Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The End

Ariel:  It began in Tent City. Having driven three and a half hours from our home state of Iowa, we were introduced to a new group from MSU and UW-Madison. In the afternoon heat, we unpacked equipment, set up our tents and were given a tour of Aztalan National Park by renowned archaeologist Dr. Lynne Goldstein. The mission was to learn more about how these people structured their lives and their means of doing so. In the next five weeks, this would be our all-consuming task.

The first step: ground sweeps of west palisade and the gravel knoll, a process known as survey. The second step: setting up our giant grid with the total station. The third step: demarcating units with nails and string, and calculating elevations. Once this had all been completed, the action could begin. We were each assigned a partner to work on one unit and through clay soil, trowel hand, blisters, heavy buckets, the blazing sun, the pouring rain, confusing elevations, strange visitors and multiple people telling us what to do or not do, we persisted for five weeks. In the midst of all this digging, there were also moments of magic when one recovered a splendid artifact, was given snacks at a time other than cookie break, or had conversations that took one’s mind off of all the difficult work at hand.

Field school had been full of mystery, drama, danger, action and more. The mystery included not only what each excavated area was used for, but what lay beneath the Earth with each shovel full. Drama came in the form of interpersonal relationships. Danger could be found in a sketchy canoe trip across the Crawfish, sharp trowels, tiny ticks, and dehydration. Action occurred daily – everyone was to assist in packing the gator in the morning and for the rest of the day either shoveled, screened, troweled or took notes. Even after work there was a flurry of vehicles to the showers and dinner. 

But with all of this said and done, our story came to a close in much the same way that it began. After a pressure-filled last few days in which we were plagued by rainstorms, it was time to leave. Saying goodbye to those we had truly bonded with even though we were ready to go home was bittersweet. In such a short space, I cannot possibly include every event or emotion, but I can say with certainty that field school is a story worth telling and experiencing. 

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