Troop 868 in Action

Archaeology Dig (April, 2005)

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During the month of April, a local amateur archaeologist came to several weekly troop meetings to talk with our scouts about the science of archaeology, show numerous artifacts he has found over the years, and demonstrate flint knapping -- the art of making arrowheads, spear heads, and other tools from flint via ancient methods.  The boys were fascinated with both his collection and his demonstrations.  To top it all off, he invited the scouts to participate in an actual archaeological dig later in the month.

When we arrived at the dig site early on Saturday morning, we were shocked to learn that the amateur archaeologists have a national association and conduct a dozen or so organized digs each year at various sites around the country.  There were people there from all over the United States!  Everyone was exceptionally welcoming and anxious to teach the scouts what to do and how to do it correctly --- and the boys were eager to learn.

The dig area had already been marked off in 4' x 4' squares before we got there.  Scouts, like all the other diggers, were assigned to specific squares in teams of two.  Using small trowels and scrappers, the scouts carefully excavated exactly 4" of soil, carefully sifting through the dirt as they went along to find artifacts.  The dirt was then dumped into buckets to be sifted to find any small artifacts that might get missed by the initial inspection.  One of our newest scouts found the first artifact of the day --- a spear point --- only a few minutes after starting to dig.  That provided great encouragement to the rest of the boys, many of whom really didn't expect to find anything.  How wrong they were!  In about 6 hours of digging, the entire group found slightly more than 300 artifacts (arrowheads, spearheads, pottery fragments, etc.) with the scouts finding about 50 of those items.

The day turned out to be a "hands on" laboratory that far exceeded looking at pictures or simply reading or being told about digging procedures.  The scouts learned about cleaning, bagging, and carefully cataloging the exact location where each artifact was found.  They got to dig, sift, wash, weigh, and bag their finds.  And after the items have been further examined and photographed, they will eventually get them back to keep for their personal collection.  The whole experience rated an A+ with the scouts.

Upon arrival, we were met by Mr. Shelton, our host and merit badge counselor. Before long, he had us digging in the dirt ... carefully excavating soil in 4" layers.
Stephen and John sift dirt through a screen to find any small objects they might have initially missed. Trey, Tim, and Vincent sift dirt from another square.
It didn't take long for scouts to get the hang of it and everyone soon had dirty fingers and wet knees! The dig site sat atop a knoll overlooking this valley.  It was thought the ancient Indians might have camped here and fashioned tools and weapons as they watched for prey to wander into the valley.
This arrow point was among one of the better finds of the day. Anytime an artifact was found, the exact location and depth was measured and recorded.
The artifacts were then individually bagged for further study and evaluation. Excitement increased with each find and scouts were naturally encouraged to keep digging.
Tim shows off a find to Stephen. Scoutmaster Meek prepares to bag an artifact that has been found.
Anything solid found during digging was collected and later washed.  As Jeremy's expression shows, the water in the tank was VERY COLD. The cleaned items were then examined to make sure that no small fragments of flint were missed.