Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 9, 2010

We Have a Plan: 2010 Fieldwork Goals

Archaeology is never a haphazard undertaking, and there’s a whole lot of planning that goes into a field season before we ever set a trowel in the ground. We don’t dig randomly– instead, we try to dig systematically in accordance with a research plan.  And if there’s been previous seasons of research at a site, the results from those seasons influence the plans you make for the present season.  At the end of the last year, we’d answered a number of questions about the site– but as so often happens in archaeology, with every question you answer, several others pop up in its place.  At the end of last season, we were left with a number of questions about the architectural layout of the barracks building… and this is in spite of the fact that we have a historic map of the structure!

A historic map of the barracks building. You would think that having this map would make digging easier... but that's not always the case.

Historic maps such as this provide a real advantage for the archaeologist. From this map, we know the overall dimensions of the building, and we can see some of the features (walls, chimney stacks, stairways) that we might encounter in our excavations.  However, old maps also have to be treated with caution– they can be inaccurate or unintentionally misleading. They represent the appearance of a building at one point in time– but the building might have been modified, repaired, or substantially renovated after this map was drawn. Additionally, this map shows the living spaces on the main floors of the building– and we are likely digging in the basement of the building. So will all those internal walls that we see on this map have foundations that we can detect?

So: historic maps are not always an answer to the archaeologist’s prayers.  As we still have some lingering architectural questions about the building, the plan is to lay out excavation trenches to answer those questions.  First, we want to find the second chimney base on the inside of the building. We completely exposed the first one last year, and we would like to locate the second one. From there, we’d like to locate another of the building’s exterior walls– either the gable wall at the far north of the structure, or one of the long side walls. This should allow us to confirm the dimensions of the building.

We have lots of other questions too, about how the site formed through time, and what the deposits represent… but I’ll save those for another post, on another day.  But for now, we’re exploring those architectural questions with a series of archaeological trenches laid out over the site, and I’m happy to say that ground has been broken and digging is well underway.

Breaking ground for the 2010 excavations

We’ll post some more about our initial discoveries over the weekend, so please do keep checking back for the latest updates!

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 6, 2010

The 2010 Season Begins!

Welcome back to the Signal Hill Archaeology Project for the 2010 Season!  Once again, the Memorial University Archaeology Department’s Field School is being held at Signal Hill National Historic Site in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Between July 2 and August 7, 2010, we will conduct archaeological excavations at a site on Signal Hill, as part of a set of Memorial University courses that teaches students the practice of field archaeology.  This is the third year of the field school at Signal Hill; this season, we are returning to the same site we worked on in 2009 (and you can check out the results from last year’s dig in the blog archives).

As you can read here, we’re working at the North Range Barracks site, which was was built by the British military between 1799 and stood until the 1880’s.  It was a barracks building, where soldiers and their families lived.  It’s a great site, as you’ll see in the coming weeks.  From a research perspective, we’ll find many interesting artifacts that can help us reconstruct the life of the average British soldier. We also get a chance to talk to lots of visitors, because our site is in a really public location on top of Signal Hill. And we have one amazing view from the dig site:

Students get to work on the site...

Students get to work on the site. Working here gives us a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean, and we spent Monday morning watching whales breaching. Now, if only the sun would make an appearance....

So please check on the dig’s progress with this blog. Entries will be written by the instructor, project staff, and students, so you’ll get a variety of perspectives on the progress of the dig. If you’re in St. John’s, do drop by and visit us, from Monday to Friday, until August 7th. We’re always happy to chat about archaeology!

The first post about the first few days of digging will be up shortly, so stay tuned…

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 13, 2009

Excavation Wrap-Up, 2009

Well, that went by quickly… the six-week-long field season just flew by. That being said, you can accomplish a lot in six weeks with a big crew. It’s always amazing how much dirt you can move with small mason’s trowels!

We finished up a lot of excavation in the last few days of the field season, and were able to figure out a lot about the North Range Barracks site, and  so I’m going to start posting about some of our interpretations in the coming days.  What I’m going to do with this post is talk about how our interpretations of the barracks structure changed– sometimes dramatically– as the season progressed.

The middle terrace, seen here, is where the site is located.

The middle terrace, seen here, is where the site is located.

To begin at the beginning–  the location of the barracks was never in doubt.

Based on historic documents, archaeologists knew that it had to be located in a large flat terrace at the top of Signal Hill.

