Off to a Good Start

It’s been a crazy week-and-a-half so far.  I’ve been focusing on laying the foundation for my project.  In order to do this, I needed to sift through Fairfield Plantation’s artifact catalog to sort prehistoric contexts from historic artifacts.  This catalog is a complete list of (most) units excavated at Fairfield.  To put this in perspective, the catalog includes thousands of entries.  Needless to say, it took a while to remove every historic context from the catalog.  However, now that this step is finished, it’s time to move on the next stage of my project.

As this week ends and I move on to the next week, I will be identifying and cataloging any prehistoric artifacts that have not been processed yet.  This is an important step for a few reasons.  The first is that doing this will force me to become familiar with prehistoric artifacts such as lithics (stone tools) and ceramic.  The sooner I can have a working knowledge of the artifacts I’m studying, the easier the rest of my project will be.  The second reason why finishing the Fairfield catalog is important is so I can have information on all prehistoric artifacts there – location, soil level, features, etc.

I have to admit that, despite my project’s somewhat tedious beginnings, I’m excited to see it in motion.  My prehistoric study of Fairfield Plantation is fairly unique.  Usually, people tend to be interested in archaeological sites because of a specific period or group of people that existed there.  Because of that, other periods in a site’s history can be marginalized.  And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Archaeological excavations can cover a broad range of periods and peoples, but it often requires archaeologists to prioritize certain periods over others.  However, the work I am doing at Fairfield Plantation is unique because this site is the location of a former Virginia gentry manor house.  As such, the volume of historic artifacts and features vastly overshadows the native presence at the site.  The prehistoric record is just as important, though.  Studying the prehistory of Fairfield Plantation will allow me and the other archaeologists that I work with to tell the complete story of Fairfield, from prehistory to the present.  In addition to advancing my own knowledge of Virginia prehistory, I’m hopeful that my work will provide an example of how prehistoric and historic archaeologists can work together to bring marginalized stories back into the center.


  1. Lillian Singer says:

    Your research sounds very interesting, and as you pointed out, undeniably unique. It’s great that you have the opportunity to work with other archaeologists, and to do so in a fairly local setting. Archaeology is a field whose importance could definitely use some illumination for the public eye, and your work leads me to wonder what final product you are hoping to achieve. I would love to see a visual of the work you’ve done so far, especially since so much of it has been extensive and understandably tedious. Looking forward to reading more about your work as the summer goes on!

  2. Christopher Godschalk says:

    Thank you! There are two main final projects that I’m hoping to accomplish. The first is a public summary of my findings. This might take the form of blog posts, site posters, or any other medium, as long as it’s accessible. The second product that I will be working on is a detailed guide/set of notes on lithic analysis in Virginia. Surprisingly, Virginia lithics are not very well studied, so anything I create can provide a framework for others who are interested in studying them.