Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rain and more finds

Today we experienced our first rain of the field season at Molino, and packed in early. Nevertheless, the last couple of days have been productive in terms of progress toward our goal of defining the structures and activity areas at Mission Escambe. We are better defining the area encompassed by the gray clay floor (?) in the southern end of the site, and at the same time encountering what may be further evidence for earlier wall trenches filled with yellow clay (to left are Phillip Mayhair documenting a shovel test shaded by Danielle Dadiego, with Norma Harris to the right). We are also closing in on a possible corner of the presumed barracks structure that now extends for nearly 17 meters across the site, as well as another potential wall line and other features in this area. Students are also following another possible mission-era wall trench in the northern margin of the site (perhaps an Apalachee structure), while simultaneously discovering further evidence of prehistoric occupation at the site. Below are photos of some of the students at work, as well as some of our most recent finds providing further clues about past activities in various areas of the site.

Above, Ralph Hosch and Nick Simpson shovel-scrape the floor of an excavation unit.

Colin Bean keeps up with his field notebook, recording every detail about ongoing fieldwork in his area.

Rachael Mead and Alesia Hoyle carefully draw a scale map of the brick-lined trench feature.

A rimsherd of Puebla Blue on White majolica.

A sherd of Apalachee pottery, classified as Lamar Incised, variety Ocmulgee Fields.

A prehistoric check-stamped rimsherd, possibly Gulf Check Stamped, associated with the Santa Rosa-Swift Creek culture dating nearly 2 millenia ago.

Remnants of a handful of copper-alloy rivets discovered in one excavation unit, one of which has a molded star decoration on the head (the rest are plain). The function of these objects, and when they were made (during or after the mission period), is not yet known with certainty (suggestions are welcome!).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Great weather, steady progress

As we enter our second week of the 2011 field season, the weather continues to be clear, dry, and not too hot or humid (yet), and all our student teams are making great progress toward answering some of our most pressing questions about Mission Escambe. Each new excavation unit opened answers some questions, but normally raises others, and after two summers of fieldwork at the site, we have lots of questions!

Several excavation units have been opened along the known or expected track of Feature 10, a substantial post-on-sill wall trench we believe may be part of the 1760 cavalry barracks built at the mission. We have now confirmed that the trench extends for at least 15 meters from the corner we discovered last year (above, see Danielle Dadiego and Colin Bean studying the plan view of the trench, located in the left side of the open unit), and a new testpit is currently being excavated to the east to determine whether it continues in that direction. Another excavation unit has been opened due south of the corner discovered last year, and there are preliminary signs that we may be coming down on the western wall of the barracks structure in this unit as well. The military barracks located in San Miguel de Panzacola at the same time (1760s) were no shorter than about 17.5 meters, and housed substantially more soldiers, so we anticipate finding another corner very soon.

In another area, students are excavating along the course of a brick-filled trench discovered last year to the north of the barracks (to right are John Hueffed and Rachael Mead excavating on either side of the exposed bricks). So far, all the bricks in this trench appear to be handmade and distinct from those found in nearby sawmill ruins known to date to the late 19th century, but as yet we are uncertain as to the date of this feature. Analysis of last year's excavations suggest the trench may include fragments of 19th-century bricks, but we hope to clarify this situation in 2011.

To the south, shallow shovel tests have been opened in the area of a widespread gray clay layer that was identified last year capping yellow clay fill within post-in-trench wall trenches from no fewer than three overlapping mission-era structures. We have already discovered what appears to be the eastern limit of this gray layer (left are Phillip Mayhair and Michelle Pigott mapping two of these tests), but units to the north still show evidence of the clay, and southern and western tests have yet to be started. The soil in this area is very dry (as it is across the rest of the site), making it a challenging task to probe this layer and discern color changes while excavating.

Among the more common residential debris from the mission site such as Apalachee Indian pottery fragments, rusted nails, etc., students discovered the drawn white tubular glass bead below, as well as a well-preserved large wrought iron nail or spike (unrusted where fire must have tempered the iron), and a lead musketball (approximately 59 caliber; clipped by the shovel), all shown below:

Tubular glass bead.

Large wrought iron nail, partially unrusted.

Lead musketball, approximately 15 mm. in diameter.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We're back...2011 field season begins!

The 2011 University of West Florida Colonial Frontiers field school is now underway, and we're pleased to inaugurate a new series of entries to our annual project blog. With a team of 14 students enrolled in the undergraduate section, 3 graduate student supervisors, and graduate student field director Danielle Dadiego, along with principal investigators John Worth and Norma Harris, we have successfully re-cleared the 2010 excavation area from all the growth that had sprouted since last year, re-established our mapping grid, and laid in and begun excavating five new excavation units as of Wednesday of our first week. Our goals for this summer include finally tracing out the complete outline of the large post-on-sill wall-trench structure which we have been following for two seasons (and which we suspect is the 1760 cavalry barracks), exploring the architectural features associated with at least three overlapping post-in-trench wall-trench structures under multiple clay caps just south of the possible barracks structure (this area may be the convento and/or church area of the mission), and continuing to explore the possible Apalachee residential area which produced multiple posts and smudge pits dating to the mission period last year, and which contains an as-yet undefined brick-filled trench feature that we hope to clarify this year. More details will follow in subsequent posts, but the images below will give a general sense of our work at the site so far.

Above, supervisors Patty McMahon, Lindsey Cochran, and Colin Bean work on setting up the total station for mapping, with Norma Harris looking on.

Students Alesia Hoyle, Michelle Pigott, Phillip Mayhair, and Joe Stevenson learning total station procedures from Lindsey Cochran.

Marie Burrows and Katie Brewer lay out an excavation unit with Colin Bean looking on.

Students Brady Swilley, Rachael Mead, Sarah Bennet, Ashley Geisel, and John Hueffed look on as Patty McMahon explains the strategy for re-excavating an unfinished unit from the 2010 field season.

Students Jonathan Harpster, Marie Burrows, and Ralph Hosch beginning excavation in a new unit.

Field Director Danielle Dadiego explains mapping to students Nick Simpson and Ralph Hosch.

Colin Bean goes above and beyond, bending a tree out of the way of the total station.