Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer rains and more progress

Kristin and Nicole troweling in Area C.

With a morning fieldwork rain delay and a drenching at the end of the day yesterday, and more rain forecast for today, the crew is taking the day for some local museum visitation while we hope for better weather tomorrow.  Our first two days on this Memorial Day week were productive, and we're finally beginning to push downward through the late 19th-century sawmill deposits into the remains of Mission Escambe.

A chert gunflint (?) fragment in Area C.
Our two units in Area C, the possible church/friary area, are making good progress, and the southernmost (above) is coming down on top of yet another clay layer, though as yet we don't know how or if it's related to the thick clay layers to the immediate north, which we have long suspected to be prepared structure floors.  This southern unit has also produced a chunk of what may be French-style gunflint chert, as well as a piece of porcelain that might be from the mission period (though it could be later).  Most of the mission-era debris actually underlies the clay caps, but there are some 18th-century materials on top of it, probably relating to the brief period of mission occupation after the 1760 construction project halted by an August 12 hurricane, and before the April 9, 1761 destruction of the mission in a raid by Alabama Indians (a subdivision of the Upper Creeks).

Chelsea, Jen, Katie, and Kayla photo-cleaning in Area E.
Ericha and Jodi photo cleaning the adjacent unit in Area E.
The units in Area E are both approaching the zone of yet another apparent floor deposit, this time one that showed surface burning and relatively abundant Spanish debris that suggests it might have been the barracks in the center of the stockaded compound at the mission after 1760.  These units, like all the rest, are struggling to get through the root zone just under the forest surface, and will likely progress somewhat more quickly once the deeper deposits are encountered.  Nonetheless, this area may represent the burned floor of a pivotal structure in the mission's history, and so the placement of artifacts and the configurations of floor layers and potential wall trenches will have to be excavated with great care in order to reveal as much as possible about this area of the pristine archaeological site.

Dr. Worth also staked in a new 1x2 meter unit and began excavations on Wednesday in the area to the east of the church/friary area, hoping to discover further evidence for the eastern curtain wall of the stockaded compound built by Spanish Engineer Phelipe Feringan Cortes in 1760.  We discovered its northeast corner and part of the eastern wall in 2012, but additional excavations are needed to discover how far south it extends, and this unit (in Area B) will provide us an opportunity to trace this fortification.

Cody cleans around a sawmill-era brick in the next shovel test.
Finally, our second shovel test once again penetrated the 1866 - 1884 Molino Mills deposits at the foot of the bluff where the mission is located.  Handmade brick chunks and abundant iron artifacts are appearing in the upper layers, and some sort of feature was discovered by the end of work on Wednesday, so further exploration there should be interesting.

On a final note, we've been getting "up close and personal" with some of the local reptilian life, and a few pictures of our neighbors at the site follow below.
A Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus) in some Chinese privet on the site.

Closeup of a Gray Rat Snake (Pantherophis spiloides) next to the screening station.

Dr. Worth decided to try a close encounter with the rat snake (both parted unharmed).

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