Sunday, 24 June 2012

June 21st: Our Mark on Historic Archaeology

The very last day of the 2012 Capilano Archaeology Field School was on campus in the lab for a final round-table meeting with Bob Muckle. We had a chance to present our reports for the individual projects before handing them in. We were all fascinated with Rebecca's McKenzie Creek site map which allows us to digitally visualize the camp layout based on the locations of the artifacts we had found. The survey reports, artifact catalog, and level bag summaries are complete as well.

Jasmin and Willow presented their reports on the "garden/rock" features; concluding that Willow's area was most likely a garden (due to the terrain, shape, and the amount of animal bone fragments found in the soil) and that Jasmin's rock feature was likely to have supported a structure of some kind, perhaps an open gazebo (lots of charred wood and nails were found in the excavation process). All in all, the projects and reports came together nicely and we are confidant that our contributions to the project will be very useful for future field schools.

One of the last days we were in the lab...seems like yesterday that we were learning each others' names!

The "P" building on the Capilano campus (where we store some of our archaeology supplies) is a little scary in some areas as it is quite an old building with some strange contents. So creepy in fact, that Ryan, Andrew, and Nathan decided to do their best impression of a zombie apocalypse attack. An appropriately silly moment to commemorate the completion of packing away our gear.

I was very happy to report to Bob that this blog has received over 3,000 viewers from 20 different countries worldwide (including Russia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Philippines, Italy, Zimbabwe, and Argentina to name a few).

We all felt a tinge of sadness on our last day together...none of us seemed ready for the program to be over. We have all gotten to know each other quite well and it's clear that we all would have been happy to spend another 6 weeks working with one another. Alas, it was time to say goodbye so we all went out for lunch at a restaurant just down the road from campus. Bob said it was the first time in the program's history that all 15 field school students had gotten together for a social gathering. I have a feeling that the friendships we have developed as a crew will last for a long time.

Thank you to all of the readers and supporters (family, friends and colleagues) of the blog and the field school itself. It was an experience that our entire crew will never forget.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

June 19th: Pack It In

Today the crew was either at home working on their reports, or in the lab helping to put away all the artifacts and clean the space. We are fortunate to have storage space for the supplies (although perhaps not quite enough) between the "showers" room in the "P" building on the Capilano Univesity campus and the anthropology lab in the Cedar building.

A room that was once used for a women's shower facility is now the Archaeology storage space.

Nathan approves of Alexis' inventory list.

We also had a great turn out despite the rain at the 2012 BC Family Fishing Day and Watershed Tours Kick-off event in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve on Sunday, June 17th. Dini had a chance to interact with around 300 people at our booth. We were clearly one of the most popular exhibits, outdrawing many of the 20+ booths and attractions. The only things that outdrew us were the salmon bbq and the Tim Horton’s Community Cruiser giving away free coffee and donut holes. In the spirit of father's day, Bob and his daughter, Anna came to see the booth. Ryan came by to help out for a couple of hours, and Alexis was there with some friends as well.

Tomorrow we will be cleaning the lab and Dini will finish setting up the artifact display outside the anthropology room. Thursday is the last day of class as we will be handing in our final exams and report papers. This course has gone by so quickly, I think we're all starting to feel a little sad that it's coming to a close.

Monday, 18 June 2012

June 18th: Map-Makers Set the Pace

Today the entire crew was in the field for our final exam. We were required to document an archaeological site using only our compass, map, and our pace to make measurements. We met at the gazebo (the entrance to the reserve) at 9am for our final instructions from Bob before venturing into the forest. We split into two groups; most of us chose to document the McKenzie Creek site but a handful of us decided to take a risk and try a different location in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve.

Every once in a while we would bump into each other while mapping the site boundaries.

Alexis took a short video clip of me explaining what we're doing for the exam today. (You can see Spencer M "pacing" in the background)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

June 15: All the Little Pieces

Today most of the crew was working from home as we are preparing for our final exam and writing our project reports. Lindsay and Alexis were in the lab working on artifact and level bag cataloging while Willow and Jasmin put more time into their soil analysis tests.

Jasmin and Willow are taking a very close look at some of the soil samples from the "rock feature" and "garden" excavation units from the McKenzie Creek site. They are looking for seeds or evidence that those areas were in fact used as gardens.

Alexis has managed to glue together the pieces of the SMP glass lantern that we had found this year. Her hard work allows us to see what the shape of lantern looked like before it was broken.

