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Field Notes 1999 "Brooklyn's Eighteenth-Century Lott House"
July 9, 1999

Over the past week-and-a-half Maura, Alyssa, and Chris have been hard at work in the lab, finishing up the work of the first field session and preparing for the second.

We continued the tedious process of washing, drying, and recording artifacts. Once again, clam and oyster shells were the big winners in terms of sheer quantity. Ceramics, pipe fragments, and marbles also enter the mix.

Ceramics and shells dry on large screens after cleaning. We don't wash the shells--running water might make them fall apart. Instead we wipe them off, usually with a damp brush, to remove the dirt. We've counted almost 2500 shells from this unit alone with about 25 collection bags still to go. (Courtesy Brooklyn College)

There were no surprises. The hot, humid weather did nothing to help the process along. Artifacts that absorb water (bone, brick, shell, etc.) don't fully dry in this weather, so we did not accomplish as much as we'd hoped to; with limited drying space, we can't begin washing a new batch until the first batch dries. We only got through the objects from 15% of the units we excavated. And until we've had a look at the rest of our finds, we can't get to the exciting part of lab work: examining artifact densities, comparing types, looking for patterns, and so on.

Evidence of the Lott barnyard menagerie comes to the lab. Meanwhile, the faunal expert improvises a table amid a sea of artifact collection bags. (Courtesy Brooklyn College)

Laboratory work doesn't produce the quick and easy "wows" of fieldwork. It is said that for every four weeks of digging in the field you're going to spend at least 6 months in the lab decoding finds. The mood in the lab this week was one of disappointment. We'd hoped to accomplish so much more. Still, you haven't lived until you've watched clam shells dry. As of Wednesday, July 7, we're back in the field. After this mind-numbing week, we're eager to hit the trenches and will even be happy to face what the media is billing as "New York's Deadly Heat Wave."

Discussion Question:
Once the artifacts are cataloged, what issues can we begin to address?


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