Posted by: Nathaniel Mich | June 8, 2008

Extramural Testing: June 9, 2008

I’m a member of the extramural crew – that is, we’re not digging in any particular structure. We’re going to be digging a trench between two known structures – the jacal roomblock, where one of the other crews is excavating, and a community structure. As we dig the trench, we’re going to be noting the location of any features or structures we find, in order to try and get a better understanding of the layout of the site. Specifically, we’re trying to figure out whether or not this pithouse village had an organized layout, or if it was more fluid, which is how they are usually portrayed. We’re particularly interested in finding out how effective the geophysical survey was in finding cultural features and structures.

We were just starting the actual digging as I wrote this post, but there were a lot of things we had to do before we could move any dirt. We hung the screen we’ll be using to sift the dirt from a tripod, then started placing the points of what’ll be our excavation units. You can see us using the total station in the picture below to measure the distance from our datum (the reference point from which all the measurements in the site are taken) to the stakes that we were placing at the corners of our grid squares. We had to make sure that the two end-stakes were exactly 10 meters apart before we subdivided that into 2-meter sections that were each 1 meter wide. After that, we used a transit (an instrument that looks like a cross between the total station and an astrolabe) to measure the elevations of two stakes outside the grid squares. From those stakes, we got the elevation of each corner of the grid. This is important for knowing how deep we’ve dug. Finally, it was time to remove the vegetation from the excavation unit and start digging!

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