Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An amazing find today

Kandiss and Michelle when pot was first found.
While there is much more to report and more pictures to share, one discovery today deserves its own post (and the video at the bottom of this post).  In Area G today, during the excavation of the rich midden deposit beneath the clay floor/cap layer, undergraduate student Kandiss Cambell made a completely unexpected discovery in the form of a small whole Apalachee pot.  While potsherds both small and large are commonly found while shovel scraping the midden deposits, Kandiss' careful and attentive work revealed that the pottery fragment she barely scraped with her shovel was much larger than any yet found at Mission Escambe, and in fact turned out to be a nearly complete small flaring rim jar apparently discarded two and a half centuries ago because a small portion of its lip had broken off. 
Jen Knutson pauses from excavating the jar.
Careful examination of the soil stains at this level revealed no discernible pit outlines within which the pot might have been buried, but it was close enough to an adjacent large posthole pit outline that it may have been associated with backfilling that posthole.  Another alternative is that the pot was broken within a residential structure that burned, and was subsequently buried with fill dirt and capped with clay (which would account for the abundant charcoal and charred bone fragments in this layer). 

 Although we will explore the area around the jar tomorrow in order to learn more about its context and the circumstances of its deposition, the vessel was removed and transported to the lab in order to ensure that impending rain this afternoon did not damage it. 
The excavated jar in situ nearly ready to be removed.
We hope to be able to excavate the contents of the vessel under controlled conditions in the lab so that we may find evidence for its original contents and/or use, potentially exploring chemical residues inside the vessel, as well as any pollen grains or plant phytoliths that might have survived inside the protected conditions of the jar.

Videos of the excavation of the pot have been compiled together in the link below.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Week seven update

Excavating a rich midden in Area G.
It's been more than a week since our last update, not due to lack of good progress or finds, but mostly due to the often overwhelming heat and humidity we've been experiencing out at Molino since the midpoint of our 10-week excavation season.  Much of our interpretation of architectural features and other artifact and stratigraphic data is still in development, though at this point it seems certain that the excavation units in Area E are associated with a clay-floored structure with abundant residential debris and a possible central hearth, while our newest unit in Area G is also penetrating a rich residential midden deposit with substantial amounts of charred wood, burned clay, and mission-era artifacts, possibly pointing to a burned structure.  The units in Area H are definitely associated with a thick yellow-clay "floor" deposit apparently overlying probable intersecting wall trenches (just as in Area C), and cross-cut by the 1760 stockade trench, currently being excavated.  The northern unit in Area C is now finished down to sterile subsoil (having penetrated a sawmill-era trash-filled trench or basin, possibly a borrow pit, as well as a mission-era corncob smudge pit), and a new unit was opened yesterday next to the southernmost unit in Area C, where a line of three apparent large, deep postholes paralleling a higher wall trench may indicate the presence of a large single-post structure here at the highest level area of the site.

In subsequent posts, we will doubtless focus in on interpretations of all these structural features and activity areas, but in the meantime, photos have been accumulating, which are presented below in the form of an informal photo essay.

Melodi, Kayla, and Jillian enjoying simultaneous work on a line of three posthole features (picture by Ericha Sappington).

Jodi taking a profile photo of the finished unit in Area C, showing the subsoil overlain by mission-era midden and a sawmill-era trench cutting through it.
A light moment in Area G, with Jillian, Katie, Jen, and Michelle.

Jodi and Chelsey working on profiles in Area C.

Michelle, Katie, and Jillian hard at work keeping up with paperwork.

Chelsea cleaning up loose dirt after profile cleaning.

Melissa at the newest unit in Block 5 in Area E, opened in search of a possible wall line extending south.

Kayla works on profiling one of three deep posthole pits lining up under a wall trench in Area C.

Michelle explains Block 5 excavations to visiting UWF students and staff from the Arcadia field school.

Ericha carefully excavates the north half of the burned clay hearth feature in Area E.

Nicole cleaning the floor of the new unit in Area E.
Dr. Worth, Kayla, and volunteer Michael Okray (Jillian's husband) in Area C (picture by Melissa Maynard).

Kristin and Michelle work on the newest unit in Area H, while Melissa holds the stadia rod to take elevations.
Nicole gengly brushing away dirt from a new find of majolica in Area E.

