Since my last stint in the field, in Iceland last summer, I have swapped the midnight sun for starlit nights and midges for mosquitos. And after much planning, gear purchasing, travelling, organizing, equipment sorting, car renting, food buying, and then accounting for everything we forgot, the Barbuda field school is underway and moving along nicely. We have completed a week and a half of excavation at Seaview and the site has produced a lot of archaeology. The students are working hard, wearing lots of bug repellant and sun block and generally having a great time, as far as I can tell.
Due to an unusually rainy year the island’s vegetation has grown significantly. This has made things slightly more challenging in regards to clearing the site for excavation and also travelling on the dirt roads between Codrington, where we are staying, and other parts of the island. Nonetheless, we have persevered and now have a rather large trench that is getting ever deeper. Where we had hoped to find further evidence of structures, first discovered in 2008, and potentially an early Saladoid plaza, we have only so far uncovered a large midden deposit. The midden has produced a large amount of Saladoid pottery as well as worked shell and stone. Considering that the field season is still young, we are holding out for evidence of structures once we get deeper into the stratigraphy.
Of the undergraduate students working on the site, only one has previous archaeological experience. They are all working hard and are very eager to learn about the island and its early inhabitants. Besides participating in the excavation every day, the students are also going to lectures in the evenings, given by visiting scholars, and developing ideas for individual projects related to the work we are doing in Barbuda. They have all been armed with Flip cameras and are actively shooting video each day to record the experiences they most value. So far the project seems to be a success, with the archaeology going smoothly, the students full of excitement, and me still standing.
This coming week will be the student’s last here in Barbuda. I will be staying on for two more months with a small team of graduate students to continue the excavations at Seaview. There is a lot of work we would like to finish with the students still here, including working with their video narratives. Below are two samples of student video clips shot over the past week:http://vimeo.com/18859082
Once all the students have submitted their footage I will have a good sample to draw from to discuss the initial aims of the project, ie how the field experience has affected the learning process in regards to archaeological fieldwork. Rachel, the film student who is shooting video of the excavation itself, is also getting a lot of great footage. So far she has shot the initial site analysis, clearing of vegetation, setting up the site grid, troweling, sieving, and the careful removal of a large almost completely intact pot. I think the contrast between the student narratives and the “official” site narrative has the potential to tell an interesting story about archaeological fieldwork and its effectiveness as a learning experience.