Our crew this year didn’t have to find the barracks building– it had already been found, by archaeologists working at the site in 1984.

So, we set up excavation units beside the 1984 trench.

But where exactly were our excavations in relation to the historic structure?  At this point, we thought we were digging at the far right hand corner of the building (indicated on the map below by the red, green, and light blue squares).

Map of the North Range Barracks building. The coloured squares show the area we thought we were digging in at the beginning of the season.

Historic map of the North Range Barracks building (dating to the 1840's). The coloured squares show the area we thought we were digging in at the beginning of the season.

The archaeology quickly told us a different story… as it turned out, we were not digging around the corner of the building at all, but rather were digging around a smaller stone structure. Thanks to some clever detective work by Stéphane, we figured out that this stone structure was actually a chimney foundation… the next question was: which chimney?

This is definitely not the corner of a 25 foot wide barracks building; it's a 10-foot wide stone foundation for a chimney stack. But which chimney stack? Maps show that there were four in the barracks building.

This is definitely not the corner of a 25 foot wide barracks building; it's a 10-foot wide stone foundation for a chimney stack. But which chimney stack? Maps show four of them in the barracks building.

We initially thought that we were still at the far right hand side of the structure, and that we were digging around the chimney at the rightmost side of the barracks (as shown on the map above).  As the field season progressed, we started to doubt this.

The terrace that the barracks building is located on (outlined in red). Our excavations were located at the far southern end of the terrace-- at far end of this photograph.

The terrace that the barracks building is located on (outlined in red). Our excavations were located at the far southern end of the terrace-- at far end of this photograph.

The map indicates the building was 150 feet long, and so based on this information, we tried to figure out if the building would fit on the large terrace that we were working on.

But after running madly around the site with long measuring tapes, we realized that when we measured out 150 feet from our chimney base, we ran smack into an inhospitable knob of bedrock that would have made it nearly impossible to build beside.

In short, if we were digging at the far right hand side of the barracks, there simply wasn’t enough room remaining on the terrace to accommodate our structure.

Well, that was theory #1 down the drain.  So, on to theory #2 (otherwise known as the ‘Rob was right after all’ theory, heh).  Now we explored the idea that we were digging around the base of a double chimney stack, in the middle of the structure (as shown by the large dark blue rectangle in the image below).  What was the best way to figure out if theory #2 was correct?  After much deliberating, we opened up a few more small excavation trenches, hoping to find the building’s foundation walls (as shown by the small blue squares on the image below).

The same map of the barracks building-- the dark blue rectangles show where we were excavating this year... in the middle of the barracks, not at the end!

The same map of the barracks building-- the dark blue rectangles show where we were excavating this year... in the middle of the barracks, not at the end!

By opening up these small excavation trenches, we were trying to see if we would find the gable wall (the narrow wall at the end of the building). If we found the gable wall, we’d know that we were at the far right hand side of the structure. If we didn’t find the gable wall, we’d know that we were in the middle of the structure.

I can unequivocally say that we found foundation walls, and they can only be from the long sides of the building, not from the short gable end of the building! In the photo below, you can see one side of the foundation wall of the building. The side you see here is in good shape, but the wall was built right on the edge of the terrace.  The wall has crumbled away on the downslope side, but it’s still recognisable as a foundation wall.

The foundation wall of the building... this side of the wall is pretty well preserved, but it is perched on the edge of our terrace. The downslope side (out of view in this photo) has mostly crumbled away.

The foundation wall of the building... this side of the wall is pretty well preserved, but it is perched on the edge of our terrace. The downslope side (out of view in this photo) has mostly crumbled away.

It seems, then, that theory #2 was correct, and that we were digging in the middle of the building.

This realization of course prompted more mad running around the site with long measuring tapes. If we are digging around one of the interior fireplaces, then the left-hand side of the building will fit nicely on our terrace, but the right hand side of the building doesn’t. These calculations put the right-hand side of the building about 10 feet or so off the southern side of our terrace.

This leaves us with a few more questions. Has the terrace eroded badly over the last 150 years or so; was it originally much larger?  Was the right hand gable wall of the barracks built upwards from the terrace below?  Both are equally reasonable explanations.

This is a typical situation in archaeological fieldwork. You start with one idea at the beginning of the season, you completely refute that idea, you come up with another theory, and if that theory holds up under field testing… well, that usually leaves you with more questions that you can’t answer.  For every question you answer, two more pop up in its place.