The same sherd after excavation, the waisted base of a small taza or pocillo.
A classic example of Ocmulgee Fields style incision on a carinated bowl.

A pinched rimstrip from a flaring rim jar.

An extraordinarily well-made piece of Mission Red Filmed pottery.

Wonderful layout of food brought for our annual holiday lunch cookout; thanks to all students for making this such a tasty break from normal field lunches.

Visiting UNF student volunteer Amberly Aldridge, with Jillian and Michael (picture by Ericha Sappington).

Melissa and Jen starting in on the food (picture by Ericha Sappington).
Dr. Worth serving home-brewed "black drink" (cassina tea) to Amberly (picture by Ericha Sappington).

Cooking hotdogs at the Molino boat ramp (picture by Ericha Sappington).
Dr. Worth interacting with the local wildlife again (picture by Kayla Rowe).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Week six begins last half of field school

Panorama of the excavations taken atop a ladder in Area H.

Excavations at Mission Escambe continue this week, marking the beginning of our last five weeks this summer.  Starting last Friday, we've actually had three successive midday rainouts, only the most recent of which (today) didn't result in a complete drenching for the entire crew.  Nevertheless, progress continues in all open units, including two units recently opened in Areas E and G (a new area with our newest clay floor), with yet another new unit just laid in today in Area H (our most recent area, characterized by a clay floor discovered while tracing out the stockade wall southward along the eastern margins of the site). 
View to north of stockade trench truncating a clay floor.
It now appears that the substantial clay "floor" feature that we have been chasing in Area C since 2009 is not alone at the site, and that we have another one of undetermined extent somewhat to the north of Area C (now called Area G), and a third one directly east of Area C (now called Area H).  The last floor feature currently holds the most potential for revealing the architectural context of these clay layers, since not only was this floor truncated by the excavation of what we believe is the 1760 stockade wall trench (Feature 512 above), but it also apparently had two discrete projections northward along its northern margin (Features 511 and 513 above) which appear to be large postholes, possibly forming a wall line for the anticipated structure atop the clay floor.  These postholes were obviously set in at the same time as the basin for the yellow clay floor was excavated, since the clay is continuous between the two, so we hope further excavations of these features will tease out important details.

Soil coring helps us identify the extent of yellow clay here.
In order to find the lateral boundaries of this clay floor, Katie Brewer and Michelle Pigott (pictured, left) have excavated a number of 1/2 inch diameter soil cores in the vicinity, demonstrating first that the clay floor here is isolated from those in Area C and G some 20 meters to the west, and that it apparently measures about 6-7 meters east-west and perhaps 2 meters north-south.  Based on these measurements, we have laid in another 1x2 meter unit on the prospective northwest corner of this clay floor in order to see if there are more postholes or other architectural traces that will reveal the nature of this structure and its apparent prepared clay floor.

Lead cloth seal showing traces of the iron wire it clamped.
Among several interesting finds over the past few days, one that sparked considerable excitement was the lead seal discovered Friday in Area C, pictured to right.   The seal is the second one found at Mission Escambe, the first one having been found during 2009 excavations in Area B.  This one is very similar to the last one, including numbers probably denoting the number of inches comprised in a particular bolt of cloth, as well as a possible manufacturer's name on the top, which on both seals began with the initial "L."  These may represent seals from bolts of English cloth brought to the site either as illicit goods bought by the 1757-1761 governor of Spanish Pensacola, Miguel Roman de Castilla y Lugo, or through trade with the Upper Creek Indians, who are known to have frequented the site during this period, and who also traded with the English from Georgia and South Carolina.

Finally, during the rush to finish up excavations and gather paperwork and equipment before the impending rainstorm arrived early this afternoon, as a new excavation level was beginning to be dug in the newest unit in Area E, an iron horseshoe identified last Friday was removed as part of a new excavation level beginning to be dug in the sawmill-era deposits in our newest unit in Area E.  The video below shows the removal of the horseshoe (and the sounds of the birds and other student activity going on at the same time are notable as well, though the video quality is lower resolution here than the original).


