Day of Archaeology – Round, Round, Round We Go!

Photo: One of the walls I profiled today, which was part of one of Ottawa’s oldest railway roundhouses (built in 1833).  I ran this pic through a fancy photo editor, FYI

July 29 was the Day of Archaeology, where archaeologists from around the world document what they were doing that day, write it up in a convenient blog-type entry, and post it online.  The big entries are posted on the Day of Archaeology website, but a lot of people also choose to document their day through photos and sort comments on other forms of social media.  I happened to be in the field that day, looking for one of Ottawa’s oldest railway roundhouses (c. 1883).  We had already found the turntable on our previous visit in June, and now, with the aid of a small backhoe, we were looking for the bigger stone structure accompanying it.  This is what my Day of Archaeology looked like:

  1. Alarm wakes me up at 6:06 am.  I calculate the amount of time it takes me to get ready  and get to work.  I reset my alarm for 6:37 am and go back to sleep.
  2. 6:37 comes too quickly and I finally get up.  I eat breakfast, put on the sunscreen, and head out the door.  Luckily my project is in Ottawa and I live in Ottawa, so it takes me no time at all to get to site.  Especially since traffic on the 417 was surprisingly light.
  3. I get onto site at 7:45 am, pull on my boots, hardhat, and vest.  It’s a nice cool
    morning and I hope it stays that way.

    The building corner of the out-building association with the roundhouse
  4. My colleagues and I walk to the trenches we opened yesterday as part of this stage 3 project (which will roll into a stage 4 as soon as our trenches are finished).
  5. My colleague and I are tasked with drawing the wall profile of the trench with the out-building corner in it while my other colleagues open up another trench looking for more of the roundhouse.
  6. We grumble about how long our profile is going to be (5.5 m long).  It’s a sunny, cool Friday morning and we decide to take our time drawing it.
    The complete profile
  7. Profile finished, we take a snack break and join everyone else at the new trenches they’ve opened.  So far they’ve had no luck finding the walls of the roundhouse.
  8. It is decided to open one more trench a couple of metres south of the current one, before we accept defeat.  Success!  The roundhouse wall is found!
  9. My colleague and I are tasked with cleaning the wall and drawing a profile of the trench, which has become 11.3m long in the hunt for the wall.  We make an executive decision to draw two profiles at either end of the trench, instead of one massive trench.

    Cleaning the wall in the big trench.
  10. While we’re busy cleaning, another trench is being opened about 20 m west of us.  More success, my colleagues have found more of the wall.  And as a bonus, they also more of the early 20th century brick service bay we excavated in June.
  11. IMAG3510
    The 20th century brick service bay from June

    Lunch time.  I head out for iced coffees for everyone.

  12. I come back with the drinks and sit down on a pile of dirt to eat my lunch.  Mistake.  a huge pile of dirt slides into the back of my pants, and in such an open, public area there’s no where for me to fish the dirt out.  I must now live with the consequences of my actions.
  13. After lunch we split back up to our trenches and continue
    The clean wall in the big trench

    cleaning our sections of walls.

  14. Walls clean, profiles are drawn.
  15. The day is done!

    Me not enjoying the dirt in my pants

So there you have it.  A successful Day of Archaeology in downtown Ottawa!  We found the roundhouse structure we were looking for, and as a bonus we also found more of the brick structure bay we had uncovered in June.  I wish I could say that I’ll have more photos as this project progresses, because I imagine it will look super cool once we’ve uncovered the entire (or most of) roundhouse.  But I’m actually off to BC now, as part of the shishalh Archaeological Research Project, where I’ll also be supervising the University of Toronto’s field school.  So I’ll have more photos to show you, just none of the roundhouse.

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