Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pilgrimage to Apalachee

Today the students and staff of the Colonial Frontiers field school were joined by the members of two other UWF field schools (Maritime and UWF Campus) in a caravan leading to Mission San Luis, the reconstructed 17th-century capital of the Apalachee mission province in present-day Tallahassee, Florida. The trip was especially meaningful, since some of the Apalachee inhabitants of Mission Escambe in Molino (or their parents or grandparents) may well have been born in Mission San Luis before its destruction in 1704. We were also intrigued to see the configuration and construction details of buildings reconstructed for the public at the site, and to learn more about the archaeological findings that have led to the remarkable reconstructions and new museum facility. We were led on a fascinating tour of the site by archaeologist Heidi Edgar, who appears in several of the photos below along with the students. Today's blog post will simply be a photo essay on our trip.

Group photo showing the nearly 50 UWF students and staff in front of the huge mission church at San Luis.

Students approaching the reconstructed Apalachee council house.

Entering the narrow door to the council house.

Students learning about the archaeology that led to the reconstruction in which they are standing.

Another view showing the gargantuan size of the council house.

Students having a closer look at the reconstructed Spanish family dwelling on the edge of the town plaza, recently re-roofed with plank shingles instead of thatch.

A view of the reconstructed Spanish fort, built near the end of the mission's existence as defense against increasing English/Creek hostilities which eventually led to the destruction and abandonment of the mission.

The entrance to the "casa fuerte" within the stockade and moat.

Students perusing the interior of the mission church (and probably wondering if we will eventually be able to identify the presumably much smaller church at Mission Escambe).

A view inside the archaeological lab at Mission San Luis, where students were treated to a look at a diverse array of remarkable artifacts from the Apalachee/Spanish mission community.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rain days, labwork, and more progress

Week 6 has unfortunately been cut short by several rain days, so today we had our first full lab day for students on the UWF campus. Our entire crew spent the day rough-sorting material that was excavated during the first weeks of the 2011 field season, making some initial progress toward the inevitably lengthy process of laboratory analysis that will occupy the entire fall and probably part of next year (pictured to right is Jennifer Melcher explaining lab procedures to the students).

Bags of artifacts collected from the sifting screens in the field were carefully sorted by size, and then by material (stone, ceramics, iron, glass, etc.), all with meticulous documentation and bagging in order to preserve the exact provenience of each item (to left are Brady Swilley, Sarah Bennett, Joe Stevenson, and John Hueffed in the midst of rough sorting). This process is the first step toward identification and classification of each artifact, which will be carried out under the supervision of lab staff by these and other students this fall semester during their archaeological lab class. For archaeologists, each week in the field can easily result in a month of followup labwork (depending on how many students are working on each project), but no fieldwork is ever complete without a full range of laboratory followup, and subsequent publication of the results.

We did have several good days of fieldwork this week however, as the pictures below will illustrate:

Above, Ralph Hosch carefully draws a profile map of the north wall of a unit that has just been excavated, so that the next unit to the north can be excavated next, in part using this profile drawing as a guide to which soil layers may be encountered next.

Using her well-equipped excavation kit to the right, Danielle Dadiego clears exposed ceramics and charcoal at the surface of a newly-identified feature just below the 19th-century brick-lined trench previously excavated here.

Above, a sherds of colorful Mexican-made majolica, probably Abó Polychrome, next to another sherd that has lost its surface glaze.

The uppermost deposits in most excavation units at Mission Escambe contain debris from the late 19th-century sawmill which occupied the lowlands below the terrace bluff, including the iron spikes and coal pictured above.

Saving the shade-giving trees at the site from the need to clear for mapping using the total station sometimes involves extreme measures in order to bend the trees out of the way, as Lindsey Cochran and Danielle Dadiego demonstrate above.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Half way through

Rain and lightning shortened the last two days of week 5, though shade and occasionally cooler temperatures were a welcome relief from this summer's heat and humidity. Progress continued in the field, nonetheless, including the recovery of a large Native American potsherd with a foot-ring base (pictured in lab above and below). This sherd is what archaeologists term colono ware, referring to Native-made ceramics crafted in European vessel forms. Such sherds are comparatively rare, even on mission sites, but this sherd was from a vessel clearly designed to be used on a flat table, which was likely atypical for the Apalachee residents of Mission Escambe. Recent master's thesis research by former UWF grad student Jennifer Melcher suggests that such vessels were likely made by Indians for Spanish use, and were produced within the context of a local market for Native-made tableware as replacements for relatively scarce supplies of Mexican and Spanish majolica. The sherd pictured here might have been made for the resident Franciscan missionary at Escambe, or for the cavalry officer or soldiers, though it also might have graced the table of chief Juan Marcos, or any other Apalachee dignitary who occasionally entertained European visitors.