Actually, three more questions pop up in its place…  There’s another interpretive problem. If we were indeed excavating around one of the middle fireplace foundations (shown in the dark blue rectangle on the image below), then where is the dividing wall (shown with the dark blue arrow)? We didn’t find evidence for one– there were no stone foundations, and no remnants of wooden walls that we could see.  Where are the interior wall footings? Did they not extend into the basement (which is surely an odd explanation) or is the map wrong?

If we dug around the chimney base indicated with the blue rectangle, where are the internal walls? More mysteries...

If we dug around the chimney base indicated with the blue rectangle, where are the internal walls? More mysteries...

You see? You solve one question, and others then present themselves. The only solution to these lingering questions lies in more fieldwork next year.  I hope I’ll be returning to this site next year, though funding and field school decisions are made on a year-by-year basis by Parks Canada and Memorial University.  I certainly hope we can continue to excavate here… I can guarantee I’m going to be thinking about these lingering questions all winter long.

Oh, and one last post-script: the project was featured in a great article in Memorial University’s Gazette (it downloads as a pdf; we’re on the last page) : if you’re visiting this site as a result, thanks for dropping by, and check out the archives!

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 11, 2009

Final Thoughts from Susan…

As I’m preparing a series of excavation wrap-up posts, here’s a post from Susan, about what she’s learned from the Memorial University Archaeology Field School. Thanks Susan (your post buys me another day to finish up mine!!– Amanda)

So what have I learned?? Well….

Ok, the field school is over, so what now?  For the last six weeks we have been face and eyes into a trench, literally. Now the great field school is over and we are given a pat on the back, a good grade…(please, please, please) and sent on our way. But what have we learned about ourselves, our site and our desire to be archaeologists?

Teamwork, Field School style...

Rocking the field photograph on a slant-y ladder-- that's teamwork, field-school-style...

Well, I can only speak for myself. I have learned so much and am on such a high that I dread for Monday to come. What will I do without the daily treck up
Signal Hill with my 60lb back pack?  (that by the way Amanda never checked to see if we had all the tools we would need. I really was afraid she would!!! I’m
sure she was keeping track with her third eye). [Amanda notes--Susan: search your bags?!? what am I,  the CIA?!?].

What will I do without the constant looking-over-the-shoulder by Stéphane to make sure our maps were done correctly, or the bruises, or the flybites and the discovery of beautiful artifacts?  I’m going to be very sad, that’s what. One thing I am going to do and that is trying to get down on paper all the mistakes I’ve made and what I have learned. Ok, Ok, so it’s going to be a novel, but just so you know I screwed up many times and that’s when I learned the most.

I have learned that precise measuring and actually measuring from the correct line (sorry Stéphane) is VERY important. Future archaeologists will thank you for doing that part correctly. I have also learned that after a while you learn to love the beautiful different colors of the soil, as that makes them easier to draw later (Lot 8,9,11 and 12 giving you nightmares as well Andrew?). I have also learned that one can never spend too much time at the sifter….and that finding bedrock after spending hours upside down in a trench is a beautiful thing!

The Memorial University Archaeology Field School at Signal Hill National Historic Site: You won't find a classroom with a better view than this...

The Memorial University Archaeology Field School at Signal Hill National Historic Site: You won't find a classroom with a better view than this...

All joking aside, this field school is a most valuable tool for the Instructor I’m sure. As a student I didn’t fall asleep once [Amanda notes: thank you for that...], stayed wide eyed and fully engaged during every lecture. And as I’ve said already, I have learned so much I don’t know where to start that novel I mentioned above. Oh wait, yes I do: it will start with…  “Amanda, help!!  Stephane, is this a bone?  Danielle, does this artifact need special treatment? and Jen, what’s that”?

And to M.U.N. and Parks Canada I say thank you for I can not adequately express how valuable this learning experience has been. I hope that even greater resources can be acquired and arranged in the future to allow for longer field seasons… Newfoundland and Labrador is the greatest place to learn both in the classroom and outdoors.

—Susan Penney (student)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 9, 2009

Done!

There you have it, folks– the site has been excavated, mapped, photographed, and filled back in again.  I do want to take a second to thank students and staff for working so hard, and for making this a really enjoyable, fun, and productive season!  We moved a lot of dirt in 6 weeks, made some great discoveries, and developed a much better idea of what’s going on at this site.  We also had a good deal of coverage in local media– and from what I hear, the CBC television story was broadcast outside of Newfoundland, too.  (We should all get agents to mastermind our celebrity careers, heh).

