By: Tati Gross

In our first week in the field, we started by doing something many of us haven’t tried yet: georeferencing and geophysics! Before class, we prepared by reading about campus archaeology at Notre Dame, methods in our (actually exciting) archaeology textbook, and reading up on our guest speaker, Jarrod Burks.

In the textbook chapter, we learned that surveying methods depend on different facts like visibility (the extent to which an observer can detect the presence of archaeological materials at or below a given place), obtrusiveness (ease with which the materials produced by a people can be discerned by the archaeologist), and accessibility (the climate, ease of access, etc.) of the site. With an an obtrusive and high visibility site, pedestrian surveying works best. With less visibility aerial photography. Low obtrusiveness may lead to test pits/shovel testing. Ground-penetrating radar, or GPR, though, is used to define the “content and limits” (or boundaries) of known sites. GPR is an electromagnetic pulse is released into the ground. The return time of the electromagnetic pulse after it is reflected back to the radar receiver is dependent upon the density and distance (in the case of ground radar, depth) of whatever the pulse encounters.

Class began with Jarrod Burks, the director of Archaeological Geophysics at Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc., coming in and speaking to the class. Burk’s experience with archaeology, as most of ours, did not start with a lifelong dream of working in the field. Instead, he started with a dream of becoming a physical therapist, but took an Egyptology elective and, well, fell in love with the discipline. For many of us taking this class and doing this project, this is our first time doing archaeology––it was uplifting to hear his story and realize this experience may be life changing. Burk’s dissertation was about the Hopewell Mound Group in Southern Ohio. Since then, he has conducted to geophysical surveys around the Middle Ohio Valley, collecting data at approximately three dozen of the state’s nearly 600 sites. In using magnetic surveys and aerial photography in three case studies of the Steel Group site, the Snake den group site, and Fort Ancient, large-scale geophysical surveys have revealed overlooked complexity at these sites, and shown that GPR can be a beneficial addition to surveying methods to define a site.

After hearing his story, we received our ‘write in the rain’ Archaeology notebooks, a yellow book about the size of a hand that we’ll be using as field journals for the rest of the semester, put on our sunglasses and hats, and went outside to the Bishop’s Cabin site. In discussion outside of the church, we talked about the geo-referenced grid laid over where we plan to excavate, and began talking about the plan of action for KAP (the Kenyon Archaeology Project). Because of Burks’s help before we made it on site, we realized that the size of the planned excavation may have changed. From what we thought might be a small cabin was, instead, a multi-purpose room (potentially a grammar school or a dining hall). As a class, we agreed we would use the geophysical imagery to locate our first excavation units.

But before we can start digging, we had to learn a few basics: How to use a ground penetrating radar (GPR; Figure 1), and how to properly map out 1m-x-1m and 2m-x-2m-square units (Figure 2).

Next week, we will continue to learn about campus and field archaeology, what to record in our field journals, and start establishing our units.

Figure 1: A student pushing Burks’ GPR instrument near Cromwell Cottage as Jared Burks looks on.

Figure 2: Students sitting down with nails, tape measures, and dirty knees mapping out a 2m-x-2m unit.