Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First Day Back

Our full 2015 PCF field school crew (and field-dog-of-the-day)
The summer field school season began to day at Molino, with a full crew, and lots of energy and enthusiasm, only mildly tempered by the claustrophobia-inducing swarms of hungry mosquitoes and early summer heat.  Joined by undergraduate students Kelsey Bruno, Sabrina Cummings, Darby Gorin, and Tyler Huggins, the full crew (pictured above) quickly set to finalizing our first three 1x2 meter excavation units, two positioned at the predicted outer walls of a possible circular 18th-century Apalachee residential structure surrounding a probable central hearth discovered last year, and another along the edge of a buried brick floor also found last year below the terrace in association with the 19th-century sawmill next to the mission site.  Students also got a start at re-excavating a backfilled unit-in-progress along the possible wall of a large structure that might be the long sought-after mission church, and a shovel test was staked in at the bluff base along the edge of the mill as well.

The day began with instruction and training sessions ranging from field note-taking to trowel-sharpening, and flat-shoveling to proper dirt-throwing, and our sights quickly turned to hammering in the final re-bar corner posts for our new units using triangulation in combination with our occasionally finicky total station laser transit.  Sandbags were filled using backfill from last year, and paperwork and bags were begun, and while only one unit actually broke ground by the end of the day, we count today as a successful start to our 2015 field season.  Pictures from today's work follow below.

Darby and Tyler practice sharpening their trowels.

Kayla focuses on balancing the total station prism.

Darby and Kelsey stake in a unit corner; also pictured are Emma, Sabrina, Tyler, and Jen.

Tyler and Kelsey string in a new unit.

Sabrina gets shovel-tossing right; also pictured, Tyler.

Kelsey nails shovel-tossing; Jodi also pictured.

Caroline and Sabrina get paperwork started for their new unit.

Darby puts the first dirt of the season in the screen for Olivia to sift; also pictured, Jen.

Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 Colonial Frontiers Field School Preparations

(L-R) Jen, Kayla, Jodi, Emily, Melissa, Caroline, Olivia, and Jillian
The stage is now set for the sixth Pensacola Colonial Frontiers archaeological field school, once again focusing on the mid-18th-century Mission San Joseph de Escambe, but this year including expanded fieldwork at the adjacent Reconstruction-era Molino Mills steam-powered sawmill (1866-1884), along with new shovel testing at a Second Spanish-era water-powered sawmill site farther south along the Escambia River, both of which are the respective thesis projects of this year's graduate field directors-in-training Melissa Maynard and Jillian Okray (pictured above).  Our supervisory crew also includes four additional returning members of last year's crew, graduate student site supervisor Jen Knutson, graduate student supervisors-in-training Olivia Pitts and Jodi Preston, and recently-graduated Kayla Rowe, along with two newcomers to the PCF field school, graduate student supervisors-in-training Emily Dietrich and Caroline Peacock. Dr. John Worth will once again serve as principal investigator.

This week the supervisory crew prepared equipment and paperwork for the field school starting next week, and made several visits to the site, including half a day today (Friday), clearing brush, raking excavation areas, re-establishing the site mapping grid (with the much-appreciated help of UWF Archaeology Institute research associate Jennifer Melcher, also a veteran of the first two field seasons at the mission), and staking in new excavation units.  While details will follow over the course of the next ten weeks of fieldwork, the pictures below show some of the activity from this week.

Melissa probes the lateral extent of a buried sawmill-era brick floor discovered last year.

Jennifer Melcher runs a training session on total station use; also pictured are Jodi, Olivia, Kayla, Caroline, and Emily.

Caroline holding the stadia rod for mapping.

Kayla makes good use of a machete.

Olivia after delivering more brush to the brush pile.

Staking in an excavation unit; (L-R) Jen K., Jillian, Jen M., Olivia, Jodi.

One of the mission's reptilian denizens, the Gulf Hammock Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta williamsi), climbing a tree.

In a curiously familiar moment, Dr. Worth tries to make friends with the snake.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Field School Wrapup and Beyond

A group picture of our crew at the end of the 2014 field school.
The 2014 Pensacola Colonial Frontiers field school at Mission Escambe is now history, but work continues on our finds from the summer.  In addition to posting a few shots of our intrepid crew during the final week of fieldwork and backfilling at the end of July (below), this post details recent work on the small Apalachee jar that was excavated at the site in July.

Dr. Worth carefully positions the jar with dirt still inside.
The fractured vessel was removed whole, with all the original sediment within it still adhering to the vessel fragments on the outside.  In September, the jar was x-rayed in the UWF archaeological conservation lab, providing for the first time a glimpse of the walls of the jar, which were clearly somewhat less complete than we had originally believed in the field.  Nonetheless, the partial vessel had been discarded facing down in a pit excavated for a posthole, thus providing an unusually enclosed and protected environment for the interior of the pot, and the midden sediments that eventually settled there after burial.  For this reason, the final excavation of these sediments, and the separation of the vessel fragments from the cast of the interior of the vessel, was done in such a way as to maximize the possibility for residue and sediment testing, a project currently being pursued by graduate student Jen Knutsen.

