Results of Season 1, Part 3

Haven’t read the previous two parts? You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here!

In addition to surveying, Hollis and I set up a grid for surface collection up at the northeastern-most surface scatter. Surface collection is a tried-and-true method of identifying archaeological sites and areas-of-interest in historical archaeology. Very often–particularly here, where the site isn’t very old and there is probably not a lot of dirt being deposited on the ground over time–much of what we are interested it is on, near, or predicted by what is on the surface.

Scan of our field forms showing an idealized grid.

Figure 1: Scan of our field forms showing an idealized grid.

Our surface collection strategy involved setting up a 2-meter grid in a 20m by 20m area. This gives us 100 quadrats, or grid squares, to investigate (Figures 1 and 2). Each square is given a unique identifier, so we can make sure to keep all artifacts we find in it together. There are two reasons for picking this method. First, it means we don’t have to decide what to point plot. One way of collecting surface material is to take a GPS or total station and record either every artifact you find, or centerpoints for collections of artifacts. Recording every artifact is time consuming, given that most are going to be small fragments. It also means you either have to use a total station or a really good GPS unit, as most GPS units will not have enough precision for what you want. Recording clusters of artifacts is easier, but more arbitrary (how do you define a cluster?) and is difficult to visualize and analyze in a GIS. By collecting everything within a quadrat, we avoid dealing with some of these issues.

Corner of the surface collection with plants cleared.

Figure 1: Corner of the surface collection with plants cleared.

Second, it lets us systematically clear the surface. For each square, we scraped the surface with trowels and 1/8″ screened the surface debris. We scraped the surface to clear away mold, tree and root debris, and loose material. Once we could see dirt (or humus), we stopped (Figure 3). The reason for this is that much of the site is covered not only in living plants, but in not-yet-decayed plant remains. So even if you clear all plant growth (which we also did), your surface artifacts may still be obscured by recent plant matter. Setting up grid squares allowed us to systematically clear each square in its entirety, revealing a great deal more material than we would have found otherwise and giving us a better estimate of the below-surface distribution of artifacts. It also meant that when we screened the material we cleared (to find any small artifacts caught up in it), we knew where in space the screened material came from and had control over how we collected it.

Hollis Miller, Sam Hordesk, and Joyce LeCompte-Mastenbrook helping to clear a quadrat.

Figure 3: Hollis Miller, Sam Hordesk, and Joyce LeCompte-Mastenbrook helping to clear a quadrat.

The Results

It’s a truism in research that everything takes longer than you think it will, and that’s no less the case here. The surface collection is still ongoing, but I hope to have some preliminary results and pictures up soon!

Results of Season 1, Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can do so here!

So, here are the results of our survey in map form. The basemap used, which has the historic buildings and areas, is from a 1911 R.H. Thompson map made during a King County assessment of the town. This map is on file at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center. These are preliminary maps. Some of these features have been identified, but not fully mapped in (this is one of my goals in the next few weeks).

Survey Transects shows the survey transects that were cut. Surface artifacts are the material culture that were recovered, and roughly where they were found. Surface features are all surface features we identified. Something was considered a feature if (a) it was found in association with artifacts, and/or (b) it had a very geometric design, plan, or look to it, which is usually indicative of human modification. Most of the features either had material culture associated with them, or we very obviously created by humans (e.g. deep square pits). Probable/Possible Surface Features are pits, ditches, and other phenomena that might be features, but did not quite meet our working definition (they were not very clearly geometric, and/or had no artifacts associated with them).

To help preserve the archaeological record and the integrity of the watershed, specific geographical information has been omitted (e.g. geographical location, lat/long, projection information). Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of pictures of the individual features at the immediate moment, but I will have some by next week.

There are a couple of interesting things to note. Bear in mind that all of this is preliminary!

  1. The scatters of artifacts appear, so far, to be on or near the periphery of the site. The two largest scatters are the northeastern and eastern-most ones, and both are outside of the bounds of what we currently know as the settlement’s extent. Of course, it’s likely that there were more houses than depicted here. This is from a 1911 map, and Barneston did not close until 1924. Also, the Issei population increased between 1910 and 1920, based on federal census data, so they probably build more houses. If they did so, though, it would have been to the north and south; the eastern area is dominated by the edge of a large and moderately steep depression!
  2. Several of the features appear associated with important locations. The brick features almost perfectly overlaps part of where a historic household “should be”. The rock formation on the eastern side of the camp is at the southern edge of a garden. Many of these rock formations are anthropogenic (human-made or modified) rock piles, some of which have trash associated with them. I strongly suspect that these are from clearing ground for gardens, and if so, their association with gardens makes sense and makes them an ideal candidate for further investigation. Sampling plant and animal remains in and around gardens may tell us more about the diversity of foods that people ate, and the rock formations may help confirm the gardens’ presence!
  3. In addition, one of the larger pit features almost perfectly overlaps where the historic map says an outhouse should be. Granted, the map was written by someone who did not speak Japanese, and so we should take the labels with a grain of salt. Still, there’s clearly something interesting going on at that location!

