Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Week six begins last half of field school

Panorama of the excavations taken atop a ladder in Area H.

Excavations at Mission Escambe continue this week, marking the beginning of our last five weeks this summer.  Starting last Friday, we've actually had three successive midday rainouts, only the most recent of which (today) didn't result in a complete drenching for the entire crew.  Nevertheless, progress continues in all open units, including two units recently opened in Areas E and G (a new area with our newest clay floor), with yet another new unit just laid in today in Area H (our most recent area, characterized by a clay floor discovered while tracing out the stockade wall southward along the eastern margins of the site). 
View to north of stockade trench truncating a clay floor.
It now appears that the substantial clay "floor" feature that we have been chasing in Area C since 2009 is not alone at the site, and that we have another one of undetermined extent somewhat to the north of Area C (now called Area G), and a third one directly east of Area C (now called Area H).  The last floor feature currently holds the most potential for revealing the architectural context of these clay layers, since not only was this floor truncated by the excavation of what we believe is the 1760 stockade wall trench (Feature 512 above), but it also apparently had two discrete projections northward along its northern margin (Features 511 and 513 above) which appear to be large postholes, possibly forming a wall line for the anticipated structure atop the clay floor.  These postholes were obviously set in at the same time as the basin for the yellow clay floor was excavated, since the clay is continuous between the two, so we hope further excavations of these features will tease out important details.

Soil coring helps us identify the extent of yellow clay here.
In order to find the lateral boundaries of this clay floor, Katie Brewer and Michelle Pigott (pictured, left) have excavated a number of 1/2 inch diameter soil cores in the vicinity, demonstrating first that the clay floor here is isolated from those in Area C and G some 20 meters to the west, and that it apparently measures about 6-7 meters east-west and perhaps 2 meters north-south.  Based on these measurements, we have laid in another 1x2 meter unit on the prospective northwest corner of this clay floor in order to see if there are more postholes or other architectural traces that will reveal the nature of this structure and its apparent prepared clay floor.

Lead cloth seal showing traces of the iron wire it clamped.
Among several interesting finds over the past few days, one that sparked considerable excitement was the lead seal discovered Friday in Area C, pictured to right.   The seal is the second one found at Mission Escambe, the first one having been found during 2009 excavations in Area B.  This one is very similar to the last one, including numbers probably denoting the number of inches comprised in a particular bolt of cloth, as well as a possible manufacturer's name on the top, which on both seals began with the initial "L."  These may represent seals from bolts of English cloth brought to the site either as illicit goods bought by the 1757-1761 governor of Spanish Pensacola, Miguel Roman de Castilla y Lugo, or through trade with the Upper Creek Indians, who are known to have frequented the site during this period, and who also traded with the English from Georgia and South Carolina.

Finally, during the rush to finish up excavations and gather paperwork and equipment before the impending rainstorm arrived early this afternoon, as a new excavation level was beginning to be dug in the newest unit in Area E, an iron horseshoe identified last Friday was removed as part of a new excavation level beginning to be dug in the sawmill-era deposits in our newest unit in Area E.  The video below shows the removal of the horseshoe (and the sounds of the birds and other student activity going on at the same time are notable as well, though the video quality is lower resolution here than the original).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mission San Luis: a visit to the Apalachee homeland

UWF field school students in front of the San Luis fort.
On Thursday, Pensacola Colonial Frontiers field school students joined students in the other UWF terrestrial field schools in a trek east to Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, the reconstructed capital of the Apalachee province between 1656 and 1704 (and possible birthplace of some of Mission Escambe's population).  The visit was highlighted by meeting Director of Archaeology Dr. Bonnie McEwan at the archaeology laboratory, and a special guided tour of the lab and site by Senior Archaeologist Jerry Lee, who has been conducting excavations at the site for twenty years.  Pictures from the day are below.
Students inside the reconstructed Apalachee council house.

Archaeologist Jerry Lee explains the archaeological map of the Council House.

In front of the reconstructed Franciscan convento.

Jerry shows the centerline of the original San Luis church, offset from the reconstruction.

Students enjoy a little atlatl (spear-thrower) practice next to the fort.
 All photos below by Jen Knutson.

Colonial Frontiers student Nicole Capitano throws a spear; Campus Survey student Cole Smith to left.
Jerry Lee holding a small Apalachee pot recovered from a clay borrow pit next to the deputy governor's house.
John Worth and Bonnie McEwan in the San Luis lab.
Cole Smith perusing the lab collections.

Melissa Maynard looking at Spanish majolica dishes.

Melodi Hacker checking out assorted Spanish ceramics.

