A Summer Post!

Hello, Internet Adventurers!

I hope you are having an awesome day!

So it’s been awhile since I posted, mostly because I spent a week volunteering at my church’s vacation Bible school, and then spent the next week having a terrible cold, and then spent the next week in Wisconsin, and then spent the next week trying to come to terms with the simultaneously fabulous and terrifying fact that I’m going to college this month.  (Oh, and also because my computer was being slower than a slug.  This has been remedied by a new computer.  Hooray!)

So it’s been awhile.

But I have done a bit of art since my last post.

Thing #1 is some artwork for the website of Hai Ngo, Photographer Extraordinaire.  My graphite sketches are featured on his “About” page, and you can see them all by clicking here!  Or you can see them right here:

Artwork by Jillian for Photographer Hai Ngo

Thing #2 is a GIANT dream catcher.  If  you are unfamiliar with dream catchers, they are a form of Native American weaving art.  Legend has it that good dreams will pass through a dream catcher’s center, while nightmares will be caught in the web.  I love the concept, and I think they look cool.  So I took an old kiddie hula hoop from the garage and some twine and beads and feathers and made a really, really big dream catcher.  Here’s what it looks like now that it’s finished:

Hula Hoop Giant Dream Catcher


I’m considering hanging it in my dorm room at school, although…it might be a little bit too big.  We’ll see!

Thing #3 is also a potential dorm decoration.  It’s made of old license plates, twine, and beads.  Hypothetically, it’s a wall hanging, although so far it hasn’t been hanging on any walls.  But one day soon, it can live up to its name!


License Plate Wall Hanging


The photo is really dark and the plates reflected the flash (oopsies!), so it’s difficult to see the beads, but they’re in super bright colors!

And finally, we have some KNITTING!

Yes!  KNITTING!  Bwahahahaha!

My mother taught me to knit this summer while I had the Horrible Cold, and I loved it.  I think it’s so fun to write my own patterns.

The first pattern I designed was this capelet.  Not exactly sure when I’ll wear it but it’s extremely warm, so it should be good for fall:

Knitted Capelet


And next we have some cabled legwarmers, also of my own design.  I had a ton of fun with these, and they are very, very warm, so they will be good for wintertime when everything is a snowpocalypse of doom.

Knitted Legwarmers

Note: taking a picture of your own shins at floor level is extremely difficult and not for the faint of heart.

And finally, I knit a hat.  This was not my own pattern; it is actually from the book Charmed Knits by Alison Hansel, but I had to post it because it is Hermione’s hat from the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie!  Squee!

   <–Hermione’s hat

My hat –>  Hermione Hat Prisoner of Azkaban



And that is all I have for today!!

Have a fabulous morning/afternoon/evening, and keep on keepin’ on!



A Post! (In which I give mediocre excuses for my prolonged absence, shoot the moon, and dress up like a wizard.)


Well, obviously, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted.  Actually, I think this is my first post of the year, which is a wee bit pathetic, honestly.  But I’ve been super busy, so I have many excuses which I will share:


  • I had to decide where to go to college!  So that was crazy.  Researching, visiting, applying, and making decisions for college was super time consuming.  After much deliberation, I’ve decided to hold off on art school, even though I really do want to be a toy designer.  However, art is not the only subject I’m passionate about, and I want to leave my options open.  Going to a liberal arts school, I can double major in art and psychology.  Or something like that.  I haven’t really ironed out all the details yet.


  • I went to Kentucky for a week!  Also crazy.  I had no idea Kentucky had so many hills.  Coming from the State of Supreme Flatness, I am not terribly accustomed to hills.


  • While in Kentucky, my family played a game of hearts, and I played so horribly that I shot the moon by accident and nobody noticed.  (For those of you who don’t play hearts, shooting the moon means to get every point in the deck.  Normally, points are bad, but if you shoot the moon, 50 points are added to everybody else’s score and you get none.)  I guess that’s not really an excuse for why I haven’t been posting, but I felt that need to mention this momentous accomplishment.


  • Since I am a senior this year, my high school does an ABC countdown, in which every day of the last 26 days of school has a theme and everyone dresses up.  My favorites were Injured Day and Quidditch Day.  For Injured Day, I used eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, and lip gloss to paint my face to look as though it had been skewered by some sort of rabid unicorn.  And, of course, for Quidditch Day, I dressed up like Hermione Granger!  Planning for the ABC countdown used up some of my free time as well.