But even though we’ve stopped digging, the work continues, and I’m really delighted that Parks Canada has ensured that Jen and Stéphane are working until for a few more weeks yet. There are artifacts to catalogue, and there is lots of research to be done and reports to be written…

I’ll post a longer season-wrap up on Monday, and will continue to post about what we learn in the course of our post-excavation work, so please do keep checking the blog.  But for now, I’ll leave you with a picture of some very exhausted but happy looking students–

16 students, 4 staff, several successfully excavated trenches, and thousands of artifacts = one excellent field season

16 students, 4 staff, several successfully excavated trenches, and thousands of artifacts = one excellent field season

Thanks everybody!

—Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 6, 2009

Fastest Six Weeks Ever…

It always amazes me how quickly time flies when you’re digging…. and here we are, (almost) ready to backfill tomorrow!

Lots of passers-by ask if we’re going to fill the site back in when we’re done, and the answer is always: yes.

Ah, our site, on the last day of excavation. The students have gone, it's quiet and peaceful, and lovely to look at...

Ah, our site, on the last day of excavation. The students have gone, it's quiet and peaceful, and lovely to look at...

We can’t leave 1-meter deep excavation trenches open right beside a popular and well-travelled public pathway– that’s just a hazard.

Also, the effects of our Newfoundland winters– the constant freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing– would be hard on the stonework.  Without any further stabilization and long-term conservation plans, the lovely stone foundation and walls that we have exposed would crumble quickly away.

It always seems strange that we teach archaeology students to dig perfectly square and precise holes in the ground… and then, after we’ve painstakingly excavated them with hand tools, we turn around and say “right, job well done everyone, now fill the carefully-excavated holes back in, right now… you have three hours: GO”.

But that’s just the way it is. We have reasons for backfilling, public safety and conservation of physical remains being the most important.  At the North Range Barracks and Emberley site, backfilling is going to happen tomorrow– and hopefully we’ll be done by the early afternoon.

But this evening, we got to sit down and take one last look at the whole site, at its fullest excavated extent.  We took some last pictures, drew some final maps, and talked for one last time about our interpretations of the site… and took a few minutes to enjoy the quiet, cool breeze and the evening sun.

The Archaeologist, Triumphant.

The Archaeologist, Triumphant.

…and of course, we took a few moments to celebrate, too   :)

—Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 6, 2009

Musings about ‘Beautiful Stratigraphy’

You may notice a flurry of posts lately about interpreting the layers of soil (or stratigraphy) at archaeological sites.  That’s because we are finished with digging (as of today) and the students have spent time interpreting, mapping and photographing the stratigraphy of our excavation trenches. Here’s a great discussion of how the stratigraphy at the North Range Barracks site works.

Stratigraphy: the (study of) layers of sediment deposited over top of one another by natural or cultural processes. The ‘youngest’ layers are on top of the ‘oldest’ layers, unless someone has been messing about digging holes and the like. Interpreting stratigraphy was one of my loudest “I’m going to mess this up!” fears going into this field school.

Interpreting stratigraphy often involves crunching yourself into tiny places and staring at walls intently for long periods of time.

Interpreting stratigraphy often involves crunching yourself into tiny places and staring at walls intently for long periods of time.

Stratigraphy is important after all.  The layers of soil can tell you a great deal about the timing of major events.  For example, at the North Range Barracks, there are two layers (aka strata) with a good chunk of rubble in them,  one several layers above the other.  The one closest to the surface is a WWII destruction layer from when the American military leveled the area to put in a a machine gun.

The lower one is significantly deeper (and therefore older) and is filled with brick, and mortar, as well as stone rubble, and lies just above the midden-like deposits that hold all those nifty mystery artefacts we’ve been showing you.  Probably, this layer comes from renovations done to the building  to convert is from barracks into storage circa 1842.

Now, if we just ignored the differences in strata, we’d miss the interesting information that there were renovations to the building at all when it was converted into storage. Even the less dramatic, non rubble-filled strata help create the story of the barracks site.  We can see layers of old sod from where ground level used to be, for example.

How many students can fit in a 1-x-4 meter trench and contemplate stratigraphy?  Eh, I think there was room for a few more...

How many students can fit in a 1-x-4 meter trench and contemplate stratigraphy? Eh, I think there was room for a few more...

