Field Trip to Camp Hollis

On Friday, May 25 UCA students visited the site of Camp Hollis along Route 7 in the Ouachita National Forest. The camp was one of sixteen camps that existed with the National Forest was first occupied on May 22, 1933 and was active (with a short vacancy in 1935) until 1941. Enrollee efforts were largely on forestry with the building and maintenance of forest service roads, fighting forest fires, and constructing and staffing fire towers. They also contributed to recreational duties, such as the construction of recreation facilities at Iron Springs and Lake Sylvia.

Today, the camp is an archaeological park and contains visible architecture, information signs (although heavily weathered), and a paved trail leading through portions of the camp. UCA students visited the site in order to gain comparative information on the construction and layout of the Hollis mechanic shop (which also had a separate residence). They also gathered comparative information on other remaining architectural features, such as the kitchen and mess hall and recreation hall chimney.

Standing in front of the Camp Hollis recreation hall chimney.

Field Work, May 14-18, 2018

After a hot and humid week filled with a bed of poison ivy (our workspace) and hundreds (thousands?) of ticks, we have successfully completed the scheduled field work associated with the first Field Archaeology (ANTH 4480) field school at UCA!

What began as an inquiry into what was thought to be a possible infirmary (Feature 10), evolved into the realization that Feature 10 was an architectural space related to automotive maintenance and perhaps storage. Rather than a hospital, the space was likely the Army Garage (building #19), which is recorded on the Historical Record of CCC Camp Buildings present at Camp Halsey between September 1934 and November 18, 1938. During the 2018 excavations numerous automotive related items were collected, such as window glass, door (car or building?) hinges, motor parts, wiring, and nuts and bolts. We also documented architectural related items – most notably nails. The only personal item recognized in the field was a very small glass piece of a patent medicine bottle. We will be cleaning, cataloging, and analyzing the artifacts in the UCA Archaeology lab next week.

While artifacts suggest the former structure is the likely remains of an automotive garage, questions remain. For example, the footprint of Feature 10 is roughly 23 x 48 feet, which does not directly match any of the dimensions recorded on the Historical Record of CCC Camp Buildings. In fact, the Army Garage (#19) is listed twice and with different dimensions. The Historical Record also states that the Army Garage was razed in October 1937 and converted into a blacksmith shop (building #26). We found no evidence of smithing in Feature 10, although overgrowth prevented complete excavation during this first season.

Glass bottle top embedded within the cement floor.

Approximately 60-70 percent of Feature 10 was exposed, which is composed of hand mixed, poured, and spread cement that was mixed with local shale and sandstone. The poured areas are 8-feet wide and span the width of structure (approx. 23 feet). Interestingly, a broken glass bottle top was part of the cement mixture and metal detector surveys over both cleared and uncleared floor areas suggest that metal parts are also part of the cement mixture. This suggests that perhaps small bits of trash were also used (at least in small amounts) in the cement fill. It’s not known if that was purposeful or if the trash items are inadvertent inclusions.

Two excavation units were opened adjacent to Feature 10 in areas interpreted as egresses. Unit 1 was established within the proposed Feature 10 main entrance. At this location (SE Corner) two large cement blocks (made with much more dense cement) were present on the inside and outside (FSN 2018-053-03) of the knee-high wall (which was also poured with the same cement mix as the floor). They were likely stepping platforms or stoops to step up and over the knee-high wall. Artifacts from Unit 1 were meager and small (small pieces of glass, some nails, and small bits of metal), which suggests an area regularly cleaned and with a fair amount of foot traffic (hence the small broken bits). A second unit (Unit 2) was established in what was proposed as a back entrance or exit (NE Corner). The Unit 2 location differs in that a cement stepping platform or stoop was not present on the outside of the structure. The eastern half of Unit 2 likely represents a midden area situated immediately outside the back door. The concentrations of artifacts on the eastern (right side) of Unit 2 is likely the result of right-handed technicians opening the back door (which would swing to the left) and tossing unneeded parts into a pile. Excavations were limited because of the significant amount of root growth (both cedar/juniper but also tons of poison ivy!). Nonetheless, numerous artifacts were uncovered, such a large pieces of car window class and automotive parts. A complete map of Feature 10 was created that will be overlain with other data sets (such as total station points) and used to evaluate densities of artifacts and interpretation of the use of space.

Monica and Ben in Unit 1.
Rob, Hannah, Shelby, and Jacob screening.
Jennifer and Britney in Unit 2.
Chayenne and KJ mapping Feature 10.







Shelby and Jacob collect shovel test data.

In addition to the excavation of Feature 10, magnetic gradiometry, total station, and shovel test data were also collected. Students were exposed to the use of magnetic gradiometry and how to lay out a site-wide grid using a total station (on loan from the Arkansas Archeological Society) A total of 8 20 x 20 meter magnetic gradiometry grids were collected across the former Front Street and the open field to the south. Numerous magnetic anomalies, as anticipated, were discovered. To test some of the magnetic anomalies, a small number (n=6) of shovel tests were done across the former Front Street. While no artifacts were found, shovel tests provide insights into stratigraphy related to the road construction and maintenance.