Injury Makeup - Eyeliner, eyeshadow, lip gloss, mascara            Hermione Granger Costume / Cosplay


  • I took a lot of standardized tests!  I took four AP tests this year, which is disgusting (and finished, thank goodness.)  The four I took were psychology, English, statistics, and government.  I actually just took the government test today, and it was not that bad.  Statistics, on the other hand, may have pulverized me.  We shall see.


  • I have been working on several other projects, which may make their way onto the Internet someday.  Or perhaps not.  But they have consumed much of my sketch time, regardless.


  • I had a display at my school’s art show!  At my school, some seniors are chosen to have their work displayed in their own section, rather than having their pieces dispersed throughout the show.  This year, I got to have my own wall!  :)


Jillian's High School Art Show Display


So, basically, I was pretty busy.  But I am now posting – FINALLY – so I have artwork to show you!


First, I have a painting I did for school.  The assignment was to do an acrylic “pastiche” painting, which means to paint in the style of another artist.  We had just finished a unit on art history, so we were supposed to choose a painter from one of the major artistic movements.  I chose Maurice de Vlaminck, who was a leader of the Fauvist movement.  Using Vlaminck’s style (and taking some artistic liberties), I designed this painting.  It’s supposed to be an interpretation of suburbia.  I think the suburbs often get a reputation for being bland and boring, but I wanted to portray them in a more positive way, since I like living in a suburb.


Houses Painting


Next, I did a painting inspired by the style of Kelly Vivanco, who I love.  Ms. Vivanco’s paintings are so filled with color and life, but they also have this mysterious, surreal quality that I think is really interesting.  Anyway, I’m calling the painting I designed “Bouquet.”  It is painted with acrylics.




And, lastly, I have a photograph I took of these roses dusted with snow before the cold made them wilt.  I really liked the colors of the pink and green against the snow.  I know flower photographs are pretty common, but I couldn’t resist taking this one.


First Snow Roses Photograph


And that is all the new artwork I have for you today.  I graduate from high school next Sunday, though, so with any luck, I will have much more time to draw and paint then.

Have a terrific day!


A New Year! :D


Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are having a great day.  :D

After celebrating Christmas with my family, I’m back on my blog, and I’m excited for a new year of art and fun experiences.

As for artwork, I haven’t made anything during my vacation yet, but I do have a few new ceramic pieces to show you.  I gave both of them to my family for Christmas.

The first is a teapot.  I was pretty happy with the shape, but the “Herb Garden” glaze wound up being quite different than I expected.  The example test chip I saw for the glaze was a very pretty blue color.  Unfortunately, the chip had been mislabeled, and the glaze was most certainly not blue.  In addition, the glaze sealed the lid of the teapot to the teapot itself, thus rendering the pot completely useless.  But, hey, it was fun to make.  And that’s how you learn what not to do next time, right?

I made the body of the teapot using flat coils and worked on it upside down until it was done.  Then I flipped the body right side up and attached the slab handle and lid, which I molded with my hands.  Then I re-cut the lid so it would come off nicely (haha – so much for that), and slipped and scored on the pulled handle.

High School Student Ceramic / Clay Teapot

More successful was my ceramic vessel.  The vessel is quite large and heavy, and it took about six weeks (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) to complete.  I used flat coils of about 1-2 inches in height to build it upward, and then decorated the lip with braided clay, which was more difficult than you might think, since each strand of the braid had to be slipped and scored to the others before the whole plait could be attached to the piece.  The glaze was several coats of “Wheat” over a layer of “Bronze,” which makes a very pretty mottled green and gold color.  I left the braid unglazed and later painted it with diluted gold acrylic paint.

High School Student Greek Style Ceramic Vessel with Celtic Braid

Here is another view of the vessel from above:

High School Student Ceramic Greek Style Vessel

And a closer view of the gold braid detailing:

High School Student Clay / Ceramic Greek Style Vessel with Celtic Braid

And that’s all the art I have for you at the moment.  Hopefully I’ll have some new things to post soon!!  Sadly, I won’t be taking a Ceramics class next semester – I have to take Government instead.  Plus, my Painting class will be doing an Art History unit for the first few weeks.  So I might not have quite as many pieces.  But I’ll try to do some work on my own time!

Until then, have a Happy New Year!!

~Jillian <3

Happy Winter, Everyone!


