Saturday, July 24, 2010

Completing the 2010 Colonial Frontiers field school

On Friday, students finished excavation and documentation of all but three remaining units, and backfilled the rest on our final day of the 2010 field school at Molino (pictured at right is Sara Smiddie returning for another wheelbarrow load of dirt). Field conditions during our final days were extremely hot and muggy, but in the end it was an approaching afternoon thunderstorm that ran our crew out a bit earlier than expected.

The 2010 field season was a resounding success on several fronts. While in the end we probably found more questions than answers, and more complexity than clarity, we nonetheless made great progress in understanding the Escambe mission site overall, and obtained a much broader view of the structures we encountered last year.

One of the more intriguing features discovered last year was the substantial post-on-sill wall-trench we believe to have been part of the Spanish cavalry barracks documented to have been built during the summer of 1760 under the direction of engineer Phelipe Feringan Cort├ęs. As can be seen in the mosaic image below showing the largest contiguous section in this area (south is to top), we opened broad areas of this trench during the 2010 season, extending over a total of more than 12 1/2 meters of the trench's original length.

Friday, on our very last day, we were thrilled to confirm that the westernmost end of this trench had finally been encountered, and that we had indeed discovered the northwest corner of this building (pictured at right is graduate supervisor John Krebs reveling in the moment). The east-west trench apparently terminates and turns south (to the left in the picture below), while a substantial wooden buttress post extends just northward from the corner, within which nearly a dozen nails were discovered, presumably anchoring the post (see rectangular patch of light-colored clay just right of the wall-trench corner in the lower left corner of the picture). Based on the discovery of this corner, as well as the extent of the wall-trench running due east from this point, we now know that the presumed barracks structure was at least 12 1/2 meters east-to-west, amounting to some 15 Spanish colonial varas. This was clearly a substantial structure, despite the fact that the cavalry garrison of 15 men was located in such a small, remote mission village.

To the south, excavations in the area of three overlapping post-in-trench wall-trenches produced a remarkable 6-meter-long profile showing the trenches and associated dark midden deposits, as well as at least two episodes of clay capping (in the photo mosaic below see deeper yellow clay layers underlying the lighter gray-pink clay just below the surface). This profile provides crucial details augmenting what we have already discovered about the shape and configuration of the three successive structures built in this location, though much more work remains to be done in order to trace out the walls and discover the overall size and function of the structures. The artifact assemblage discovered in this area of the site is somewhat distinctive, including not just a wide range of non-aboriginal goods such as Spanish cookware and tableware, Oriental porcelain, a folding razor, and abundant lead shot, but also a considerable proportion of red-filmed aboriginal pottery (presumably made by Apalachee potters) and other ceramic types. This excavation block in particular has become more complex over the course of our summer work, and we won't expect to get any definitive answers until additional fieldwork is carried out next year.

Among the noteworthy finds from our last days include a sherd of prehistoric shell-tempered pottery with an adorno loop handle (pictured to right), discovered in the remaining northern excavation block which has already produced considerable evidence for prehistoric occupation at the site. Documentation of this block will have to wait until early next week, when we plan to finish up what remains and backfill the open units using staff and supervisors, along with student volunteers.

Another discovery was the second ground stone discoidal found at the site, made from fine-grained red sandstone and ground into a small disc, possibly used for gaming. Though this example is considerably smaller than a greenstone discoidal discovered last year, it was still an exciting find (pictured below is finder Cody Poitevint holding the disc). Whether or not it was made and used during the mission period, or instead during prehistoric occupation at the same site (or even found and re-used during the mission period), it nonetheless provides evidence of stonework using extralocal material.

Though we will post additional blog entries following additional wrap-up work next week, at this time we would like to express our considerable thanks to Mr. Richard Marlow and his family for their hospitality and support throughout our field season. Continuing research at Mission Escambe would not have been possible without their interest and help. We are also grateful to Boyett's Septic Tank & Vacuum Pumping for the generous donation of the use of a portable toilet and sink throughout the 2010 field school, for the second year in a row. The Pensacola Colonial Frontiers project is sponsored by the Archaeology Institute and Department of Anthropology at the University of West Florida. We would also like to acknowledge the help and interest of a number of volunteers and visitors, including but not limited to Wayne Abrahamson, Neal Collier, Dave Dodson, Sarah Everhart, Nick Honerkamp, Sarah Mitchell, Debbie Mullins, Aubrey Palmer, Harold Pope, and Amanda Salazar Clonts.

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