Saturday, July 23, 2011

Last official day of field school

As of Friday morning, the last official day of the 2011 field school, all but two excavation blocks at Mission Escambe had already been backfilled by morning (see picture to right), so we concentrated most of our students in the southernmost area, where several remaining feature and unit transects had to be excavated before documenting the final profiles and plan view maps of each unit, ultimately to be followed by backfilling. Nevertheless, despite our careful plans to finish excavations with a long day on Friday, the skies opened up mid-morning and continued to pour until we finally gave in and moved to the gazebo at the Molino boat ramp for an early lunch.

As radar views confirmed the continuous onslaught of rain, however, the crew took a celebratory swim in the Escambia River before packing up for the last day, realizing that the staff and student supervisors, along with a handful of student volunteers, will have to return for some additional work next week. Our final bedraggled crew shot, taken between episodes of spontaneous puddle jumping, appears below.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wrapping up the 2011 field season

The student crew has been working hard since our last post, and since tomorrow is our final day of fieldwork for the 2011 season, a photo update is below. We have learned a tremendous amount of new information over the course of the last 10 weeks, and even though we are still searching for clear indications of the overall size and configuration of both the presumed Spanish cavalry barracks and the overlapping residential structures under the clay cap just to the south (we may have as many as 5 or 6 now, some being explored by Lindsay Cochran and Sarah Bennett in the picture to the right), our progress this summer has been substantial, and we have far more data to work with in our interpretations than ever before. We look forward to our next summer's work at Mission Escambe, and are very grateful to Mr. Richard Marlow for his continued interest, support, and help in our project. With one more day of fieldwork, and additional testing scheduled for the area of the 19th-century mill below the mission site, keep tuned for more blog posts as news emerges regarding fieldwork and followup labwork related to the site.

Above, a crew shot of the 2011 Pensacola Colonial Frontiers field school on the first day of the dig in May; note the low water level in the Escambia River. Pictured are, left to right, Colin Bean, Danielle Dadiego, Norma Harris, Patty McMahon, Lindsey Cochran, Brady Swilley, Alesia Hoyle, Ashley Geisel, Michelle Pigott, Nick Simpson, Rachael Mead, Ralph Hosch, Joe Stevenson, Phillip Mayhair, Jonathan Harpster, Sarah Bennett, John Hueffed, Marie Burrows. Not pictured: Katie Brewer, John Worth.

Above, a final crew shot for the 2011 Pensacola Colonial Frontiers field school; note the high water level in the Escambia River on the same dock. Pictured are, left to right, Marie Burrows, Katie Brewer, Norma Harris, John Worth, Danielle Dadiego, Jonathan Harpster, Ralph Hosch, Lindsey Cochran, Joe Stevenson, Michelle Pigott, Phillip Mayhair, Patty McMahon, Sarah Bennett, Brady Swilley, Colin Bean, Ashley Geisel, Nick Simpson, Rachael Mead, Alesia Hoyle. Not pictured: John Hueffed.

Ralph Hosch bisecting a deep prehistoric post feature below the 19th-century board drain feature visible in the profile wall above.

Alesia Hoyle shading the profile of a bisected feature she is mapping.

Above, a portion of the foot-ring base of a Mexican majolica bowl.

Rachael Mead carefully draws a scaled plan view map of an excavation unit in which animal burrows had previously jumbled mission-era deposits.

Above, a sherd of prehistoric Deptford Check Stamped pottery, associated with the occupation of the Escambe site some 2,200 years ago.

Colin Bean hammers a 1/2 inch soil coring device into the base of a deep feature within a deep excavation unit, hoping to learn more about the underlying stratigraphy of the terrace on which Mission Escambe sits.

A profile view showing the natural soil stratigraphy at the site, extending from surface humus and an underlying 18th-century midden through grayish yellow sandy clay, grading to more orange hues below. Note the archetypical postmold cross-cutting this natural soil profile on the right side.

Brady Swilley photo-cleaning the floor of the excavation unit with the square well dating to the late 19th-century sawmill period; note the builder's trench encircling the central dark fill within the well itself.

