Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Week 3 Dig Diary: 14-17 June

The survey grid is mapped, the surface finds are collected, and we have started our excavation! Each student has chosen a 50 x 50 cm unit to explore, while the volunteers are concentrating in the southeastern area of the survey grid. Our questions include: what was the barn used for? When was it demolished and how? What was the small outbuilding to the east of the barn (seen in the 1922 movie Down to the Sea in Ships) used for? What other trash areas were used in this yard space, and when? When was the well filled, and how? For how long has this area of the yard been viewed/used as distinct the front and back yards? How deep are mounds of topsoil brought to this part of the site in the late 20th century, and what's in them? What was daily life like for the people who lived on the site or moved through the landscape 20 years ago? 50 years ago? 150 years ago? 250 years ago? more? As you will see in the photos below, the first few soil levels are dark brown and organic, and they have accumulate during the past couple hundred years or so as yard surfaces. We continue to wash artifacts every day on site. There are plenty already to keep us busy for a while!

Jake: unit AH20 (adjacent to north barn foundation)

Results TBA.

Brenden: unit AH21 (between east barn foundation and line of small rocks/possible shed foundation)

Results TBA.

Sarah: unit AH22 (east of line of small rocks/possible shed foundation)

This week has been the most exciting week of class so far. We got to start digging in our assigned unit. My unit is just outside of the shed near the barn. So far in my unit I have discovered intense amount of coal, burned and new. Along with the coal I have found quite a few pieces of burned animal bone along with an unburned piece of bone from an animal leg. I also found some interesting small artifacts such as a small shirt button, furniture tack, some nails and some glass. I believe that my area was used to either store coal or dump it. I am excited to further discover that this are of the yard was used for.

Colleen: unit AH23 (interior of barn foundation, sampling shell/glass midden visible at surface)

Everything we have done up until the beginning of this week has been building up to the excavating! It was pretty thrilling being able to pick a spot to excavate and then carry through with it. My square is right outside the barn area where there was a high concentration of glass and sea shell that were laying on the surface of the ground. It intrigued me to see if there were more in bedded in the dirt or not. Not to my surprise there were literally TONS. Along with the numerous sea shells and shards of glass I found a fully intact small medicine bottle, and pieces of a Dannon vegetable glass container. My spot was very rich with other types of artifacts as well. There were numerous nails and door hinges which I speculate to be part of the door hinges and possibly nails from the frame of the barn as well. I also found a hunk of metal that is fairly heavy and has a few odd bends in it, which made it hard for me to decipher what exactly it was for or a part of. I am hoping that I will possibly uncover more metal or artifacts that can help me piece together what this odd thing is. I am so thrilled by the grid I have picked and am excavating and I am hoping that this upcoming week is full of sun so the excavating can continue!

Isaiah: unit AH24 (south of barn, on theorized SE corner of barn foundation)

This week, we began the exciting part of the work behind archaeology; we chose a spot on the property in which we wanted to learn more about. For example, some people chose locations where there were lines of stones. They believed that the stones were from the foundation of the barn, so they chose to dig there to try to find out exactly what was going on that area of the barn. The technique we used was a scraping method. This makes it easier to see exactly how far you are digging, and it also helps to keep the artifacts from being destroyed. I am looking forward to continuing digging when we return next week.

Eliska: AH25 (east of barn area & 20th-century dirt mounds on surface)

This week we started digging! I chose my plot in the barn area, which is located next to the large mounds in the middle of the yard. We started digging 10 cm at a time and, within the first few cmbs (cm below surface), I found a pair of rusted old scissors! I thought this was really cool and I couldn’t help but think of all the stories that could go along with these scissors. Then I went down to 20cms and it wasn’t too exciting. I did however find a lot of ceramic that looks as if it could have been from a plate. I thought this was also really interesting and can't wait to see what else I’m going to find!

Steph: unit AH26 (between barn area and eastern survey area glass/plastic midden visible at surface)

We're DIGGING! We chose my area because there seems to be alot of clinker and charcoal around it. My area is AH 26. In the top 10-15cmbs there are tons of coal and clinker, some window and not-window glass, ceramic, and a small metal latch. Excavation is proving difficult because the amount of roots and rock that have to be cleared. To 22cmbs there was more coal, clinker, glass, a couple nails, and some ceramic (which fell from the western sidewall) Hitting big rocks now, might have to close finally at 36cmbs (much shallower than some of the other units people are working on/feeling bad that i couldn't go deeper) Still haven't hit and of the B soil yet.

Jesse: unit AH27 (east area of survey, along north lot line, sampling glass/plastic midden visible at surface)

Last week we started digging out our 50cm by 50cm square. I ended up with a square in the Northeast most corner of the digging area. My Square looks like it was an old trash burning site judging by the objects found on the surface of the square. Many little objects turned up in the first 10cm of digging. Objects like glass, metal nails, metal flakes. Some ceramic, hair clips, small glass bottles, shells, little metal rings looking like they are from clothing. It was a lot harder to dig this first 10cm or so; the second section of digging was far easier. There was far fewer objects the deeper the square went. The objects that turned up all over the yard in other peoples grids where also very interesting, many interesting similarities and other didn’t have anything in common even though they are so close. This week we are going to be digging down deeper, the objects will probably be decreasing as we get deeper but they get older in age. I hope that we find some clues to what happened to the barn this week.

Chris: unit AH28 (over well near south edge of survey area)

This past week the weather cooperated and each day was spent at the dig site. On Monday as teams we finished mapping the remaining units. Over the following two days all of the students worked individually on their 50cm x 50cm squares. I was fortunate to receive the well feature as my square. One of the challenges that arose this week in excavating the well was its width and depth. One of the rewards of excavating is it seems to get more interesting the deeper I go. While other students have noticed there artifact count drop past 10 and 20 cm, the well artifacts richness peaked at 20-30cm as hand blown glass [base from a small medicine bottle] and likely 1700s ceramic [scratch blue white salt-glazed stoneware cup rim fragment] was found. I am looking forward to completing the well excavation next week.

Volunteers: unit AH29 (east edge of survey area, over possible line of stones/remnant stonewall)

Volunteers David and Kim opened AH29 near a line of three or four small surface rocks along the eastern edge of the survey grid. We wanted to sample this yard area and understand when and how it has been used over time. The sod level was not remarkable and was nearly devoid of objects, but it got more interested underneath. Finds in the buried A horizon (topsoil) levels were almost all from the mid-18th to early 19th century and included window glass, creamware, and a tiny clay smoking pipe bowl (probably a toy). There was almost nothing from later periods, making this unit unique among those excavated over the past three years. We will expand this unit into a 1 x 1 m unit next week to understand the nature of these colonial period deposits, which likely dates before or during the time the first generation of Akins lived at the house.