Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exploring new mission-era deposits

In the first two days of our second week of field school, we have already begun to explore last week's discovery of mission-era archaeological deposits some 60 meters north of what we previously thought to be the edge of the mission site, and at the foot of the slope below the Molino terrace (see photo of shovel test in progress to right). Below a layer of recent brick and other sawmill-era artifacts, a dark, thick midden layer with 18th-century Native American pottery identical to that found in the mission was discovered, and below this midden deposit (shell and sand tempered brushed sherd to right) was a complicated assortment of soil stains that faded into an underlying soil horizon. This deeper layer now shows possible evidence of multiple posthole stains, possibly associated with a mission-era structure, and more extensive exploration of this area will be undertaken soon.

Other shovel tests in the vicinity have also produced mission-era Native American ceramics, though one somewhat higher along the slope to the south seem to represent disturbed deposits (pictured in photo to left are Norma Harris and Jennifer Melcher inspecting the test, along with Amelia Easterling, Sara Smiddie, and Hallie Johnson; in background are Danielle Dadiego, Linda Suzanne Borgen, and Linda Geary). Further excavations in this unit should allow us to determine whether or not the potsherds found here are associated with any intact occupational layers beneath.

Other tests are also being excavated, including several located in the "second bottoms" of the modern floodplain, which we have yet to test extensively. Though mill period debris is common in higher layers, we have high hopes that there may be underlying deposits relating to the mission era or earlier (pictured in photo to right are Patrick Johnson, Matt Tanner, and Lee Ann Wayland).

The weather has been generally clear and hot through midday, and adapting to these conditions has been quite a challenge for students, who sometimes take a catnap in the shade after lunch before returning to fieldwork (see photo). On Tuesday, however, fast-building clouds ultimately drenched the site (and students) by early afternoon, and so with more clouds on the way (note stormclouds below), we elected to make it a short day and return to dryer conditions.

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