Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Archaeology in the Landscape

With the shutdown over and Federal property re-opened, we are back out in the field in Maryland's Great Valley.

Our first assignment was a to test a small tenant house from the Civil War period, and in particular to explore a depression that looked like its cellar hole.

It didn't take us long to find one stone wall of the cellar.

This tenancy and the farm it was part of were down in a shallow valley -- this is typical for this hilly country, where  most of the farms are in valleys, sheltered from winter winds and if possible near a spring. Once the digging was under way I climbed up the sides of the valley to take some pictures of the site in its surroundings. This is an important part of the archaeological documentation, since a site's setting is often key to understanding what it is and how it evolved. But yesterday I found my self captivated by the way our small excavation looked amid the autumn landscape of the valley. Because of the local topography, from some angles we seemed completely isolated, just a few small figures in an immensity of hills and dry grass. More like some remote part of the Scottish Highlands than a popular park just an hour from Washington. From other angles the nearby farm is clear, but it looks lifted out of time, with nothing of the twenty-first century visible. On this glorious day, it lifted my spirits just to stand in the sun and look out over this beauty.

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