ECU's 2006 Fall Field School
25 October 2006
By Adam Friedman
Two childhood memories come instantly to mind for this journal entry: my mother telling me to clean up my toys and, at other times, to wash away the ring from around the bathtub. These common events from my upbringing are likely ubiquitous in the combined memories of those reading but I am willing to bet that few have considered their pertinence to the field of underwater archaeology.
Now, imagine that your mother in this hypothetical case is our PI, Dr. David Stewart with a successful year at ECU under his belt.
“Class,” he says. “It’s time to clean up Site B.”
Assorted groans emanate from the Eller House conference room. What had been a tranquil late Wednesday morning spent transferring our mylar grid square drawings onto the master plan had now become tainted with the knowledge of our shared fate scheduled for Monday, October 23.
Multiple items required dismantling at the site. These included all baseline hardware including the baseline itself, as well as site recorder datum posts with attached tape reels and stabilizer rebar stakes; approximately 30 stakes, a come-a-long, and baseline reel. Aside from being ethically bound to remove all installed hardware on the site, we were obligated by the fact that the Washington Park vessel lies on private property.
By the time Monday rolled around four days after Dr. Stewart’s announcement, the highs had dropped 10º F. The expected high was 59º F. Unfazed, Dr. Stewart, Calvin, Amy, Michelle, and Kurt Knoerl, drove off to Washington for one last brisk swim in the Pamlico. Kurt was visiting us from the Museum of Underwater Archaeology to observe our project directly.
Their return to Eller House now brings that second childhood memory into the discussion. It was easily observed, well, smelled at first, that a month of submersion in the Pamlico does not do good things to man-made objects. Walking out to the van, I was suddenly hit with a pycnocline of very dense, very odoriferous air that reminded me of a recently drained and drying out tropical fish tank after the fish have been forgotten.
“Sigh,” I thought. “And we just got that smell out of the van.”
The original colors of each object have been changed to earth tones, which I usually favor. It is now the job of me, Joe, and Trish to remove these earth tones, and hopefully the not-too-fresh smell as well. In case there was any doubt, water from the Pamlico leaves a ring that easily outdoes any in my past experiences.
Despite the funk that clings to our recently-extant gear, conditions inside Eller House are favorable, allowing progress toward a completed master site plan and a comprehensive analysis of both Site A and B. Oral histories are being collected, archives combed through, and heads scratched in the pursuit of the historical information required to write the papers due Friday on the particular histories of both sites. Thus far, evidence of landscape changes has been found. For example, photographs and records place the Pamlico Fertilizer Company factory at the exact location of Site B. However, oyster processing may have occurred there before the Pamlico Fertilizer Company set up operations. Washington has a history of oyster production, which, combined with the prevalence of oyster shells on the site, hints at the interpretation that this may have been an oystering vessel.
Much has yet to be done, some smelly and some less so. Perhaps Amy will do the smelly stuff.
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