Friday, June 26, 2009

Definite signs

The last few days in the field have been exciting, and not just because the weather is at least a little cooler, with occasional afternoon clouds and showers. Yesterday we found our second concentration of the mission-era occupational debris along the river bluff, including several small Native American sherds that appear 18th-century, several heavily-patinated lead shot pellets consistent with types found at Spanish presidios in the same period, olive-green bottle glass fragments, and other nondescript items including a melted lump of copper or brass. These traces were found more than a hundred meters away from the first concentration we located last week, but were also situated on a spot of level high ground overlooking the river floodplain. We are still testing in this area to see how large the concentration may be. The colonial deposits are completely covered by a layer of fill that was excavated from a nearby pond and used to level the ground many years ago, but by careful excavation and documentation, we are able to reconstruct the original ground surface.

Even more definitive evidence was found today for the prehistoric occupation noted in our last entry. A shovel test today produced a substantial collection of Woodland-era pottery sherds, many of them larger and several of them decorated with designs that help us assign a date to the occupation in this area, which is lower along the slope below the bluff summit, and closer to the swamp bottom. Pottery types found include Swift Creek Complicated Stamped, sand-tempered check stamped (Wakulla or possibly Deptford types), and a folded, thickened rim with punctations that is probably associated with the Weeden Island culture. All these cultures date to the first millenium A.D., helping us pin down more precise time periods when people were living along this edge of the floodplain. There are many more shovel tests to dig in this vicinity, most in the woods, and so we don't yet know how large this prehistoric site is.

The students were also treated to some riverside waterscreening today, due to the recovery of several buckets full of dense, sticky clay from the bases of several shovel tests. In order to save time sifting this material, we set up an impromptu waterscreening station at the water's edge, where water was poured in buckets over the screens. Even though it was a time-saver, it still took a lot of effort, though standing in the water was at least somewhat refreshing (see video below).

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