Lindsay is cleaning field equipment and some of the last few artifacts found this season.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

June 14th: Be One With the Compass

Today the whole crew met on the Capilano University campus for a lecture from Bob on recording archaeological sites. We all brought our maps and compasses to class and practiced mapping techniques such as how to use a 1:50,000 scale map and how to calculate latitude and longitude. It is important for us to learn these fundamental skills because modern GPS and digital equipment isn't always as reliable in the field as a map or compass. We learned how to fill out a form when recording a new site, how to draw the symbols on a map (for things like cultural features, water flows and vegetation), and how to write directions/instructions for finding an archaeological site.

Our final exam is Monday, so over the weekend I will be re-measuring my pace and brushing up on my field notes.

I know one member of our crew is ready for anything on Monday...Nathan has got what it takes to overcome all odds on our final exam.

 Tuesday was one of the last field days. Here Willow and Spencer M are enjoying one last afternoon under the shelter.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

June 13th: Leave No Trace

Out in the field today Rebecca, Ryan, and Mark completed packing all of the gear at McKenzie Creek. One truckload was all it took to get everything back to campus at Capilano University. Jasmin stayed on site to work on the rock feature but did not find anything significant so she eventually backfilled the unit. After the units were all closed and everything was packed in the truck, the crew did a final sweep of the site to ensure that we left as little evidence of our presence as possible. They were careful to remove any flagging tape from the area and dismantled the stairs into the site that we had built. At noon the field crew headed to the lab to unload the gear.

 Rebecca shines in this photo of the field crew breaking down our shelters today.

An intersection of two roads. The one on the left was made by a local company about 1900 and initially served as a logging skid road to access and remove the 500 yr old trees. The one on the right was a solid cedar plank road built by Japanese about 1918. By 1920, each road was a lined with small cabins to house the Japanese. 

Jasmin's excavation unit which we have been referring to as the "rock feature".

Bob mentioned that Willow showed him an old book (from 1960) on Japanese houses and gardens. The book showed a garden feature that may be similar to Jasmin's rock feature. It's a small, open-sided gazebo-like structure, with a wooden floor, open walls, and wood roof and water close by. We are not certain, but we think it's likely that the rocks that make up the walls of Jasmin's unit were used as a foundation for a structure a hundred years ago, similar to the one Willow found in the book.

At the lab, Evan continued with artifact cataloging, Alexis on level bag analysis, Meghan with illustrations (of the McKenzie Creek site as it may have looked in 1920) as well as another artifact drawing. Jasmin joined Willow on soil analysis while Dini worked on artifact displays (for the university as well as public educational presentations). Kitty worked on compiling her raw data for the Japanese and personal artifacts report. Rebecca and Mark took on the task of cleaning all of the field equipment with high pressure hoses and scrub brushes. Ryan (after his fieldwork) and Spencer M worked on their projects at home for the day.

A line drawing that I did of a Japanese medicine bottle found by Mark in the "cabin" area of the McKenzie Creek site. Kitty told me that the writing on the bottle are two versions of Japanese characters, one of them much more simple than the other.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

June 12th: Shovels Vs. Pencils

Today we had another visitor to the site, 2005 Field School Alumnus James Morfopoulos. Bob gave James the grand tour of the McKenzie Creek area. The rest of the crew in the field were backfilling all of the completed excavation units, except Jasmin who is still working on the Rock Feature. We are still not entirely sure what the rock area was used for, so instead of closing the unit we have decided to continue excavating it tomorrow to see if we can find any artifacts. Mark was able to take a video clip of Jasmin explaining what she has found in this unit as it is a particularly puzzling feature:

This photo of Jasmin in the rock feature earlier this week shows that the sediment in the top layer is mostly dirt and very little rock. 

This photo taken today shows the changes in sediment color and texture as the dig progresses:

We also started breaking camp today and brought one truckload of equipment out of the field. The remainder of the week will consist mainly of cleaning up the field site and bringing all of our gear back to the Capilano University campus.

Nathan backfilled his unit in the "industrial area" this week. He went the extra mile by planting some shrubs and lining the edges with rocks and moss. 

This is the "garden" unit that Willow has been working on.

Backfilling in the rain with Andrew and Ryan.

We had some expired bear spray on site so we decided to give it a try (for demonstration purposes only):

Meghan, Evan, Kitty and myself worked in the lab today. Kitty on her "Japanese and Personal Artifacts" report, Evan on the artifact catalog, while Meghan and I completed a few more line drawings. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

June 11th: Drawing to a Close

Today we had two visitors from Capilano University to the site, Vice President Dr. Jacalyn Snodgrass and the Dean of Arts and Sciences Dr. Robert Campbell. Bob gave them a full tour of the McKenzie Creek excavations as well as a look at our lab space on campus.

