By Rachel Boyd, Outreach Coordinator
This year we hosted our second year of archaeology summer camps, and, despite the rain, we had a great time! Some activities from last year became traditions including games of water balloons, Red Rover, and Among Us (after snacks of course). Other activities, such as a day at Timberneck and hiking the new nature trail at Fairfield, became new staples for future camps. Many of our campers were returnees from year one, and some remembered activities from our visits to their schools. They will be experts the next time we work with them in the classroom. However, we still had first-time campers who discovered that archaeology is not about digging for fossils, and you must be careful not to dig too deep when there are intact soil layers!
Rachel shows a more goofy side while helping campers mend pottery.
The 2023 campers resumed digging in last year’s excavation areas. The west side excavation, close to the site of the historic kitchen, is the site of our future Education Pavilion, while the east side excavations were just to the east of the historic garden’s northeast corner, near the future site of permanent bathrooms. After learning field techniques on Monday, the campers added one or two activities per day, such as pottery making, artifact classification, and atlatl throwing. They used a tennis ball thrower to simulate the atlatl – similar technique, but not as dangerous! Indoor activities included artifact bingo and a mini bricklaying exercise. Graduation day on the last Friday of each camp week allowed families to explore the archaeology stations that their children had spent the week working on, followed by water balloons (at each other and at me) and pizza.
During the first week of camp (June 19-23), we experienced downpours and spent three days at the Rosewell Visitor Center. We still managed some outdoor activities like digging and walking on the nature trail before taking shelter under the new Fairfield protective structure to learn about artifact washing and play archaeology bingo. We also had indoor activities like watching the Magic School Bus episodes related to history and archaeology. The rain finally stopped long enough for us to explore the Rosewell Ruins and the ice house, and the campers enjoyed picking wild blackberries on the walk.
Campers pose during their mini bricklaying activity.
The second week of camp (June 26-30), for 9-12 year-olds, was rain-free and we went to Timberneck on Thursday to explore the park. We had a joint activity with the rangers at Machicomoco State Park and in the afternoon Allyson Gray from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe demonstrated how Indigenous pottery was made in the past and present.
Pamunkey citizen Allyson Gray presenting on pottery making.
The campers during the third week of camp (July 10-14) got to spend most of the week at Fairfield, with rain on the last day keeping them indoors at Rosewell. Luckily, the sun appeared in time for a water balloon fight. Throughout the week they enjoyed the nature trail, which included a “Nature Scavenger Hunt.” Campers colored a drawing of an animal or plant they saw and drew their favorite thing from the ¾-mile track. The week was exceedingly hot, and the shade under the canopies wasn’t helping much, so campers took breaks playing games under the shady trees by the manor house foundation.
Campers enjoyed bringing feathers and paw-paw seeds with them as
treasure and inspiration for their Scavenger Hunt drawings.
During the final week of camp (July 17-21), the 9-12 year-olds finished up the excavation units from previous camp weeks and started a few new ones. The hard work of the campers brought us closer to finishing the archaeology needed before we can construct our Education Pavilion. They also took a trip to Timberneck where they threw an atlatl and snacked on Oreos and s’mores with park rangers. The campers enjoyed creating projectile points with sweet potatoes during potato flintknapping, even if it didn’t look like a spear point or arrowhead. This activity was one of our new activities that we may bring back for next year’s camps.
Two campers beginning a new test unit at Fairfield.
The second year of camp included a variety of activities beyond archaeology, including environmental science, cultural anthropology, critical thinking, and games. Despite the challenges posed by the rain, we persevered and had a great time, both indoors and outdoors. The campers’ enthusiasm was contagious, and we all had a fantastic time exploring the Rosewell Ruins and Timberneck. The variety of activities prevented boredom and allowed campers to cool down from the summer heat. Parents also had the opportunity to explore these new places while their children made new friends.
The volunteers who supported us throughout the summer camp were invaluable, and we are grateful for their contribution. A special thank you to Sarah Edwards, recent staff archaeologist and current graduate student at UNC Charlotte, who was by my side almost every day of the summer camp. Thank you to Allyson Gray from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe for presenting her pottery and historic Pamunkey pottery techniques, and to Shaleigh Howells (Pamunkey Museum Director) for organizing the special presentation. Thank you to Courtney Kirberger-Lacombe, Chief Ranger of Visitor Experience, for organizing the dugout canoes, fire making, flintknapping, and tour of Machicomoco State Park, along with the other rangers. Lastly, thank you to the campers for their contribution to archaeology and to their parents and guardians!
We can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for next year. Planning for 2024 has already begun, and we are brainstorming about more activities to keep the kids excited. The success of this year’s summer camps has shown us that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.
Skipping into the next year with all of the fun memories of Summer Camp 2023!
Stay tuned for summer camp news for 2024!