Hello, world!

With autumn coming to a close at tomorrow’s winter solstice, I thought it would be a good time to write a new post!

In terms of news, I finished my first semester final exams yesterday, which was a relief!  Now I have two weeks of vacation to enjoy.  With my birthday and Christmas over the break, I’m looking forward to lots of wintery fun and family time!  Speaking of which, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!  I hope you make lots of warm memories and hot cocoa.  :)

As for books that I have read recently, here are some of the titles I have been going through:

  • Eon by Alison Goodman – a MOST EXCELLENT story about dragons and magic and a girl pretending to be a boy
  • Eona by Alison Goodman – another PRETTY GOOD story, continuing the story begun in Eon
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau – a SUPER GREAT story about a dystopian society in which competition in applying for university is literally cut-throat
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare – a REALLY OLD story about a prince who wants to kill the king (who is also his father’s murderer as well as his uncle) but goes about reaching this goal in the most convoluted way possible
  • Death of a Salseman by Arthur Miller – an EXTREMELY DEPRESSING story about some people who can’t pull their lives together
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth – a VERY EXCITING conclusion to the dystopian Divergent Trilogy.  I’m technically not finished with the book yet, but I’m turning the pages so fast that it won’t be long until I’m done!


And finally, it’s art time!  Woohoo!

So, I can’t actually show all the art that I have just yet, because two of the pieces are wrapped and under the tree for my family.  Pictures of these will come at a later date.  :)

However, I can show you some other recent projects from my ceramics and painting classes at school, as well as some photographs I’ve taken for fun.  As usual, feel free to click on any of the pictures for a larger view.

First is a ceramic piece.  It is a small cottage which I painted with acrylic paint instead of glaze, a look which I prefer.

Ceramic House

And here, at another angle:

Ceramic House

Next, I have a painting.  It was supposed to be a “non-objective” piece, which basically means it’s not supposed to actually look like anything.  This was a very different experience for me, since I generally prefer my pictures to resemble something.  But it wound up being a really fun project, since I got to attach tissue paper to the acrylic-painted canvas for a three-dimensional look.  I focused on a citrus theme, and I’m happy with the result, considering modern art is really not my thing.

Nonobjective Painting - Tissue Paper, Acrylic, and Canvas

The second painting I have to show is a fun painting of my house.  I had a lot of fun with the different textures and bright colors in this picture.  :)

Colorful Acrylic House Painting

And finally, I have a few photographs.  The first is a picture of the winter sun on a cloudy day.  I liked that the clouds obscure whether the light is the sun or the moon, and I enjoy the contrast of the brightness with the dark branches.

Winter Sun

And last but not least, I have a picture of yesterday’s sunrise:

December Sunrise

Can you believe how pink it is?  Sometimes I forget that the sky can be that color.  :)  Waking up at six o’clock in the morning for school definitely has its perks.

And that’s all the artwork I have to show you today!

M E R R Y  C H R I S T M A S !


Yay Things!


Hello everyone!

It’s Jillian, and it’s November!

(Sorry about not posting anything in October, by the way.  I hope you all had a Happy Halloween, etcetera, etcetera.)


As for things, I have lots of them to post today.

Firstly, I have read some books:

  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – meh
  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles – okay
  • United We Spy by Ally Carter – YAY
  • The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman – good
  • The House of Hades by Rick Riordan – pretty good


Secondly, apparently WordPress, my blogsite of choice, now has occasional advertisements on blog pages.  I sincerely apologize for this, because I hate advertisements and don’t want them on my blog any more than you do.  But there it is.


Thirdly, I went to National Portfolio Day and showed my portfolio to representatives at three schools.  Their responses were as follows:

  • Otis College of Art and Design – The lady at this booth waived my application fee and told me I didn’t have to make any changes to my portfolio.  So that was encouraging!
  • Ringling College of Art and Design – The man at this booth had mostly constructive criticism rather than compliments, but the comments were helpful!
  • Rhode Island School of Art and Design – The lady at this booth was very nice and told me my pictures were “amazing.”  Needless to say, I was thrilled.  She said I was on the right track, and I should make more of the same kinds of things.  Yippee!


Fourthly, I have art pictures!  YAAAAAY!

I actually have a lot more art that is on the way, but it’s at school right now being graded by my art teachers, so… more of that later.  But here is what I have so far:

This is a picture that I drew with pencil, scanned, and colored in Photoshop.  I call it The Cardboard Corsaire!  As always, you can click the pictures to enlarge them.