Friday, June 20, 2014

Mission San Luis: a visit to the Apalachee homeland

UWF field school students in front of the San Luis fort.
On Thursday, Pensacola Colonial Frontiers field school students joined students in the other UWF terrestrial field schools in a trek east to Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, the reconstructed capital of the Apalachee province between 1656 and 1704 (and possible birthplace of some of Mission Escambe's population).  The visit was highlighted by meeting Director of Archaeology Dr. Bonnie McEwan at the archaeology laboratory, and a special guided tour of the lab and site by Senior Archaeologist Jerry Lee, who has been conducting excavations at the site for twenty years.  Pictures from the day are below.
Students inside the reconstructed Apalachee council house.

Archaeologist Jerry Lee explains the archaeological map of the Council House.

In front of the reconstructed Franciscan convento.

Jerry shows the centerline of the original San Luis church, offset from the reconstruction.

Students enjoy a little atlatl (spear-thrower) practice next to the fort.
 All photos below by Jen Knutson.

Colonial Frontiers student Nicole Capitano throws a spear; Campus Survey student Cole Smith to left.
Jerry Lee holding a small Apalachee pot recovered from a clay borrow pit next to the deputy governor's house.
John Worth and Bonnie McEwan in the San Luis lab.
Cole Smith perusing the lab collections.

Melissa Maynard looking at Spanish majolica dishes.

Melodi Hacker checking out assorted Spanish ceramics.

UWF field school students inspecting the artifact collections.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Return to Mission Escambe

Olivia holding a foot-ring base of a Spanish majolica sherd.
Following our week of testing in search of Los Tobases, the Colonial Frontiers crew returned to our ongoing excavations at Mission Escambe, where the units we covered in week three were re-opened and resumed.  Most of our excavation units are well into the 18th-century mission-era deposits, and new discoveries are appearing daily.

Cleaned clay floor in Area E showing multicolored burned area.
In Area E, the long multi-unit Block 5 is still pushing down into the burned clay floor (pictured left) and midden deposits beneath, and the two postholes found previously along the eastern end of the easternmost unit have been bisected and their profiles are being carefully exposed in order to learn more about the potential structure wall they may have been part of.  More and more Native American pottery is appearing in this area, along with occasional fragments of colonial glass and Spanish majolica, such as part of the foot-ring base of a brimmed plato found today (see picture above).

View of mill-era trash deposit next to intact mission deposits.
Area C is still producing intriguing and unexpected results, including what appears to be at least one and possibly two east-west wall trenches, as well as another possible wall trench intersecting at a perpendicular angle, which could be either a cross-cutting trench or a long-sought-after building corner (we are hoping for the latter). The other excavation unit in Area C, located to the north, seems to have a backfilled trench or borrow pit possibly dug as part of the construction of a 19th-century railroad berm immediately to the north (running from the Molino train depot to the riverside landing at Molino Mills between 1866  and 1884), and
Chelsea and Jodi working on mill-era debris next to the railroad berm.
the debris in this trench is characteristic of the material from this era at the site, including brick fragments and railroad spikes and other rusted iron objects.  The base of this unit now exposes at the same level both the undisturbed mission-era deposits underlying the corn-cob smudge pit excavated previously, along with the basal portion of this 19th-century trench paralleling the railroad berm (see pictures above).

Area G clay cap layers and midden deposit beneath.
A new shovel test opened in what we are now calling Area G, located just to the west of the main mission area we have been focusing on, unexpectedly penetrated a gray and yellow clay floor layer just like those previously found to the south-southeast in Area C (pictured above),
Cody holding artifacts from the new shovel test in Area G
and just as was the case there, the midden deposits beneath were rich in occupational debris from the mission period, including aboriginal potsherds, gunflint chips, a case bottle fragment, a majolica sherd, a wrought iron nail (pictured right).

Below are additional pictures from our first three days back at Mission Escambe, including today's visit by the students and crew of the UWF Campus Survey field school under Dr. Ramie Gougeon.
Olivia and Nicole map a profile section in Area E before a new unit is opened to the south.

Melissa and Kristin keeping records for the western unit in Area E.

Chelsea and Jodi working on the 19th-century mill-era debris filling a trench or pit next to the railroad berm.

Ericha explains Area E excavations to the Campus Survey visitors.