Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Older and deeper

We had a good, full day of fieldwork today, following the torrential rains yesterday afternoon. The first order of business was bailing the water from our excavation units, which are carefully covered with plastic and sandbagged each night in order to protect the fragile profiles and features that are beginning to be exposed. This is a common ritual of summer fieldwork in Florida (see video at the bottom of the blog entry).

Students made good progress in all three units. The complex wall trench in our largest unit was nearly completed today, and nearly 20 nails have now been mapped in-place in various positions and depths within the soil stain reflecting the original wooden sill upon which wall posts would have been fastened. Once all the maps and other data are combined and analyzed for this wall trench, we hope to learn a great deal about the original design of the structure we have been excavating here, and of course what its function was for the Escambe mission community.

The confusing clay, ash, and charcoal deposits in a nearby unit are becoming slightly clearer now that the unit has been brought down to a lower elevation. It now appears that the dense clay layer just below the surface in this unit may have been some sort of level floor created on top of an underlying cultural deposit with a very uneven surface (apparently filled with ash and charcoal). Subsequently, a large basin seem to have been excavated through a portion of this clay floor in one area, and the light-colored ash deposits within part of this basin show that it was used as a hearth. All these deposits continue to produce only mission-era artifacts, showing that despite their depth, they apparently all date to the window of time when the mission community was occupied in the mid-18th century. One useful marker for the Apalachee mission occupation was found in the form of a large sherd of grog-tempered cob-marked pottery, known as Jefferson Cob Marked, which was decorated with dried corn-cobs impressed into the surface of the wet clay before firing, as seen in the photo to the above left.

The third excavation unit has also plunged deeper into site deposits along the northern side of the mission-era occupation, and today produced unexpected evidence for what is probably a Late Archaic occupation at the site, dating to the latter part of the period between 1,200 and 3,900 B.C. A complete spearpoint made from Ridge and Valley chert, probably originating in northern Alabama, was uncovered in the deeper portion of this unit, which has also produced evidence for subsequent Woodland Period occupation lasting well into the first millenium A.D. Not only is this spearpoint and the stone from which it was made very rare in Northwest Florida, it marks the oldest artifact yet found at the site we are excavating. While it doesn't relate to the Escambe mission occupation, it's continuing proof for the fact that this site was also frequented by visitors throughout much of prehistory.

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