Fuzzy resolution I

So now it is a new year, and all the possibilities are before me.

True to my need for constant overstimulation and unrelenting stress, I have enrolled in an online archaeology course.  I am very curious how the online thing will work, as my scant knowledge of archaeology has left me with pictures of using q-tips to gently brush the surface soil from an acre in Montana in hopes of unearthing a wooly mammoth or raptor; I have a feeling I will not be undertaking a similar dig in my suburban backyard (though if I should, I expect to find a cache of toy soldiers).

But (as they say on TV) wait, that’s not all!  I also enrolled in a systems analysis course.  Much of the material is known, but there was enough subject matter that interests me and is relevant to my chosen work to make the course attractive.

Now I sit here with buyer’s remorse, wondering if I am having a crisis of faith or insanity.


9 responses

  1. Archaeology…. wow.. sounds amazing to me!!

    Heaven forbid you be bored…..lol

  2. Pedant that I am, I should point out that if you find yourself excavating a raptor you will be indulging in palaeontology. Archeology deals with more recent things, and history deals with what happened this morning.

  3. Indeed, @mmonyte – you are correct.

    I once had a wish to become a paleobotanist (this was before the book and movie ‘Jurassic Park’ made this into a romantic career). In the schoolyard of the small town in which I was raised, I found some rocks imprinted with plant material.

    Artifacts in this area are common – arrowheads, leather from old temporary homes, even the occasional bit of pottery or baskets in arid microclimates. Nearer to the coast where erosion naturally excavates materials, there are many native American garbage buriel sites.

    It is not quite as prolific as Europe I suppose, which boasts some truly ancient cities and, therefor, likely abounds in fabulous artifacts.

  4. Indeed we do. In my own garden I have found fossils of Trilobites and Cretaceous echinoids, and a few miles away, I found some iron-age pottery whilst field walking for the bloke who painted Brit and Amber’s house. Oh and some flint microliths. So that covers about 300 million years. There’s even an online resource where we can check on what old stuff has been found nearby http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/search/map.cfm

  5. So, what is field walking?

  6. Field walking is a basic archeological survey which involves walking across a field! Basically you look for anything out of place, you hope for gold coins, lost holy grails, that sort of thing, but usually all you find are interestingly (but naturally) shaped stones, and bits of modern rubbish. (In this context modern is anything since the american revolution)

    If you are really really lucky you might find a bit of iron-age pottery, or a flint flake that a tame archeologist declares to be “a bit lithic” (i.e. he can’t tell if it is paleolithic, neolithic or mesolithic). Somewhere there exists a photograph of the pleasingly rather large fragment of iron Age pottery that I found in Datchet, I’ll try and dig it up (the photograph) and post it somewhere.

    Ideally the field has been recently ploughed and a few showers of rain have cleaned it up a bit. It’s a technique usually adopted as a precursor to a more detailed archeological dig. In the case of Datchet, the site was identified from crop marks on old aerial photographs. Increasingly google earth is becoming a good source for identifying potential locations.

    Sometimes you simply get a line of people to walk slowly across the field, but we were more methodical. The site was mapped into ten meter squares, and any finds from a particular square were put into a bag and recorded. That way we mapped the scatter of finds and correlated them to the aerial photos.

    The site was a small iron-age settlement on the banks of a now-vanished backwater of the River Thames.

  7. This is the location we walked: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/search/fr.cfm?rcn=NMR_NATINV-251184

    If you switch on the google maps view, zoom in, and change to the satellite view, the edge of the old stream is defined by the top edge of the paler crops. (Very thin stony soil there [what us geologists call a point bar deposit], hence pale crops). Just to the north of the three closely spaced ADS markers you can see (with the eye of faith) a square enclosure, and that is where we were investigating.

  8. How cool! The satellite view was not too bad. It sounds like you made quite a haul during that investigation.

    My archaeology textbook has arrived, and with it came a companion CD, which includes some live-action video of digs. Should be fun!

  9. In the UK there is a TV series called “Time Team” (http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/T/timeteam/) that features a slightly artificial 3-day digs, but worth watching nevertheless. I don’t know if it is carried by any US channels.

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