An exciting hands-on course was offered this summer on the University of Kentucky campus. “A six week summer Campus Archaeology Field School for college students to learn and develop skills in historical archaeological research methods close to home. This course includes hands-on learning in site excavation, research, artifact analysis and public engagement” (Sesma, 2022). You do not have to be an Anthropology student to take ANT 585, it is open to all majors.

The Gaines Center of the Humanities is located in three historic properties on Campus. Our excavation is centered in the backyard of the Bingham Davis House. We currently are excavating to find the footprints and artifacts of two of the outbuildings that no longer exist. We are located in the backyard of 218 East Maxwell behind Memorial Coliseum.

Our goal of this field school is to learn how to actually and accurately do the archaeological methods of collection, analysis, and interpretation of findings. Each of us is responsible for keeping daily field notes regarding all that goes on in the units we are excavating in. Research began the first day. Also check out Instagram at #UKY_CAP

Our research involved looking into the county and census records, We discovered the property at 218 Maxwell was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was known as 172 Maxwell. We were able to trace ownership of the property, who the occupants were, and their occupation. The property was purchased in 1890 for $3,750.00 by John and Betty Belwell.

Learning to map our site and units.
Dr. George Crothers, Director of the UK William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology mapping our site.
One meter by one meter unit. Sod is removed and Unit 1 is open.
No, This is not Indiana Jones!

Week One was full of learning, researching, and discoveries.

Munsell Chart

Documentation is key to any excavation. All data is written in our field notes and on site forms. This a student utilizing a Munsell Color Chart to identify the color of the soil. The color of the soil and how that color changes allows for the identification of features and different layers of soil (stratum).

Feature #1 composed of dark brown soil and different inclusions such as charcoal under a layer of gravel. Feature is defined as a nonportable collection of one or more contexts representing some type of human activity.

All soil, clay, gravel, and coal removed from the units is sifted, looking for artifacts.

Artifact bag and documentation, information. and contents of bag also entered on a unit form and in everyone’s field notes.

Units #2 and #3 have revealed some exciting finds and raised additional questions. During a trip to the archives to research documentation and old property maps we found a few answers.

This explains the gravel on site! “S1-5: Consider removal of center gravel drive and parking lot behind #218.”
Yellow buildings do not exist today. Pink are still standing. Our property is located just above the “well” in the street name E. Maxwell at the bottom of the picture. Note the three yellow squares behind the property. Those are the areas we are excavating to determine what the buildings were used for.

Unit 3 has a lot of great features! Possible foundation, driveway, and now that hole in the ground. The stratification or soil layers, are distinct layers of natural and cultural debris.

Faunal remains (bone) found in Unit 1. AKA Foodways! A femur bone located close to the charcoal level. An important artifact in determining how this site was used. In this case we suppose garbage was buried or burned. Foodways is defined as the cultural eating habits of people in a regional historic area.

Unit 3 continues to surprise. What the unit has revealed is a post hole with some of the wood post still in existence.

Dr. Sesma, TA Keppeler, and students discussing yet another Unit 3 surprise.

Archaeology is very much a multi-disciplinary science. One visitor to our site was Dr. Kat Napora, from the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology, to test the wood located in the post hole to see what species it is. She tested it and gave us a demonstration of determining how old a tree is by its rings. Also, explained how you can determine the climate changes that have occurred by the size of those rings. A big thank you for your visit and presentation! We, as students enjoyed this and recognize and understand your passion for your field.

Taking a core sample. No joke, you need strength for this!
Rings from a Bald Cyprus
Obtaining a sample.

Community engagement is a very important part of Archaeology. We have had numerous family, friends, Professors, and University employees stop by to see what we have been up to and discovered.

Dr. Jefferies and with our Professor, Dr. Sesma.

Additionally, videographers from the University Public Relations and Marketing, Office of the Provost have been filming our endeavors. While this is marketing for the University, it falls under our public engagement criteria . We had so much fun being staged (hamming it up) for the camera while just doing what we do on-site.

There have been many exciting moments for those involved with this project but June 24, 2022 tops all. Taken from individual field notes:

We are in Unit 7, Strat 3, Level C. It is a cloudless day, 75 degrees, no breeze, and its 09:15 am. The Munsell is 10 yr 3/2 – very dark grayish brown loamy clay. There is coal, gravel, roots throughout the unit. The videographer from the Office of the Provost, Public Relations and Marketing is on site taking video. And it finally happens in this unit. Fen, a student, uncovers an amazing artifact.

Pewter knife with intact blade!!!!
University Public Relations and Marketing Brad Nally filming the excavation of the pewter knife. This may be for marketing purposes but it is also valuable documentation of the find and the excavation methods used to extract it.
Unit 7 reveal – pieces of a whiteware saucer that fit together .

