Friday, June 11, 2010

More traces of the mission village

Our fourth week of field school began and ended with clear but hot weather, and our summer excavations are proceeding well. Two new test units were opened this week over a post-on-sill wall-trench feature that we believe may belong to the cavalry barracks built in the summer of 1760, and the westernmost unit has already begun to show traces of this same wall-trench above last year's profile view (see traces of yellow clay above wall trench profile in picture above right). Today the first sherd of Spanish olive jar yet found at Mission Escambe was discovered in this unit, displaying the common interior green glaze and finger-ridges from the wheel-turning process used to create it (picture to left).

Excavations in the area of the two superimposed wall-trench structures to the south are continuing to reveal details about the clay cap placed over the buried buildings, including the fact that the thicker and more obvious yellow clay cap layer appears to be overlain in part by a thinner grey-pink clay layer, which also caps a firepit that was previously excavated into the yellow clay (pictured to right are Hallie Johnson and Danielle Dadiego taking a plan view image at the base of one unit). Based on artifacts found within the fill (including Spanish and Apalachee ceramics, and lead shot), all these superimposed layers appear to date to the mid-18th-century mission component at the site, suggesting that considerable energy was expended replacing structures and preparing floors on this particular location, which is situated at one of the the highest points on the gentle ridge that slopes slightly downward and northward through the mission village. As yet we are unsure about the identity of these successive structures, but we hope to find more clues in coming days and weeks.

In the unit located north of the primary mission area along the margins of the prehistoric Woodland-period site, a mission-era pit feature was discovered on Friday. Bisection of this pit revealed a deeper section of the pit which may indicate it was a posthole (pictured above left is Mark Vadas excavating this feature), and also resulted in the discovery of mission-period Spanish and Apalachee artifacts, including the lead-glazed El Morro rim sherd pictured to the right.

On occasion, we discover or confirm additional periods of prehistoric occupation at the site, and the discovery of a single incised shell-tempered potsherd this week demonstrates that there were indeed indigenous Native Americans living at this site during the late prehistoric Mississippi period. The sherd (pictured at left) appears to be part of the Pensacola series, and thus predates the Escambe mission by perhaps two centuries or more.

Finally, today we were all treated to the display of a pair of nesting birds attempting to build a nest inside the hanging backpack of one of our graduate supervisors. The Carolina wrens flitted in and out throughout lunch and the afternoon, bringing twigs and leaves into the cavity. Pictures of the quick birds were hard to get, but a few turned out reasonably well.

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