2011 Week 2

2011 Week 2

This was an eventful week for field school. Lab work started with two students set to wash and process artifacts. For the rest of the summer, each week, two students will go to the lab for this activity. While the class is primarily to learn field techniques, one can not understand why we do things in the field unless one knows what happens after the fieldwork is over. Also, through the efforts of Ruth Mitchell, special projects archaeologist at HSMC, the field school was given the rare opportunity to tour both the house and grounds of the magnificent 18th-century Mulberry Fields Plantation. Perhaps less of a weekly highlight, for the students, was the first exam of the class. This exam was on artifacts and tested the knowledge gained in the first week and various study sessions. The class did remarkably well overall. In the field, work continued through very hot and humid weather with no significant rain. The ground is brittle, dusty and it is hard to see the features.

Last week we found a large feature with a quantity of plaster and/or mortar in the fill. I mentioned that the feature appeared rectangular and might be a cellar hole. Work in the area continued, as we opened two more units to define the other edges.

The feature is indeed rectangular and the supposition that it might be a cellar seems quite likely. While the primary goal of the summer was to follow out fences, the definition of another outbuilding would be a big plus. However, to do so would require much more excavation. It will be necessary to balance that against the possibility of achieving the other project goals.

One of the most interesting artifacts found this week came from the plow zone above the potential cellar.

It is part of a stoneware jug made in the Rhine River Valley of Germany in the 17th century. Known collectively as “Rhenish brown stoneware,” these jugs were used for the transport of wine and other liquids. On or near the neck, they often had a molded face with a large beard, known as a “Bartmann,” (which means bearded man). It was an exciting find and we would like to recover more of it.

A major goal for this year is to explore the western part of the site. During the initial work, in the 1980s, this area was inaccessible because of the presence of the Brome-Howard House. The lack of units in this area created a large gap in our understanding of the yardscape. In 1994, the house was moved off the site and this summer, we hope to remedy this situation. So far, we have opened three units in this area and two have found the brick foundations from the 1840s house.

Students have spent this week excavating the builder’s trenches associated with the brickwork. A builder’s trench is the hole created so that a brick foundation can be laid by the masons. I hoped that the features were shallow and that 17th-century features would be preserved. Unfortunately, they extend well into subsoil. However, the experience of excavating features has been useful for the students. The third unit, which did not have brick, found a fence line feature, a useful piece of information.

Finally, the pursuit of fences led us back to a feature we spent much of last summer exploring. Previously we found a large trench in the form of a rounded rectangle with a small gate on one side.

Based on its relationship to the many fences in this area and the presence of brick in the fill, it was tentatively dated to the 1670s. Looking at contemporary archaeological examples in England, it was interpreted as a cockfighting pit. More research on the feature needs to be done to confirm its use.

A number of fences cut through this area and I wanted to further trace the outer, or western fence. Last year, we excavated part of the large, circular trench and discovered that the fence ended at a post hole, below the trench on the north side. This was interpreted as a gate. This summer I hoped to find the other side of the gate.

However, as evident in the associated photo, there is no fence in this area. Thus, the fence, on the south side also appears to end under the large trench. This association is unexplained and mystifying. It may be necessary to excavate another portion of the trench to see what is going on. Archaeology can be quite frustrating!