On June 20, OSU staff and students converged once again on the town of Cottonwood, Idaho. In addition those of us from Oregon State University, this year’s students also come from Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Washington, Idaho, California, and New Mexico. Unlike last year, we arrived to clear skies and were able to set up tents in a dry field. The first week in the field was initially spent setting up our field camp. We’ve made a few improvements to our field camp this year, which should make camp life a bit better. We’re using last year’s dig shelter as this year’s kitchen shelter and have added kitchen sinks, shelving, and new propane stoves.
We set up our new excavation shade shelter (40′ x 60′) and set to work uncovering our excavation block. Like last year, we had to re-excavate the thousands of sand bags we placed into the site, which protected our block over the winter. There’s not getting past it: removing several thousand sand bags is hard work; however, our gang was able to empty the excavation block in about four hours.
With the excavation block opened once again, we set to work cleaning the floors and walls of loose dirt and fine roots. We reviewed excavation procedures and how we record archaeological data in different ways. By the end of the week, students had recorded the elevations of their excavation units and were ready to start this year’s excavations.
Today, students began excavating in their units and immediately uncovered numerous lithic flakes and fragments of bone and shell. Everyone approached their first day of excavation at the site with care and enthusiasm. The day passed quickly and we were forced to close up the operation just before 3:00 pm as a black cloud rolled through the canyon, bringing a short but intense thunderstorm.
In all, this has been a good week. Everyone is settling in and cheerfully approaching this summer’s field season. Tonight, we’ll have a lecture on the archaeology of Cooper’s Ferry and how it fits into the early prehistory of the Pacific Northwest. Tomorrow, the crew will go to the Nez Perce National Historical Park for a tour of the facility’s collections and to learn through some hands-on activities.