In addition to the survey work, we started a surface collection on the northeastern-most scatter. This was the largest visible one, and seemed like it would be a good candidate to evaluate the quantity, quality, and integrity of artifacts on the site. I’ll talk more about this in the next post!

Results of Season 1, Part 1

So the first five weeks of our fieldwork are complete, and we’ve made quite a bit of progress! Despite a few minor technical and methodological speed-bumps, the project is proceeding as I had hoped. We’ll be starting a three-week fieldwork session this coming week, but in the meantime I wanted to update this site with some news!

This first season (Summer 2016) of fieldwork has a few goals. First, we want to characterize the site. What this means is that we want to understand what is here, and in what condition. What features are present? What artifacts are present? What are the working conditions and terrain like? Can we connect any surface finds to historic maps, photos, and testimonies? Gathering this kind of basic information will help me plan where I want to do more intensive excavation in future field seasons.

Second, and more specifically, I want to identify household remains. As you can see from the maps below (Figure 1), there were several “households” identified from a historic map on the site. Some held bachelors, others families; most probably held both, depending on when you look. What’s important about them archaeologically is that they may give us clues to variation within the community. Even if we cannot always know exactly who occupied a given household, being able to associate different artifacts with different habitation areas gives us a better idea of what went on in those areas, how the community space was used, and ultimately what kinds of variation there was in terms of how the community responded to the inequalities it faced.

Figure 1. Households

The Survey

To find the answers I needed, I set about doing an archaeological survey. Archaeological surveys involve trying to identify the geographical presence and extent of archaeological material. Generally, we do this with minimally invasive techniques. By minimally invasive, I mean that they involve relatively little (and low intensity) digging. In a nutshell, our goal is really just knowing where things are on the site!

Initially, the plan was to conduct a coarse geophysical survey (Figure 2). This type of archaeological surveying involves using sensitive instruments to measure various physical properties of the soil, such as electrical resistance or magnetism. However, the density of undergrowth, uneven terrain, and frequency of felled trees meant that this was far, far too prohibitive in terms of labor (which is the primary limiting factor in my research). Fortunately, in the course of cutting paths in preparation for this survey, we found a number of cultural and potentially culturally features. Inspired by this, I changed the strategy to a more basic pedestrian survey.


Figure 2. Quick quiz: Is this a gradiometer, or a dorky Ghostbuster get-up? Answer: Gradiometer, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m in a bad Halloween costume!

Pedestrian surveys, in a nutshell, amount to walking across the landscape and looking at the ground, albeit in a slower and more systematic manner than walking, say, to the grocery store! Given the degree of ground cover, doing any sort of pedestrian survey involved cutting lines through the forest, so we still had some visibility issues. But as you will see from the results section, we managed to identify a number of important features!

Survey Logic

The survey I decided upon was a systematic pedestrian survey, with magnetic North-South transects cut into the forest every 25m East-West. “Systematic” means that, once the start point was chosen, we calculate the location of each additional place I will survey based on a regular interval. You already know what pedestrian survey means. “Transects” are survey lines; one or more individuals walks across them, looking left, right, and down, trying to find surface features or artifacts. Once found, these are mapped in with a total station (Figure 3). Due to the overgrowth, I looked primarily for surface features; many of the artifacts we have found were found in association with them, and as I will explain later, even without that overgrowth, many artifacts are hidden under a thin layer of plant remains and humic material.

Hollis Miller and Sam Hordeski assisting on the total station!

Figure 3. Hollis Miller and Sam Hordeski assisting on the total station!

Each transect was cut from north to south for 50 or so meters, at which point we moved 25 meters east to the next transect. Every 10 meters, we took a topographic point with the total station and hammered in a 5-ft stake. The stakes are used both as guides and as local datums for any features we find (Figure 4). Any features or artifacts found were also mapped in, albeit without stakes.

Datum stakes. These are actually less than 10m apart, but they illustrate the general idea.

Figure 4: Datum stakes. These are actually less than 10m apart, but they illustrate the general idea.

Interested in the results? You can find them on the next post!