Your assignment: dig up an old outhouse.
If you find that project intriguing, you might belong in a class like AnthrArc 482, where beginning archaeologists at the University of Michigan are learning their trade. The students in this new field methods course, which is taught by UMMAA lecturer Blair Zaid and graduate student Marty Menz, are excavating at Gordon Hall—a nineteenth-century family home in Dexter, Michigan.
During the course, students will learn proper excavation techniques, which include how to map an excavation unit and how to record stratigraphy and artifact provenience. They’ll also learn how to interpret the archaeological record—a process that starts by asking what the artifacts and the site tell us about personal identity, economy, technological change, and historical narrative.
One of their first tasks is to dig out the privy.
Student Dimitar Jakimovski described the first day:
On the fifth of October, our class started excavating our units. Before we could actually hit our shovel to dirt, however, we had to lay down the perimeter of our unit…My team was assigned the task of digging out the privy. We walk over to around where it should be, and our GSI, Marty, helps us out by demonstrating what we have to do to begin digging. We start by mapping out the perimeter. Our units are 1 by 1 meter squares, so we begin by putting down one very large nail in the ground, then measuring out 1 meter for the next nail. Then, for the next two nails of our square, we used a method of measurement which involved using the hypotenuse of a triangle that would bisect our square. After finding that hypotenuse, we then placed our next two nails into the ground. After that, we sectioned our unit off with vibrant pink string, making sure to keep the string as taut as possible. Then, we figured out the elevation of our unit by using a datum, a level, some more pink string, and a tape measure.
Read more on the course’s blog site.