Thursday, July 30, 2009

New walls, new structures

We nearly finished two of our open units today, but made some remarkable and completely unexpected discoveries in the third. As seen in the photo on the right, yet another ritual of field archaeology is studying profiles and carefully drawing the stratigraphic layers, lenses, and cultural features in the walls of each finished unit. It is part science and part craft (sometimes it appears more art than anything), but it results in the drawn profile views that will eventually be pivotal in our quest to understand the site. We also take plenty of photographs to accompany these drawings, but the scale drawings are far more accurate, and give us precise measurements to allow us (in this case, for example) to understand the construction features of the building that generated the wall trench our students have just excavated so carefully over the past days. The image on the left is an excellent example of how profile views can show us features of the wall trench that weren't easily visible while the trench was being excavated.

The excavation unit with our earliest deposits also produced yet another important piece of the Apalachee mission puzzle today in the form of a grog-tempered pottery handle, possibly from a pitcher or other European-inspired form. It may be no coincidence that this was found within a few meters of the possible candlestick fragment, and the recovery of these colono wares provides continuing evidence for a classic mission-period ceramic assemblage.

Finally, once the unit with the clay and ash was brought down below the overlying colonial fill deposits, we were somewhat surprised to see not one but at least two overlapping wall trench features, one of which has what appears to be an obvious corner (see photo to left). These wall trenches correspond to now-apparent "dips" in the overlying contact between the ashy deposits and clay mantle, making it likely that the uppermost yellow clay cap layer was deposited on top of the final burned structure, which had "slumped" into the wall trenches below. We can now recognize at least three episodes of activity in this unit, including an earlier building, a later building constructed on top of the first one, and then a final capping episode accompanied by the excavation of basin-shaped hearth near the surface (see photo to right). What is perhaps most amazing about this sequence is the fact that, based on the artifacts found throughout these deposits, they all occurred during the 20-year occupation of the mission. We will spend the next few days carefully excavating and documenting all these features in order to understand them better.

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