Michelle and Jen watch Dr. Bratten as the image is captured.
 The pictures on this blog post detail both the x-ray process and the cleaning of the jar, leading to the exposure and cleaning of all the large fragments that had originally been deposited together in the partially-intact vessel.  We will update the progress on this and other labwork through the year as we continue to try and learn more about the residents of Mission Escambe following five field seasons of archaeological work there, for which we continue to be grateful to Richard Marlow and his family for their hospitality and welcome.

Dr. Bratten observing one of the full x-ray images of the jar.
An x-ray of the still-assembled jar and sediments within, showing the vessel profile clearly.

Michelle carefully cleans the dirt adhering to the vessel fragments.

One of the larger basal fragments comes free from the dirt inside.

Jen continues cleaning the dirt, catching the contents in a bowl for later analysis.

A large fragment of the upper shoulder and flaring rim of the jar.
Cleaned fragments of the small brushed jar.
 The pictures below were taken during our final week in the field during late July.
The trench in Area E half-filled with backdirt (and lined with landscape cloth).
Chelsea pours backdirt into a completed unit in Area G.

Mr. Marlow uses a tractor and front end loader to dump backdirt right in the wheelbarrows.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hearths, posts, and trenches; final weeks in the field.

We have entered the final week of the 2014 Colonial Frontiers field school, and although we haven't made a blog post in a while, the students and crew have been busily working to continue and wrap up their excavations at Mission Escambe before the close of field season this Friday, not to mention a one-day trip to do shovel testing at yet another site near Mystic Springs to the north of Molino.  Rain delays this week are only making things even more challenging, but the photo essay below will provide a visual summary of all the work that has been accomplished and discoveries made. 

Melissa scrapes soil off the Area G clay hearth.
In overview, two of our excavation areas have now produced remarkably similar evidence for burned clay hearth areas and rich debris-filled midden deposits, as well as deep postholes that may represent roof supports for the potential Apalachee structures in which the hearths were originally located.  While the first hearth, first discovered in 2012 in Area E, seems to have been cleaned prior to being capped with additional clay and earth, the new hearth in Area G is associated with considerable deposits of charcoal and abundant bits of charred animal bone, presumably associated with cooking activities.  We are still gathering as much evidence as possible so that we can better understand the context of these important features.

A sawmill-era pit feature in Area C.
Area C has produced a line of three very deep postholes running east-west across our first unit in the southern part of this area (an earlier unit was backfilled after completion to the north), but a unit placed just to the south and east of this line of posts produced an unexpected clay-ringed pit feature that seems to date to the sawmill era of the late 19th-century, inasmuch as a brick chunk was found underneath the clay rim.  Excavations in these units are on hold this week after substantial weekend rains caused the water table to rise underneath our plastic tarps, making it impossible to continue excavations until the units dry out.

Katie excavates the stockade trench in sections in Area H.
Area H continues to be excavated through a series of overlapping wall trenches, starting with the 50 cm-wide stockade trench cross-cutting the yellow clay cap layer that overlies other wall trenches running east-west and north-south.  The similarity of these criss-crossing trenches to earlier excavations in Area C is unmistakeable, and we have yet to settle on an even remotely definitive conclusion as to what these features mean.

A view of the idyllic swamp bottom surrounding Mystic Springs.
Finally, excavations last Friday at Mystic Springs revealed at the very least evidence for prehistoric Native American occupation on an erosional remnant overlooking the cypress-tupelo swamp bottom adjacent to the Escambia River in this vicinity, but showers prompted an early close to excavations, so that project is on hold until we can bring a volunteer crew back later in the summer.

Additional photos of all these activities are below.

One of the deep posts adjacent to the Area E hearth.

Jodi and Chelsea working on backfilling their first unit in Area C.

Kristin, Jen, Melodi, and Chelsea laying in a new unit in Area G.

Kristin excavating in Area G.

Jen explaining Area G excavations to members of the Pensacola Archaeological Society.

Jillian showing Area C to the PAS visitors.

Ericha explaining Area E excavations to the PAS visitors.
Several mendable sherds of Puebla Blue on White majolica from Area E.
Polychrome majolica sherds from Area E.
An aboriginal pipe stem fragment from Area E.

Kristin, Melissa, Olivia, and Jen beginning a shovel test at Mystic Springs.

Melissa, Melodi, and Chelsea at Mystic Springs.

Kayla, Jodi, and Jillian at Mystic Springs.

Melissa, Jen, Kristin, and Olivia completing a shovel test at Mystic Springs.

Jillian setting up for a final photo of a shovel test at Mystic Springs.