The Cardboard Corsaire

I also have a few drawings that I did at a nearby art center that had live models:

Old Man


I also recently cleaned up an old self-portrait sketch to make it portfolio-ready.  I can’t remember if I ever posted it on my blog or not, but here is the final result anyway:

Lines Self-Portrait

Next I have a lot of pottery from my ceramics class at school.  Our first project was a pinch-pot:

Ceramic Pinchpot

Then we moved onto bottles:

Ceramic Bottle

After that, we made plates and decorated them using the sgraffito technique.  Basically, we covered the whole plate in black and then scraped it away to show the plain clay before firing and glazing it.

Sgraffito flower dish

Sgraffito Sun Plate / Dish

Finally, just for fun, I made my own ceramic pendant to look like the necklace that Katara wears in Avatar the Last Airbender.  Oh yes, I did just do that.

Katara Necklace Pendant - Painted Ceramic

And that’s all the art I have for you today!  I hope you enjoyed all of it, and I’ll try to post the many new paintings I’ve finished sometime in the near future!!  :D

Have a great day!




Hello, Reader!

I hope that you are having a lovely day, wherever you are.  And I have lots of new art pieces to share with you today, which will hopefully brighten your day!

But before I get into the art, I’d like to tell you a bit about what I’ve been up to.

First of all, as I mentioned awhile back, my foot broke in July.  I wasn’t allowed to walk on it for 3 weeks, and after that, I had to wear one of those enormous, industrial, and very attractive medical boots.  I accessorized by putting a hot pink flower in the velcro strap.  Today is the first day I get to start walking for a few hours without the boot, and by Monday (with any luck) I won’t use it at all!

Oh – and one last thing before I get into the pictures: my psychology teacher is offering extra credit to students who defy a social norm and write about the reactions of people around them.  I ran my experiment at school today.  Every hour, when I arrived at a new class, I laid a hot pink table cloth over my desk and placed a vase of faux flowers and a framed photograph of Harry Styles on top.  After that, I continued to behave as usual.  If anyone asked me what was happening, I said “I thought it looked better this way” or “I wanted to make things more homey.”  If anyone asked me who was in the photograph, I said “This is Harry Styles.  You know, the tween sensation and my future husband?”

People’s reactions were hilarious.  My French teacher had no idea what was going on.  My statistics teacher said he didn’t want to know.  And everybody else who commented asked me, very slowly, “What are you doing?”  Harry Styles was also a point of immense confusion, and even once people realized that the decor was a joke, they were still asking if I actually liked One Direction and where I had acquired the photo.  (For the record, I am not a fan, though 1D songs are admittedly catchy.)

And now, after that long introduction: art!

First off, I have an oil pastel still life, drawn from life, not a photograph.  Here is the final result:

Still Life

I had a lot of fun with the textures in this piece, especially the wood paneling and the gold patterns on the clock, which were carved out after layering black over yellow.

Next, I have a graphite pencil drawing, which is actually a new interpretation of an old concept I drew a long time ago.

Holding Hands

My drawing skills have improved a lot since my last hand-tree drawing, though I’m quite happy with both the old and new versions.  Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Hands & Feet Tree - 1.8.11         Holding Hands

I also have some simpler digital pieces I did for my local library.  The first is a book worm, which I believe is going to be used for rating books.  Kids are going to color in segments according to how well they liked the novel they read.  Don’t even ask me why he’s wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat; I just followed my instructions.

Library Detective Bookworm

The second library image is a logo for a different program.  I assume this program is about music, though I actually have no idea what it entails.  That is irrelevant, though.

Library Music

And finally, I have a few very special pieces of art to show you.  If you have read one of my earlier posts, you will know that I read and thoroughly enjoyed Rebecca Hahn’s fantasy novel A Creature of Moonlight.  Well, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity of making artwork for her website.  Rebeccahahnbooks.com just went live today and may look slightly different in days to come, so keep checking back for the latest information on the book and its lovely author.  The site also tells how to pre-order the novel so you can read it as soon as it hits the shelves!  Thank you, Becca, for letting me draw and hang out with the big kids!

