Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Features and Headaches

Our New Mascot

Today's weather was slightly better than yesterday's - same strong beam winds but smaller waves, so we got less wet crossing the harbour and I wisely wore foul weather gear this time. Now that we're at the bottom of the trench, we noted several features cut into the house's stone floor, as well as numerous tool marks made by the unknown builders - 300-year-old (or more) evidence of their work carving a building out of a hillside when Bermuda was but a fledling colony and a new settlement. The features quickly became confusing, since what we thought was one irregular feature turned out to be two, with one cutting through the other and a small posthole underlying that as well:

After the first (to the left) feature had been differentiated from the one in the center (following the line bisecting the trench, we noticed how this lined up perfectly with a right-angle cut in the southern wall of the house - which suggests both relate to a modification or expansion of an originally smaller building centered on the hearth.

Tool marks in the stone floor, probably made by a shovel or slick

Leigh was as confused as I was by all this, and concluded that 17th-century workmen were just messing with us! No datable artifacts came from the fills, so the timing of these alterations remains unclear. All the various features and cuts generated a lot of paperwork - 16 contexts in one day. Meanwhile, Jordan and Quarin worked on the units above and outside the floor cut and Kristina ventured into the hearth to map the scatter of rocks that now fill the oven cavity.

In all, we might have recovered 10 artifacts the entire day, so there was little to wash up in the lab. We now have a lot of intriguing features, but how they relate to each other and the structure of the house are not entirely clear - one of the problems with doing trench excavations is the narrow window it provides...

 But to review (in a simplified form) - our four basic layers take us from 1970s hydroponic farming (surface) to a second-half 19th c. scattering of material intermixed with debris from the natural spreading of the building's remains (or deliberate robbing of usable material), overlying a thick layer of demolition residue. This nicely seals two layers of earthen floor when the house was occupied, with 17th and early 18th c. ceramics and glass and lots of animal bones but no nails. These sit on the stone floor quarried out when the house was built, but then later cut in a variety of places to seat posts.

Next dig day, we'll be opening a new unit in the northwest corner of the house, looking for the posthole that should logically be there. We'll also begin excavating within the hearth and oven - a claustrophobic and dark unit, to say the least. I think whoever takes on this square will need a headlamp! We're taking tomorrow off from fieldwork to spend the day instead in the Bermuda Archives in Hamilton, learning about the wide array of document types that survive for the 17th and 18th century and how historians and archaeologists use them. The students will also begin their own individually chosen research topics, and I'm excited to see what parts of Bermuda's history most interest them.

A late-afternoon visitor - a Bermuda Tree frog, out of his element in one of our units!

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