Cruising the Gravel Pits

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So many rocks! Perfect for a gravel pit, so annoying to test!

I am actually quite pleased to discover that Margarita, the archaeologist I’ve been working for, is just as directionally challenged as I am. This doesn’t really help us get where we are going but at least I’m not alone! I was a bit intimidated by Sarah’s ability to know exactly where we were in the forest at all times last summer. It’s nice to see she might be the oddball.

Our first gravel pit of the trip was located near Grande Prairie, luckily we were shown where the pit was located  – it saved so much time. Although our guide mentioned seeing a bear on the way into the pit, we didn’t see it so we weren’t sure if he was just testing us to see if we would be squeamish about it or if it was really there. Regardless we made a thorough amount of noise the entire time. Have of the area was already a gravel pit – oops. But there were some decent areas for us to test, areas amidst the thick, prickly rose bushes….thick with mosquitoes – how could I forget about the mosquitoes?! But there was nothing but cobbles, tons and tons of cobbles everywhere.

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Oh hey, where did the road go?

Our next pits were several hours away, close to Stetlar (if you’ve never heard of it, that’s ok). We pushed on through the pouring rain and got to the first site late in the afternoon, we were hoping to do it quickly so that we could then focus on the larger pits the next day. However, the rain slowed our testing down and as we drove up we saw a barn. Once a structure is over 50 years old it is considered to be archaeology/historic so we need to record it more thoroughly. In the end we only managed to test along the creek before it got too late into the evening. DSCN0882Thus we had to return in the morning to test around the foundations of the barn, record the other outlying buildings and take some black and white photographs (with real film! The photos need to be of archival quality so that they don’t degrade like normal pics do – nice thought but a bit annoying to carry out in practice).

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When recording the buildings they’ll want to know how the windows were framed, the style of roof, what kind of foundation is present, what kind of doors are there and how are they constructed, what materials were used, was it built at once or added to over time, etc.

Our last set of gravel pits looked so promising on the maps – close to an established water source, well defined margins that could have been camped on…but alas, we found nothing here either (well except for cows that insisted on following along as we tested). The majority of the area had been previously cultivated, so any stone features that might have been there would have been removed for plowing years and years ago. The rest of the areas that looked really great – scenic points over looking the river valley on nice level ground, were all just outside of our project footprint so we weren’t allowed to test them. DSCN0900Curse those surveyors, they’re getting too good at avoiding all the hot spots for archaeology. But some day we will find something cool, some day!

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Sailing the Prairies

My return to fieldwork has been greatly anticipated by…well, me. It has only been a couple of days so far, but things look like they should be picking up after this. I’ve been assisting another archaeologist with some small, one-day projects in various places around southern Alberta. It’s been some good learning, and they’re the size of projects I hope to start with when I finally get permit-holding capabilities (some day Alberta Culture you’ll let me out on my own, some day!). DSCN0802

The first place we headed to was Carstairs – not glamorous, and still kinda frozen. We rented a small jackhammer but in the end we were able to get through the partially frozen ground with a bit of sweat and jumping energetically on our shovels. Sadly all our hard work resulted in lots of test pits and nothing awesome to show for it. Our endeavors were probably hindered by the 3 pre-existing pipelines already cutting through the area – oh well, was a good day to get my first sunburn of the season.

imagejpeg_2The second job involved assessing a wellpad, access road and pipeline near Cochrane. We dug fewer holes but we had to traverse through a minefield of cattle droppings to get there, so it kind of evened out. The area was largely broken by cultivation, so anything that might have been there would likely have been destroyed years ago.

I’m starting to feel better about my ability to do a job this size, my experience last summer with the giant oil sands projects had me a bit intimidated. But, something like this seems like a good start – if I don’t get lost getting through all the fields and back roads…

Our last job was near Suffield, where they have a military training area; thus, we were hoping to catch a glimpse of rugged young men running drills but alas, we were disappointed. To make up for that we had ourselves a little adventure by driving through a lake. It looked quite dry and it was, until we got about half way through it, then it got soupy and we may have panicked a bit. But never fear, we escaped with our lives.   DSCN0829

It’s a good thing too because we finally managed to find something! It was a small cairn of about 6 rocks, but to their credit they are the only rocks we came across in the section and there are a couple recorded stone features in the neighboring sections. Woohoo!

Tomorrow’s adventure: gravel pits!

The Winds of Change

It’s been ages since I posted, apologies! I assumed winter would be a filled with several months of quietly working away on reports, countless rounds of edits and submissions to the government. And, for the first little while that was the case. Alas, it was not to last.

Around Christmastime things started to go downhill between my immediate boss and the head of the company. Eventually in a fit of frustration my boss quit. Sadly no one at the company seemed to understand what that actually meant for the company. Without a permit holder we can’t do any fieldwork or start any new projects…

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I distracted myself from the stress of work with adventures out into the mountains.

Things seemed to get progressively worse after that. We tried to finish the reports as best we could to meet the deadlines the government had given us, as well as the clients; although, we were winging it a bit since we lacked mentorship. It was also exhausting to continually have to explain what it is our job entails to our bosses. We received little support and even less communication. The atmosphere continued to become more tense and anxious as the months passed – we could see that no new work was coming in and they were not doing anything to bring in new clients or a new permit holder. We expected a layoff eventually, but in the end they decided to fire us based on vague, unclear reasons.

While the president was firing me, he kept referring to some ‘incident’ and when I asked for clarification he told me that he ‘didn’t feel like getting in to it right then’. Awesome. He then goes on to tell me that I should take what I’ve learned and apply it to my next job so that this won’t happen again – how can I avoid doing something if I don’t know what it was I did? Nothing was ever written up, I was never reprimanded for anything…I’ve never felt so belittled, being escorted out of the building like a common criminal.

So that was the low point of things. However, the next day I started my own business – eek! I now have my very own little numbered company. I’ll predominantly be doing work for my old boss who seems to have a rather booming business at the moment, but I’ll work for anyone who will pay me!

So, hopefully this is the beginning of something good, I’m nervous about the consistence of work but I’m sure that would be the case regardless of when I attempted this. I have had some fun forays out into the field already, but I will write more about that soon!