Michelle Pigott and Jonathan Harpster map the profiles of a long slot trench excavated in hopes of discovering a northern wall for the presumed cavalry barracks (no trench was ultimately found here).

Danielle Dadiego explains our excavations to members of the Molino Historical Society during their visit to Mission Escambe; also pictured are Jonathan Harpster and Michelle Pigott in the unit.

Above, members of the Colonial Frontiers field school listening to Sarah Hooker explain the stratigraphy of an excavation unit on the site of the UWF Campus Survey field school during our visit there; also pictured are Colin Bean, Lindsey Cochran, Jennifer Melcher, and John Hueffed. Thanks to Dr. Ramie Gougeon, April Holmes, and the supervisors and crew on the Campus Survey for their hospitality in welcoming us to their dig site!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sights and sounds of the Molino dig

A new YouTube video has been uploaded, with a compilation of some of the sights and sounds of ongoing archaeological work at Mission Escambe. Only two weeks of fieldwork remain, and more blog posts will follow.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Seven weeks down, three to go

Time is getting short in our 2011 field season, and our student crews are working hard to finish up their excavation units and reveal as much information as possible about Mission Escambe before we have to backfill in just three weeks. As can be seen in the image to the right, the yellow clay cap has just about disappeared the long slot trench in our southernmost excavation area, revealing (just as was expected) the clay-filled mouths of two wall trenches running east-west, both of which were first encountered in units to the east in 2009 and 2010. There also appears to be another unexpected surprise in the form of a probable wall trench running just west of due north, along the left side of the trench in this photo, cross-cutting both wall trenches (and probably another east-west trench which we should encounter a bit deeper just to the north). There is now a very real possibility that we have no fewer than four superimposed mission buildings in this small area, each on a different footprint, all capped by a sometimes thick layer of yellow clay (and a broader area of gray clay around it). Excavations in this unit will be easier without the clay, but slower now that features are being encountered.

The image to the left provides a good example of the complex nature of the Mission Escambe site. The overall soil profile in the wall shows a dark layer of humus and underlying 18th-century mission-era midden soil, grading into a lighter yellow and finally orange-yellow clay subsoil. Cross-cutting this vertically, however, is a late 19th century board drain trench filled with brick rubble, and below that (the dark bisect excavation in the floor of the unit) is a deeper pit feature probably dating to the prehistoric period. Since people have lived on and utilized this terrace location off and on for at least six millenia, each leaving traces of their activities on the site, we have to be extremely careful and meticulous as we peel back the layers of soil, noting the relationship between each horizontal layer and any vertical disturbances that cut through it, gradually piecing together a portrait of the sequence of events that led to the current configuration of the site. In large part for this reason, we are moving at what seems like a snail's pace in our excavations, gathering as much information as possible before moving forward in search of answers to our many and varied questions.

Below are more images of the past week of fieldwork.

Above, Lindsey Cochran balances high above the 2-meter-long slot trench using a ladder and tree branch (with Danielle Dadiego steadying the ladder) to take a full plan view photo of the unit at this level.

Ralph Hosch demonstrates flat-shoveling as participants in a statewide teacher workshop listen to Lindsey Cochran explaining the excavations in Area C.

Nick Simpson and Phillip Mayhair demonstrate "close quarters" archaeology as they excavate simultaneously in the bottom of a 1.0 x 1.5 meter excavation unit.

Alesia Hoyle, above, demonstrates another example of the awkward poses sometimes required during archaeological excavation in deep units.

Colin Bean with a precision GPS (Global Positioning System) unit designed to tie in the established site grid at Mission Escambe to global UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) coordinates in order to facilitate the use of GIS (Geographic Mapping Systems) software for mapping purposes. Yes, that's a lot of acronyms!

Ashley Geisel shows off a wrought iron nail with preserved wood that looks remarkably similar to the crucifix we have all been imagining finding one day at the mission.

Michelle Pigott shows another large nail with well-preserved remnants of the wood in which it was originally embedded.