A Visit to Aly’s Field School

By , July 5, 2011

On Saturday, Michelle and I drove up to Beaver Creek, Canada to visit Aly’s archaeological field school. We spent two nights at the dig, working with and getting to know the team. We had a great time, and took a few photos (though not many).

Little John site view

Archaeology with a view: part of the sweeping vista from the camp kitchen (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

We had intended to center the visit on Sunday, the team’s usual day off. However, since they took time off on Canada Day, July 1st, they worked on Sunday. That turned out very well. Had they kept to their normal schedule, Michelle and I would have tagged along with Aly in Beaver Creek while she did laundry, showered, and relaxed. We would have asked a lot of questions about the dig, and heard descriptions of what it was like. Instead, we got to work alongside the team, and learn about what they do by participating.

The Professor, Norm Easton, intended to excuse Aly from the dig for the day, in order to have more time with us, but she asked to continue digging. She’s very conscious of how little time she has left on the dig, and wanted to make the most of it. They gave Michelle and I each a quad to excavate next to Aly’s. We all kneeled in the dirt and got to work. We  removed loess that had sifted over an archeologically significant layer, so we weren’t in much danger of missing artifacts through inexperience. Like everyone else, we scraped away a few millimeters of surface at a time, scooping it into buckets, then sifting it. We didn’t expect to find anything, and didn’t, but we got to try out the techniques, and Aly found a few tool flakes in her quad. All of this was close to the 14,000 year old layer of strata, which was pretty exciting.

archaeological excavation pit

Aly in our work area for the weekend (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

We had plenty of time to visit with Aly and get to know her team mates. We found them charming, intelligent, and enthusiastic. At times the whole group sang quietly as they worked the dig. We shared excellent meals, good stories and a lot of laughter.

The weather changed rapidly throughout each day. On Sunday afternoon, just about dinner time, we experienced a genuine cloudburst that began to fill the dig site despite the tarps spread overhead. We scrambled around, improving bindings and adding additional tarps. We were impressed by how everyone stepped in without question, consulted on the best arrangement, and put it in place. These “kids” know their business, and don’t shirk it.

Yesterday we said goodbye and drove south, spending most of Independence Day in Canada. We arrived in Haines in time to see the fireworks, but decided to go on home to get some sleep.

archaeological cataloging tent

Aly shows Michelle artifacts she’s found and paperwork in the display tent (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

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