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.

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