Editor's note: Carrie Robison, a rising-senior government major from Greenville, S.C., wrote this article.
DANVILLE, KY—The classroom for a group of Governor's Scholars at Centre College looks like a real live, sort-of-thing-you-see-in-history-channel-documentaries dig site because—well, because it is.
In January the Kentucky Archeological Society discovered the foundation of a chimney on the grounds at Danville's Ephraim McDowell House. This summer the Scholars are continuing the excavation, under the leadership of Kim McBride, co-director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, who is teaching a class on cultural anthropology. A significant portion of that class has been spent at the McDowell House dig site, just across from Danville's historic Constitution Square.
Scholars first gather in their classroom on Centre's campus, and then walk the few blocks to the site. Then it's set-up time. There are already huge mounds of dirt on either end of the site from previous days of excavating. Saw horses on top of plastic tarp sheets are set up to hold screens that the students will later use to sift batches of soil. The students start digging. They're getting rid of the top layer of soil, which is mostly mud from the torrents of rain in the last few days.
It's anthropology through archeology as students learn archeology basics—like the best way to remove layers of soil without disrupting any artifact they might find. McBride talks of the differences between our society now and in the 18th and 19th centuries. Anything the students find, she says, will be studied. They'll all discuss what it could have been used for and what its significance might have been.
So far, mostly bits of glass and a few bolts have been found, but shortly after the morning's digging starts, two groups find brickwork at either end of the dig site. Later the bricks might be taken up to see what is underneath, but for now, students on their hands and knees will brush and scrape away dirt from the bricks so they can study them and date them. A few other students find artifacts, as yet unlabeled, near the old chimney foundation. A couple of students joke about not having found any dinosaur bones yet.
Many agree that they've grown close in a few short weeks during the long hours of digging. Even though it's morning and even though its hot, everyone is excited and personally invested in the work.
After some more jokes, this time about child labor laws, Raven Newberry, a Governor's Scholar from Paducah, Ky., gets down to business. She was in one of the groups that found brickwork that could be anything from a foundation to a garden path.
"At first we just had to dig," she says, "Now it's gotten a lot more interesting."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
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