Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ending on a High Note

"She moves through the air with the greatest of ease..."

Well folks, the last posthole has been dug and the last rubble layer removed for the 2013 season - how quickly five weeks has flown by! We've been quite busy since Tuesday, finishing off the last units in Oven Site and backfilling the features and finishing up the three units we laid out at the Smallpox Bay site. The latter yielded a wide range of mid-18th to mid-19th century pottery and glass, dating perhaps back to the documented 1731 act when Smiths Island was first mentioned as one of Bermuda's two quarantine sites for smallpox-infected sailors and passengers. Unfortunately, we found no medical-related artifacts but the likelihood of this was always slim. What we did find surprising is that in all three of our (rather small) units, we found a posthole - two large (around 25 cm in diameter) and one smaller (15 cm diameter). Although we recovered no 17th-century artifacts so far, the find does raise the possibility that an earlier post building stood on the same site, predating the current small stone cottage we're investigating.

After we finished our modest testing at SPB, we returned to Oven Site for one final clean-up and to take down the tarps. The site will remain open for another three weeks in order to accommodate public tours during the Plough anniversary weekend on July 20 (contact the St. George's Foundation for tickets!), but we weather-proofed it to minimize damage between then and now. This final stock-taking was very satisfying, seeing the entire area open again in the light of day and comparing it with its state five weeks ago. There have been numerous surprises - the staircase and deep fill layer next to it, suggesting a deeper cellar; the two new layers of destruction rubble beneath what we thought was bedrock, the extra-deep possibly corner posthole - but out basic research design questions were answered: the house really is two 12-foot-wide rooms deep and much larger and more complex than originally thought AND we now have quite firm evidence of Native American presence in the upper part of the floor occupation layer.
Group Photo at the edge of our trench...

...and at the bottom.
I was able to share this and many other revelations about the Smiths Island Archaeological Project with Bermudians on Thursday night at my first public presentation about the past three seasons at the World Heritage Center in St. George's. Thanks, Luci, for videoing the talk - it will be posted to YouTube, so look for a link to it in this blog and on the St. George's Foundation website. We also mounted an impromptu museum exhibit of some of our noteworthy and significant finds (many of which have been mentioned in this blog), which will be on display for the next few months at the WHC - thanks, Kristina, for helping with this!

The nicest surprise for all of us on the last day was an invitation from Officer Norman to return to Paget Island and have a go at his ropes course. Jonathan and Kristina were especially keen to defy gravity on high wire and crossing a log 35 feet up -and I can tell you it the stronger wind up there made it especially challenging.

Then all five of us did the zip-line to finish off our last day. So, while no Russian spies tried to steal our pipestems and no Nazi U-boat surfaced off Smiths Island to dispatch a boarding party to contest our sites, we did manage to add an element of Indiana Jones danger to the summer.

My crash landing

I sign off for now from our private island. Due to a mishap, our condo was double-booked for tonight and we were left homeless with a day to go before the students fly out. Thankfully, Rick and Geoffrey's private island - Great Oswego - was available between charters. So we're spending our final hours in Bermuda in a magnificent modern mansion in great comfort, looking across the sound at Smiths Island's southern shore and enjoying a fine curry complements of Arup and Somers Market. Thanks Rick and Geoffrey for making our final stay very memorable!
Private islands - I highly recommend spending the night on one... Not your typical archaeology digs!

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