So why was I frightened I’d mess this stratigraphy thing up?  Well, they are subtle!  The layers can just be very slightly different colours–I never knew how many shades of brown existed  before this course.  (Amanda notes: ah, the joys of using a Munsell chart– how many different ways can you describe ‘brown rocky soil’? Dozens, apparently… ).  Strata can also ”feather’ into each other, making the transition gradual and hard to spot.  Plus, sometimes they strata are only a centimeter thick – far too easy to miss them completely!

Luckily for me, the North Range Barracks site has beautiful stratigraphy (Amanda notes– you probably never thought you’d use the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘stratigraphy’ in the same sentence until taking the field school, did you?) .  The layers are (relatively) clear and distinct, with significant colour changes and depth.  I am even more thankful for this fact now that we
are mapping the profiles (the walls of the trenches) to showing the sequence of the strata!

So looks like I needn’t have worried… at least for now.

—Hannah Mallinson (Student)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 5, 2009

Profiling is fun… no, really.

Today was one of those days on the dig that really makes a person wonder why it is they’re doing archaeology anyway (the answer is because all archaeologists are little children at heart who just want to get really dirty, find treasure and wear cool hats). Today was a mapping day. Better than that, today was a profiling day.

From foreground to background, here we are drawing, mapping, and contemplating-- all important things to do when profiling.

From foreground to background, here we are measuring, drawing, and setting up a photo board for a photograph... all important jobs in recording stratigraphy. Missing from photo: students tearing out hair and cursing heartily (it did happen, trust me...)

Profiling is when one does a map of the wall of the trench, profiling all of the strata (soil layers). It’s incredibly important to know each strata’s position and relevance to other strata. This is because strata are one of the archaeologist’s best tools for relative dating (dating something in relation to something else). Barring disturbance, a strata at the bottom of the site is older than a strata at the top of the site. And one can assume that things found in the same layer are from roughly the same time period.

It’s also important to map the stratigraphy because excavation is a destructive process. We need records because as we dig the strata, we lose them. They’re just a jumble of dirt under the sifter. Anyway, so that’s Stratigraphy 101. Now for the nitty gritty (and boy, is it gritty).

You begin a profile map by stretching a level line across the wall you’re mapping, starting from datum (0). This is your 0 x-axis. Then you measure down from the line to various points on the wall you’re mapping. It’s a little tricky because the line has to be level and it tends to sag over time (especially when the annoying people in the other trench keep leaning on it and climbing over it).

We mapped the western wall of trenches B and D (they’re connected). Dominique did the drawing and I did the measuring. Both are, in their own way, a real pain in the various body parts you happen to be using.

The mapping... it never stops. Ever... or so it seems some days.

The mapping... it never stops. Ever... or so it seems some days.

The person doing the map is in charge. They tell the measurer where to measure and trust me, after hour 2 you stop saying please. Meanwhile, the measurer has to do the measuring (obviously). It was my job to actually find where each layer began and ended. Sometimes this is really easy. Strata are usually visually different. They’re a different colour and they sometimes have a different texture. However, there are degrees. Sometimes, we mapped a red layer under a black layer. That was easy enough.

Sometimes we mapped a brown layer over a lighter brown layer. That wasn’t quite as much fun. I spent a great deal of time flat on my stomach in our trench staring at the lower wall and trying to figure out where the black layer ended and the dark black charcoal layer began.

The trench itself, by the way, is not a terribly spacious area. It can be difficult to actually get down into it to inspect and measure. Being a girl, I spent a lot of time cursing my lovely, wide hips (I have no idea what the male equivalent is. “Curse my manly pelvis,” perhaps?).

All in all, if there’s one thing profiling is an exercise in, it’s PATIENCE. Dominique and I did manage to keep from killing each other but it was a near thing a couple of times (“Oops, I miscounted on the map, we have to re-measure the last five rocks.” “Oops, did I say the mortar was 14cm down? I meant 41. Or maybe 51, hang on. Have you seen my measuring tape?”). And yes, we snapped at each other a bit and yes, we got so crazed we named all our equipment (my trowel is named Ernestine). But, as the great Caesar himself might have said, Veni Vidi Profili (I came, I saw, I profiled).

Besides, at least we weren’t digging subsoil like the boys in the trench next to us (subsoil has no artefacts in it and has the approximate colour and consistency of concrete. Dry concrete). I learned some new words today and I had been doing my sailor grandfather proud.

