Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Day of Archaeology at Mission Escambe

Friday, June 29, 2012 was the designated the second annual "Day of Archaeology," an international project initiated in 2011 to coincide with the Festival of British Archaeology.  This year, the Pensacola Colonial Frontiers project participated, posting a photo essay of our day's work on Friday. The three posts for Mission Escambe are located at the following link, and are shown in reverse order (most recent to earliest):

The posts above will substitute for our regular project blog post here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wall trenches and house floors

Overhead view of Block 4, Area C, with zone and feature labels.
Students and volunteer Eileen Pigott photo-cleaning Block 4.
Thursday was another productive day of fieldwork, during which even more of our criss-crossing maze of wall trenches in Area C was cleaned and exposed, revealing a truly amazing number of overlapping trenches, creating a patchwork of dark midden, yellow clay fill, and mottled trench fill (our giant "waffle").  On the far western end of Area C, the formerly root-filled 1x2 m unit shows a similar pattern, and indicates that at least one of these trenches seems to extend for at least 11 meters, though a corner may finally have been found on the western end.  During the 20-year mission occupation at the site, there seem to have been a considerable number of rebuilding episodes.

Fine white sand at the boundary of the clay and midden.
Excavating the clay cap from the underlying midden in this westernmost unit was very instructive, confirming that the midden soil must have lain exposed long enough for rain to concentrate fine white sand on the surface, and wash some of it into the depressions of the wall trenches (see picture above), before the chunky yellow clay was deposited over the entire area in order to level the surface. The video below shows this excavation in progress.

Profile of the burned clay floor.
Spanish ceramics from Area E.
Fine-line decoration on a majolica sherd.
Nearby, in Area E, the clay floor of the probable burned structure is also being excavated by Nick Simpson, and the colorful fired clay is brilliant testimony to the burning episode that may have ended the mission's occupation.  This floor level is turning out to contain a substantial amount of residential debris, including several varieties of Spanish majolica tableware and lead glazed cookware (pictured to right) as well as a number of glass seed beads and Native American potsherds.  This area seems to have one of the largest concentrations of Spanish and Native American artifacts at the site, comparable only to the midden in Area C, which may identify it as an area of Spanish or elite Apalachee habitation.  Since it is directly within the stockade wall that seems to outline the Spanish compound, it could be associated with the cavalry barracks, or some other associated building.

Dr. Worth pondering the bewildering pattern of wall trenches.
From atop the ladder used to get high-angle photographs of the excavation units, one can easily see the entire heart of the mission complex through the forest we have been gradually clearing of underbrush during the course of the last four field seasons.  The video below provides an overview of our ongoing excavations this year.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Heat, mosquitoes, and rimsherds

A larged pinched rimsherd from the stockade trench.
The rimsherd still in place in the trench fill.
We are well into week six of our 10-week field season, and despite hordes of mosquitoes and intense heat, students continue to make good progress in all our active excavation units.  The eastern stockade wall is turning out to be considerably more complex than the northern wall, with a double row of nails adjacent to the main trench, and other features we are just beginning to see.  A large Apalachee potsherd with a pinched rim was found within this trench today, as pictured above.

Kristina and Wesley excavating the midden.
To the south, work continues in Area C in two units, both of which are nearly through the yellow clay cap layer and beginning to push into the underlying dark midden soil.  With luck, we should know more about the extent of the structural wall trenches running throughout this area within a few days.

Area C vessel rim with a pinched rimstrip and traces of red filming.
Work also continues in the burned structure floor in Area E, and also in our easternmost unit in Area B, where several small probable prehistoric postholes have been found well beneath mission-period deposits.  By week's end, we hope to have opened our last new unit for the season, after which we will focus on more in-depth feature excavation within all the units we have already opened this year.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Visiting Mission San Luis

UWF field school students at the Apalachee council house.
For the second year in a row, Colonial Frontiers students traveled to the reconstructed Mission San Luis (1656-1704) in the Apalachee homeland in present-day Tallahassee, Florida.  Accompanied by students from UWF's Arcadia Mill field school, the combined group toured the mission and learned from living history reenactors and tourguides. 

