Sifting, cleaning and collecting
It is the adults’ turn to grab the trowels and get down in the dirt as a small group participates in evening Archaeology Field School at The Castle throughout the week.
As a follow-up of Archaeology Camp for children that took place two weeks ago, adults are now picking up where their younger fellow archaeologists left off.
Along with the help of archaeologist Wes Clarke, adults are working to dig up buried pieces of pottery dating back to Nathaniel Clark, the potter who inhabited the house on the hill in the 1840s.
“We’ve found lots of pottery here, and it goes all the way down,” Clarke said. “Once we get past this light-colored, newer gardening soil, we’ll get down to the darker stuff and find more.”
Real archaeological dig areas have been plotted on the lower-level of The Castle’s front yard, and participants are looking for more pieces of pottery left over from Clark’s days as well as the “kiln furniture”-structures also built of clay that were used to hold items in the kiln.
“The deeper layers have lots of clay that we think they would have used to make pots, and what we’re finding is discarded pottery that was probably ruined in the kiln,” Clarke said.
Participants are sifting, cleaning and collecting all samples so that Clarke can analyze them and eventually make a detailed map of the grounds and the distribution of findings.
“I think we’ll get a lot of new information from this second year,” Clarke said.
Unlike with children, Clarke said adult school participants can help out with more controlled digging.
“We emphasize careful digging here, because we really want to do this right,” he said.
Parkersburg resident Wilma High, 71, was working at sifting through items and bagging them.
“I have a lot of interest in the history of the area, and then I think everyone has at least some interest in archaeology,” she said. “But this is a chance to do it here without the wild animals.”
High said nothing solid is left in the dirt.
“We’re taking out everything left after the dirt is sifted out that might be interesting,” she said.
Tammie Rinard, 54, of Newport, brought along her sister, Brenda Mendenhall, 52, to the school when she saw the advertisement for it.
“I’ve always found this interesting, so I had to try it out,” she said.
Mendenhall said the group had found lots of pottery, but hoped there was a chance other items might turn up.
“I would love to find an arrowhead, but we haven’t been that lucky yet,” she said.
The theory behind the site is that the grounds were once extensively dug up so that clay could be extracted for Clark’s pottery, and another area with other items like buttons and pieces of plates are indicative of early residents.
“A lot of the time the groupings change as far as the time period and what the purpose of the items were, so we’re looking for any difference vertically and horizontally across the grounds,” Clarke said.
Josh Page, 19, of Marietta, said he joined the group due to his interest in pursuing history and anthropology as a career.
“I’ve taken some anthropology classes, which ties into archeology, but I wanted to see what it was actually like to do it,” he said.