The first question relates to the exact time when this area was home to Native Americans. I also sought to find out the dominant cultural practices of the community that was present at this time. Some of these relate to religious and spirituals practices. I was also interested in fin dinging out some of the basic household practices that characterized this community. The other thing that I hoped to find in this archeological project was the pattern or simplicity of life among this community. This would be through looking for common domestic items or tools that were predominantly used among members of this community during the era that they lived there.
I chose this particular research after intensive research on the history of Native Americans and their suspected settlement areas before the arrival of the white settlers. It is commonly known that the white settlers stole land from the Indians and forced them out of their homes. Most of the Indians at this time seem to have been residing in the Central and North Eastern part of the nation. The region, I particularly chose (Upstate, New York) has been subject to great archeological unearthing in the last few decades. After analyzing data and probability patterns of potential sites of interest, I was more convinced that there was a great deal of information to be gathered from this area. My projected was centered on an area with a radius of 0.3 miles. I reviewed existing information on this site using historical documents and also reviewed other archeological findings from the area. I also collected ethnographic accounts of several Native American tribes in the area, examined land records and took several aerial photographs as part of my preliminary survey. The particular area I explored still harbors a few Native American tribes and so I had to seek their permission before proceeding with the research. I also conducted a reconnaissance survey where I visited the physical site several times and tried to determine the specific areas where I would excavate. To do this, I conducted walks on the area using some evenly spaced transects. I took and dug samples of soil and vegetative cover to determine which particular area with the 0.3 mile radius showed the highest probability of giving rise to credible material. I also conducted some preliminary surface collections whose primary objective according to Fagan is to gather representative samples of artifacts and related material from the site’s surface (n.p). In regard to choosing a specific area to conduct the sub surface collections, I had to rely on random sampling. I was able to collect some few metallic pieces from this endeavor from several prospective areas. There were particularly two areas which showed increased probability of dense occupation due to a relatively large amount of subsurface collections and in fact, this is what enabled me to pick on the specific area where the excavation was going to take place.
In regard to the area chosen, one preliminary finding was that the soil was very fertile, and most of the area had huge vegetative cover. The soil was also very soft. Using natural deduction, I adopted the idea that the Native Americans who had lived in this are before the 1600’s must have been farmers.
Before beginning the actual excavation, I conducted a subsurface detection to assess the probability of the presence archeological resources in order to augment what I had already discovered using the sub surface collections. I primarily used non-intrusive subsurface detection, and the particular tools utilized were ground penetrating radar and metal detectors.
This step was then followed by the actual excavation process. Given that the primary material of interest was probably several hundred years old, I needed extra caution when it came to choosing the excavation or digging tools. I needed to use tools that would be very sensitive, and that would not potentially destroy any piece of artifact that it came across, but would rather preserve it. My excavation plan was to dig down several layers of the ground progressively. The excavation area would be divided into two parts and excavation would commence on one site and after some time, it would commence on the other part. The width of the excavation hole would be increased progressively as digging continued, and the two holes would inadvertently meet at some point. I did this because I realized that there was a greater probability and likelihood for material preservation rather than approaching the excavation from only one dimension. The principal tool used was the trowel. A trowel is used to remove thin soil layers from the test site (Barker 112). Layers of soil were continuously removed and any materials that revealed themselves were taken and stored. The materials were placed in specially labeled bags with the depth of the excavation hole where particular material had been removed being recorded. A lot of care was taken to ensure that the collected samples were not altered in any way and that they remained the way that they had initially been found. In order to determine the relative age of the samples, the process of stratigraphy was required. Stratigraphy is a process that uses soil layers or geological layers to determine the age of each and therefore also reveals the age of the material embedded into these layers (Renfrew et al. 102). For this purpose, samples from each of the encountered soil layers were collected for further analysis. After two days of excavation, enough material had been collected, and it was time to proceed to the analysis step.
In the data analysis center, the first thing that was done was to subject the material and data collected from the site to an intensive analyses and all the findings were input to a computer system. This included the analysis of soil layers using various chemical methods as well as the physical examination of artifacts that included pieces of metal, domestic items including what resembled metal plates and spoons as well as several pieces of gardening tools such as hoes.
This was followed by the construction graphical representation of the excavation sites. The main tools used were maps and a geographical information system (GIS). This tool was used to draw a geographical map of the excavation area with particular focus on the soil layers as well as the distribution of the archeological materials. A Geographical Information System is also used to interpret as well as statistically analyze the stored data in graphic form (Fagan n.p). In this study, it was utilized to analyze all the data entered into the computer system. The combination of all these methods helped to reveal a great deal the particular excavation site particularly in regard to the kind of life that the Native Americans who lived there led. After a comprehensive interpretation of the analyzed data, the final component of the archeological endeavor involved the publishing of an official survey report. A survey report essentially summarizes the research in terms of the specific areas examined, field efforts, findings as well as recommendations for any further research (Renfrew et al. 78).
This archeological research was very instrumental as it revealed several things about the particular community of Native Americans that resided in the area excavated. It was found this was a simple community whose main economic activity was agriculture. The community was however relatively advanced as the findings of the metallic pieces of gardening tools as well as simple domestic items such as spoons and plates were an indication that this was a community that had mastered the art of metal work.
Barker, Philip. Techniques of archaeological excavation. Psychology Press, 1993.
Fagan, Brian M. Archaeology: A Brief Introduction. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1999. Print.
Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn. Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice. 2nd ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.