Friday, July 25, 2014

Great Falls Park

Coming up this fall I have one of my scam jobs, getting paid to look for archaeological sites in Great Falls Park, Virginia. That's the Great Falls of the Potomac above, from one of the overlooks.

But although this is a scam job we are still expected to do stuff like find new archaeological sites and so on. Since I don't know this park very well and we have only the vaguest notions of where to look, I thought we had better do some scouting around before we write our research plan for the first year of the study. (Otherwise: we propose to wander around the park, admiring the scenery and putting our shovels in the ground at random intervals, hoping for the best. . . .) Taking one for the team, I delegated this job to myself, and I spent all morning hiking from one end of the park to the other, 7 or 8 miles all told, looking for places where we might have a good chance of finding something. (Above, Mather Gorge facing downstream from just below the falls.)

I asked my two older sons to come with me, and they liked the idea last night, but 6:00 this morning neither one would get out of bed to come with me. So they slept in while I explored places like Difficult Run, above.

The park already has one famous archaeological resource, the canal built by George Washington's Patowmack Company in the 1790s.

But finding new sites is actually going to be tricky. The park is very rugged, and much of what isn't rugged is swamp, and the biggest spot that is neither rugged nor swamp is covered by the ruins of Matildaville, the little town that grew up along the canal and has already been explored. There are two well-known Indian sites in the park, one above the falls and one below, and they occupy what looked to me like the two most likely spots for an ancient Indian site.

Still, I did find a few new places to search, and there is always more to learn about the sites that have already been recorded. So I expect to find enough to deliver a respectable report at the end of all this. And what fun we will have searching.

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