Friday, July 24, 2009

Architecture and more

Today we returned to the site after a rain day and made progress in several excavation units. One shovel test right on the edge of the bluff overlooking the slope down to the Escambia River swamp produced a handful of Spanish majolica sherds of the same type (Puebla Blue on White) along with an assortment of Native American sherds, though a feature stain in the bottom of the test ultimately proved to be a tree root. Another large unit, measuring 1 x 2 meters, was opened in the area of the cob pit discovered last week, and is still being excavated through a cap of modern fill.

Painstaking work in the 2 x 2 meter unit with the east-west wall trench mentioned in previous posts has revealed some remarkable details about the architecture used in the structure, all thanks to the amazing state of preservation of this wall trench. Deeper in the trench, students uncovered a line of seven vertical wrought iron nails still standing upright in the exact center of the trench, evenly spaced between about 8 and 9 inches apart from one another (and extending into the shovel test unit excavated last week, where two more were mapped in place). The nails were likely used to fix vertical wooden posts in place on top of the wood sill at the base of the wall trench, and remained in-place as the structure foundation rotted after the 1761 destruction of the mission. Other nearby nails in other positions may relate to other architectural features of the wall, or might simply have fallen into the trench as the above-ground elements of the wall decomposed (or perhaps as the structure burned in the Creek raid). This wall trench is turning out to be an extremely important find, in part due to its extraordinary preservation.

Both the wall-trench and surface deposits on both sides of the wall also produced a range of 18th-century artifacts from the mission, including both Spanish and Native American ceramics. More artifacts seem to have been present north of the wall than south of it, and this fact, combined with the presence of an extremely crisp boundary between the wall-trench and the floor deposits on the north side (compared with a more diffuse boundary to the south) suggest that the protected interior of the building may have been on the north side. Only further excavations will allow us to confirm or deny this preliminary interpretation, but once we are able to distinguish the interior and exterior ground surfaces, we may learn a great deal about activity areas within the mission village, and perhaps also the identity of the residents of this particular structure, and its function.

One unexpected find was a fragment of brass jewelry with a faceted green glass stone (see photo with front and back views). Similar items were found at the contemporaneous Santa Rosa presidio, some of which have been interpreted as cufflinks. Whether this item was part of a Spanish officer's uniform, a Native American trade item, or some other object associated with the mission, it nonetheless demonstrates yet another link with the 18th-century Spanish garrisons along the coast, giving us additional support for the conclusion that this is indeed Mission San Joseph.

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