Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ash, clay, and beads

Today the crew was able to get in nearly a whole day of fieldwork before we were all drenched by a fast-moving rainstorm early in the afternoon. We now have three excavation units open at once, and while progress seems a bit slower, we are learning more and more about the site as we can finally see areas larger than our earlier 50 x 50 cm. shovel tests. Progress was made in gradually dissecting and mapping the wall-trench feature in our largest unit (2 x 2 meters), and a new 1 x 2 m. unit opened on Monday is gradually moving down into the mission-era deposits below the root mat. But another unit deeper into the woods is producing both our most perplexing soil deposits and an assortment of new artifacts from the mission village.

As can be seen in the photo to the right, this 1 x 2 m. unit has been brought down on a layer of hard, dense clay which borders a softer area containing ashy deposits, charcoal, and dark soil. Both of these areas are producing 18th-century pottery and other artifacts, suggesting that they may date to the mission era, in contrast to our earlier supposition that the shallow orange clay might have been modern fill deposits. The ashy area of this unit is very close to the shovel test that contained a cob-filled smudge pit and a greenstone discoidal, and if all these features are contemporaneous, this may suggest they are part of some sort of activity area such as a hearth, perhaps inside one of the many Apalachee structures that must have comprised the Escambe village. Further excavation in this unit should provide us with clues to the identity of these deposits.

In addition to many other artifacts, the ashy deposit in this unit produced a small but classic example of red-filmed pottery commonly known as Mission Red Filmed, which is routinely found on 17th-century Apalachee mission sites in the Tallahassee area, and which sometimes appears on pottery vessels made in European forms. The red decoration evidently appeared in the Spanish mission provinces only during the colonial era, and so it provides a good example of native culture change in the context of the mission period. Students also recovered four glass beads from this deposit, including several colors and an elongated type of bead, all of which is consistent with Mission Escambe's mid-18th-century date.

We were also visited today by a new crew from WEAR television, ABC Channel 3 news, and the news feature which appeared on the evening broadcast is posted on the WEAR website.

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