Wednesday, August 17, 2011

VIP Carol Miltimore Reports on the Sunrise Archaeology Dig

On August 3rd, Jim and I took advantage of the opportunity to experience archaeology excavation at the historic borrow pit in Sunrise area. The excavation was conducted by the CWU archaeology field school students under the direction of Dr. McCutcheon.

We started the visit with a tour of the site Dr. McCutcheon guided as he narrated an interesting history and background of the site. We saw the freshly excavated stratigraphic profile completed just the day before on the bank of the water-filled borrow pit.

The field school students found numerous artifacts including a large palm-size chert stone that appears to have been worked by human as they worked on the profile. Then we went to the excavation site the field school students just began excavation work that morning. Two days earlier they had to shovel snow off the area to prepare the site for excavation. The area has been surveyed to layout coordinates in order to map the overall site and lay out grids for excavation.

We first watched the students learn hands-on how archaeological excavation work are conducted. Students work on 1 meter x 1 meter grids in teams using trowels, scoops, buckets, standing sieves and record books. They scrape off an unique stratigraphic layer at a time (or constant depth) and sieve the excavated material. The stratigraphic layers are defined by historic geological events, such as volcanic eruptions, glacial events and lahars, and interludes between these geological events. They meticulously record data and observations for each layer level: depth from the reference point, the map of grid (soil color variation, location of tree roots, etc.), volume and type of material removed and sieved, any artifacts found as sieved.

After watching the student survey the site and work grids, they let us get our hands dirty sieving and working with a trowel and scoop. We excavating the layer less than 10 cm down into pit and the layer consisted of the salt-and-pepper looking stratigraphic layer called Mount St. Helens Wn, ash deposited by the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1480 A.D. and soil deposited since this eruption. So we were all excited when roars came from the sieving area telling us lythic pieces were found, one each from two of the grids. Not only that, one of the two was the grid I was helping excavate!

As you can see this is a great opportunity for anyone who is interested in archaeology, park history, Native American history, geology, and anyone who is just looking for a new adventure and experience. I hope many people, our VIPs and park including, take advantage of this opportunity and fill up the limited slots available. (For the west siders: Sunrise is melting out and brilliant blooming flowers are starting to spread from road edges into meadows.)

Carol Miltimore
East side Wilderness VIP

Opportunities are available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:00 am to 11:30 am during the first three weeks in August. The number of participants is limited each day to six people ages 16 and above. Reservations may be made in person at the Sunrise Visitor Center or by calling 360-663-2425.

1 comment:

Chris Rodell said...


I'm an correspondent doing a story on park volunteers. I've already spoken with Randy King about getting in touch with the Miltimores, but am hoping to cover all my bases. Can someone please have them call me or reach out to me here on Facebook?


Chris Rodell
Latrobe, Pa.
724 961-2558