Friday, July 16, 2010

Trenches, a baby chicken, and an owl

The last three days have witnessed steady progress in all areas of the mission site, though answers to our research questions are proving difficult to come by. The sturdy post-on-sill wall-trench discovered last year, still believed to be part of the 1760 Spanish barracks at Escambe, has yet to display a definitive end or corner, though we have finally excavated one unit on the western end which shows no traces of the trench in line with the rest of the wall, meaning the wall ends somewhere in the skipped unit just east (and in an old tree-fall depression, also under a modern sweetgum). To the east (pictured above), the wall-trench extends a total of nine meters already exposed, and might possibly continue even farther before finally reaching (presumably) a corner. We are fast running out of time to wrap up what we have already excavated, so some answers may have to wait.

Farther south, detailed dissection of the overlapping post-in-trench wall-trench features continues, and we hope to be able to disern whether or not there is a door gap present in the north-south wall, and whether or not the earlier trench it crossed relates to some ambiguous feature staining associated with the junction of these two features (see picture above).

The unusual brick-filled trench feature explored early this week has provided some surprises as students excavated deeper under the bricks (see picture to right). Although the main trench is rougly 50 cm. wide and filled with brick rubble, centered underneath it is a narrower trench (15 cm. wide) that has virtually no brick rubble, but which contains two rows of wrought iron nails side by side running longitudinally down the trench. The uppermost set of nails are pointing down, and lower layers appear to be pointing up, all of which suggests there was some sort of narrow wooden structure nailed together inside this trench, and then capped with brick rubble. The possibility of some sort of wood-lined channel underneath a wider rubble-filled trench is still consistent with some sort of land drain running downslope from the barracks area, though it is possible this may represent something else. Careful probing at the southwestern terminus of this trench allowed us to open a 50 x 50 cm. shovel test bisecting the end of this feature, and we are already finding the same brick rubble in association with a shallower fired clay platform on the outside of the brick-filled trench. More excavation should provide us with clues to help interpret this unusual feature.

Finally, the crew was startled today when an owl came swooping through the excavation area and dropped a live baby chicken in our midst. The chicken was found to have several talon wounds, but seemed to be otherwise unharmed, and was successfully re-introduced to the mother and siblings after the wounds were treated with antiseptic (as shown in the video below of Jennifer Melcher and Norma Harris tending to the wounds).

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