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)

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