Dig Diary: Rainy Days
by Eric Deetz, Time Team Archaeologist
The first day was a typical rain day in archaeology. Do we close up shop or wait it out? The rain slowed us down a bit but not too much. By the afternoon the weather cleared and we got underway. It's exciting to be able to contribute to the archaeology of New Philadelphia. It's inspiring to learn about how Free Frank McWorter was able to use the very system that had enslaved him to his advantage. It seems that he and his sons were able to navigate through the complex legal system that existed in the mid 19th century to achieve some level of justice and success in a system that was stacked against them.
We got ridiculous amounts of rain all morning long, not only rain but lighting as well. In all, a pretty miserable morning. It's a little stressful because the more time we lose to rain the less time we have to excavate. We've lost the better part of a day to the rain delays, however it's time for a reality check. It's hard to get too bummed out about not getting to dig when you know that nearby there are whole communities sandbagging their towns in a fight against the flooding Mississippi. Last weekend the New Philadelphia field school spent their time moving the museum and library contents from the town of Hull, Illinois to higher ground.
The sun finally came out in the afternoon and we were able to get back to digging. We have found a scattering of mid 19th century artifacts but no real sign of the school. Neither the documents nor the geophysics has led us to any tangible remains. The records indicate land was set aside to be used for the schoolhouse but so far we have found little evidence.
Though it threatened rain all day we were able to get a full day of digging in. We worked mostly on magnetic anomalies in Lot One. Some folks were getting discouraged about what appeared to be a lack of success but the folks who work out here year in and year out are pleased to have the data we generated. At least they now know where not to look for the schoolhouse.
While I was eating lunch I was looking over at the old log structure that had been brought to the sight a few years ago by the land owners. It isn't original to the site but dates to the same period. It occurred to me that if the schoolhouse was built the same way there would be little to find archaeologically once the site was plowed. I had an opportunity to share this point with the rest of the team. Even though we didn't find evidence of the schoolhouse in our three days at New Philadelphia doesn't mean it wasn't there. Archaeology is a slow, methodical process and the reality is you can't always find what you know should be there, especially in 72 hours. At least we were able to make a contribution to the ongoing work at the site.