Exterior view of the San Luis stockade wall.
Interior view of a corner in the San Luis stockade.
Although San Luis dates well over half a century before Mission Escambe in Escambia County, and was gargantuan in size compared to tiny Escambe, the public site provided students with a tangible point of reference for our excavations in Molino.  Of particular interest was the reconstructed stockade at San Luis, which may provide a model for what the stockade at Escambe looked like (especially at the corner which we recently discovered).

The pictures below capture some of the moments from the guided tour, and also show some views of reconstructed mission life from just a few decades before the descendants of these very same San Luis Apalachee may have been living at Mission Escambe.

Students learn about the council house.

A Franciscan reenactor explains the mission church.
Inside a reconstructed Spanish house.
Students enjoying a demonstration of blacksmithing.
A view of the convento (left) and church (right).
Sleeping quarters for a Franciscan friar.
An office at the mission convento, or friary.
A kitchen table laden with containers full of nuts.
Storage containers in the fort barracks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Half way through summer fieldwork.

View of stockade corner facing east.
Today was our last day in the field during our fifth week (tomorrow we will all be going to Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, along with the Arcadia Mill field school), meaning we are half way through our 2012 field season.  After considerable followup work during the past week, the northeastern corner of the presumed 1760 stockade wall at Mission Escambe was finally fully exposed and photo-cleaned, as shown in the photo above.  While the east wall trench is not as unambiguous as we might have hoped, we remain confident that this really is the long-awaited corner to Feature 10.

Great progress is also being made in other units in Areas B, C and E, but more details will have to wait till next week.  For now, a couple of shots from the field today.

A very clear example of incised pottery.
Nick Simpson, snake handler....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More finds

Michelle and Danielle examining Nick's find.
The burned clay layer shortly after its discovery.
Today we found what may be our first evidence for the conflagration that accompanied the Creek Indian raid of April 9, 1761 that destroyed Mission Escambe.  In one of our recently-opened excavation units, Nick Simpson found a layer bright orange burned clay with areas of charcoal.  While this find has yet to be explored beyond its first appearance this afternoon, this discovery might be associated with a burned structure in the center of the stockaded compound at the site.  In the very same unit at the same level, a spent musket ball was also discovered, a find which would not be unexpected for the site of the attack that resulted in the deaths of two Spanish cavalry soldiers.

Separately, in another unit, a feature next to the cob pit removed yesterday produced a large number of large fragments of burned clay daub, probably representing clay originally packed in and amongst wall boards, poles, and thatch.  While these daub fragments probably date prior to the final Creek raid, several of them possess clear impressions of the structural elements they were packed against, including an obvious corner between flat boards, and a rounded pole.

Clay daub fragments with corner and pole impressions.
Tomorrow should be another productive day, and we look forward to learning more about these and other discoveries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mapping, new artifacts, and a block of dirt

Brooke and Katie exposing the cob pit.
Today was relatively quiet, with mapping in several units, although several interesting artifacts were discovered, and the large cob pit was finally removed as well.  The video above (3:23 min) shows the painstaking process of sawing away the remaining block of dirt encasing the charred corn cobs, and carefully lifting it into a container for transport to the lab.  Detailed study of the intact cobs should provide important clues as to the origin of the corn grown and consumed at Mission Escambe.

Two halves of a broken iron table knife.
In addition, during the last two days several interesting artifacts have emerged from the new excavation unit just south of the stockade corner found last week, including an iron table knife, an iron auger, and a copper or brass rivet (pictured above and below).  While many or all of these objects may date to the 19th century sawmill occupation on site, they still provide a compelling connection with the human history at this site.

The remains of an iron auger.
Mapping was completed for the 2x2 meter unit in Area C, which as no small task given the criss-crossing wall trenches in this square.  A new unit was also opened in Area E, situated next to a previous shovel test with possible evidence of another wall trench structure and a good number of mission-era artifacts.

A copper or brass rivet.
Progress is going well in all our excavations so far, but over the next week or two we will need to begin focusing on feature excavation and data recovery in all our open units so that we can conclude our field season by the end of July.  This is when we should be delving into the most important and complex deposits at the site, gathering the information we need to interpret the site even more fully than ever before.

Kendall, Wesley, and Michelle mapping.