This colono ware sherd was recovered from deep within the posthole pictured above, and was almost as wide as the posthole itself. Well over a dozen other good-sized sherds have been recovered from this posthole, which obviously served as an impromptu dump for trash.

Thursday morning our students were also pleased to visit one of the other two terrestrial UWF field school sites at Arcadia Mill (pictured to left, and below). There, principal investigator John Phillips was aided by Brian Mabelitini and several graduate student supervisors in explaining their ongoing quest to locate residential structures and activity areas associated with slaves employed at the mill during the early-to-mid 19th century. Though we were literally chased out off the site by rain, everyone enjoyed the chance to see another dimension of UWF's archaeology program. Thanks to one at all at Arcadia!

More pictures of recent work at Mission Escambe are presented below (along with a link to a video).

Above, Colin Bean practices high-tech archaeological fieldwork, excavating in front of a laptop computer!

Students Ashley Geisel and John Hueffed continue work exploring the eastern end of the long wall-trench structure that we have been following since 2009, now including a very large subsurface disturbance that either borders the end of the wall or truncates it to the east.

Danielle Dadiego explains the yellow clay cap layer to retired National Park Service archaeologist Bennie Keel, while Rachael Mead flat-shovels through the tough clay.

And finally, linked here is a YouTube video of our "quick-exit" strategy for impending downpours...pile all the students into Norma Harris' truck for a quick ride to the parking area!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mill and mission

Over the past few days, student teams have been making steady progress, and more discoveries. One of the most important regards the clarification of the function and date of the brick-filled trench discovered in 2010, and which we have been exploring this year. A total of five bricks marked with the "J. GONZALEZ" imprint were ultimately found in the section of the trench opened this year, confirming that the bricks were 19th-century in age, and probably associated with the nearby ruins of Molino Mills (1866-1884), currently under investigation by UWF graduate student Joe Grinnan (see below). Today, the central lower section of this trench was excavated into the layer which produced paired rows of nails last year, and which resulted in the same pattern this year (picture above, showing nails in place). Evidence continues to build that this trench represents the remains of what was variously called a "board drain" or "underdrain" during the 19th century, through which water flowed through a square or triangular board-lined channel buried in a narrow trench at the bottom of a wider trench filled with stones or similar rubble.

Until recently, however, we could find no particular reason for this board drain, but last Friday we were surprised to find that the substantial subsurface disturbance associated with a large depression on the surface of the ground was most likely a well upslope at the head of this drain feature. As can be seen in the picture to the left, we cored the soil in this rectangular pit down to a depth of nearly a meter, finding what appears to be layers of water-lain sand at this depth. Whether this pit was an open well, or surrounded an as-yet undiscovered pipe driven to make an artesian well, we now suspect that the well and the drain feature were both constructed as part of the 19th-century sawmill operation downslope at the site, perhaps bringing water for the operation of the steam engine.

In this connection, last week also saw two days of fieldwork by students from the UWF maritime archaeological field school, under the supervision of Joe Grinnan (pictured at right explaining ongoing fieldwork to our terrestrial students at Molino). Two teams mapped both underwater and terrestrial remnants of the pilings and trough features associated with the 19th-century Molino Mills sawmill operation along the Escambia River. We were excited to see ongoing work relating to a second research project at this same location in Molino, especially since it underlined the importance of this landform throughout human history in this region. Details about the fieldwork can be found on the weekly video blog of the UWF Maritime Field School, entitled "Bend in the River: The Molino Mills Project" on YouTube (which includes some video shots of our terrestrial student crews at work).

Ongoing excavations in the 18th-century mission-period deposits at Escambe are revealing more enticing clues as to the structures and activity areas at the site. To left is the cleaned surface of an orange-yellow clay cap layer bounded to the north and south by gray clay and underlying midden, exposed over the past few days. This clay layer corresponds well to a similar deposit just east of this trench excavated in 2009 and 2010, under which were the traces of overlapping wall trenches from at least three mission-era buildings. We hope further excavation here will provide important evidence for the size and configuration of these structures, and how (if at all) they relate to the final clay cap layers.

Other areas of the excavation are providing some surprises, including the discovery of a posthole filled with more than a dozen sherds of Apalachee pottery, possibly discarded there when the post was pulled up and backfilled (see picture to right, with three sherds still in place). Many of these sherds belong to the same vessel, though there are several others as well.

Below are additional shots from the site during the past few days.

Above, Norma Harris and Michelle Pigott practice their shovel-toss (note perfectly formed shovelful of dirt caught leaving Norma's shovel).

Above, an unusual glass necklace bead discovered today, probably an 18th-century "melon bead."

