The investigation of the Pope’s Fort area began in earnest this week. As discussed last week, we are trying to link up the palisade coming out of the northwest bastion of the fort with fences to the east. The problem being that there is a 20th-century oil tank between the two. Field school removed the topsoil from above the oil tank and discovered a complex area of modern features.
At the top of the photo is the intake pipe for the oil tank and around it is the orange-yellow clay use to fill the hole. The most recent features, pointed to by the student, had a large amount of brick in the fill. They also contained numerous 17th-century artifacts, probably disturbed by the oil tank. These were excavated first and were found to be quite shallow, preserving plow zone below them. Immediately south of the brick features was a crescent shaped area of plow zone preserved between modern features. This is the area where we expect to find the answer to the palisade question and the preservation seems to be excellent. By next week, we expect to have excavated the other features and plow zone to uncover what might be there.
The artifacts being found in the Pope’s Fort area are different than what we found in the Outbuilding area earlier in the summer. Last week, I mentioned an increase in the number of English flint flakes and that continues. We are also finding a large number of lead shot, of all sizes. These relate to the military nature of the fort but are not generally dateable. The other artifacts generally date earlier than those found previously. In the Outbuilding area, most of the artifacts dated to the later part of the 17th-century while in the fort area, they date to the first half of the century.
An example of these earlier artifacts was the number of pieces of lead-backed, tin-glazed earthenware.
Tin glazed ceramics are made to look white by the addition of tin to the lead glaze. Early examples, like that in the photo, reduced costs by adding the tin only to the front side. The piece shown in the photo has a white front which is decorated with blue painted lines. The back, shown on the right, has a clear lead glaze that shows the color of the paste. This type of ceramic generally disappears by 1670 but was uncommon for many years before that. In addition to the tin glaze, other early period ceramics such as Border ware and Flemish earthenware are being found.
The units adjacent to the oil tank also produced unique and unexpected results. One of the more unusual is a firepit probably dating to the Middle Woodland period (50 – 950 AD).
The feature is roughly square and filled with highly burned clay. When the local subsoil is heated, it turns a much brighter red color and becomes hard. A number of prehistoric period artifacts were recovered on the surface of this feature and the intruding tree root that can be seen to the left. Most Native American cultural activity took place closer to the surface and, consequently, were disturbed by plowing. Finding an intact prehistoric period feature is very unusual and exciting.
Although the feature has not been excavated, we have found a large number of artifacts associated with it and they all date to the same time period.
The projectile point, on the left of the photo, is classified as a Selby Bay/Fox Creek point which is characteristic of the Middle Woodland period. Most of these points were made of rhyolite but this example is made of quartzite. Several large sherds of shell-tempered pottery were also recovered. They were all similar to the one on the right side of then photo, with cord-marking on the exterior. It is likely that all of the sherds came from the same vessel.
One of the most interesting and exciting artifacts found this summer was found discovered in one of the Pope’s Fort units.
This is a carved bone, needle case from the 17th-century. Both ends of the artifact are threaded. The end on the left is where the cap would have been while the right end must have screwed into something else. Many needle cases are cylindrical with caps on both ends but there is a class of these artifacts that are open only on one end and narrow on the other end. In addition to carefully threading the ends, the maker carved rings all along the tube.