Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hearths, posts, and trenches; final weeks in the field.

We have entered the final week of the 2014 Colonial Frontiers field school, and although we haven't made a blog post in a while, the students and crew have been busily working to continue and wrap up their excavations at Mission Escambe before the close of field season this Friday, not to mention a one-day trip to do shovel testing at yet another site near Mystic Springs to the north of Molino.  Rain delays this week are only making things even more challenging, but the photo essay below will provide a visual summary of all the work that has been accomplished and discoveries made. 

Melissa scrapes soil off the Area G clay hearth.
In overview, two of our excavation areas have now produced remarkably similar evidence for burned clay hearth areas and rich debris-filled midden deposits, as well as deep postholes that may represent roof supports for the potential Apalachee structures in which the hearths were originally located.  While the first hearth, first discovered in 2012 in Area E, seems to have been cleaned prior to being capped with additional clay and earth, the new hearth in Area G is associated with considerable deposits of charcoal and abundant bits of charred animal bone, presumably associated with cooking activities.  We are still gathering as much evidence as possible so that we can better understand the context of these important features.

A sawmill-era pit feature in Area C.
Area C has produced a line of three very deep postholes running east-west across our first unit in the southern part of this area (an earlier unit was backfilled after completion to the north), but a unit placed just to the south and east of this line of posts produced an unexpected clay-ringed pit feature that seems to date to the sawmill era of the late 19th-century, inasmuch as a brick chunk was found underneath the clay rim.  Excavations in these units are on hold this week after substantial weekend rains caused the water table to rise underneath our plastic tarps, making it impossible to continue excavations until the units dry out.

Katie excavates the stockade trench in sections in Area H.
Area H continues to be excavated through a series of overlapping wall trenches, starting with the 50 cm-wide stockade trench cross-cutting the yellow clay cap layer that overlies other wall trenches running east-west and north-south.  The similarity of these criss-crossing trenches to earlier excavations in Area C is unmistakeable, and we have yet to settle on an even remotely definitive conclusion as to what these features mean.

A view of the idyllic swamp bottom surrounding Mystic Springs.
Finally, excavations last Friday at Mystic Springs revealed at the very least evidence for prehistoric Native American occupation on an erosional remnant overlooking the cypress-tupelo swamp bottom adjacent to the Escambia River in this vicinity, but showers prompted an early close to excavations, so that project is on hold until we can bring a volunteer crew back later in the summer.

Additional photos of all these activities are below.

One of the deep posts adjacent to the Area E hearth.

Jodi and Chelsea working on backfilling their first unit in Area C.

Kristin, Jen, Melodi, and Chelsea laying in a new unit in Area G.

Kristin excavating in Area G.

Jen explaining Area G excavations to members of the Pensacola Archaeological Society.

Jillian showing Area C to the PAS visitors.

Ericha explaining Area E excavations to the PAS visitors.
Several mendable sherds of Puebla Blue on White majolica from Area E.
Polychrome majolica sherds from Area E.
An aboriginal pipe stem fragment from Area E.

Kristin, Melissa, Olivia, and Jen beginning a shovel test at Mystic Springs.

Melissa, Melodi, and Chelsea at Mystic Springs.

Kayla, Jodi, and Jillian at Mystic Springs.

Melissa, Jen, Kristin, and Olivia completing a shovel test at Mystic Springs.

Jillian setting up for a final photo of a shovel test at Mystic Springs.

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