Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shovel Testing

The lowly shovel test is one important component of the archaeological survey. This form of prospecting is the most common method of discovering archaeological resources, as well as for ground-truthing site location prediction models. As it is usually the first part of the field component of a project it is referred to in CRM as "Phase I Survey." A shovel test can vary in size depending on the State in which we're working. Florida regs require one of the largest shovel tests, weighing in at 50 x 50 cm and to a depth of a meter or more below the ground surface! Part of the reason for excavating such a large test is because of the long history of human occupation in Florida on shifting and rapidly accumulating sandy soils. Sites were quickly and deeply buried, and so we must dig quite deeply to find them. Another reason for the large size of the tests has to do with the logistics of pulling shovelfuls of sand from a meter or more below surface. If the tests were any smaller, the shovel would be held too vertically to keep the materials on the spade!

Will uses a screen to get an approximation of 50 cm before cutting the root mat.
Richard excavates a shovel test as Amanda screens and looks for artifacts.
Mike pulls soil from an ever-deepening shovel test.

Students learned how to orient their shovel tests with the compass directions. If any artifacts are found in a shovel test, we place additional tests around it at tighter intervals than used along the normal transect. Should the site prove to be a significant one (meeting National Register of Historic Places standards), we would prefer our shovel test be neatly oriented relative to the future excavation units to follow. Keeping transects, shovel tests, and test units tightly controlled on a grid helps maintain valuable locational information, just one part of an artifact's context.

Brittany learns the art of tossing soil.

Munsell color charts are consulted as part of the note-taking process.

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