After mapping the microtopography of the island’s surface, we’re finally looking beneath leaf litter into the soil. Coring, poking ~3cm diameter holes into the island along
transects, gives us a quick peak into what the soils look like. We carefully record the small variations in the soil color (using the legendary Munsell color chart*) and texture (sandy? silty? loamy? clay-y?). These profiles can help us figure out where the edge of island really is, how much above the water table the island rises and, along with other data, they can help us determine which spots would be best to open an excavation unit.
Here in the Swamp, we also screen the soil. It’s rare to find an artifact in a core. Seriously: what are the chances of bringing up an artifact when you randomly pop a 3cm hole into a 42 square mile area? Out here, with the thousands of years of human interaction with the changing landscape, it happens often enough to be worth the effort.
We have found bigger artifacts (not in the cores) as well on the islands like the fire cracked rock and stone tools in the photo.
*punk archaeologist Andrew Reinhard riffs on the joys of the Munsell in that article