Here are the pictures I created that appear on the site!  Clicking on any of them will enlarge the image.  All were drawn in regular graphite pencil, scanned into the computer, and colored on Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.  The first two are headers for the top of the webpage, and they are supposed to resemble the enchanted forest from A Creature of Moonlight.  The top appears during the daytime, and the bottom appears at night.  How awesome is that?  The Internet is magic.

Rebecca Hahn Books - A Creature of Moonlight

I actually drew a different header initially, before I drew either of the images above.  It doesn’t appear on the website, which I am thankful for (I much prefer my later ideas), but since I like to show my process, here is one of the early drafts, which didn’t make the cut:

Original Header

I really liked the moon, and I reused the signature art in later drafts, but I thought the landscape was too typical, and the forest from A Creature of Moonlight is anything but ordinary.  I really wanted to draw trees that made me think of magic, so I came up with what you see now.

Next, I drew a picture frame to go around Rebecca’s author photograph.  The photo was taken by Hai Ngo, so I really can’t take credit for that, but this was the final result:

Author Rebecca Hahn - A Creature of Moonlight

And lastly (but not leastly), I drew pictures of all the people who helped make the website.  The portraits, arranged in no particular order, are of me (top left), Hai Ngo (top right), Tom Ballinger (bottom left), and Rebecca Hahn (bottom right).  I didn’t actually take the photos that I used for references, so the rights go to a variety of different people.

The Team - rebeccahahnbooks.com


That’s not even all the art I have – I’ve also got some exciting new photography, a few ceramic pieces, sketch pages, and acrylic color studies!  But those are going to come on another day.

Until then, keep on keeping on!

Digging Up Stuff!


Kampsville Friends

Kampsville Friends

Hello everyone!

This post, as I promised, is going to be about my experiences at the Center for American Archeology’s high school field school program, which takes place in Kampsville, Illinois.  Before attending the camp, I couldn’t find any information on what other kids had experienced, so I wanted to provide a first-hand account for future attendees.  And anybody else who cares.

Hopefully, this post will be informative and helpful.  Alas, I could not include information on everything we did, because that would take up many, many pages.  But if you have any questions about Kampsville or my experience there, I would love to answer them, so feel free to leave a comment.

First and foremost, I had a lovely time.  I would recommend this camp to anybody who is remotely interested in archeology.  You don’t have to know archeology is what you want to do with your life to attend.  There is a wide spectrum of kids who come to Kampsville, all with their own reasons.

Personally, I came to Kampsville because archeology was a possible career option for me.  After attending the camp, I have decided that I will not become an archeologist.  However, this was not because I had a negative experience in Kampsville.  Rather, my time with the CAA showed me that archeology is a lot more than just digging for buried treasure.  Sure, there is some of that, but there is also a lot of paperwork.  And scrubbing pebbles and gravel with toothbrushes.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I should start with the basics.

If you’re in high school, you will stay at MacDougal Dormitory, which looks like this:

MacDougall Dormitory CAA

MacDougall Dormitory

And you will stay in a room that looks something like this:

MacDougall Dormitory CAA - girls' room

My Room in MacDougall Dorm

You will be sharing this room with one or two other people.  (Unless you are a male, because we only had two of those, so they had half the dorm to themselves.)  Plus, you can’t see it in the picture, but there is also a dresser that you can use, as well as lockable cabinets for your valuables.  And the bunks have removable ladders, which is nice.

On an average day in Kampsville, you have to be ready to go at 7:00 in the morning.  This means that you have made yourself a sandwich (or two) to eat in the field, applied sunscreen, and used an actual restroom while you still can.  But be warned: there will be competition for the peanut butter if you don’t get there first.  (Notes on sandwich making: bread, peanut butter, jelly, turkey, and ham (?) are all available for you to use however you like.  But check your bread for mold.  Trust me.)

Once everyone is ready to rumble, you will pile into a large red van.  This van will seat thirteen kids plus two chaperones/interns.

You will travel across the Illinois river on one of two ferries: the Miss Illinois or the Kampsville II.  Nobody could tell me what happened to the Kampsville I.

You will then drive to JoDell’s, a small resort up on the bluff.  Mediocre food is served there, and you will eat this food for breakfast and dinner on weekdays.  On weekends, you will go out to eat, perhaps at Alfonso’s Pizza or Dairy Queen.  In case you are curious, here is the rundown on JoDell’s buffet-style food:


Some combination of:

Cereal, Gravy and Biscuits, Bagels, Hard-boiled eggs, “Scrambled eggs” (actual origin of this grayish cake is highly questionable), Canned grapefruit or peaches, Unappetizing oatmeal, Yogurt cups, and Soggy Eggo waffles


Monday: Chicken

Tuesday: Pasta

Wednesday: Pulled Pork

Thursday: Tacos

Friday: Burgers & Brats

 *Sides change, but the main course stays the same.  Also, vegetarian/vegan options are always available

Breakfast at JoDell's

Breakfast at JoDell’s

Then you will drive to your site.