Overall, the field school was a success. Students gained experience in collecting archaeological data using several different methods. They were exposed to archaeological methods that included remote sensing, site-wide mapping, shovel testing, feature mapping, excavation, and field documentation. In doing so, they all contributed to an ongoing broader project to evaluate Faulkner County historical and archaeological resources and participate in the first set of research and data collection at Camp Halsey. After site data collection was complete, The Halsey’s, who live on the property and graciously allowed us to conduct work at Camp Halsey, cooked the field team a picnic lunch on Friday afternoon. We all sat in the shade on the newly cleaned auto shop floor – a space that hadn’t been used by people in almost 80 years – and discussed what we had learned, the types of artifacts collected, and the shared experience in the 2018 field work.

Group shot on the final day.

UCA Field School 2018

From May 14-18, 2018 University of Central Arkansas students will be conducting archeological field work at Camp Halsey (3FA313) as part of the first accredited archaeological field school at UCA. The upcoming UCA field school at Camp Halsey is part of a long-term collaborative project between researchers at UCA and Faulkner County Museum to map, evaluate, and document historical and archaeological resources in Faulkner County. This larger project, and the work at Camp Halsey, is organized into three themes that serve to frame to our inquiries: site administration and management, pedagogy and public archaeology, and research.

Fieldwork during the May Intersession will be the first set of multi-disciplinary systematic work to address specific research questions related to social, historical, economic, and political aspects of Camp Halsey. Students will be in groups doing fieldwork over the first week. They will be collecting three types of data from the site: magnetic gradiometry (raster), point data using a total station (vector), and feature excavations with associated artifacts.

1. We will be using magnetic gradiometry to begin mapping a large open space south of the old Front Street. The goal is to better understand the construction sequence of the large earthen terraces in this area that were constructed by the Camp Halsey enrollees. It is also hoped that densities of metallic debris will be mapped, which could offer the former location of removed buildings (such as barracks that were on pilings) and provide the extent of Front Street. Students will gain experience using a Bartington magnetic gradiometer and learn skills related to site survey and field data collection, applied physics and magnetism, and processes of landscape use and modification.

Location of magnetic gradiometry survey area.

2. We will also be using a Topcon total station (on loan from the Arkansas Archeological Survey) to accomplish three items. First, a site grid will be established to guide magnetic gradiometry survey. With a site-wide grid established, we will then be be able to record the spatial location of visible features and create a working map of the site. Third, topographic data (z) will be collected to better integrate constructed features with landscape contours. It will also allow for the creation of a digital elevation model (DEM) that can be integrated with the two-dimensional magnetic gradiometry data. Students will gain experience using a total station and learn skills related to mapping, applied trigonometry, spatial alignment, settlement patterning, distance analysis, and landscape archaeology.

3. Finally, we will be excavating and mapping two features. The first is a large feature (Feature 10) that we propose is the possible location of the infirmary or hospital. A 1934 inventory of buildings lists the hospital as 20 x 60 ridged frame building with four rooms and a capacity of ten. It had both water and sewer connections. The second feature (Feature 11) is the possible location of the officers quarters. The same 1934 inventory of buildings lists “Qtrs for Officers w/screen porch” as a rigid frame structure with five rooms and a capacity of four individuals. Water and sewer connections are listed. Students will gain experience in traditional excavation methods and learn skills related to developing and refining research questions as data are collected, the importance of clear and concise field note taking, the process of creating profile and plan sketches, and how field artifacts are assigned provenience and collected (tagged and bagged) in the field (in accordance with Arkansas Archeological Survey statewide standards).

Feature 10 and Feature 11.

During subsequent weeks, each student will work on an independent research project in the UCA archaeology lab. Students will gain experience in archaeological lab methods and learn skills related artifact cleaning, cataloging, and accessioning, how to conducted an analysis using a handful of artifacts, the process of digitizing field sketches, remote sensing data processing, the use of primary historical documents to supplement artifact data, and the writing of an archaeological final report.

They will turn in a final research paper that will be submitted to the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Anthropology (JURA) for review.

Dr. McKinnon and students in the UCA archaeology lab evaluating Camp Halsey artifacts.

Field work to prepare for field school

It was a very cold day on January 3rd, 2018 (15 degrees!) but we spent several hours at the site doing some basic mapping and developing hypothesis questions to test during the upcoming UCA field school. We have three areas to test, which include the possible officers quarters, the possible location of the hospital, and a possible well enclosure. Six students are registered for the first field school to be held in May 2018. Students will focus on exposing the foundations of these three features and putting excavation units in and around possible high traffic areas. Students will also be working with a total station (on loan from the Arkansas Archeological Survey) so we can begin a program of landscape mapping to more fully understand the relationship of exposed features and to create a digital elevation map.

Dr. McKinnon looking very cold!