Arnold’s Bay Research Project: Underwater Survey Begins

By Cherilyn Gilligan, Assistant Director of Archaeology & Research

Part of scientific exploration in archaeology is about generating sample data that is representative of an overall site. It is generally best practice to leave archaeological finds in-situ – or where you found them – as that gives us the context we need to learn more about what happened at the site. The battlefield site at Arnold’s Bay spans across the surrounding land and under the water so this particular site requires catering normal methodological methods to a tricky environment, in order to produce accurate samples across the entire site.

In simpler terms, we are setting up 50-ft transects across separate underwater zones (seen in the picture above) in order to generate our sample data. To illustrate, I’ve sketched a crude drawing of a SCUBA diver with a metal detector along a transect running north to south (don’t laugh):

So pretend that’s me starting at the south end of a transect and I’m planning on surveying the east side of that transect. I’ve got my metal detector as well as a mesh bag that incudes a clipboard covered in mylar and two mechanical pencils tied to it (they will float away otherwise). I also have plastic bags with letters on them for collecting artifacts – ideally, these bags are looped together with a zip tie so they are easy to handle and locate in the mesh bag. When I locate an anomaly, I note on my clipboard how many feet along the transect line the object is, and how far to the east it was located – like you would plot points along an X/Y axis.

Above, the board on the left shows the west side of Transect 2. In the ‘Investigation Result’ column, I’ve written ‘Bag C’ and ‘Bag F” to differentiate the nails found at these different locations. The others were distinguishable by materials, though it is always a good idea to be as thorough as possible and the others should have included letter designations as well! The clipboard on the right shows some noted anomalies that the diver can go back to and investigate later. Sometimes we can mark them with something like PVC pin flags or posts, but the dense clay at the bottom of Arnold’s Bay as well as rocks and other debris make flagging anomalies a challenge. So far, this particular method of notation has been successful! (Pay no mind to the mislabeled column titles… you get the point though, right?)

After every field day, there is plenty of post-processing, where we make sure all recovered artifacts are accounted for and bagged properly. This includes writing out bag tags on mylar, and double checking divers’ clipboard data to be sure measurements are recorded accurately. Then we set up our dive bags for the next field day so we can jump right in! Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to survey the bottomlands of Arnold’s Bay.