Today marks the end of the first week of the Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project. It has been an incredibly busy and productive week. We started out the week with a two visitors to the site: Dr. Richard Old and Dr. Robert Heinse.
Dr. Richard Old is a leading plant identification expert who received his Ph.D. from the University of Idaho. Dr. Old helped us identify native and non-native plants on the landscapes associated with both internees and the administration. You can learn more about Dr. Old by checking out this article on his work: Washington State Magazine article on Dr. Old. He located a number of plants and trees that may have been planted by the internees and administrative staff, which included apple, cherry, and plum trees, spearmint, black locust, lilac, Virginia creeper, vinca, and blackberry. This information will help us determine where to look for gardens as well as can tell us what types of food the camp’s inhabitants were locally harvesting.
Dr. Robert Heinse also visited the site. Dr. Heinse is a soil physicist and Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho. He graciously volunteered his time to come apply ground penetrating radar (GPR) to Kooskia’s landscape. We are very fortunate to have April Kamp-Whittaker as a crew chief on our project’s staff this summer. April is an experienced GPR user and has travelled across the world applying GPR to archaeological sites. April and Dr. Heinse spent part of the week surveying portions of the internees’ landscape with GPR. Ground penetrating radar helps archaeologists visualize what may possibly be beneath the ground. Building foundations, cuts in the soil, digging activity, and metal piping are just a few of the things GPR can potentially identify. We are currently processing the results of Dr. Heinse’s work and hoping to use it to direct some our excavations this summer. We intend to excavate, or, at the very least, probe anomalies identified by GPR. Dr. Heinse was kind enough to loan the equipment out to us so that we can continue surveying portions of the internee and administrators’ landscapes this week. April will be leading this research.
Our students (Heather, Jamie, Josh, Paige, Sara, and Lacey) and staff (Doug, April, and Dana) have been working really hard this week to excavate the area in which Kooskia’s internees inhabited. We are finding a great deal of fill on the landscape, which we expected as the zone was, at some point, a dump for more modern trash. More recently (1960s-today) it has been used as a campground. Before Kooskia was used as an internment camp, it was a federal prison and possibly a CCC camp. In this area of the site, we are performing what archaeologists call “shovel tests.” Shovel tests are used to quickly identify what types of artifacts may lay below the ground without conducting full-scale excavation units. Since there are no visible building foundations on the internee landscape, shovel testing is one way for us to attempt to locate the presence of historic structures. If we encounter high artifact concentrations in particular shovel tests, we may decide to expand them into what archaeologists call “excavation units.” Excavation units are much larger than shovel tests, which are usually about 50x50cm in size. Excavation units, on the other hand, can range in size (i.e. 1x1meter, 2x2meter).
Photos from the first week of work can be found under the “Gallery” link. We welcome comments about the project, especially if you have lived, worked, or played around the internment camp.