Archaeologists Would Make Great Body Builders

Wow, it’s been a long week! Lab night was a great success, though I learned while work does get done it’s more a social activity than work. But I met a lot of important people in the area, at least when it comes to archaeology, as well as a couple of other teens that have interned with The Foundation in the past, both my age. It’s always cool to meet people your age who have similar interests in common, especially if those things are a bit unusual. Wednesday  I had a morning at the office trying to track down a slave named Matilda who was bought by a family named the Robbins who ran a mill in Gloucester in the 1800s. It’s an unusual name for the time period so I’ve had some luck finding a trail, but unfortunately most of it is based on educated guessing rather than solid facts. I’m using Land tax records and property tax records crossed over with the information provided in the Robbins Ledger that I’ve been transcribing. The part that I think everyone including myself have been waiting for came on Thursday. You probably haven’t heard of Toddsbury unless you have lived in Gloucester County, VA. I definitely hadn’t. It’s supposedly the oldest working structure in Gloucester, a house that used to be a huge plantation established in 1652.20150312_172335 It’s on the banks of the York river on two sides and is absolutely stunning. It’s not often that people get to work on sites like this. Toddsbury, until Thursday, had never had any real archaeology done. The only reason we knew where to look was from a very undefined map drawn up when a brick foundation was discovered while workers were putting in a utility line some fifty years ago. We spent most of the first morning just trying to figure out how we were going to go about setting up Shovel Test Plots (one-by-one foot holes that go down until you reach subsoil, the water table or four feet, whichever comes first= STP.) 20150312_171317We went around randomly probing the ground in the area we believed to have the foundation struck by the utility workers. Throughout the first day I think our total count of STPs was 65. Thank God we had two volunteers that came down from Minnesota, as well as a girl named Mollie who volunteered with Fairfield last summer. Her family currently owns the house, and has for quite a while. Her grandmother came to visit us and spent lunch Thursday telling us about growing up there in the 1920s. Mollie and I had a lot to talk about as we traded off digging the STPs and shifting through the dirt that came out of the holes looking for artifacts. Funny thing about Mollie was that she almost went to Westtown! Anyway, as she and I sifted through endless piles of dirt finding pounds of brick and oyster shell, along with the more interesting pieces of pottery, rusted nails, and animal bones, Anna Hayden (intern manager and Archaeologist extraordinaire) struck solid brick on her first STP. That was the first of FIVE brick foundations that we found during the course of the day.20150313_151923 Just to make it clear, FIVE brick foundations in one day happens maybe once on a lifetime, if that. We had no idea the day would be so successful. Thursday we came back and started a test unit, in this case a five by five foot hole which we placed to cover two foundations which were only one foot apart. It was a beautiful and day very successful, and I really hope we can get back there before I leave. Saturday we were suppose to go to Walter Reed’s Birthplace but because of bad rain we canceled, so I ended up lying in bed trying not to move so my muscles wouldn’t hurt. Honestly Archaeologists would make great body builders. You may not think so just watching but try a day on the job and I promise you’ll be in pain by the end. But no pain, no discovery. Today my hosts, The Browns, and I went into Colonial Williamsburg to go see the Oyster Rick that had been built in the Brickyard. 20150315_130844An Oyster Rick is a structure made out of oyster shell and both wet and dry wood. When you light it the Oysters burn and at the right temperature turn into quick lime which is used to make mortar- basically what is used to bind the bricks together- no concrete necessary. Tomorrow it’s back to the office to do more research on Matilda and basically everyone else in Gloucester in 1855 and 1856. Wish me Luck!

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