Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's a wrap: Finishing up the 2015 season at Molino

Official group photo for 2015, taken overlooking Spring Lake.
Friday marked the last official day of the 2015 Colonial Frontiers summer field school, and all but one of the excavation units at Molino have been completed and backfilled.  This year's fieldwork at Molino was unquestionably successful, and provided important new clues to both the mid-18th-century Mission San Joseph de Escambe and the late 19th-century Molino Mills sawmill, although many questions of course remain.

Excavations in Mission Escambe on the site's upper terrace provided new clues as to the probable corner of a mission-era rectangular structure that may be the mission church, as pictured in the photos below.

View to SE of sand lens in E-W trench, with lens on S profile where the trench cornered.
Kelsey and Emma working on bisection of trench feature.

Floor-cleaning from three angles.

View of S profile with substantial post below sand lens.

Other excavation units to the north were designed to catch wall posts or interior features of a predicted circular Apalachee residential structure, and although a total of three units were opened here this summer (two 1x2m and one 1.5x2m in size), only a few posts were found, only some of which were deep enough to have been probable wall posts or roof supports.  Initial inferences regarding a large circular structure some 10 meters in diameter were not supported, and although more units will be needed next year to confirm a pattern, the possible residential structure here presently seems to be most probably in the neighborhood of 6-6.5 meters in diameter.  A good amount of residential debris was found in these units, however, as well as a probable smudge pit.

Jillian and Melissa pause while helping start a larger unit adjacent to the unit Olivia is sitting in.

Kayla takes an overhead plan view shot while Jillian steadies the ladder.

Kayla shows off fragments of Spanish majolica she has just found in her unit.

Tyler takes a photo of a feature profile with Jillian holding a metric rule.

Final plan view photo showing the base of two finished units, mostly demonstrating where posts (hence walls) are NOT located.

Kelsey makes notes on the profile of one of the units in the area of the possible southern wall of the round house.

A pretty fragment of hand-painted blue majolica from the house area.

Below the upper terrace, the two excavation units in the floor of Molino Mills were slowed by an over-abundance of architectural features and building debris, but provided considerable information about the Reconstruction-era sawmill.  Our uppermost unit located on the bluff slope exposed the southern edge of a brick floor feature first identified in a shovel test last year, and revealed that the floor had been laid in on a level platform carved into the bluff itself, and was bordered along the bluff edge by a drainage trench somewhat lower than the elevation of the bricks, with water-lain sand and a central gully subsequently covered by burned wood and nail debris when the mill burned in 1884.

Caroline celebrates the completion of one stage of the trench feature excavation.

Caroline, Kristin, and Darby revel in the completion of unit backfilling.

The most distant excavation unit, located in the humid, mosquito-infested lower terrace area adjacent to the active swamp-bottom, proved to have been situated on the northern edge of some sort of excavation associated with the emplacement of what appears to have been sawmill machinery, and included considerable brick and mortar debris in the southern half, underlain by clay fill, burned debris, and underlying sand deposits, bordered on the north once again by some sort of drainage trench lined by boards that appear to have charred in the ground when the mill burned.  A large iron bolt had been set deep within a trench next to the excavated area under the machinery it was probably attached to.

Jen, Darby, and Melissa pause during the excavation of the middle layers of the unit.

Jen and Olivia carefully excavate around the bricks and trench/board features near the bottom of the unit.

Kelsey, Jodi, and Olivia work on mapping the board-lined trench while Chelsea works on unit paperwork.

Tyler and Kelsey display the striking results of a day of intense waterscreening through muddy clay.

An unrusted bent cut nail recovered among the debris in this unit.

The entire crew rallies around the last of the waterscreening during the last hour of the last day as rains begin to fall.

In the end, the summer field school of 2015 turned out to be a fun and successful sixth season at the Mission Escambe site, including new work on both the Molino Mills sawmill there, as well as testing at a nearby Second Spanish mill, providing important new information on all sites and time periods represented.  We are especially grateful to Richard Marlow and his family for continued support and help to the project, and we thank Josh Pope, William Cox, Neal Collier, and particularly Dr. Elizabeth Benchley and the UWF Archaeology Institute, including Karen Mims, Norine Carroll, Jen Melcher, and Jan Lloyd and her lab staff, as well as our many volunteers at the site this summer, of course including our wonderful student crew.  We look forward to continuing laboratory analysis of all our finds this summer during the fall and winter, and we hope to be back once again next year with more discoveries for 2016.

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