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.

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