Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Getting clearer

View facing west showing yellow and grey clay layers.
Another long, hot summer day, and continuing progress at Mission Escambe.  Both excavation units in Area C are now pushing down into the yellow and grey clay cap layers, and their horizontal and vertical relationships to one another are becoming clearer all the time.  Today in one unit we were able to see the northern boundary of the thick yellow clay cap that immediately overlies two of the wall trenches first found in 2009, and the subsequent grey clay cap that overlaps a portion of it and continues northward beyond the extent of the yellow clay.  The labeled picture above shows both the plan view (horizontal) exposed today (in the foreground), as well as a profile view (vertical) of these same layers initially exposed last year, and re-excavated this year (in the background, under dappled sunlight).

Kendall Burns and Kristina de la Cruz waterscreening clay.
Kristina holding a sherd of Deptford Check Stamped pottery.
In order to excavate these clay layers, our water-screening station was set up today, providing both a more rapid way to sift the dense clay, as well as a welcome (if limited) break from the day's heat.  One find from this clay layer, a 2,000 year old sherd of check stamped pottery, was likely an accidental inclusion in the clay mined during the mission period to create these clay caps.

A sherd of Jefferson Check Stamped, variety Leon.
Another check stamped sherd, this one dating to the mission period, was found in a different excavation unit today, where we are searching for the eastern extent of the stockade wall trench.  Yet another unit, a shovel test, produced a complete railroad tie immediately adjacent to the presumed sawmill railroad berm.

Rusted but intact railroad spike similar to others found on site.
Brooke Joseph cleans unit walls amidst root disturbances.
We continue to push downward in all our excavation units, and despite ongoing battles with innumerable roots, as well as fire ants, we should be well within Mission Escambe's remains in most units by the end of the week.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week 2 begins

Bold incised sherd dating to the mission period.
Summer weather is definitely here, with 96 degree temperatures by early afternoon and sporadic thunder showers in the later afternoon and evening.  Despite the heat, our crew continues to make great progress in all our excavation units.  All units are either rapidly approaching or already within mission-period deposits, and Spanish and Apalachee artifacts are becoming more frequent, including several types of Spanish majolica, lead shot, seed beads, and Native American pottery such as the incised sherd shown above.
Bobby Bernal and Kendall Burns photo-clean a 2x2 m unit.

Photo showing distribution of yellow and gray clay cap layers.
Our first 50x50 cm shovel test was completed today, and several of our larger units were brought down to the bases of arbitrary 10 cm excavation levels and mapped after careful photo-cleaning (shown above).  Once unit floors had been scraped level and photographed (shown to right), measured plan view maps were drawn in order to record the exact location of each soil color variation, in many cases corresponding to cultural features such as wall trenches or pits that will become more clear deeper in the units.  While painstaking, this level of detail in archaeological excavation is absolutely essential in squeezing every possible bit of information from the pristine deposits at the site.

More action shots of the crew are below.

Bobby Bernal and Kendall Burns mapping the unit floor.

Michelle Pigott examining a find while troweling.

Wesley Garrett and Katie Brewer mapping another unit.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

End of Week 1

Two fragments of Spanish majolica in situ.
We've come to the end of our first of 10 weeks of fieldwork at Mission Escambe, and in our first four days in the field, we've made remarkably good progress with a smaller team than previous years.  As of Friday we now have a total of six excavation units in progress, totaling 11.25 square meters in area.  Most of the units are already beginning to push below the 19th-century sawmill horizon and into the mission-era deposits, and we've already found several varieties of colonial Spanish and Apalachee ceramics as we make our way down toward the subsoil layers that should reveal evidence of any architectural features like trenches or postholes.  Area C units are already in the yellow-orange clay cap layer, below which we hope to find further evidence for the multiple structures in this area.

Below are an assortment of pictures from Friday's fieldwork:

Wesley Garrett and Patty McMahon work in a 1x1m unit in Area B.  If the 1760 stockade trench turned south here, this unit should catch it.

Brooke Joseph and Katie Brewer trim the walls of a 1x2m unit in Area B.  If the stockade continued to the west after a gate or door in the previous unit just east, this unit may pick it up again.

Danielle Dadiego throws dirt excavated from a new 1x2m unit opened today in Area B, which should intersect the stockade trench if it continued east from our easternmost unit from the 2011 season.

Bobby Bernal takes readings from the total station for a 1x2 unit in Area C which should intersect as many as three wall trenches first identified in 2009.

Kendall Burns holds the prism steady for total station readings in the 1x2 unit noted above.

