Town of Byron, New York

Byron Dig at the Hiscock Archeological Site


Pits are dug by volunteer trowelers. Digging is done with a trowel, a kite-shaped metal blade with a handle. The troweler uses this tool to scrape off thin layers of earth, making a flat floor in the pit.  As the diggers continue scraping, the floor gets deeper, going down at about four inches a day. Because most pits wind up being three to four feet deep, it can take nine to 12 days to complete a single pit.

Dirt that each troweler scrapes from the pit floor goes into a labeled bucket. Each bucket goes up to a team of sievers who force the dirt through a series of screens to find any small objects that were missed by the troweler. Some of the most important specimens are found in the sieves.

Long wooden stakes are hammered vertically into the ground in a series of east-west and north-south lines. This produces something like a giant checkerboard, with each square marked by four stakes.  The lines of the “checkerboard” are like the lines of latitude and longitude on a map, providing the trowlers with a way to mark the location of whatever is found.

Because of the large number of people who work at the dig, they are usually able to keep from two to four pits going at one time. Whenever an interesting specimen is found, it is brought around for the entire crew to see, since everyone has worked as a team to make the discovery.

Click on any small photo to view the larger photo and description.

 

Dr. Richard Laub (standing), Curator of Geology at the Buffalo Museum of Science. Team of sievers forcing dirt through a series of screens. Chip of Mastodon bone. Pieces of trees digested and eliminated by Mastodons. Two volunteer sievers waiting for the next bucket of dirt. Flooded pit. Long wooden stakes create a grid, so the location of each find can be mapped. Looking for interesting specimens. Three or four people are assigned to dig in a single 8’ x 8’ pit. Conifer tree cone, preserved and still green, dates back thousands of years. Piece of Mastodon bone. The Byron Dig at the Hiscock Site. Future Archeologists? Sign at entrance to the Hiscock Site. Eating area and tents used by volunteers.
  • Dr. Richard Laub (standing), Curator of Geology at the Buffalo Museum of Science.
  • Team of sievers forcing dirt through a series of screens.
  • Chip of Mastodon bone.
  • Pieces of trees digested and eliminated by Mastodons.
  • Two volunteer sievers waiting for the next bucket of dirt.
  • Flooded pit.
  • Long wooden stakes create a grid, so the location of each find can be mapped.
  • Looking for interesting specimens.
  • Three or four people are assigned to dig in a single 8’ x 8’ pit.
  • Conifer tree cone, preserved and still green, dates back thousands of years.
  • Piece of Mastodon bone.
  • The Byron Dig at the Hiscock Site.
  • Future Archeologists?
  • Sign at entrance to the Hiscock Site.
  • Eating area and tents used by volunteers.

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Read more about the Byron Digs in the Artvoice article "Digging for Mastodons" by Jack Foran.