ECU's 2006 Fall Field School
Project Journal Final Entry
20 January 2007

By Dr. David Stewart
Dr. David Stewart

The end of the semester brought the end of Fall field school, and with it the conclusion of this phase of the project.  It was not long before students and faculty scattered to the winds as they always do at this time of the academic year.  Over in Washington, the water is now cold and the sites have been reclaimed by crabs and fish.  In our base of operations at Eller House, only stacks of notebooks, the students’ final reports, and a handful of drawings provide evidence of our work.  Despite this lull, our study of the Washington Park Vessel is far from finished; indeed, it has really only begun.  It is always like this with archaeology.  To say that good research raises more questions than it answers is cliché, but nevertheless accurate.  Never can we complete a project and truly say, “Now we know everything there is to know about it.”  Like the incoming tide, our research diverges into many channels whose topography is shaped by the landscape of unanswered questions.  Our work adds depth to some, while others remain shallow due to lack of evidence, uncharted waters which we or others may explore in the future. 

The next phase of the project will include in-depth research into the vessel and its place in the cultural history of the Washington area, as well as additional fieldwork.  In Summer 2007, I hope to take our next field school crew back to the site to answer questions raised by our initial analyses.  We will record more hull sections, which will allow us to refine Amy’s preliminary lines reconstruction.  There are also some puzzling oddities regarding the framing pattern that we hope to decipher as well.  At the same time, students and I will continue to explore the vessel’s cultural and historical context, hoping to determine, among other things, the relationship of the vessel to the fertilizer industries adjacent to where it was abandoned.

For Calvin and myself, this Project Journal has been another exploration into unknown territory.  We had no idea how it would work out or exactly what the students would say.  Looking back at their entries, I believe that they did a fine job of capturing the flavor of the project and giving readers a taste of what it is like to do fieldwork on a day-to-day basis.  Our work is serious and we take it seriously: one can never make good interpretations without good data, and I hope that our entries have shown you how archaeologists go about collecting and analyzing evidence.  On the other hand, successful projects always contain a measure of humor and frivolity – who knew that the fence posts would be so difficult to remove? -  and I think that the students did a good job of conveying this as well.  Hollywood to the contrary, archaeology can be mind-numbingly tedious, and when working under water one is usually scrambling to record measurements and details accurately while fighting off cold, exhaustion, and hunger.  A sense of humor is vital in the field, and those without it seldom last long.  This crew maintained its spirit of fun despite Tropical Storm Ernesto, less-than-92-degree-water, dredge problems, toxic sludge, overly-friendly dogs, crabs, and the submerged log that everyone managed to trip over at some point (some only once, others quite frequently).

I would like to say thanks to Calvin, Joe, Amy, Adam, Trish, and Michelle for a job well done; to Blount Rumley and the staff of the North Carolina Estuarium, the City of Washington, and Chris and Ashley Padgett; and of course to Kurt Knoerl and the Museum of Underwater Archaeology for hosting this journal. The biggest thanks of all are due to you for reading it.

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