—Rowena McGowan (Student)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 5, 2009

Amy’s Thoughts

Here are Amy’s thoughts on the season as it nears the end–

Throughout the past six weeks my classmates and I have been working hard to
uncover the past. With the help of Amanda, Stephane, Danielle, and Jen we have
been able to go from students studying archaeological techniques in a classroom
to future archaeologists working in the field and lab.

Writing, writing, writing... an important part of the job...

Writing, writing, writing... an important part of the job...

It never ceases to amaze me how much work goes into excavating a site; there is
mapping, photographs, paperwork, more maps, more paperwork, and then some
digging followed by more maps, photos and paperwork. It is however very
rewarding work, we have the opportunity as each day passes to uncover more of
the past and interpret how the soldiers and their families lived on Signal Hill
(not something I would fancy doing in the cold, windy winter months).

Each day in the field and in the lab we have the privilege of seeing the
materials left behind by the people who lived there over a hundred and fifty years ago.
Whether we are finding tiny pieces of ceramic that to most people would see as
insignificant or more diagnostic artifacts such as shako plates from soldiers’ hats,
we are experiencing something incredible.

After six weeks of work I must thank everyone who made this dig possible because
we have had the best opportunity to learn, gain hands on experience, and make a
lot of friends that we otherwise would not have made. I also have to thank
everyone who has stopped by our site to see what we were up to and everyone who
has read this blog because your interest in what we are doing is what allows us
to be able to do it. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone involved for
making this the best summer possible!

—Amy Payne (Student)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 5, 2009

Paging Dr. Munsell–What Colour is this Dirt, Anyhow?!?

As we draw to the close of our last (last!! *where* did the time go, exactly?!?) week of digging, we’re starting to finish excavation and begin to map what we’ve excavated. This will be the first of several posts that explain the fun (by which I mean frustrations) of mapping.  Here is Andrew’s perspective.

As field school draws to a close Team 3, of which I count myself among, has
spent the past two days drawing stratigraphic profile maps of the trench we
affectionately refer to as 1A51E.

Students must map, photograph and describe the layers of soil that they see in this excavation trench. Quick: second layer from the top: is it orangey brown or brownish orange?

Students must map, photograph and describe the layers of soil that they see in this excavation trench. Quick: second layer from the top: is it orangey brown or brownish orange?

Included alongside each of these maps are
brief descriptions about each stratigraphic layer.

We note the inclusions, soil texture, colour and so on.

When it is time to describe the colour of the soil we turn to a small blue book with the word Munsell inscribed on the cover. Inside are pages of different soil colours, all of which are assigned specific numbers and descriptions such as “dark greyish brown” or “black”.

One is to take a small sample of the soil from the particular layer which they are identifying and match to the corresponding colour in the Munsell book.

(Amanda notes: my personal favourite are those soils named Gley. Gley?!? Really?!?!! I know, I know, gley is a technical term used to describe a specific type of soil, often waterlogged and grey in colour…

A little reading reveals the root of the word is Ukrainian– but that doesn’t mean I have any less trouble remembering to write down ‘gley’ instead of ‘grey’. You see? Munsell charts can be frustrating for those of us who have used them for years, too… end Amanda’s rant)

As we are all fairly new at this Munsell business, my team mate Susan and I were both attempting to match the different layers and then compare notes.

Trying to characterize the colour of soil by comparing it to a series of colour swatches in a Munsell book. In theory, it's a tool that allows us to standardize our soil description terminology... in practice? You usually want to hurl it far, far away.

Trying to characterize the colour of soil by comparing it to a series of colour swatches in a Munsell book. In theory, it's a tool that allows us to standardize our soil description terminology... in practice? Students usually want to hurl it far, far away.

While digging 1A51E there was one layer we called the orange layer (see Aaron’s July 21st post for further details). When it came to time to describe this orange layer I found that it matched the colour Munsell would call “yellowish red”. Susan however had chosen “reddish yellow”.

Imagine a painter who needed specific colour for his painting. He could mix red
paint with yellow. Or he could mix yellow paint with red. Either way he would
eventually obtain his desired goal of orange.

Orange however is not a colour to be found in the Munsell book. If this metaphorical painter lived in world governed by the laws of the Munsell colour system he would find himself stuck in a state of permanent limbo, and his painting would remain perpetually unfinished.

Luckily we don’t live in a such a world. Yellowish red it is.

—Andrew Holmes (Student)

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