Monday, July 5, 2010

Rain, holidays, and site visits

Since our last post, excavations at Mission Escambe have been slowed considerably by the combination of rain days and the July 4th holiday today. Despite the bad weather, occasioned in part by the passage of Hurricane Alex far to the south, students have been able to get in a good amount of labwork, plus a couple of days of fieldwork since the 24th.

Continued excavations in the area of as many as three or more overlapping wall-trench structures have proved difficult to interpret, so work is proceeding very slowly using planned bisections as "windows" to see both the horizontal and vertical relationships between intersecting trenches, as well as potential posts within the trench fill (pictured above right is Rachel DeVan excavating one of the new trenches discovered this year). Just south of these structures, students also discovered a line of what appear to be four small postmolds from a possible fence line running east-west (see picture to left). Though there is not enough time left in our summer field season to expand additional units in this area, we hope to make a start at answering some of the many questions we have about this part of the site during the three weeks that remain.

On Thursday of last week, the Colonial Frontiers students and staff visited the Arcadia Mills field school site, and were treated to a tour by principal investigator John Phillips (pictured at right talking to students in the remains of the 19th-century textile mill). Students from both field schools had an opportunity to catch up after many weeks at their respective field sites, and Molino students were able to learn about the research progress made to date at Arcadia (pictured to left are students standing around the deep excavation block associated with a 19th-century residential area of the Arcadia site; Arcadia field director Melissa Timo, who continued the tour at the excavations, is front right). We were all extremely interested to see the progress at Arcadia, and to see the clear differences between Arcadia's upland soil deposits underlain by sand, and the riverine clay deposits underlying Mission Escambe. Students were also intrigued to see the range of 19th-century artifacts shown to them, including intact and nearly-intact patent medicine bottles and decorative molded clay pipe bowls. Many thanks are due to John Phillips, Melissa Timo, and all the other students and supervisors at Arcadia for their hospitality.

On Friday morning, the Arcadia students and staff returned the visit, though repeated downpours during previous days left our covered excavation units filled with water, requiring bailing. The pictures below show scenes from the day, including a video at the end showing the removal of charred corn cobs from a feature discovered the previous week.

Pictured below are views of two excavation blocks inundated by rain, including a view of the groundwater that flowed back into one unit after the plastic was removed (Linda Suzanne Borgen pictured bailing).

Below are images of each of our supervisors explaining their respective excavation units. First, Amelia Easterling discusses her crew's work in the Woodland-era deposits north of the main mission compound.

Next, John Krebs stands on remaining backfill from last year while he explains his crew's excavations along the wall-trench thought to be part of the cavalry barracks at Escambe.

Next, Danielle Dadiego shows Arcadia students her crew's work in the clay-capped multi-structure deposits south of the presumed barracks area.

Below, Patrick Johnson explains his crew's work in the isolated 18th-century midden deposit below the terrace, where a large, deep pit feature has begun to appear over the past days of excavation. The bottom of the unit was still wet from groundwater penetration, with the shovel test in the corner of the unit completely inundated.

Finally, the video below shows Danielle Dadiego carefully removing the in-situ charred corn cobs already photographed, mapped, and fully documented just north of the overlapping structures. By removing the cobs within the matrix of soil that originally surrounded them, we hope to preserve as much information as possible about these fragile objects. In the background, other students can be heard taking down the tarps covering the units at the end of the day.

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