Friday, May 21, 2010

A great first week

Today students wrapped up their first week of field school. All in all it was a very productive week, although much of what we learned for the project was negative evidence (in other words, where mission-period occupation was NOT located). Two lines of shovel tests to the west of the mission site discovered last year turned out to contain no evidence for Native American habitation from any period, nor any other traces of Mission San Joseph (pictured at right are Morgan Wampler, Amelia Easterling, Lee Ann Wayland, Sara Smiddie, and Hallie Johnson). It now seems that most of the mission occupation is more concentrated toward the edge of the terrace, overlooking the modern swamp bottom.

Just today, however, we discovered our first positive traces of mission occupation to the north of the site area we tested and explored last year, beneath bricks and other debris from the sawmill era (pictured at left is Linda Geary). Based in part on the 1771 Taitt map, which shows the ruins of the mission site slightly downriver from the bluff landing, this year we have pushed our shovel test lines northward in order to determine whether or not the Escambe pueblo extended along the terrace margin toward the landing. Moreover, since most of the prehistoric Woodland occupation seems to be concentrated in this same area, we hope to discover whether or not this earlier inhabitation of the site was more extensive than previously thought. While most of the tests we have opened in the last few days to the north of the mission site have turned out negative, today one crew encountered what is either a rich buried midden deposit (soil turned dark by organic debris) or some sort of pit feature with mission-era debris, including 18th-century Native American pottery. One sherd (shown here, held by Norma Harris) appears to be red-filmed, and is thus very likely to be associated with Mission Escambe. This shovel test is actually located at the foot of the terrace slope, close to the low "second bottoms" terrace within the modern floodplain, and so at this point it represents a departure from our previous excavations on the high summit of the Molino terrace.

On Monday, what remains of this feature will be excavated in order to learn more about its nature (see dark midden deposit to left; pictured is Becca Booker), and additional shovel tests will be opened just south of this area, where students cleared a line through the thick brush on Friday. In this way, we should be able to determine whether these mission deposits "connect" with the main site upslope and southward, or if they are something else isolated from the core of the Escambe pueblo.

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