UWF field school students inspecting the artifact collections.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Return to Mission Escambe

Olivia holding a foot-ring base of a Spanish majolica sherd.
Following our week of testing in search of Los Tobases, the Colonial Frontiers crew returned to our ongoing excavations at Mission Escambe, where the units we covered in week three were re-opened and resumed.  Most of our excavation units are well into the 18th-century mission-era deposits, and new discoveries are appearing daily.

Cleaned clay floor in Area E showing multicolored burned area.
In Area E, the long multi-unit Block 5 is still pushing down into the burned clay floor (pictured left) and midden deposits beneath, and the two postholes found previously along the eastern end of the easternmost unit have been bisected and their profiles are being carefully exposed in order to learn more about the potential structure wall they may have been part of.  More and more Native American pottery is appearing in this area, along with occasional fragments of colonial glass and Spanish majolica, such as part of the foot-ring base of a brimmed plato found today (see picture above).

View of mill-era trash deposit next to intact mission deposits.
Area C is still producing intriguing and unexpected results, including what appears to be at least one and possibly two east-west wall trenches, as well as another possible wall trench intersecting at a perpendicular angle, which could be either a cross-cutting trench or a long-sought-after building corner (we are hoping for the latter). The other excavation unit in Area C, located to the north, seems to have a backfilled trench or borrow pit possibly dug as part of the construction of a 19th-century railroad berm immediately to the north (running from the Molino train depot to the riverside landing at Molino Mills between 1866  and 1884), and
Chelsea and Jodi working on mill-era debris next to the railroad berm.
the debris in this trench is characteristic of the material from this era at the site, including brick fragments and railroad spikes and other rusted iron objects.  The base of this unit now exposes at the same level both the undisturbed mission-era deposits underlying the corn-cob smudge pit excavated previously, along with the basal portion of this 19th-century trench paralleling the railroad berm (see pictures above).

Area G clay cap layers and midden deposit beneath.
A new shovel test opened in what we are now calling Area G, located just to the west of the main mission area we have been focusing on, unexpectedly penetrated a gray and yellow clay floor layer just like those previously found to the south-southeast in Area C (pictured above),
Cody holding artifacts from the new shovel test in Area G
and just as was the case there, the midden deposits beneath were rich in occupational debris from the mission period, including aboriginal potsherds, gunflint chips, a case bottle fragment, a majolica sherd, a wrought iron nail (pictured right).

Below are additional pictures from our first three days back at Mission Escambe, including today's visit by the students and crew of the UWF Campus Survey field school under Dr. Ramie Gougeon.
Olivia and Nicole map a profile section in Area E before a new unit is opened to the south.

Melissa and Kristin keeping records for the western unit in Area E.

Chelsea and Jodi working on the 19th-century mill-era debris filling a trench or pit next to the railroad berm.

Ericha explains Area E excavations to the Campus Survey visitors.

Wrapup at Mystic Springs

Colonial Frontiers students wrapped up our first phase of shovel testing at Mystic Springs at the end of last week, having dug more than 50 shovel tests at relatively close intervals along the terrace margin of the Escambia River.  We also completed a topographic map of the area tested, showing slight variations in elevation that likely played a role in human occupation on the landform.  While analysis of the artifacts found will await our fall lab class, field observations demonstrate that there was regular human occupation concentrated along higher ground near the riverside for many centuries prior to European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries.  We even found evidence of early 20th-century debris including one whole medicine bottle and several fragments.  While we have yet to find unequivocal evidence of any 18th-century Creek Indian occupation in the area we tested, there are several other locations on the same and nearby terrace locations that hold considerable promise for the location of Los Tobases, and we have acquired permission to conduct testing on some of those already, and plan to do so later this summer.

The pictures at the bottom are supplemented by some really great time-lapse photography of various aspects of our fieldwork at Mystic Springs taken by Neal Collier and edited into a short silent film just below.

And below is a short video of a bunch of students sifting the last dirt from our last shovel test on a particularly hot day.

Still shots of some of our fieldwork during the latter part of last week, and some of the artifacts found, are below.

As many hands as possible join to sift the last of the dirt.
Melissa and Michelle enjoying some cold watermelon brought by Neal.
The hard working Melody being supervised by the entire rest of the field school, watermelon in hand.
An intact medicine bottle dating to between 1915 and 1929.

A bottle neck from the same shovel test.
Prehistoric pottery, including Tucker Ridge Pinched and indefinite check stamped, possibly Wakulla or Deptford.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Continuing the search for Los Tobases, plus a rain day field trip

Kayla and Ericha finish off another shovel test.
Our students are taking a planned week-long break from ongoing excavations at Mission Escambe to continue the search for the Upper Creek town of Los Tobases just four leagues to the north along the Escambia River near Mystic Springs, Florida.  Shovel tests are the order of the day here, with five teams of students digging 3-5 tests per day through yellow sands in search of traces of ancient occupation.  In addition to these tests, we have established a new map grid and are in the process of creating a detailed topographic map of the site in order to see whether there are any high spots in the generally flat landscape.

