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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Bail Out

December 10, 2020

Excavation - removing water from tarpsArchaeologists face many challenges in keeping an excavation secure while unit profiles and partially excavated pit-type features are exposed, often for days or weeks. Heavy rain is notorious for causing collapsed profiles and other damage to in-progress excavations. The most common solution is to cover excavation areas at night with tarps—typically plastic sheeting. (Another benefit: Tarps also discourage damage from off-hours visitors.) But if it storms, the water ponds in all the low areas of the tarp. Afterward, the crew carefully wades in with buckets and scoops and starts bailing.

Here public field school students bail out water from a heavy rain in July 1986 at the Krause site (47LC41) in La Crosse County. At the far left is one of the cheapest, best scoops of all—a 1-gallon vinegar bottle with the bottom and part of the side cut out.

Years pass… nothing changes. Here Kathy Stevenson bails out a storm-filled tarp in downtown Onalaska in 2012.

(Entry by Dr. James Theler)