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Survey photograph
Field school students and Dr. Martin Gallivan looking for features in the pasture at Werowocomoco.

"A lesson in more than just archaeology." Nick Anderson

In 2004, 11 students participated in the William and Mary Summer Archaeological Field School at Werowocomoco. From June 1 through July 2 they learned archaeological field skills by working with the Werowocomoco Research Group as the exploration of the village of Werowocomoco continued. The following excerpts from students' journals recount parts of that experience.


The Beginning:

The field school always begins with a meeting in Washington Hall on the first day. Dr. Gallivan talks about the site, what we'll do, and the background of the project. He introduces the rest of the Werowocomoco Research Group and teaching assistants who will be working with us on the site during the class. "We were also given a real sense for the importance of the site and the visitors that may be coming out during the project," adds Stephanie Corrigan. "When we reached the site for the first time, I was impressed with the size of the site," Stephanie explains, "and how open the landowners, Bob and Lynn Ripley, were in sharing their home with the field school students."

The 2004 College of William and Mary Werowocomoco Field School.

Site Significance

From the outset of the field school we all understand the serious nature of our work and its importance to archaeologists and the descendant communities of Virginia Indians. James Goodwin explains "I'm amazed that I'm involved in the first excavations at such an important site for the history of Americans. Its one of the reasons I returned to do the advanced field school." James adds that "coming back for a second year reminded me of how much I enjoyed the first year and how much it meant to experience things in the field, to make a contribution to the important research, and to be a part of a family of scholars and friends who enjoy what they do and feel dedicated to the project."

The Farm House

One of the joys of the field school at Werowocomoco is living near the archaeology site. Compared to other excavations, living at the Ripley's farm house is unexpectedly luxurious. Most of the students live inside the house or in the tent city that pops-up in the backyard. The house is within walking distance of the site, so each morning we wake up and meet behind the house to plan out the day before walking down to the site. At the end of the day we all come back to the house, wash up, fix dinner, and relax. In the evenings we'll spend time reading and to talking about the day's excavations, but we always seem to find time to fit in soccer games, cards, and walking down to the river for a swim.

Field school students learn about lab work from Anthropology Ph.D. student Jen Ogborne.
Emily Ambler, Nick Anderson, and Tim Adkins clean a test unit in the pasture.

"I never expected that digging in the hot sun would be fun, but the people make it worth it." Irena Zabel

The Students

Each year brings a different student dynamic to the site. Whenever you bring together students from different schools who have different majors and are at different stages of their academic careers (sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students) you end up with an interesting mix of personalities and interests. Sara Tolbert, a returning student taking the advanced field school, noticed this from the beginning. "Some years you'll have a more serious group, other years it will be a little more relaxed. There's always that excitement, though," she adds, "returning to the site, meeting new people, and wondering what will be discovered this year." And yet there are certain constants that are here every year: the thick sod in the pasture, the cool breeze along the shore, and the horseflies. No matter how many you kill, there will always be more.

Field School for the Non-Concentrator

Archaeology field school can be fun even for those who don't want to be an archaeologist. Emily Ambler, a chemistry major, explains "its interesting to see how research is conducted in the field - its amazing that such small bits of pottery and oyster shell can tell us so much about the past." Most students have an interest in learning about the past, particularly Virginia Indians. Having an outdoor classroom is also a plus. "It gets pretty hot and buggy," Irena Zabel adds, "but it beats being stuck in a classroom all day." Stephanie Corrigan explains "I was always interested in archaeology - but never considered it to be something I could do for a living. I'm here to figure out if this is something I really want to do - get the experience and training that I needs."

Field school students relax at the end of a hard day.

"Werowocomoco is special - its one of the few places in Virginia that has a mythology about it - that serves as the basis for a key element of American folklore." James Goodwin

The Learning Curve

By the second week we've learned most of the basic skills for excavating and processing artifacts. "Your troweling skills are better, shoveling is easier, and you're not as sore at the end of the day," explains Emily Ambler. Your interest grows as you become more familiar with the artifacts and the methods you use everyday. Irena Zabel explains "my interest grew as I learned more about what I work with every day." Nick Anderson was impressed with the hands-on part of the class. "I immediately appreciated the attention to detail and the practice of learning through doing," he explains, "we were learning by doing." "By the end of the field school," he adds, "we were beginning to see things through the eyes of an archaeologist. As a kid I was always interested in digging - playing with the dirt - but now I can see how it fits in with the four field perspective of anthropology and learning about past cultures."

James Goodwin talks with members of the Chickahominy Tribe about a fragment of ceramic found near the riverfront.
Tim Adkins and Nick Anderson work their way through a pile of sod while excavating in the pasture.

Valuable Experience

Many of the students see a field school as an opportunity to get valuable experience for a job in archaeology after college. Many of the techniques you learn during the summer class are essential to the work performed by archaeologists across the country through cultural resource management. In fact, most companies will require that you have at least a field school before hiring you. "With an advanced field school," Sarah Tolbert explains, "you learn to use the laser transit, the flotation machine, and different survey techniques that will better prepare you for working in the field."

Bob and Lynn RIpley: King and Queen of Southern Hospitality

From the very first time you meet Bob and Lynn you understand what "southern hospitality" is all about. Not only do they open the property and home to more than a dozen complete strangers each summer, but they welcome you into their family and treat you as their own. Bob and Lynn are right beside us throughout the day, talking with us and teaching us. "Its every college kids dream," Emily Ambler adds, "you get to do the work you care about during the day and spend time with your peers on a secluded, beautiful almost private island where you can fish, swim, and relax while making new friends and learning new things." "The Ripleys are why the students become so close so fast," James Goodwin adds, "their desire to share their experiences and welcome us sets the tone for the whole field school."

"All the fun and discoveries make it difficult to leave and anxious for the next field season." James Goodwin


Working with the film crew from Two Rivers takes good timing and lots of teamwork.

  Covering up the site until next year.