Artifacts from many time periods are appearing frequently during the testing, including numerous potsherds dating to the late prehistoric Pensacola culture, and others from earlier Weeden Island and other cultures.  There is clearly an archaeological site here extending from one documented years ago farther north along the river, but as yet we have no definitive evidence for the 1730s/1759-1761 Creek occupation that we are searching for.  We have two more days of testing coming up, so there is still time to continue the search.

Wednesday was a rain day, and the students spent the morning rough-sorting artifacts from the Molino site, and took a fun field trip to the Fort Walton Temple Mound Museum during the afternoon.  Pictures of our activities this week follow below.

Kandiss works on cleaning up the base of a shovel test.

A rimsherd of Carabelle Incised pottery.

A very nice burnished and carefully incised Pensacola sherd.
A nicely incised sherd.

Jennifer Melcher leads students in rough sorting.

Olivia, Melody, and Michelle rough sorting.
Lunchtime during the field trip.
Students touring the Temple Mound Museum.
Melody and Chelsea trying out the bowdrill.
Katie and Michelle admiring a touring collection of art about the Calusa Indians.

Kalya delivering an impromptu lecture....
A group picture atop the temple mound.

The silly version...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Clarity and ambiguity at the end of week three

Kandiss scoops postmold fill out with a teaspoon.
As we wrap up week three at Mission Escambe, the Colonial Frontiers field school is finally getting some clarity in terms of the architectural features and activity areas we have been searching for this year, but (as usual) mixed with a considerable dose of ambiguity as well.  The remains of the burned clay floor in Area E, originally identified in the 2012 season, has now been almost fully exposed in our two new 1x2m excavation units on either side of the original unit, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the clay floor was burned intensely in one area, but not in others, and the burned/heated area tapers off from the center to the outside.  There is no evidence that the clay itself represents a recessed firepit, but instead the flat clay surface seems to have been burned from above.  Nevertheless, there is precious little evidence of the amount of charcoal or ash that one might expect from either a burned roof or wall-collapse, or from a surface hearth, though the latter possibility would be an explanation if it were routinely swept clean.

Overhead view of postholes (one bisected), north to right.
Just under two meters away from the burned area, along the east wall of one unit, are two large posts spaced 58 cm apart from one another, and oriented as if they were part of a wall that ran roughly 10 degrees west of due north, parallel to the "stripes" or "ridges" of clay that we have been finding right at the surface of the clay floor in both units.  At this point, no wall trenches have yet been found, so the two large posts that penetrate the clay floor to the east may indicate that we have found a single-post structure, perhaps built more in Apalachee style than Spanish (the Spanish generally used wall-trenches to set wall posts in 18th-century Florida).  If this is the case, and if the burned floor does indeed result from the April 9, 1761 attack and fire that destroyed the mission, then this might be the run-down former friary that the cavalry soldiers were staying in when attacked.  On the other hand, it could also represent the house for the chief Juan Marcos, or an undocumented Apalachee council house or townhouse at the site.  Only further excavation will provide clues leading to answers (we hope).

Tiny metal earring part.
Excavations in Area C have proceeded into 18th-century mission deposits as well, and an east-west feature in the southernmost unit resembles the surface trace of a buried wall trench, possibly representing yet another east-west wall in the possible church area of the mission.  We are still hoping for a corner here or in the other unit in this area, but at the very least we are finding interesting features such as yet another corn-cob smudge pit, as well as mission-era artifacts, including abundant Apalachee ceramics and European trade goods including part of a metal earring (pictured).

Chelsea and Kayla map a plan view of their unit.
A new shovel test to the west of the main mission compound has been completed as well, and another is planned for our next dig day at Molino.  In the meantime, however, our students are off to Mystic Springs for broad-scale shovel-testing at the potential location for the Upper Creek site called Los Tobases, occupied at least during the period from 1759 to 1761, and likely also during the 1730s and perhaps earlier as well.  The summer heat is only increasing, and the new site will be much more exposed to sunlight, so this should be an interesting change of pace for week four.

Nicole compares soil colors in the Munsell book during mapping.

Dr. Worth joins in the fun over the presumed stockade line.

Chelsea bisects another posthole opposite the burned clay floor area.

Jodi carefully excavates the burned area of the clay floor in Area E.

A fragment of the mouth of an 18th-century bottle apparently shattered atop the burned clay floor.

Olivia and both Melissas work on their unit in Area C.

A good example of the pinched rim of an 18th-century Apalachee pot.

A nice English-style gunflint from Area E.

Volunteer Nicole Rosenberg Marshall works with Ericha on the clay floor in Area E.