We finished up three units today, carefully mapping in all the walls in order to record the depth and location of each layer of soil we excavated. We have two weeks left, starting on Monday. We are looking forward to starting fresh and well-rested on our new leads.
Here is a crew bio written by Beverly Hendricks, a student from Bloomsburg, who travels to the site everyday from her home in Shamokin:
‘Archaeology is always dirty, sometimes exciting, often tedious, interspersed with moments of joy’. Mike Roller made that statement to our group on the second day of our excavation. Since I had recently found a beautiful glass button that was intact, I had to agree with the first three points of his statement as I was definitely feeling excited. As for the first two points, I had already realized the dirty part on our first day (I don’t think my white shirt will ever come completely clean!), and digging shovel test pits can definitely be tedious. However I had yet to experience that moment of joy.
As a cultural anthropology major I had already done ethnographic fieldwork, expecting to graduate this fall I was hoping to find an archaeological excavation that I could participate in to help round out my fieldwork experience. As a parent of a small child I was unable to participate in the excavation that Bloomsburg University (where I am currently enrolled) normally offers as it is in Ohio, and I couldn’t leave my son for six weeks. Enter the fateful e-mail that was forwarded to all anthropology majors by our department. After reading the description of the history of Lattimer, and finding that the site is only an hour from my home, I immediately responded to Mike, explaining my interest and asking how I went about applying to participate. You see, it wasn’t that the excavation was close to me that drew my attention at first, it was the history associated with the site that did it. My Pappap (Grandfather for those of you not from the coal region), was a coal miner who died from black lung. My great-grandfather was a Molly Maguire, and his grandfather had immigrated from Ireland during the potato famine. He came to the coal region as soon as he landed, not surprising since my Mother’s maiden name is Collier. Clearly this was the perfect project for me to participate in, and I eagerly awaited the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the excavation.
Now as we move into our fourth week of excavation, I am amazed at what I am learning about the methods of archaeological excavation as well as the lives of the people that inhabited this small parcel of Lattimer. At times it is a bit emotional for me, as it hits close to home, knowing that my own family experienced the same hardships, exploitation, and discrimination only a generation earlier. At the same time, the everyday items that we recover, the location and layout of the site, tells a story of the determination of a group of people to give their families a better life than they could have hoped for in the old country, just as my family had done. So I continue to get dirty, experiencing the excitement of finding a pipe stem or large piece of ceramic with lettering or a design on it, holding that feeling through the endless digging and screening while finding only small pieces of glass. On Tuesday, June fifth, while troweling the bottom of our unit in preparation for a photo, I saw an object come flying up off of the soil. With heart beating I grabbed it and began rubbing the dirt off of it. With much rubbing on clothing and a little water from my bottle, I was able to identify it as an Indian head penny dated 1901. Moments of joy indeed.