Nick Simpson and Kristina de la Cruz work to bring their shovel test down below the colonial midden layer and into the underlying subsoil.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Getting closer

Headless railroad spike uncovered in surface deposits.
Another fine day in the field, and all our excavation units are making great progress as the students become more and more familiarized with field procedures.  Most units are still in the midst of the uppermost layer of late 19th-century sawmill deposits, marked by the appearance of a range of debris including broken glass, nails and other metal fragments, brick fragments, a stoneware ginger beer bottle sherd, a button, as well as more than a few fragments of coal and slag, which are littered across the surface of the site.  Today one unit alone produced two iron railroad spikes, which when combined with those found previously suggest that we may be near the location of the small railroad discovered by UWF graduate student Joe Grinnan to have been operated by Molino Mills in this vicinity after the Civil War.  A low berm running diagonally across the site has long been suspected to be a sawmill-era feature, but the frequency of railroad spikes and coal and slag may provide additional support for this possibility.  The good news is that this material is largely confined to the upper layers of the site, and there appears to have been little to no disturbance to the pristine 18th-century mission deposits in most areas (excepting the well and brick-filled drain trench explored in 2011).
Two adjoining sherds of Playa Polychrome majolica.
 Our small shovel test in the area between Areas B and C has apparently penetrated mission deposits, however, and has begun producing artifacts from the mid to late 18th century, including Spanish majolica, a glass bead, and a flake of chert, possibly from the retouch of a gunflint (pictured to above and below).  Nearby units also produced Apalachee potsherds and a sherd of Spanish lead-glazed coarse earthenware.  Such finds should become more frequent as we begin to approach the occupational floors and architectural features associated with Mission Escambe's residents.
A black glass seed bead and a tiny chert flake.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making progress in all units

Nick Simpson and Kristina de la Cruz checking elevations in
a shovel test.
It's our second day in the field, and we now have four new excavation units open, covering 7.25 square meters, not counting a trench from 2011 that was re-excavated to make a detailed profile drawing of one of our well-defined wall trenches.  So far all units are moving down through recent deposits, and only a few sherds of Apalachee pottery have showed up amongst 20th-century nails, glass, and brick fragments, but the students are making great progress, and the weather has been generally pleasant, if inching up toward more summer heat.

Michelle Pigott and Kendall Burns record a profile.
We should begin to see colonial-era deposits tomorrow, and we're hoping that several of our excavation units will provide relatively quick confirmation of the course of wall trenches associated with the stockade and other structures.  The sooner we can track these trenches this summer, the greater the chance we will be able to trace out the layout of possible residential structures and the fortified cavalry compound at the mission over the next ten weeks.  More details to come soon...
Danielle Dadiego keeps up with her notes.

John Worth throws flat-shoveled dirt into a wheelbarrow.

Wesley Garrett and Brooke Joseph sift
excavated soil.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2012 Field School Begins!

Crew shot at Molino fairgrounds: (L-R) Wesley Garrett, 
Michelle Pigott, Danielle Dadiego, Kristina de la Cruz, Patty
McMahon, Kendall Burns, Brooke Joseph, Bobby Bernal, 
Katie Brewer, Nick Simpson (not pictured: John Worth).
After nearly ten months absence, today marked the return of UWF students to Molino to begin the 2012 Pensacola Colonial Frontiers summer field school at Mission Escambe.  This year's crew includes Field Director Patty McMahon, Site Supervisor Danielle Dadiego, and Supervisors-in-Training Katie Brewer and Michelle Pigott, all veterans from last year's dig, along with six undergraduate students, including Nick Simpson (also a veteran from last year), and newcomers Bobby Bernal, Kendall Burns, Kristina de la Cruz, Wesley Garrett, and Brooke Joseph.

Danielle Dadiego explains previous excavations in Area C
to the rest of the 2012 crew.
This year's fieldwork will focus on resolving several important questions regarding the layout of the mission's core area, including tracing the long wall-trench feature that we have been chasing since 2009 in what we call Area B, and which we now suspect to have been a stockade wall constructed in 1760 around the cavalry barracks and possibly other mission structures, and several overlapping structure walls that are overlain by clay cap layers just south of the stockade wall in Area C.  We hope to clarify the configuration of this documented stockade, and trace out at least one complete structure pattern in the area of "wall-trench spaghetti."  More details will be posted here on the blog as we move forward, but today's post will simply comprise an assortment of photos introducing the crew and some of our startup activities.
Bobby Bernal removes backfill from a 2011
excavation unit.

Brooke Joseph and Wesley Garrett photo-clean a new unit
before beginning excavation.

Danielle Dadiego and Kristina de la Cruz
prepare a photo board for documenting a unit.

Kristina de la Cruz, Bobby Bernal, Michelle Pigott, and
Kendall Burns begin excavating the first unit of the 2012

Nick Simpson takes a reading from the total

Patty McMahon takes notes from the data 
collector for the total station.

Katie Brewer taking more notes.

Michelle Pigott taking even more notes.