We managed to get some science done before the weather got the better of us. With the film crew in tow, we wandered out to one of the ‘new’ Virginia islands on a remarkably productive excursion.
Sure, the first artifact Dan discovered in the large tree root mass turned out to be… a dried out root. It is the most well-documented root fragment in the entire Refuge, filmed in situ in 4K HD from every possible angle.
We’ll just call it a practice run for the nifty quartzite tool we spotted nearby.
The real excitement came as we extended Trench 1 to expose more of a potential feature. On my last visit to the island, I had uncovered an artifact-rich dark soil stain in the corner of a unit. As we troweled down the neighboring unit, it became clear we were dealing with a roughly circular pit complete with charcoal, fire cracked rock, A BURNT NAIL* (early 19th century)!!, lithics and ceramics. Could this be a fire pit?
Before exposing the entire pit, we seized the opportunity to take an OSL sample. Optically Stimulated Luminescence is a dating technique that can tell us when the quartz in the soil last saw daylight. Like the Nameless site where Dan used OSL with great success, this Virginia site is on a sandy island with plenty of tiny quartz grains. One just has to ensure the soil is not exposed to the sunlight during collection. We pound a capped length of PVC into an unexcavated wall of feature soil. Securely capping the second end of the tube proved a bit tricky but we managed not to contaminate the sample. Eventually, the OSL samples will go to a specialist lab and tell us the age of the pit.
The rest of the pit and the other Virginia islands will have to wait. With temp indexes of 105-109 all week and thunderstorms in the forecast, the heat wave won. We’ll come back in 6 weeks on a mission, ready to ‘move some dirt’ here on this island, map and test an island we visited back in the spring and expand our knowledge of this fascinating landscape.
*Fire/heat preserves iron and limits rust. This nail fragment looks practically new.