The Life of a Field Assistant, Part 3

As a college student, moving my world into a residence, and then back out again is a way of life. I have done it four years now, and am sure I will have to do it many times still to come. But having to move you world on an archaeological site is a completely different matter. The challenge before us was to move a fifteen year old trailer filled with sharp tools and equipment down a major highway, across fields, and not only not hit anyone, but not damage anything within the trailer. And do it all in two hours.

That was what befell us at the beginning of the sixth week, to quite literally move out entire world and gear to another site. Fortunately, the maintenance department at Historic St. Mary’s City know what they are doing. We showed up to the first site, in the middle of the field, at seven in the morning to make sure everything was prepared to be moved. That included closing up the site we were digging on and turning it into what we termed Fort Knox. Plastic sheets on the bottom of the units, boards on top of the units, and the more plastic sheets of top of the boards to keep water and animals out. The goal is preservation. Once done, anything on a shelf in the trailer was taken down, and placed on the floor. Anything standing up was placed on its side. The trailer was a mess. Hook it up to the tractor, take the blocks out from under it, and we were ready to roll. And avoid the numerous groundhog holes that would have broken the axle of the trailer. And the ditches that line the path, just to name a few hazards. Needless to say, it was a trying time.

We managed to get it to the road with no issue, two trucks in the front and two in the back. Then, off the road for another treacherous field, tight turns, and pedestrians. Finally, back it up without taking the trees out. After fifteen minutes of movement, the trailer was settled. Now, get blocks back underneath, put everything back into its proper place, and we successfully moved out world. It only took two hours, thanks to the wonderful maintenance staff at Historic St. Mary’s City!


  1. That is a great question! There are many challenges involved with field research. Digging in Southern Maryland, the greatest issues we dealt with were the soil conditions and the heat. Some days, the heat index was upwards of 115 degrees. The soil then becomes baked out, or very hard to work with. It can become quite a grueling process digging though what feels like cement at times. Another challenge that I did not appreciate until I was in a supervisor position was how critical on the fly decisions and immediate interpretations can be. Something seemingly mundane as taking a unit down another tenth of a foot can be a very difficult decision.

  2. Katie Wang says:


    It is so interesting to do field research! I did not have many chances to take lab-related classes those years and I am really looking forward to hearing more details about your research process! What do you think is the most difficult part of doing a field research?

    Best wishes,
    Katie Wang