If you are in high school, you will be excavating at The Buried Gardens of Kampsville.  Contrary to the name, TBGOK is not actually a garden; it is a prehistoric midden heap, which is basically a really old trash dump.  The artifacts you will find there are from the Middle Woodland Period, so they are around 2000 years old.  You will be assigned to a unit with a partner and a supervisor/intern.  Artifacts you may find include bones, shells, pottery sherds, sandstone, limestone, a LOT of pebbles and gravel, chert, and lithics (chert carved into stone tools – mostly lamellar blades in my unit).

Units at Site 804, The Buried Gardens of Kampsville

Units at Site 804, The Buried Gardens of Kampsville

While at the site, you are going to learn SO MANY NEW THINGS.  Especially if you stay for the “advanced” week of the camp, which I would highly recommend.  For brevity’s sake (ha!), I will just make a list of the things you will learn how to do each week.  So, in no particular order…


What You Will Learn During Weeks 1, 2, and 3

  • History of the Region – this will be covered in about 45 minutes on the first day of each week
  • Troweling – you will learn the basic technique of how to hold a trowel for floor scraping
  • Artifact Bagging – you will fill out inside tags, outside tags, and mark your bags’ existence in the paperwork and records
  • Piece Plotting – this means mapping where artifacts are in your unit – any artifact larger than a silver dollar will be piece plotted with north/south, east/west, and elevation coordinates
  • Munselling – this is when you use a Munsell book of soil colors to record the exact hue and tone of the earth in your unit – you will see a wide variety, including blue clay!
Munsell Book

Munsell Book

  • Soil Types - you will determine types of soil (sand, clay, gley, loam, etc.) using a special quiz asking questions like “Can you roll it into a ball?” and “Can it be flattened into a ribbon of 3-5 centimeters?”
  • Area Mapping – sometimes, areas of your unit will be made up of such different materials that you will need to map separate areas in your paperwork (Area A and Area B) – you will pick points along the areas’ borders to piece plot, then connect the dots.
  • Screening - you will sift the dirt that you excavate through a screen to ensure that you didn’t miss any smaller artifacts while troweling – you’d be surprised how many things you won’t notice you’ve dug up until screening: bones, ceramics, chert flakes….
Artifact Screening

Artifact Screening

  • Washing Artifacts – back at the dorm, you will scrub the artifacts you find with toothbrushes.  This may become tedious, but it’s interesting to see what other people have found, since you probably won’t be washing your own finds.
  • Bagging Artifacts – after the artifacts have dried on trays in the barn, you will do a preliminary sort – bones and ceramics are generally easy to identify, but differentiating between rocks can be hard.  You will learn the textures of sandstone, chert, and limestone.  Plus, you’ll get to test potential limestone pieces with acid – if bubbles form, you know you’ve sorted your limestone correctly.
  • Tabulating Artifacts – after the preliminary sort is done, you will tabulate artifacts by sorting again (your sort will be checked by a supervisor this time!), weighing them on a balance, and recording your finds on tabbing paperwork.  Once you’re done, you will place your bags in the shelves to be sent to storage or a lab for further analysis.
  • Finishing a Level – every 10 centimeters below datum (cbd) is called a level.  The first 10 are level 1, the first 20 are level 2, etc.  When you finish a level, you will have to wet down your unit, put up a sign saying what unit you have, put down an arrow pointing north, and take a photo of the unit.
Getting Ready for the Level Photo

Getting Ready for the Level Photo

  • Don’t Touch the Datum Strings – enough said
  • Other Random Things – you will go to one lecture a week that will be on a random subject.  The two I saw were on (1) the spread of tuberculosis in the new world and some cool Mayan tombs, and (2) osteopathology in animal shoulder joints.  I must say I preferred the former, knowing absolutely nothing about shoulder joints.


