Thomas Klatka's Notes from the Field
September 22, 2004
Well, things are finally underway. We initiated investigations of the reported cemetery for the enslaved community at Kentland. Mostly prep work - marked locations for 4 trenches to be excavated; started mapping; used a shovel to excavate three exploratory pits to see what we will be up against.
The good news is the landform on which we will be working is a late Holocene or early Pleistocene terrace of the New River. Therefore, soils are quite sandy and deep. Topsoil is a very dark, sandy-clay loam while the subsoil is more of a yellowish-tan sandy clay. Both soil layers contain river cobbles of various sizes. This is good because recognizing graveshafts in terrace soil is easier than recognizing graveshafts in a ridge or knoll composed of shale rock.
As you know, we have two areas to investigate and each area will be investigated with two trenches. (Three trenches will be 15 meters in length and one trench will be 20 meters in length.) One shovel test pit in the southern area revealed three inches of topsoil overlying subsoil. Two shovel test pits in the northern area revealed 12 inches of topsoil overlying subsoil. This variation in depth of topsoil is not natural. With only limited evidence, I am guessing the southern area was modified by the removal of soil. The nature and horizontal extent of this modification will be better understood after the two trenches are opened.
Tomorrow morning, we will meet with the VT backhoe operator. I suspect our progress tomorrow will be slow since our task will likely be something new to the operator. Progress will also depend on the expertise of the operator. We will either have to move a lot of dirt by hand or we will be able to move quickly with only a minimal amount of manual labor. Because our evidence for graveshafts will be discolorations in the soil, it will be important for us to immediately cover the opened trenches with black plastic sheeting in order to retain the soil moisture. (As the soil dries it becomes increasingly difficult to discern changes in soil color.) Hopefully, we will be able to uncover the four trenches, complete additional mapping, and perhaps begin the task of shovel scraping the floor of a trench in search of a grave or more.