In the field today Dini, Lindsay, Ryan, Andrew, Jasmin, Alexis, Spencer M, and Willow worked on completing the excavations. We will be breaking camp this Wednesday so we are eager to finish any digging that needs to be done. Dini found a file (we think it was used to sharpen saw blades) in the "industrial" area while Willow and Spencer continued to find bone fragments and nails in the rectangular "garden" zone. In the rock feature unit, Jasmin and Alexis found more nails and pieces of wood that were either decomposed or charred. Ryan carried on with his survey project of the south wooded area behind the site.

Evan, Nathan, Mark, Meghan and I were in the lab working on individual tasks. Mark took photos of several dozen artifacts found this year for his photography assignment as Evan continued her work on completing the artifact catalog. Nathan is responsible for creating an overview of the features on the site, so today he put in some time on his report. Meghan and myself started some line drawings of a few artifacts selected by Bob that were found this year on the McKenzie Creek site. The drawings had to be to scale and as perfect as possible so that they can be published. It's often helpful to have line drawings of artifacts made of ceramic or glass as the diagnostics aren't always visible in photos.

I drew the D.D.D. bottle found in the "cabin" area of this year's excavations at McKenzie Creek. 

Meghan drew the "National Remedy Company New York" bottle. I think she did a wonderful job.

This rice bowl was also drawn by Meghan. The artifact was found in the "kitchen refuse" area of the site. The hand-painted artwork on this piece is unique as none like this have been found during digs in previous Field School years. The drawings Meghan did for this artifact are from two angles to show the artwork and the maker's mark on the bowl:

Saturday, 9 June 2012

June 8th: Week 5 Complete

Friday back in the lab, the whole crew was able to meet up and go over the last week's work. We are nearing the end of our time in the field and everyone's individual projects and assignments are starting to come together. The surveys of the surrounding areas are almost complete, which will aid Rebecca in finishing the map of the McKenzie Creek site. Dini has unpacked all of the artifacts from previous seasons and organized them in the lab according to where they were found in the Seymour Valley. We still have level bag reports to complete and the artifact catalog photos will get started next week.

Next week will be completing the field excavations, studying for our final exams, and breaking camp. I will be in the lab again on Monday doing line drawings of some of the significant artifacts that we have found this year. I will post some photos and information on Monday of our progress.

Friday, 8 June 2012

June 7th: Heavy Rain in the Seymour Valley

Only seven of us in the field today (Spencer M, Rebecca, Lindsay, Mark, Nathan, Ryan and myself) continuing excavations despite the heavy rain. The rest of the crew was either in the lab or working from home. At the McKenzie Creek site, Mark and I worked on a unit in the "industrial/cabin" area and uncovered lots of nails, a few large spikes, more melted glass, and a tin can. Some of the items (the can and a large percentage of the nails) we found on edge the east wall. I don't know that we will have time to excavate the unit to the east next to this one as our Field Time is running out (we hope to break camp by the end of next week). I think we may have enough artifacts to assume that this area is more than likely a workshop or some sort of industrial zone rather than residential.

Some more photos of artifacts from previous Field School digs...

Piece of ceramic plate with a beautiful hand painted goldfish detail.

There have been a wide variety of bottles found in the past (as well as this year) during the SVAP excavations. The bottles once contained a variety of contents including beer, sake, whiskey, sauce, medicine and perfume. As you can see in this photo, not all of the bottles are perfectly shaped which means they are hand blown and usually older than the manufactured bottles with seams.

The medicine bottles we have found range in size, colour, and style and originate mostly from North America and Asia.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

June 6th: Divide and Conquer Archaeology

A fairly small crew today in the field as Nathan, Evan and Kitty continued to excavate the "industrial/cabin" area. We suggested to Bob that this area might have been a workshop and not a cabin. The artifacts we have recovered from the units in this zone seem to support that idea.

Today there were quite a few visitors to the site including Capilano University anthropologist Maureen Bracewell and sociologist Rita Isola and her husband. Another group, including 2007 field school alumnus Lin Guenther also spent about 90 minutes on site, getting the tour and talk from Bob. We have now had five professors from Capilano and other colleges and universities visit over the past week, and three former field school members (from 2007, 2008, and 2009).

