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6.3: Activity 2 - Campus Site Survey

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    Ilana Johnson, Sacramento City College

    The goal of this exercise is to learn about archaeological site surveys. After a site has been chosen for research, archaeologists often begin with a walking survey and surface collection as the first step in their field research. This allows them to get an overall sense of the site’s layout and organization and to identify various functional areas such as living quarters and food preparation and storage areas. Once the general site survey is complete, the researcher can select a specific area for more intensive study. That area is mapped and any further surface artifacts are collected and catalogued before excavations begin.

    You will split into teams of five or six for this exercise, which consists of two parts: (1) A general site survey of a portion of the campus in which you design your survey strategy and (2) surveying, mapping, and collecting surface artifacts from a small portion of the entire site. Each of these two tasks requires about 30 minutes unless otherwise specified by your instructor.

    Materials needed:

    1. Small plastic bags
    2. Permanent ink pen
    3. Paper tags
    4. Measuring tape
    5. Graph paper

    Part 1: General Site Survey

    First, meet with your group and design a research strategy. What is the best way to survey the campus? Remember: you will not have time to walk the entire campus or investigate all of the buildings so choose a sampling strategy that you think will give you a representative sample.

    1. Describe the research strategy your group has selected and why you chose it.
    1. What types of architecture and architectural features do you observe on campus? What about areas without architecture? What purposes do they serve?
    1. Can you tell the age of the buildings or the order in which buildings were added to the college? How can you tell?
    1. What can you say about the overall planning of the campus? Was it planned in advance or did it develop naturally over time? How can you tell?

    Now, imagine that the buildings are in ruins and you cannot see what is inside them and cannot read the signs on the outside of them.

    1. Could you tell what types of activities went on inside? Why or why not?
    1. Could you tell the difference between a building full of classrooms and an administrative building? Why or why not?
    1. How can you make interpretations about the buildings? What types of information can you obtain from the remains?

    Part 2. Surveying, Mapping, and Surface Collection

    As a group, choose a small portion of the campus to map and survey in detail. A section of around 100 x 100 feet is the ideal size but your instructor may provide other parameters. Give your survey area a location name (e.g., East Hall).

    Next, each member of the group will draw a map of the architectural features in the selected area on the graph paper provided (do your best to draw it to scale). After you have sketched the survey area, choose one member to be in charge of plotting any found artifacts on his or her map (only one map needs to be marked with artifact locations). That person should stand to the side of the area being surveyed and plot the location of any artifact or feature encountered during the survey.

    To conduct the ground survey, the other group members will form a horizontal line along one border of the site with approximately 10 feet between persons (perhaps less depending on the total area being surveyed) and walk forward in a straight line looking at the ground for features and artifacts.

    When group members encounter something, they are to raise a hand to indicate a find and the group will pause while the mapper marks the item’s location on the map and gives it an artifact number (e.g. SCC-1). The artifact is to be placed in one of the plastic bags and the finder is to fill out a paper tag with important information: the date, where it was found in the site, brief descriptions of the object and the ground where it was found, and the finder’s name. The surveyors will then resume their surveying along straight lines from one end of the site to the other.

    Once your group has completed its survey of the site, answer the following questions.

    1. What types of artifacts were found during your survey?
    1. What types of activities do the artifacts reflect? Do they match their surroundings and the activities you expect for the area?
    1. What do the artifacts tell you about the students at your college? What aspects of “college culture” do the artifacts reflect?
    1. Do you think that the survey and mapping were informative? Would your results assist archaeologists who do not know much about your college? Why or why not?

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