What You Will Learn During Week 4

  • Pacing - you will learn how many steps you take to walk 25 meters so that if you ever need to pace off a site, you can get a good estimate of its size right away.  My number was 29 steps.
  • Shovel Scraping – in some cases, using a trowel will not be the most efficient way to dig at a site.  In these situations, you will scrape thin layers off of a unit with a very large (and fairly heavy) shovel.  I suggest wearing longer shorts or pants for this, because rubbing the shovel on your bare skin is not a pleasant experience.
  • Probing – once you are not finding many cultural deposits in a unit, you are going to start wondering if you are close to reaching “sterile” soil or “subsoil,” where there is nothing of significance left.  In other words, you will want to know if there is anything left but dirt to find.  To determine this, you will use a T-shaped tool called a probe.  It is hollow in the middle with a slit down the side, and you will push it as far into the ground as you can.  When you pull it back out, you will look at the open slit to look for the change from cultural deposit to subsoil.  Apparently some people can see this subtle change.  I, for one, cannot.
  • Site Mapping – you will graph the location of units in relation to the site as a whole.  Erosion will also be noted.
  • Profile Mapping – the sides of your unit (which, by the way, will form a baulk, or the dirt left in place between units) will have clear layers of earth.  The top layer is called the plowzone, and the layers below will be called zones A, B, C, whatever.  The layers and horizons can be helpful in dating and understanding the site.  So, you will graph the layers by setting up datum pins and a string of level elevation, then measuring how far the top of your unit and each zone is from the string.  You will wind up with a line graph.
Wall Profile Map

Wall Profile Map

  • Setting Up a Unit – for some reason that escapes human comprehension, archeologists measure out each unit with folding rulers and a compass.  You will place nails in the ground and wrap string around them, constantly readjusting the set-up until it is a perfect rectangle.  I just don’t understand why they don’t bring tarps that are cut out in perfect rectangles, lay them on the ground, and put a nail at each corner.  I guess that would just be too easy.
  • Flotation Lab – every once in a while, you will have to take a float sample for your unit.  This will go to the float lab, where you will put your dirt in a magic tub that burbles with enchantment.  All the prehistoric plant life (charcoal, seeds, etc.) will float to the top and be washed into a bowl with a cheesecloth.  You will then take that cheesecloth that is covered in old plants (which looks yuckier than it sounds) and send it away to ethnobotanists, who apparently find that sludge to be fascinating.  I personally find the magic tubs more exciting.
Flotation Lab

Flotation Lab


But the camp isn’t just about learning – you’ll have a lot of fun, too.  In the evenings, kids played frisbee outside, cards inside, read books, and just generally had a good time.  Once or twice a week, you’ll go to Two Dips and a Cherry, the local ice cream place.  Plus, you’ll get to visit lots of other archeological sites.  You’ll see the Camp Mounds, where archeologists are using magnetometry and snazzy equipment to look beneath the earth.  (Digging up these intentional burials would be super illegal in the US.)

Looking Below the Ground

Looking Below the Ground

You’ll also check out Mound House, a prehistoric gathering place (used up to 10,000 years ago), where different native groups from around the area met, perhaps to trade, celebrate, and arrange marriages.  There are mounds located there too, as well as evidence of wooden structures.  While these structures have disintegrated, darker soil has taken their place to indicate where they once stood.

But the coolest trip was to Cahokia, the largest civilization of its time north of Mexico.  Located in Collinsville, Illinois, Cahokia is a big deal – literally.  Gigantic mounds still stand there, and we got to climb Monk’s Mound, where the chief of Cahokia once lived.  The view from the top is fantastic: farm fields on on side and St. Louis on the other.  The museum there was absolutely amazing, though this civilization was more modern than what you will be digging with the CAA.

Another cool museum was the Kampsville museum, where you can look at some really neat stuff dug up at the Koster site and other sites nearby.  And it has souvenirs for all your tourist needs!

Kampsville Archeological Museum

Kampsville Archeological Museum


Whew!  So that was my experience with the Center for American Archeology in Kampsville, Illinois.  I hope this account was helpful, and if you want more info, don’t hesitate to ask.  I could have written twice as much as I did.

I also apologize that there was no art whatsoever in this post.  Hopefully I can make up for this next time, because I have a TON of drawings to show you!!  Also – I’ll be back at school starting tomorrow, and I’ll be taking ceramics.  So we’ll see what happens there.  I may also be taking painting, but that hasn’t been ironed out in my schedule yet.  But I digress.

Have a terrific day!




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