Dr. Sesma talking with two supporters of our Campus Archaeology Project. Mr. Bill Schweri who received Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Anthropology from the University, is a major donor to the Department of Anthropology Legacy Fund. They are with talking Dr. Scott Hutson, Anthropology Department Chair. Along with Dr. Melynda Price, the three people in this picture were the force behind making this project happen.

Dr. Melynda Price, Director of the Gaines Center for Humanities + Professor, UK College of Law, was a tremendous supporter of our excavation. She and her staff were curious about the Victorian houses the Center is located in. They very generously allowed us the use of the Victorian house located at 226 East Maxwell street and the backyard of the Bingham Davis House for our excavation site . A big thank for lunch on our final day.

Dr. Price informed us that in the early 1900’s the schools alumni would donate coal for the furnaces on Campus. The UK Arboretum used to have piles of that donated coal. All of the Victorian houses were once heated with coal. This is a very possible explanation for one source of all the coal we were finding. This is a great example of community involvement helping to find answers to how these houses were lived in.

What follows is amazing. Our Teacher Assistant James Keppeler is educating us on how 3D Imaging is of great importance in documenting archaeological finds and how to use the equipment and manipulate the program to produce 3D images of our units.

TA Keppeler using an ARTEC 3D scanner to document Units 2 and 3. The scanner takes multiple images in rapid fire getting all the topography of the unit.

Scanning image of four units on the ARTEC 3D scanner.

ARTEC program rending and combining all pictures into a concise image of the topography of our units.

Really is amazing that these rendered images can be manipulated to be able. to view the unit from different points of reference such as north, south, or focus on just certain areas.

Unit 2 and 3 just keep on surprising us!

Tooth paste cap. The writing on the cap led to simple research. This cap is from the Kolyonos Company and manufactured between 1908 and 1931. In 1931 the company was purchased by Colgate in 1931. Thank you TA Keppler for that research!

You can not have a dig without occasional issues popping up unexpectedly.

Old gas line? Water? Prior to starting our excavation 811 was called and current utilities were marked. So this was a surprise, all work in this unit stopped until Campus Utilities and Energy Management arrived to investigate. While it is hard to see from this photograph there is a change in the color of the soil around the pipe indicating a builders trench that was filled in after placing the pipe in this area.

Graham Gray, UK Utilities System Manager, and crew arrived inspecting the pipe and area concluding that it is no longer in use and excavating around it would not be a problem.

University Photographer Mark Cornelison took drone video and Staff Photographer Arden Barnes took numerous photographs documenting the Campus Field Archaeology Project.

Before closing a unit, a profile of the stratigraphy is drawn with the depths of each stratum/level for each wall in the unit.

Mapping points to identify exactly their location. Plans are to return to these four units at another date. On Thursday, June 30th at 2:30 in the afternoon, on the last day of excavating, an anomaly was discovered. Another possible wooden post might have been located.

2022 Coins are placed in each unit to inform future archaeologist that this area was excavated once before and when. This is a 2022 quarter commemorating the accomplishments of Astronaut Sally Ride. Appropriate as three female students worked on this unit.

Black plastic lined the bottom and sides of the four units to facilitate opening them at a future date. The positions of these units have been mapped and documented.

Dr. Sesma and two students filling yet another wheelbarrow.

Backfilling the units on a very hot day!

TA James Keppeler

Almost six weeks of excavating and it only took a day to put all that dirt and gravel back in the units. Three wheelbarrows, shovels, eight students, a TA, and a Professor got the job done.

All Done…

Professor Sesma as we were backfilling the units stated, “This is satisfying but sad.” I agree, there is so much more to discover in the those four units and in other areas of the backyard. Next all the field notebooks, unit forms, observations, 3D models, and artifacts need to be analyzed, reported, and curated. This has been a great experience actually doing what we have learned about in numerous Archaeology and in additional Anthropology classes. Thank you again to all who made it possible. Additionally, other Archaeology opportunities have been made available to us and other Anthropology students,

The students that spent the last six weeks participating in the Campus Archaeology Project wish to thank Dr. Elena Sesma, TA James Keppeler for this incredible experience. Also, a big shout out to our “Professor Behind the Scenes.” Dr. Evan Taylor, Post Doctorial Scholar, University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology. He was a valuable member of our team. Dr. Taylor helped us with documentation, took photographs, answered questions, shared experiences, and I just have to mention the Icey Pops and Gatorade he ran out for that helped us get through the heat and humidity. Welcome to the University of Kentucky Dr. Taylor!

There are numerous people who added to and helped make this field school happen. A big thank you to Jennifer Hottman, Librarian III, at the William T. Young Library, She facilitated the establishment of this CreateUKY.edu WordPress document setting it up so it can be passed on to a student in the next part of this story.