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.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A change of pace: fieldwork at a Second Spanish Period sawmill community

For the past week and a half, the Colonial Frontiers field school crew has been conducting a shovel test survey at a completely different archaeological site, a water-powered sawmill dating primarily to the Second Spanish Period (1781-1821) located along a creek feeding into the Escambia River from the west.  The site has received limited archaeological surface survey in the past, but is now the focus of master's thesis research by one of this year's field directors, Jillian Okray, and so our students have just wrapped up 8 days of shovel testing at the site.  Here, along the broad, gently sloping ridge bordering the remnants of the mill dam, we have found clear evidence for the small mill community founded here during the late 18th century, including several concentrations of what appears to be residential debris dating to the time period of the mill.  Apart from a total of 74 shovel tests completed across the site in an attempt to define and bound the occupation, one narrow test trench was excavated in an area that appears to have a collapsed brick structure, either a wall or pier or chimney base.  Despite intense heat and humidity over the past few days in the field, students learned the basics of shovel test survey and simultaneously provided us a great new window into the Second Spanish community located at the site.  We hope to return to the site in the fall in order to explore a few questions left unanswered during our short stay at the site this summer, but for the moment, a series of photos below will show some of our activities and finds at the site.

Olivia and Tyler work on a shovel test next to one of the site datums.

Volunteer Nikki Mauro shaps a picture of a shovel test with some help; also pictured are Melissa, Tyler, Kayla, and Jillian.

Jen uses a coring device to explore stratigraphy while Kelsey looks on.

Olivia and Caroline excavate in the trench while Jillian and Melissa sift.

Darby and Tyler work on a test next to the lakebed.
Kelsey and Tyler hold a massive root they conquered while digging a shovel test.

Volunteers Kristin Parrish and Chelsea Randall help Jodi and Kayla excavating and sifting.
View of the brick wall and associated scatter when originally identified.

Careful excavation around the bricks in the trench.
Volunteer Michelle Pigott helps Olivia and Jodi excavate the brick wall feature.

View of the brick wall and collapsed scatter after excavation.
A charred board found within a pit feature containing poorly-fired handmade brick rubble.

The entrance to the natural gap in the ironstone peninsula where the mill raceway may have been located.

Jillian, Kayla, and Emma exploring the raceway trough.

Kayla, Emma, Jillian, and Dr. Worth in the raceway, as viewed from the bridge above.

View of what appear to be chisel marks along the base of the stone raceway, apparently where Spanish mill owners straightened a portion of the natural stone trough.

Jillian examines a vertical notch carved into the stone wall at the base of the raceway, presumably made to emplace a wooden structural element.

A blown glass stopper for a cruet or similar container.
Side and end views of two of the glass beads found on the site.
Front and back views of a brass button with attached wire loop.
The neck of a handmade bottle.
Another handmade bottle neck with applied strip.
Some ceramics from the site.
Surface finds near the mill raceway, including an iron "log dog."
Brushed pottery, probably associated with Creek Indians either during or just prior to the mill occupation.
A transfer print sherd.
A large, bent wrought iron nail.
A large sherd of a shell-edge plate.