Nathan and Evan are sorting through some items (mainly melted glass) looking for anything with diagnostics on it that could be cataloged as an artifact.

Ryan and Spencer spent most of the day backfilling the excavation units at the "cabin" area. They received praise from Bob as one of the finest backfilling jobs that he has ever seen in the history of the Seymour Valley Archaeology Project.

Willow keeps digging in her unit that we think might have been a garden. She continues to find small pieces of bone, nails, and a few little ceramic fragments. We still are not sure what this area was used for a century ago, hopefully more excavation will give us clues.

Jasmin continued to excavate the rock feature next to the creek and found more nails and lots of evidence of burnt wood. We can now assume there was once some kind of wooden platform on the rockery area (perhaps a plank floor of some kind) that once may have supported a structure. We are thinking of ideas as to what it might have been if it was not a garden. Some suggestions have been a small ritual building or a meditation hut as we have seen such things in historic photos of other camps in Japan and North America. I am particularly interested in this feature and I'm hoping Jasmin can find some artifacts that will help us understand what this structure might have been used for a hundred years ago.

Dini, Alexis, Spencer K and myself were doing lab work again today (everyone else was working from home). Dini had a chance to sort through more artifacts from previous Field Schools. I took a few minutes to snap some photos of the pieces I thought were significant:

 Looks to be a pocket or utility knife. 

Pieces from a wood stove and as you can see some of the mica is still in place.  

The cap to an ink bottle 

These are either perfume or medicine bottles. We have found a few of these kinds of small glass bottles at the McKenzie Creek site.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

June 5th: The Garden Mystery

Today a few people (Spencer M, Evan, Rebecca) were working from home, Alexis, Dini, Spencer K and myself were in the lab. Alexis is plugging away on her level bag assignment, accounting for several pounds of tin can and nail fragments (as well as pieces of glass and ceramic). Dini was organizing artifacts from past years as well as some from this season's finds to use for public education events. 

This is a video of Dini talking about her public education project:

Dini mentioned in this video that the next event that we will be featuring artifacts from the SVAP is:

SPLASH! BC Family Fishing Day & Watershed Tours Kick-Off
  • It's on Sunday, June 17th 2012 (Father's Day) from 10am - 3pm at the Lower Seymour Conservation Rerserve
  • There will be booths and information at the gazebo (near the parking lot at the end of Lillooet Road, three kilometers north of Capilano University.
There's even going to be free fishing at Rice Lake for Rainbow Trout for the day!

We had some visitors to the field site today: 
Anthropologist Tad Mcilwraith from Douglas College in New Westminster and Coquitlam, and anthropologist/archaeologist Doug Hudson from the University of the Fraser Valley. Three members of Andrew's family also came to have a seems that we are developing quite the fan base.

Following up on the garden project that Willow and Jasmin are working on, we have some interesting developments. Yesterday's lab work showed that the soil samples from the areas we think may have been gardens had higher PH levels than the control samples. This is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these were once gardening zones but as the excavations began, both units turned up dozens of metal nails (which is very confusing).

Here is a photo of the rock feature that Jasmin is currently excavating (right next to the creek on the north side of the site):

Willow and Spencer getting to work on the other "garden" area:
There were lots of nails found in this unit along with some pieces of animal bone, which would make sense if it was once a garden (adding bone to a garden would raise the PH level, thus making the soil better to grow plants in). Maybe the nails were part of a structure that once held the garden in place? We hope to get more clues as we excavate further.

Here we have Lindsay and Nathan continuing excavation work on the "industrial/cabin" units. Nathan found a very large saw blade just under the surface of the moss which would support the idea that this zone was more of an industrial section of the camp rather than residential, but we're still not certain.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

June 4th: Soil and Rust

Today most of the crew (Alexis, Lindsay, Nathan, Mark, Evan, Spencer K, and myself) were in the field excavating as Ryan and Dini continued to work on the survey south of the McKenzie Creek site. Nathan continued to dig in his unit at the "industrial/cabin" area which appears to have a depression in the sediment going as deep as 70 cm. We still are not sure what exactly this "pit" (approximately 50 cm wide at the top) might have been for or why the soil is significantly softer than the surrounding sediment. Lindsay and Nathan set up three new excavation units in that same area which will hopefully reveal more artifacts helping us piece together the puzzle of what this space was designated for in the early 1900's. Jasmin and Willow worked with Cheryl in the lab doing PH tests on soil samples taken from areas that we think may have been used as gardens. Here's a photo of the soil tests so far:

The process of rust removal by electrolysis has made a huge difference when applied to some of the metal artifacts we have found at the McKenzie Creek site. Some of the items we have recovered that are made of metal have become severely rusted and almost indistinguishable. I have mentioned this process before in previous posts, but I wanted to show some examples of Spencer K's hard work with electrolysis treatments on a few of the more significant metal finds from this year's excavations.