A view of the same bead backlit with sunlight, showing its translucent cobalt blue color.

Colin Bean with his Area B mascot, "Bert the Beetle" (who made a brief appearance this morning before returning to his normal life).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Meet the crew

The 2011 UWF Pensacola Colonial Frontiers field school is truly a team effort, and today's post highlights our crew, with photos accompanying brief bios, all written by the students and staff themselves, in alphabetical order.

Colin Bean: "I am a second year graduate student at UWF. I am interested in British colonial archaeology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I have been doing archaeology since the summer of 2007."

Sarah Bennett will enter UWF's graduate program this Fall to pursue an MA in Historical Archaeology. She is interested in Colonial archaeology of Northeast Florida and public archaeology. Sarah also enjoys the beach, reading, movies, and being outdoors.

Katie Brewer: "I graduated in 2010 with my B.S. in Anthropology and History from Portland State University in Oregon. I am currently using both areas to pursue my Master's in Historical Archaeology. This field school is a learning opportunity to help me in my goal of a career in archaeology."

Marie Burrows is an undergraduate studying Historical Archaeology and working to support herself and her husband and two year old daughter. She hopes to stay in the area and find CRM work so that her daughter can be raised close to both sets of grandparents.

Lindsey Cochran is a graduate student at the University of West Florida studying terrestrial historical archaeology. Her primary academic interests include plantation studies and British colonial archaeology.

Danielle Dadiego: "I am a second year graduate student at the University of West Florida studying historical archaeology. My main interests include paleography, working with Spanish and ecclesiastical Latin historical documents and colonial trade systems."

Ashley Geisel: "I am a senior undergrad at UWF with a double major in archaeology and history with a minor in European studies. I want to go on to specialize in medieval and early Britain doing some sort of public archaeology."

Jonathan Harpster: "I'm an army brat, born in Germany to an army serviceman, I've wanted to do Archaeology since I was around 3 and first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even though archaeology is nothing like Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones I'm still more than happy to do it, and enjoy spending time in the field or even the lab simply because I like to stop and think about what these items were used for and what history is behind them."

Norma Harris is a Research Associate at the UWF Archaeology Institute, specializing in Native American and Spanish colonial projects. She has been doing archaeology in Florida and Georgia for more than 20 years.

Ralph Hosch, Jr. is a native of St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana who received his BA in Anthropology from Tulane University at the ripe old age of 36. His subfield of interest is in Biological Anthropology, but his heart belongs to Archaeology. Ralph’s sons, Landon and Zachary, are upset we still haven’t found a golden idol, but are relieved that Ralph hasn’t been chased by a giant bolder yet (thanks Indy)!

Alesia Hoyle: "I am studying Archaeology and Studio Art at the University of West Florida. I have wanted to an archaeologist since the 6th grade and have always loved creating art. The world is beautiful in its state of constant growth and deterioration, and I desire to bring this to light in my work as a dirt lover and artist."

John Hueffed graduated with a BA from the University of South Alabama. He is interested in classical archaeology.

Phillip Mayhair: "I am a undergraduate Archaeology major at UWF. I grew up locally and graduated from Northview High School in 2008. I have a strong interest in Pensacola's history, especially the colonial colonial era, and I work at Historic Pensacola Village."

Patty McMahon is a graduate student in the Historical Archaeology program at UWF. Her primary academic interests are contact period archaeology, public archaeology, and preservation, and her secondary interests include pretty much everything else.

Rachael Mead is an Anthropology and Classics senior at the University of Florida, but a Pensacola native. She joined the field school this year to learn more about the history of Pensacola and get field experience in archaeology. She is interested in classical history and ancient languages and plans to pursue a graduate degree in Classical Archaeology.

Michelle Pigott is a new UWF graduate student studying historical archaeology. She is originally from Orlando and is excited to be living in a new city with such a deep and complex history. When she's not thinking about how awesome Florida archaeology is, Michelle likes to sew, read or play video games.

Nick Simpson: "I'm a senior, majoring in archaeology and I would like to get a master's in bioarchaeology from University of Colorado at Boulder. I like to spend my free time climbing, skating, skim boarding and slack lining. I also have every album from every band Slash has ever been in."

Joseph Stevenson is a undergraduate Sophomore at the University of Miami. He is perusing majors in Anthropology and Marine Affairs. After that he plans to go on to graduate school.

Brady Swilley: "I am an archaeology major interested in the medieval period of the Middle East. I am also a very devoted Christian."

John Worth is Assistant Professor of historical archaeology in the UWF Department of Anthropology. Since his first archaeological field school 30 years ago, he has specialized in the impact of European colonization on the Southeastern Indians. In addition to archaeology, he conducts archival research on colonial Spanish documents.