A Giant Jigsaw Puzzle...in 3-D

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Imagine if someone scraped all the land in Carroll Park to a depth of about two feet, broke it into tiny pieces and threw it all into a box. As we took the lid off, we would see (minus the dirt) a hodgepodge of bits and pieces of objects, some intact, some not, that appeared unrelated. As we looked closer, we would begin to see similarities. And just as in putting together a puzzle, we would group objects that shared certain characteristics and we would begin to draw conclusions about these pieces and why they were found grouped the way they were.

After cleaning and recording this material, we would then repeat the process, scraping away another two feet of earth, and so on. We would then use our database of archaeological material to search for patterns by asking questions: What types of materials, objects, and their locations can we identify? Who might have used these items and when? We would then put our conclusions together in a story or a narrative to hypothesize what had happened at this site over a period of time.

Archaeology

Physical Research

Artifacts

Physical Evidence

History

Documentary Evidence

This, in a nutshell, is what archaeology looks like:

  • A site is identified for investigation and measured into a grid using corner posts and string.
  • A meticulous process begins to carefully scrape away the soil, recording the precise coordinate of each object within the grid.
  • As artifacts and sherds (bits of artifacts) begin to emerge, they are cleaned, labeled, and bagged in archival packaging.
  • Piece by piece this material is entered into a database.
  • The artifacts can then be grouped by type.
  • Comparative analysis can begin and proposals suggested.
Courtesy George Brauer, Baltimore County Center for Archaeology. Archaeology: A Field Manual and Resource Guide / Exploring Our Buried Past

Let's take a look at the archaeology we undertook at Carroll's Hundred.