This is the before and after photos of a metal handle used to open and close a stove pipe flute. When found, it appeared as just chunky bits of rust in a rounded shape. The electrolysis treatment reveals astounding detail of the design on this piece (a wreath with flowers). This gives us a better idea of what to research when we're looking for diagnostics and information on stoves from the early 1900's.

 This stove piece was found in association with the flue handle. Again, originally this artifact was caked with rust and now looks almost new. We are able to make out the words "Air Tight" which is a model of wood heating stove from the early 1900's.

On a side note....

We are so lucky to be working in such a beautiful forested area in the LSCR and be so close to wildlife. Recently Mark had a chance to snap a photo of some deer just a few feet away from him while on site. They don't seem too afraid of us at all! This video clip shot by Mark shows just how close we are able to get:

Saturday, 2 June 2012

June 1st: Week 4 Is Already Over!

The 4th week has come to an end and as per usual on Fridays, we gather for a two hour recap of our work thus far. We have recovered about 80 or more artifacts (which are still being cataloged) so Bob took some time to go through some of the significant finds and describe what they represent in context to the McKenzie Creek site. Many of the artifacts are found broken, damaged, or rusted so we make as much effort as possible to piece them back together. This helps us to gather diagnostics such as maker's marks and brand names from items so that we can get a better idea of how and when they were used.

 This is lantern glass that Spencer M is helping glue back together...

We can see the letters "SMP" on this lantern. We are currently doing some research on this piece to find out approximately when it was made.

Rust removed (via Spencer K's electrolysis methods) from this tin can bottom reveals the number "204". Perhaps we can use this information to find out which brand of can this is and what it might have contained.

Friday, 1 June 2012

May 31st: All Over the Map

Back to the field today as Alexis and Andrew continue with surveying north of the site, Mark and Ryan to the south and Spencer M to the west. They hope to complete the survey work by next week so that we can plot any features or artifacts found in the surrounding areas on a map. The map (which is Rebecca's project) will give us a clear perspective on where we are finding artifacts according to the type. For example, we will be able to tell which kinds of bottles, cans, bowls, and personal items have been found in which areas. It's important work as this information will help us develop hypotheses on how the camp was organized (housing, communal and industrial) in the early 1900's.

Rebecca, Meghan, and Nathan continued to excavate at the site and the find of the day turned out to be a tobacco tin, which was in fairly good condition. Spencer K has had some fantastic results with his electrolysis treatments on the metal artifacts, so Bob is hoping that we can implement this method on the tobacco tin to recover some diagnostics to use for dating. Bob theorizes that a small group of Japanese continued to occupy the camp after it was initially abandoned in the early 1920's. Any dates or diagnostics found on artifacts that date after about 1920 would help support this hypothesis. 

Text found on artifacts such as this shoe polish tin lid can help us build a timeline for the 
McKenzie Creek site.

This artifact (which looks a lot like a key of some sort) is actually a handle for a stove flue stopper. 
Spencer K will be applying the electrolysis method to this piece so I will post the results picture 
when it is complete.

Evan, Dini and Spencer K worked in the lab, plugging away at their projects (Evan on artifact cataloging, Dini on organizing artifacts and noting finds for public education, Spencer K on metal electrolysis chemical treatments).

Here is Evan labeling a Japanese rice bowl artifact according to it's catalog number using india ink.

If you are curious as to how our level bags (containing pieces of cultural evidence that are not categorized as artifacts) are being cataloged, the following video link shows Alexis (responsible for the level bag report) describing her process. On the SVAP, we do not use fancy digital or electronic weighing or mapping devices as we find the practical methods of using analog scales and compasses much more useful as learning tools and far more reliable.

I am hoping to get some photos of Jasmin and Willow working on their garden research projects with Cheryl Schreader, a physical geographer and Capilano University professor. She was able to visit the site to collect soil samples that will be tested for PH levels and the sediments (which change as we dig deeper) will be categorized using the Munsell Color Chart. On Monday in the lab, Cheryl, Jasmin and Willow will implement the tests and hopefully come up with some hypotheses on how and where the Japanese used garden plots at the McKenzie Creek site.