to be looked at by other students. I had parts of the feature left after that, that I had to dig out and sift through to see if there were any artifacts in it. The center of the feature turned out to be deeper than 70 cm below surface. I was instructed to keep digging until I reached the bottom. The bottom turned out to be 113 cm below surface. My partner and I found some charcoal and a small piece of pottery. It was a unique experience to have such a deep feature to work on. The groups switched around, but I was glad to have one partner to work on the feature with because it was difficult to dig in the hole for a long period of time.

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience. I liked learning the processes within archaeology such as mapping, leveling and edging walls/floors of test pits, sifting, and more. I am glad I had the opportunity to have such a unique experience. It was nice to learn hands-on instead of in a classroom.

      Kallysta Panagakos, senior anthropology major

Field School


The first day of excavating, I was excited and a little nervous to be digging in a 50 by 50-centimeter test unit. All the students from Bloomsburg University and Geneseo University were mixed into groups of three. Every group started a test unit to learn how to properly excavate into the soil and to be able to recognize different artifacts that are culturally created versus naturally created. The hardest part for me was being able to tell the difference between cultural flint and natural flint. Natural flint has more rounded edges and cultural flint has groves, divots, and sharper edges that were created by and individual. Once, my group completed our 50 by 50-centimeter test unit we were assigned a 1 by 1 meter unit. In the 1 by 1 meter unit my group found a feature. We had to open another unit beside our first 1 by 1 meter unit to follow the feature. Excavating feature 130 helped me learn about myself and the culture. Inside feature 130 we found pottery, seeds, cultural flint flakes, and charcoal.

I excavated to 90-centimeters below the surface. When the professors can over and told me to keep digging it was disheartening knowing that I did not reach the bottom of the feature. However, me and my partner would switch between sifting (is screening the soil for artifacts) and excavating. It can be hard to keep on going when you have been excavating the same feature for a week. You see the same soil and same walls around you, but if you keep going you might just find an artifact that makes it worth it.

For me it was the Adena Spear Point, which was beautiful. The Adena are the ancestors of the Hopewell and were the first to build the mound earthworks in North America. Excavating feature 130 taught me to be more patient and to not get discouraged easily. To know that I helped to discover more about a culture and one that is known little about is amazing.

To be able to go to The Balthaser Home Site and learn how to properly excavate in Archaeology was a remarkable experience. Not only did I learn about the Hopewell Culture, but about others who share the same major. It is nice to connect to individuals that are trying to accomplish the same major, but are going down different paths. Also, I liked talking to the teacher assistants and hearing about what they have accomplished and what they are doing after graduation. It gave me different ideas of what to possibly accomplish while getting an Anthropology degree and what to do after wards. I would love to study abroad and to dual or double major. Overall, being able to participate in field school and to meeting other students was a unique experience that cannot be replaced.

      Kasey Theurer, sophomore anthropology major

Goodbye, “Tent City”


During our time at field school, we learned a lot. We not only learned about archaeology and the Hopewell culture, but how to be a team, how to live in a tent for a month, and how to thrive as young archaeologists. This experience has been so very rewarding, and it was hard to say goodbye. Our little paradise of “Tent City,” that we had grown to love after a long day of digging was no more.

Even though our tents may not be there, the friendships we have built over the month will continue to remain. It was an awkward transition in the beginning- working with people you have never met before in tight spaces and in a new environment.

Thankfully we were all new to field work and could bond over the learning experience! We became close friends with our group members, close friends with the surrounding unit members, and close friends with people from both schools. Meeting and interacting with the SUNY Geneseo students was a great learning experience for us Bloomsburg students, they had knowledge about things we didn't, and vice versa.

The days themselves seemed to drag on. Waking up at 6 a.m. every morning, getting to the field by 7 a.m. and working until 3:30 p.m. was rough on some days. I'm not going to lie, it was hard getting out of bed knowing I’m going to be digging in either rain or hot weather that day.

But, I loved every day for its own reasons. The field school as a whole however, went by like a blink of an eye, I can’t believe it’s over. From the day we started digging, to backfill day, it was all an amazing learning experience.

I am thankful that Bloomsburg, along with the Anthropology dept. has given us such a great opportunity to learn, explore and achieve new levels of learning. They have helped many of us as students to decipher which way our educational paths will go and they continue to give us the tools to conquer anything in our paths! Thank you for a great field school!
      Julia Stein, sophomore anthropology major

#CollaborativeLearning #HuskySummer #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

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