Leadership Project

Like everything we learned this quarter, everyone’s knowledge grew with experience and practice. This was seen through all of the methods and tools we were all introduced to in the past six weeks, even the global positioning system (GPS) receivers.

Remembering back to the first time we used the Trimble Pro6H GPS receiver and data logger with ArcPad (the accompanying program) we had a difficult time. We started with a short practice session outside the Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Following along with a tutorial we were given, we were able to set up a practice file and start taking points. When it came to making a polyline and polygon we had trouble, and later all of our points were erased. This was not the first (or last time) we were able to assess and readjust. We figured out that we had more than one feature selected and that we had been using the wrong arrow to save. Once we went back outside to try again everything went smoothly and we were able to successfully take points, polylines, and polygons.

After our practice round we “leveled up” and began recording the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s Powwow grounds and the Molalla encampment site. We recorded several points, polylines, and features. We used points to record things like trees, poles, and building corners. Polylines were used for boundaries, clearings, and points of interest like flower patches and elevation changes at the Molalla site. At the Molalla site we also used the GPS system to save the points of the grids we had created for our geophysical survey of the site with the gradiometer and GPR. This will help future field school years to find the points we were working with and so they will not have to create new grids. The GPS data will also be used in conjunction with the data taken from the total station to orient it, since all of the points it has taken are not georeferenced.

In the last week of being in the field I devoted my time and focus to the GPS. During, this time we had opened up surface collection units at the Molalla site and were doing more excavation work at the schoolhouse site. We used the GPS to save the coordinates of all 48 surface collection units’ southwest, southeast, northeast, and northwest corners, resulting in 192 coordinates. The most difficult task by far were the points we recorded at the Schoolhouse site. With ArcPad you can decide how many points are taken when taking a point. The larger the number of points used, the greater the accuracy and the longer we had to hold the rod level. With the surface collection coordinates we used 20 points per point. At the Schoolhouse we used 500 points to record the datum and backsight. This was tough because the wind made it difficult to hold the Trimble rod level and standing steady made your feet feel like they were burning. But, after completing it, you feel very accomplished.

For my leadership project I chose to focus on the GPS, because it is a tool people use everyday and do not realize the possibilities it has. Archaeologists use GPS in the field with practiced experience and the last six weeks have taught me that gaining this experience and practice helps to make the process go by much faster, and easier.

Fort Vancouver Visit

Whenever I talk to my family while at the field school they always ask me what I am doing and what I am learning about. If I tell them that we went on a field trip that day they always seem shocked like they thought we would always be working outdoors learning about archaeological methods and strategies of excavation. While a big part of the field school is learning about these techniques, a large part is also about when and how to use archaeology to both include and benefit the wider public. Recently, we visited Fort Vancouver to learn more about this approach to archaeology.

At Fort Vancouver we met a team of archaeologists and their students who were practicing public archaeology. They were doing work in what is believed to be a WWI Spruce Mill. They explained their excavation methods to us. I noticed a lot of similarities and differences between the excavations being done at the schoolhouse and the mill. For example, logistically our excavation techniques are very similar. Their units consist of 1 x 4 meter trenches and larger 3 x 3 meter open area excavations. While our project with the Grand Ronde THPO emphasizes low-impact methods, we are using similar open-area excavation units to investigate a privy at the Grand Ronde School.

While the techniques of excavation are similar, the communities for which we are doing this work are different. The archaeologists of Fort Vancouver do their work to educate the public, while the work being done at the schoolhouse is part of an indigenous approach to archaeology. Therefore, the work we do through FMIA is directly informed by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s needs and cultural values. This means that all of the knowledge that is gained from working at the schoolhouse site would not be possible unless the tribe, THPO, and the archeologists doing the work had a respected trustful relationship.

Fort Vancouver uses different methods to inform the public about what they are doing. All of their work is on display to the park’s visitors and they regularly host family fun activities. Both the open lab display, where there is a large window that allows people to observe the students processing artifacts, and excavations outside the fort allow anyone to walk by and see what the team is doing and ask questions.

I thought it was interesting that Fort Vancouver has a children’s dig. It was explained that the artifacts were organized within mock excavation units by time. As the children dig in these units they first encounter mostly trash. As they dig further they find older items like a grenade, representative of the fort’s history a US Army base, and finally a hearth associated with the early fort. They explained how after the children have dug up the artifacts, they are returned and not kept. I thought this was an effective way to get children and the community involved with archaeology, and to learn at a young age that archaeologists do not keep what they find. An important aspect of public archaeology is engaging the general public and letting them know what’s going on. Fort Vancouver does this by working with the local news to help spread the word about what they are doing.

It was nice to see archaeological work in a different setting, and to see the methods being used to include the community.

About Me

Hi, my name is Mychaela Barrientos. I am a senior at the University of Washington in the undergraduate anthropology department. I have lived in Tacoma, Washington, for most of my life. I enjoy watching tv, especially The Walking Dead and listening to music.
I have not taken many classes about archaeology so I am excited to learn more about it while also applying the methods we are learning about. Also, I am excited to put myself out of my comfort zone, because I have never camped for such an extensive amount of time.