Week 1

This week was the beginning of another field school and marks the seventh season of the current excavations at the Calvert House. Archaeological sites can be very complex and this site is no exception. Despite six years of work in the 1980s, and the current work, there are still significant questions unanswered. It is perhaps in the nature of archaeology that we never actually answer any questions, we just develop more sophisticated questions.

The questions which will guide this summer’s excavations focus on four areas of the site. To the north, we have excavated a number of units which revealed post holes, fences and a large concentration of utilitarian pottery. This is most likely an outbuilding but not enough of the area has been exposed to reveal the pattern of the post holes. Our first goal will be to open a large area and attempt to define the building. The pottery found here in abundance is termed North Devon Gravel Tempered and it is normally associated with dairying activities. It will be interesting to see if the building reflects this activity.

Just north of the house foundation, we will be exploring the north wall of Pope’s Fort again. This fortification was constructed around the Calvert House in 1645 by rebels against Lord Baltimore and was associated with the English Civil War. The fort consists of a ditch and a palisade located about 4 to 6 ft. from the interior edge of the ditch. However, the north wall seems different.

North wall of Pop

Map of the features associated with the north wall of Pope’s Fort.

The palisade is not located where we would expect it to be. In its place, are a number of post holes roughly parallel to the fort ditch. There are several fences which run though the area but which one might be associated with the fort is uncertain. On the left of the drawing, one of the bastions of the fort is visible, curving to the southeast. The dark curved line, between the septic tank and the oil tank, is the fort palisade. Does that palisade turn to join the fence to the east or is there something else going on? The only way to find out is to open an area southeast of the oil tank. This is our second research goal for the summer. It is my hope that the oil tank has not removed all evidence of where the palisade goes.

Another feature we have been seeking is a porch mentioned in property deeds in the late 17th-century. Based on the documents, this is located along the southern side of the structure. Evidence of this will probably consist of post holes. As yet, we have not found any evidence but we will continue to look this summer. If we should find the porch, it will be important to assess the construction date. The earliest documentary reference to the porch is in the late 1670s and it may be that this was added as part of the major renovations made by John Baker, who ran the ordinary at the time. However, it is also possible that the feature was built earlier but there was no reason to mention it in the documents.

The final goal for the summer is to explore the fences near the southwest corner of the foundation. We defined these fences in the 1980s but we have very little evidence of when they were constructed and in what sequence. By excavating additional squares in the area and portions of the fences, we hope to gain a better understanding of how the front side of the structure was used over time.

As yet, there is little to report on any of these areas as the first week of field school is almost entirely taken up with lectures on artifacts and methods. After sitting downstairs in the lab for four days, the students were eager to break free.

Students excavating

Students removing fill from previously excavated units.

Saturday afternoon, we were out in the field and began to remove backfill from previously excavated units in the area of the suspected outbuilding. Perhaps it was because they were cooped up all week that they managed to move a huge amount of dirt on that first day. We have those units almost entirely down to the plastic and will begin excavations on the surrounding squares on Tuesday.