This week has been a really busy one for us here at the Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project. Everybody is busy collecting artifacts using some great technology called the total station. The total station is most commonly used by surveyors to measure distances, angles and points on a landscape. They are the yellow tripod looking instruments we often see used by people wearing the protective orange vests on the side of the road. In archaeology the total station is useful for mapping artifacts and features on the site. This is important because in archaeology the key to understanding humanity is determining where human remains (or artifacts) are coming from in their original context. If we can map all the artifacts before we leave the site then we have physical written evidence of how the artifacts are spread across the landscape and then we can analyze that information to determine patterns or habits the internees had at the camp.
The total station works by sending an invisible laser to the stadia rod which is about a five foot tall pole which has a prism attached to the top. Once the laser hits the prism is bounces back to the total station which can then calculate how far north and east the rod is from the station. Additionally, the total station can measure elevation which is important for an archaeologist because we can look at slopes and see if soil depositions are different in certain areas and determine why that might be.
Overall, I am glad I learned about the total station and can appreciate the wonderful technology that the total station provides. In the beginning of the week we were assigned a mapping project where we had to physically map the internee housing landscape by using two traditional methods known as the baseline method and the compass method. Basically, we had to physically pull a tape measure to specific points on the landscape from an arbitrary ‘baseline’ (which is also a tape measure) so we could hand write the map on graph paper. Let’s just say we all gained an appreciation for what the total station can do because after four hours of pulling that darn tape around the ground in the burning heat. None of us ever want to have to map again without the help of this incredible technology!