Archaeological Field School 2012

Archaeological Field School (Anth 3801)

Credit Weight: 1.0


One FCE in Anthropology or permission of the instructor

In order to measure the level of interest for an archaeological field school to be taught in the 2012 spring session (May 1 to June 12), we need to identify students who are interested in taking the course. If you are interested, please contact LU Dept. of Anthropology (attention or with your name, student number and email address. If we get sufficient interest expressed, then Continuing Education and Distributed Learning will be prepared to finance the instructor's stipend.

Training in archaeological field methods through participation in an excavation project. Students will gain practical experience in archaeological reconnaissance and standard excavation methods, site mapping, field data recording, artifact identification, and data analysis. This intensive field course occurs over 6 weeks in the spring or summer term.

The Dept. of Anthropology is planning an archaeological field school for the spring session of 2012 (May 1 to June 12). This will be a 6-week (1 FCE) course operated in conjunction with the ongoing salvage excavations conducted by Western Heritage, which is a large archaeological consulting firm with branches across central Canada. This field school will take place at a Paleo-Indian site (ca. 9,000 years old) located on an ancient beach within a highway construction corridor near Mackenzie, east of Thunder Bay.

This project has been ongoing for two field seasons and includes working with several First Nations in the region. There will also be opening and closing ceremonies, in recognition and respect of being in Anishinaabe traditional territory. Students are strongly encouraged (but there is no obligation) to participate in these ceremonies that will likely occur before the beginning of the field school course. Interested students will be contacted separately about this opportunity.

The course will focus on developing excavation, documentation and interpretation techniques that will be amplified with skills suited for Cultural Resource Management archaeology. This will involve basic reconnaissance testing, shovel and trowel excavation and field documentation. Since the field school is offered in conjunction with an actual salvage excavation on a construction site, students must adhere to Western Heritage safety protocols. This involves wearing safety  boots and a high visibility vest at all times on the site, daily safety briefings and sign-in procedures. Students will be provided with a safety vest, but will be responsible for suitable footwear. The balance of instruction will be outdoors, and students will need suitable clothing, rain gear, hat, etc. for mixed springtime weather conditions. Because of the construction site venue, use of cell phones and personal music devices will not be permitted (safety/distraction issues).

After three or four days of lecture presentation and exercises on the LU campus, students will be transported to the site by bus where they will work in proximity to the primary field crew. Workdays will extend from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, with periodic breaks. While transportation from a central location in Thunder Bay to and from the work site will be provided, students will be responsible for bringing their own lunch, drinking water, sun screen, insect repellent, etc.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of a midterm quiz, attendance/participation, field excavation and data recording performance (field notes, forms, and cataloguing), and a final term paper.

Field School costs consist of full course tuition, and a $75 ancillary fee (to cover consumable supplies). Students will be loaned excavation tools that must be returned at the end of the course. While equipment 'wear and tear' is to be expected, students will be responsible for replacing equipment that is lost or broken through careless use. They will also be expected to sign a waiver form.

The Site Context

The field school will occur at the Woodpecker II Site, a late Paleo-Indian occupation upon an ancient beach of Glacial Lake Minong. Such sites represent some of the first human occupations in northern Ontario, and are thought to have been occupied shortly after deglaciation. The recoveries are dominated by stone debitage, the flake byproducts of tool production and re-sharpening. Lost, broken or discarded stone tools are also periodically encountered. The acidic forest soil conditions prevent organic preservation. These materials are found in sandy/gravelling sediments (former beach), and while the balance may be encountered within 20 cm of the surface, some are recovered 50 or 60 cm below the surface. An important part of the curriculum will involve learning to interpret the sedimentary matrix and how that reflects former depositional conditions.

The archaeological site is being salvage excavated to recover cultural remains prior to highway construction. Thus, the excavations are proceeding with a tight timeline. This reflects the reality of much archaeological field work in Canada, and as students develop basic excavation proficiency, they will be taught excavation techniques that are commonly employed in such salvage excavation contexts. This is calculated to provide the standard skills needed to find employment in most Canadian archaeological field contexts.