I chose Sucker Brook to study because both Skidmore College and an amateur archaeologist named Louis Follet did work at the site. Follet conducted a surface collection during the 1960s. Surface collections can range from farmers simply picking up exposed artifacts in their fields, to trained archaeologists walking in a grid formation and flagging and mapping any artifacts that they find. Follet’s method of surface collection was less systematic, as he did not keep track of where exactly he found artifacts. In contrast, students from Skidmore College’s 2007 and 2009 archaeological field methods course conducted not only a more systematic surface collection, but dug test pits and an excavation unit. Test pits are usually 30x30 cm (approximately one foot by one foot) and are used to quickly get an idea of the basic elements of the site, in order to figure out where to excavate more extensively. Excavation units are typically larger than test pits, and provide more detail about a site.
I compared the artifacts recovered by Follet to the artifacts Skidmore by testing the hypothesis that Sucker Brook was a seasonally occupied Late Archaic fishing camp. I developed a set of 17 predictions based on a literature review of what the archaeological record might show for a Late Archaic seasonally occupied fishing camp. In my results section, I attempted to analyze the two groups of artifacts using the 17 different tests.
Although I could not fully test this hypothesis, the results of this study showed how Follet’s surface collection generated different information about Sucker Brook in comparison to Skidmore’s surface collections, shovel test pits, and excavation unit. Follet’s surface collection resulted in an understanding of the time period that Sucker Brook was occupied and whether or not fishing had taken place. In contrast, Skidmore’s methods of recovery had the potential to contribute information human behavior occurring at the site. I found that one method of recovery is not more valuable than another, rather these different methods provide different kinds of information. Just because a collector or amateur recovers artifacts through surface collection, doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t contribute to the knowledge about a site.