Mahaffie Blog #8 by Maddy Hajer

For this blog post, I will be talking about my first archaeological panel for the outhouse exhibit at the Mahaffie Farmstead. The title, as I mentioned in a previous blog, will be the color of red clay to tie in the themes of archaeological dig excavations. This specific panel focuses on the various archaeological techniques archaeologists use at and for dig sites in order to collect more information from a given excavation site. One of the key techniques I highlight include flotation- which is straining excavation soil to find small artifacts or remains like seeds, dead insects, bones; another important technique archaeologists use is soil analysis. Soil analysis creates a land, weather, and human timeline that forms a pattern on soil. Lighter soil towards the top of a dig site is younger whereas darker soil towards the bottom is older. Archaeologists can estimate an approximate historical era of a specific soil layer. They can also tell what parts of the soil were disturbed or changed by weather or land movement and what parts of the soil were disturbed or changed by human movement. If one wants an accurate soil analysis, one needs a soil chart that helps match soil colors. The most famous soil color chart archaeologists use is the Munsell soil color chart. Matching soil colors is similar to matching up different paint shades or colors except there is the factor of a historical timeline to consider when looking at soil. From soil, we can tell if earthquakes or storms have occurred in a dig site area. We can also tell what humans may have been doing in that area, especially with the help of artifacts. Artifacts act as trails humans leave behind for future generations to study history.

Artifacts are the strongest link between archaeology and history, and they are also the physical bond between people working in those fields. Archaeologists analyze the artifacts and historians can interpret them with what they already know about a given object, time period, or group of people. Other techniques archaeologists use to collect information from dig sites are ground penetrating radar and aerial photography. Ground penetrating radar greatly reduces the labor of digging and the machine used for it looks similar to the tool treasure hunters use. It helps show archaeologists the rough physical characteristics of the subsurface of a dig site. It saves a lot of time and is a great help to archaeologists. Aerial photography is filming footage of a site from the air. This can serve several purposes but the main two are that one, archaeologists can get a full scope of the area they are working in, and two, it can help them interpret the history of an area when looking at the same land from a different angle. One can catch things from the air that are difficult or impossible to see when remaining on level ground. There are many other techniques archaeologists use to piece the puzzles together regarding a dig site area and the history there, but these are the main ones that remain critical in the field of modern archaeology.

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