Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New Site Found!

We are pleased to announce the discovery of a second apparent timber-frame structure to the southeast of Oven Site - a larger building also with an oven set into the back of a hearth. Like Oven Site, the new structure was built into the side of a hill by quarrying away natural bedrock. Its location near Cotton-Hole Bight (CHB) adjoining a natural valley with a thick layer of rich soil circumstantially fits the circumstances of the "First Bermudians/Three Sailors'" homestead - near a bay suitable for building and mooring a shallop and an acre of arable land. Cotton-Hole Bight would also be convenient for sheltering a boat from winds from the south and southwest and provide easy access to open water and the eastern reefs for fishing, exploration, and continued salvage of the nearby Sea Venture shipwreck. The only tension is that the site we just found is quite substantial - having an eight-foot wide hearth and a high enough back wall to suggest at least a storey-and-a-half structure.  Even a few test units will tell us an awful lot about its construction date and occupation range.

Upon first discovery, the site was overgrown and had very large cedar stumps situated in the flat section in front of the hearth that was once the interior floor. The complete lack of large piles of stone along the house perimeter strongly suggests that it was timber framed, since a later stone house this size would have literally tons of block rubble around it. Clearing the trees within and adjoining the site yielded a clearer picture of the extent of the site and several intriguing features.

To give you a sense of scale, the stadia rod to the left is 2 meters (6 feet) high and one Mike (top) = 1 Mike.

Jordan vs. the tree (Jordan won)

Although the south and east walls of the site remain to be defined, it appears the house was at least twenty feet long and at least twelve feet wide, with a small room on the northern side similarly carved into the hillside. A curious circular feature cut appears on the eastern wall of this northern room extension and seems to go quite deep.

Cleared (above) and Mapped (below):

Evidence of a vertical post in the back wall of the house, suggesting the chimney was of wattle-and-daub construction.

While Jordan and Quarin helped clear brush, lay out the grid (for precise three-dimensional location of all mapped features and layers and recovered artifacts - a critical first step for all archaeological investigations), Leigh, Kristina, Mimi, and Mike continued to make great progress and new discoveries at the Oven Site. Mimi, Leigh, and Mike discovered a series of flat-laid stones in the northwest corner of the house, which continued into the unit to the east. This suggests either that a partial stone floor was put in at the very end of this house's occupation (and perhaps robbed away in the middle part of the house, since we didn't find evidence in last week's lateral trench) or after the house had been abandoned but was reused in the mid-19th century (as suggested by the datable artifacts associated with the rubble stones lying atop this flagstone layer.
Mimi glowering at the new unit she had to dig to follow out the flagstone surface
Mike noted a round posthole cut in the northern wall of the structure which had long been filled in - another important detail in figuring out construction techniques.

Meanwhile, Kristina (who was stuck in the hearth excavating while wearing a miner's lamp) uncovered a similar flagstone floor underneath a greasy ashy layer related to when the hearth was in active use. All this evidence suggests that in the mid- to late-19th century, someone was using the hearth in a by-then long abandoned ruin for cooking purposes and depositing their refuse among the rubble of the collapsed structure.

Hearth floor within chimney - oven is to the south.
In between these exciting developments, we had time for a mini-lecture on the identification, dating, and evolution of 17th and 18th-century bottles. The field sites are also classrooms and lecture halls al fresco!

I am also pleased to say that Geoffrey turned over his workboat to us and that I have my first independent command. So for 20 minutes each day while crossing the harbour, I am Captain Mike!

The floggings will continue until morale improves...

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