Danielle bends a tree out of the way for Nick.
A lizard that had unexpectedly crawled inside Michelle's shirt.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Four weeks down, six to go

Michelle Pigott describes the "waffle unit" to the full crew.
Danielle Dadiego shows Feature 10 in Katie Brewer's Area B.
Friday was marked by standard summer weather for Molino, with a threat of showers that (this time) didn't materialize.  Our crew continued digging and documenting, preparing for new units to be opened in pursuit of elusive wall trenches. 

After lunch, our supervisors gave our weekly summaries of ongoing progress to the entire crew, including the "waffle unit" in Area C (with a checkerboard pattern of raised dark midden areas divided by yellow clay trench fill), and the newly-discovered corner to Feature 10 in Area B, where we hope to open a unit following the stockade line south on Monday.

Wesley Garrett mapping profiles in his completed unit.
Work also began in a new unit in the western part of Area C, designed to trace out the Feature 122 wall trench until it corners.  This unit was tightly bound by huge roots from a sweetgum tree, unfortunately, which resulted in an epic battle between our P.I. and the roots.  One broken splitting axe later, the largest root was finally removed by day's end (see pictures below).

The largest and most resilient roots remaining.
Dr. Worth delivering the final blows to the largest root.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The stockade has a corner!

Danielle Dadiego showing the Feature 10 corner.
View of probable Feature 10 corner facing south.
Patty McMahon holding tape over north stockade wall.
After nearly three full years, and in our fourth field season, the 19.5+ meter-long wall trench known as Feature 10 has finally revealed what we have been searching for...a corner!  Following the trajectory of the trench eastward from the pair of in-place nails discovered last week, Danielle Dadiego uncovered what appears to be the definitive eastern end of the presumed stockade wall, where it turns abruptly south and extends into what will be the next excavation unit in this area.  Based on this new evidence, and our previous excavations along the western end of Feature 10, it appears that the western end of the stockade ;may actually may actually had no corner, and was likely still under construction when the mission village was devastated by a hurricane on August 12, 1760.  This fits documentary accounts regarding the construction project at Escambe, and it also squares with the construction sequence at Presidio San Miguel, for which two stockade walls were initially constructed three years earlier by the same Spanish engineer who designed the Escambe stockade.  At present, our evidence now suggests that the north and east stockade walls were indeed built, while the west wall (and perhaps the south?) may never have been finished before the hurricane.  Our excavations over the next few days in this area will focus on confirming the east wall of the stockade.

Pipe bowl fragment with stem attached.
Today also produced several interesting mission-period artifacts, including a European pipe bowl fragment (with stem) from a shovel test, as well as a large pinched rimfold along with a glass bead and lead shot, all from the stockade corner unit.  We also staked in a new excavation unit to the south in Area C, where we hope to trace out more evidence of the multiple overlapping structures in this area of the site.

Pinched rimsherd, glass bead, and lead shot.

Bobby Bernal laying in a new unit in Area C.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Corn cobs and visitors

Brooke Joseph carefully excavating the cob pit.
Closeup of mass of charred cobs.
Cob-marked sherd.
Today at Mission Escambe we were pleasantly surprised by the discovery of a large buried smudge pit (to generate smoke for insect control) that turned out to be filled with a jumble of largely intact charred corn cobs (see pictures above and below).  We have previously found several of these cob pits at the site, but this large example was in a unit we originally anticipated finding an extension of our stockade wall trench, and while the stockade has not appeared here, the smudge pit is good evidence for mission-period activity here, and provides yet another sample of locally-grown corn for detailed study.  Not far away, a large sherd of cob-marked pottery was found, probably made with a dried cob of this very same type of corn (perhaps even the same cobs).

Patty McMahon guides Forensic Anthropology students on site.
Norma Harris tosses a perfect shovelful of dirt.
Michelle Pigott and Kendall Burns excavating midden.
A large base sherd of 19th-century Rockingham stoneware.
Today we also hosted a number of visitors, including students from the UWF Forensic Anthropology field school, as well as Norma Harris from the UWF Archaeology Institute (pictured to left), as well as Dr. Terry Prewitt, recently-retired longtime faculty member in the UWF Anthro Dept.  Our progress is finally getting back up to speed now that the weather is back to summer norms, so we hope to have more news very soon regarding some of our primary research questions regarding the site layout and architecture.