Anthropology Field Notes

University of Delaware Anthropology Fieldwork by students and faculty

Author: akvega

X-Files: Finding the Unexpected Expected!!

Welcome once again to another exciting edition of Updates from the Field!


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This past week we can definitely say we had  unexpected discoveries. To say the least, it was worthy of an x-file classification. It is no secret that Old Swedes Church is surrounded by a cemetery containing thousands of graves, many of them not marked with headstones or other monuments.

Within the North Buttress unit we came across the shaft for one of these graves! It was not clear at first but once we started to find an increase of quantities of rusted nails we knew it was truly a grave shaft. The soil becoming increasingly mixed and completely different from the surrounding subsoil. We should have expected the unexpected — the GPR suggested we should have just missed the edge of a grave. Now that we have come to a conclusion regarding the presence of a grave, our excavation in the North Buttress came to a close. A member of the Holy Trinity Church clerical staff said a prayer at the graveshaft after services on Sunday.

Well, that makes two units completed and two more to finish so our adventures continue.

When our excavation for the North Buttress came to a close it was very heartfelt for me. I’m Ana and I have been helping with this project since the spring. We even named our big rock Nigel. It was heartfelt to start closing and backfilling the unit for it seems the project is coming to an end faster than I expected.  We are more than ready to take on the challenge of completing our work at the South Buttress and South Porch, so stay tuned to see what we find.

Trying the Hero Cape: May 1st and May 2nd

Welcome once again to another exciting edition of Updates from the Field!

This week we worked on Friday May 1st and May 2nd. May flowers are blooming and making the site gorgeous to look at, and the beauty (and the falling petals) can be distracting after the winter we’ve had. Windblown blossoms leave petals everywhere and when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. Lots of cleaning in the sites and in each unit had to be done but no worry we were prepared.

This week we had an awesome and productive week. Most of our units are now in very interesting new levels. As noted in the previous update, we found burning and wooden planks at the northeast corner of the church. Well, excavation revealed them to have irregular shapes for wooden planks, and we are now considering they may be tree branches.

During this week we also had fascinating  encounters with photography. We want to be as photographically correct as possible so 11130219_10205373782456619_5040757015754197036_nwe had to create our own shade to photograph so we pulled out our trusty UD blue hero capes (they are really just the tarps we use to cover the units) for the job. Feeling like heroes for the day was fun and brought a smile to our faces, which is our aim. Hero capes or no hero capes we still worked extremely hard to make some progress.

We decided this week that in order to get the most out of our remaining time in the field that we should excavate only half of our 5×5 units. At the Bell Tower, our team is excavating 2 2.5×5 units to not only capture the foundation of the building but also explore the drainage problem at  the Bell Tower entrance.

As each individual unit becomes deeper we are starting to see major differences in the levels. Prime examples of this are the northeast corner and south church entrance units. Under the south porch, the team uncovered a layer of mixed soils with the greatest variety of soil colors we have yet seen.

Our findings continue to be mostly bits and pieces of the building–stone, brick, mortar, metal hardware, nails, and the like.  Stay tuned for next week’s editions of Updates from the Field!