Thursday, July 19, 2012

Farewell, Bermuda!

I'm home in Rochester after a whirlwind couple of days. After Sunday's very successful pair of tours, I thought I had two days to fill in the two Smiths Island sites, finish bagging up all the artifacts and put them into storage, and return all the BNT's archaeology equipment. I got to work Monday morning and was just getting ready to head out with wheelbarrow and shovels when Garth's wife relayed a phone call that my wife had sent a panicked emailed informing me that I had booked my flight for Tuesday, rather than Wednesday as I had thought (a typo, I think, made back in February when I booked). I'm the first to admit I'm an Absent-minded Professor, better able to remember dates from 300 years ago than keep track of my meetings next week - but the upshot of the news was that I now had only about 10 hours to entirely close up the dig! Man, I could have used Moto-Trowel Mimi or Mike that day...

As the day was hot, humid, and breezeless I paced myself to get through without heatstroke, tackling CHB first as the smaller site. I felt a lot like a Beautician-Mortician: cleaning up the sites for final photos before prepping them for burial and then filling in what felt like open graves. Lining the units with plastic tarps came first, and then a liberal scattering of modern coins to provide a dating TPQ for future archaeologists. Then came replacing the soil, which basically meant shoveling the mounds of dirt from the spoils heaps (under the sifters) into the wheelbarrow and then dumping the loads into the open units. This is done both as a safety measure to stop people from falling into fairly deep open units and also to protect and preserve the stratigraphy of the adjoining unexcavated units, which would otherwise erode due to natural forces. CHB took 10 wheelbarrow loads (with each load being 20 shovel-fulls).


2 hours later, mostly done
I was done by one pm and then shifted to Oven Site, where we had opened 9 meter squares (vs. CHB's 4). With the lining in, it almost looked like an in-ground swimming pool! (A side note - I scavenged the Pergo flooring liner used from a contractor's illegal dump site near Fort Albert - archaeologists are great recyclers even if we make our living studying past people's trash.)


It took until about 5:30 to fill this and the other squares in, about 40 wheelbarrows full. (By the way, this could be a math problem: if each shovel-full of dirt weighed 10 pounds and there were 20 shovel-fulls of dirt per wheelbarrow, how much dirt did Mike move on Monday? Maybe it'll show up on the NY State Regents Exam...)

Half-way done
Once the units were full, I covered them with another tarp to minimize plant reclamation, since I'm sure all sorts of ornery trees would spring up in the nice aerated bed I had created. Just before leaving, I restored the Spider Man inflatable ring we found at the end of the 2010 season to its spot on the spice tree - and hope to find it there next May.
Guard the site well, Spidey!
I treated myself to a swim in the harbour to cool down and then loaded up the sifters, buckets, etc. to go back to St. George's. Four more hours in the Reeve Court lab produced an inventory of all the finds bags for the contexts we dug (about 150 in all), sorted by site. I got home to Paget nigh on 10pm to face the daunting task of packing 140 pounds of belongings into two bags that couldn't exceed 50 pounds each (creative physics was involved, as well as wearing lots of clothes!).

On my last morning in Bermuda, I did one of the things I love best - I went on a fast (but of course not illegally so) scooter ride on a picture-perfect sunny day, zipping around curves along Harrington Sound. After returning my borrowed bike, it was off to the airport and a pair of very easy flights home - I highly recommend Jet Blue! Katie was happily surprised by my early return. Now to make up my three-week sleep deficit, revel in the comparative cheapness of shopping at Wegmans, and then start writing the site report for this season's very successful work. I confess, though, that I already miss having a harbor in my front yard to jump into whenever I want!

In closing I want to extend special thanks to the many people who made this field season possible, starting with Jackie and Jacqui and Caleb, Stewart, Renato, and Patricia at the University of Rochester. Andrew, Linda, Stephen, and Margie contributed vital logistical support shuttling students around, hosting dinners, and chasing down equipment. They also have patiently stuck by me over the years as I morphed from Wild Child grad student to something more respectable and responsible. The Smiths Islanders graciously shared their island (or at least tolerated trespassers) over the past two months, let us use their docks and paths, and even occasionally brought us snacks or entertained us (Jurgen) with long stories and views on guvmint. Thanks especially to Garth and his family for timely drinks and a 21st-century bathroom on a basically 18th-century island. Rick and Jane were again stalwart supporters of this project and made it possible. Rick's foot surgery kept him from digging as much as he (or at least I) would have liked to, but he and family braved poison ivy to keep tabs on our work. Geoffrey provided his work boat (my first independent command!), without which we never could have gotten to work - or at least his boat made it a lot more convenient - I probably would have had the UR students row us across otherwise! Anne and Norman made available their condo for the students - probably the nicest quarters any students have enjoyed doing a Bermuda field school! Michael and Michael lent me their palatial quarters while they were traveling abroad - I doubt any other archaeologist had such luxurious space to come home to from the field. I felt like I was staying in the Asian Art wing of a major museum, surrounded by a lawn so manicured that my daughter and I set up a nine-hole miniature golf course. And thanks to Oralene for looking after us and tolerating a pair of far-too-messy shovel jockeys. Luci came out to film the excavation early in the project, just in case we find something important enough to warrant a full-length documentary down the road. Elena gave us a fantastic tour of the NMB, its archaeology lab, and a sneak peek at the new Shipwreck Island exhibit. Piotr and Katie opened up their site to us and shared the fantastic things they're finding on the Warwick. Josh (borrowed from the Warwick/Texas A&M field school), Zoe, Karla, Anna, Meg, and Katie all guest-dug at Smiths Island for at least a day and helped me tie up loose ends in the field school's waning weeks. Charlotte and Becca stepped up beyond their young years to keep pace digging with college students for a week, and thanks to Linda for making sure we had lunch and lots of snacks that week. My wife Anna kept things going on the home front in the final weeks of our daughters' school years, playing overworked single mom in order to let me run this field school. My greatest thanks go to Kristina, Leigh, Quarin, Mimi, and Jordan for their sustained enthusiasm and good spirits as guinea pigs during this first fledgling field school year, to Alexandra for her many hours both in 2010 and this summer at the sites, and to Mike Read, whose calm leadership, conscientiousness, strong work ethic, and enviable organizational skills kept everything and everyone on track. If ever I were to found a colony, I would choose him as my first governor.   

2 comments:

lina souzain said...

Opt for a distance learning program in Archaeology. Most of the courses can be covered online though training and excavation skills will have to be developed in the field.
A Career in Archaeology

Smiths Island Archaeology Project, 2010- said...

Good advice in general, Lina. I'm teaching HIS 269, The Archaeology of Early America at the University of Rochester this spring to prepare the upcoming group of students for the 2013 field season. It has the advantage of hands-on work with 16-19th c. ceramics and other artifacts for identification and interpretation, something much harder to do as a virtual/online enterprise.