Frequently Asked Questions About Archaeology At Riverside

Q: Do archaeologists dig up dinosaur bones?
A: No, not on purpose. While it may be possible to find dinosaur bones at archaeological digs, archaeologists do not look for them. Paleontologists are the scientists who dig and study dinosaur bones.

Q: Have you found any gold or money?
A: Yes, but we do not find it very often. We usually find the things that people threw away or lost. Most people in the past kept good track of their valuable things and usually did not throw them away. Occasionally, we will find a coin or some jewelry. At Riverside, we have found coins and some metal rings. Most of the coins were modern, however, two of the coins dated to the 1830s.

Q: How much are the artifacts worth?
A: I don’t know. Archaeologists are not interested in artifacts for their monetary value. Artifacts are very valuable to us for the information they provide about the past. Most artifacts that we find are probably not worth much money, but they can help us learn a great deal about the past.

Q: Can we keep the artifacts?
A: No. Artifacts help us learn about the past, if we let you keep them, we would not be able to study them. We keep all of our artifacts in a museum where they will be protected and available to researchers who might want to study them later.

Q: What is the biggest thing you have found?
A: Most of the artifacts that we find are usually very small and broken. However, we do find some big artifacts. These are generally parts of buildings, such as bricks and stones from foundations or chimneys.

Q: What is the most important thing you have found?
A: Actually, all of the artifacts are important, but some are more important than others—and it depends where we are digging. Artifacts that provide information about dates are very important. Nails and window glass are very important at the Barn Site, while a spoon handle with an “x” scratched on it was important at the Detached Kitchen Site.

Q: Are there people buried at the site?
A: No, people are buried in cemeteries and we are digging at building sites at Riverside. We do not know where Gabriel Farnsley is buried. He could be on the property somewhere, but we think that he is buried at one of his brother’s properties. However, there is a Native American cemetery at Riverside. Although archaeologists do often research cemeteries, we have no plans to dig at the cemetery.

Q: How deep do you dig?
A: We stop when we stop finding artifacts and reach the subsoil, which is a layer of soil that has never been used or occupied by people. The depth of subsoil is different for every site. It can range from 2 inches to beyond 20 feet.

Q: How long have you been working at this site?
A: We usually spend about three years working on a site for 4 months a year at Riverside. We take as much time as we need to finish our research. It does take time to dig carefully and get all the information possible from an archaeology site.

Q: How long do you have to go to school to become an archaeologist?
A: To work on an archaeological site as a professional, you would need to have a Bachelor’s degree (usually 4 years of college). To be in charge of an archaeological dig, you will need at least a Master’s degree (additional 2-3 years of college). It takes experience to learn how to dig properly, and it takes a formal education to understand the past from the artifacts.

Q: How did you know where to start digging?
A: Archaeologists will use whatever information is available to help them know about their sites. At Riverside, we use old photographs, oral history, and historic maps to help us find where old buildings use to be. We also do what we call survey work to find archaeological sites. We will dig small holes in the ground all over an area and see if there are any artifacts. When we find artifacts, we can do more digging.

Q: Do you know how much dirt builds up on a site over time?
A: No. There are many reasons why archaeological sites get buried. Although site can be buried by plant decomposition and flood deposits, most sites are probably buried by people moving soil around. It is impossible to determine how much dirt accumulates over time at an archaeological site.