ECU's 2006 Fall Field School
29 September 2006
By Tricia Dodds
Friday was our last official day in the field for our field school, which brought mixed emotions for me. Our daily on-site investigation of this fascinating vessel has sadly come to an end, but at the same time we could all use a break from the constant diving in the muddy Pamlico River. One can only build so much character at a time from such challenging diving conditions. The day began with more character-building weather that included a brisk morning wind and an overcast sky, not exactly motivating anyone to get into the cold water. Dismissing the weather though, our goals convinced us to commence diving as we only had today to complete everything. Our goals still included completing the mapping of a few sections of the vessel plus a cross section view and a detailed plan view of the centerboard trunk.
Archaeologists often examine fastener patterns (Note the two in the upper center).
The group worked hard throughout the day as always to complete our assignments on schedule. Today was the first day since dredging began that the dredge was not needed, and the quiet atmosphere was a welcomed change from the constant roar of the engine. No one ever imagined that dredging would take this long when we first started. In fact, we had initially believed that we could dredge and fully hand map the entire vessel in a few days, and now we are trying to finish two weeks after starting. I suppose that plans are always carried out more efficiently in theory as opposed to reality. Such is life.
I finished checking the 40-50 foot starboard section, scrutinizing the details before moving on to my next job. I verified the fastener type and pattern, the timber dimensions, and any other visible seams in the planking to give some clues as to the method used to build this vessel. In addition, I noted the position of four wooden pilings in my section. The presence of pilings in relation to the vessel suggests that it may have been intentionally abandoned since pilings are typically used to secure abandoned vessels and to ensure safe navigation.
The cookout celebrating the completion of field work.
Satisfied with the investigation of my section, I continued to the centerboard trunk for the plan view. Still drawing with the same scale, I noted the details of the centerboard trunk including the foot-long metal fasteners embedded throughout the wood. By early afternoon, the group had completed all of the goals for the site. I emerged from the water to the welcoming sight of the sun and hot dogs cooking on an open grill. Our cookout celebrating the end of field school was already underway. We had successfully completed our investigation of Site B, and most importantly, no one was injured in the process (Thanks for the good luck, Roger!). This was a definite reason to celebrate.
As we departed the site after the cookout, I realized that our work is far from complete. I’ve heard that for every one hour an archaeologist spends in the field she will spend another ten hours in the office analyzing all of the information collected. Even though some may argue the exact amount of hours, the point is still the same. Fieldwork is only the initial phase. We must now take this information collected in the field and determine its meaning. What construction methods were used? By what means and why did this vessel come to rest here? What can this vessel reveal about the people who lived in Washington long ago? What might this vessel have carried during its lifetime? These are just a few examples of the possible questions that we will try to answer as we begin the research phase. Ultimately, we are trying to reveal the history of those affected by this vessel to understand the maritime culture of Washington from long ago. Now that we are finished playing in the mud, we are going back to work in the library. An underwater archaeologist’s work is never done.
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