The belief that history is in the past, that the only place we can see it is in museums and history books couldn’t be farther from the truth. History is everywhere, in fact, it is right under our feet. I was reminded of this when Dr. Bethany Usher introduced me to a historic artifact scatter right here at George Mason University. As an anthropology major studying historic archaeology, I jumped at the opportunity to conduct my own archaeological survey. I was especially interested because of Fairfax’s rich Civil War history which already includes one recognized site on Mason’s campus. Conducting independent research as an undergraduate is extremely important to my long term goals, especially because I plan to go to graduate school. Conducting my research project has taught me so much about analysis, time management, leadership, finance, academic writing, and resource retrieval. All of these skills are in addition to the archaeology related skills I learned like mapping, grid laying, field documentation, cataloging, and artifact research.
For my project there is no such thing as a typical work week. Archaeologists perform a variety of different tasks, depending on the stage of a project and the type of site they are working on. For the first two weeks of my project, I was doing background research on Fairfax and the area of campus I would be working. The next four weeks were spent in the field constructing the grid and conducting the surface collection. The next few weeks were spent cleaning and organizing the artifacts. After the artifacts were clean, I started cataloging, type analysis, and data entry. The last few weeks of the semester will be spent analyzing my findings and preparing a poster and report for presentation. This past week, I worked on cataloging and entering artifact data into Excel for analysis. One of the most useful things I learned this week was how to catalog multiple artifact fragments that mend together.