Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guest Blogger Jonathan Zeleznik!

In our second installment of guest bloggers, Jonathan dishes up the dirt on a student's view of the dig...
Jonathan, taking it a little too easy at the end of a long, hard day of digging in N2 E7...
Coming to Bermuda has been an adventure and a blessing.  Being able to take a hands-on approach to learning has been a great reward for working hard in the classrooms of Rochester for three years.  On the other hand, observing a new culture, taking part in local activities, and learning about the rich Bermudian history has fulfilled the abroad experience I wished to experience while in college but have been unable to do so during the regular school year.  Slowly, I am learning the theory of archaeology in person and understanding why we dig and what we are looking for. Earlier in the trip I was merely bent on learning the simple mechanics of pulling a trowel and how to see stratigraphy and the changes in soil layers, but have adapted to thinking harder and answer the questions that the site continues to create.  There is very little you could offer me to give back this experience and take another road. It has been a wonderful trip.
Descent into madness?
That being said let us take a look at the past few days since Professor Jarvis last posted.  They have been full of new developments on site (as well as one much-needed day off).  Tuesday we returned to the Oven Site on Smiths Island after our day of adventures at the Maritime Museum and South Shore beaches.  I cleaned up the second to last layer in the Eastern-most square (unit N2 E7) on site where we believe the entryway to the house once stood.  The layer has seemingly been endless, but bedrock appears to be sloping away from the foundation for a once standing stairwell that entered the home.
Newly revealed rubble layer and cut into the bedrock floor.
Charcoal and broken bricks and mortar in this layer hint at a destruction phase
  Kristina and Anima cleaned up the main trench of squares that we have been digging down into this season in order to prepare them for pictures and the excavations that would take place today (see notes further below) while Professor Jarvis continued laboring on with the squares from last season that were determined finished and down to bedrock. These squares held another few layers of tricky soil and stone that blended in appearance with the bedrock in squares further west, resulting in the conclusion that they were previously finished.  The bedrock slopes down and away towards the front of the home in Professor’s squares which lie near the middle of the home.  This development paired with the depth of the square that I have been excavating near the front of the home leads us to believe that the site was created to be deeper in the front of the home than it was in the rear; a possible cellar feature once being present in the deeper foundations of the front of the home.  One thing we can now say is that there was a second occupation layer in the home below the first destruction layer that fooled us for bedrock.  At some point it seems the house was destroyed or renovated and then rebuilt - exact years of occupation yet to be decided.
Volunteer Jillian and Kristina dig a test pit
We didn’t have much time to work on the Oven Site on Tuesday because Mr. Spurling met us on Smiths Island around 11:00 AM, wielding his metal detector so we could survey a future house site on Smith’s belonging to the Dickinsons before it is built.  We surveyed the area to make sure that the soon-to-be home will not cover up/destroy a historical site worthy of excavation. [In the US, this is usually referred to as a Phase I Cultural Resource Management assessment] Metal detection only turned up a few results, all which were recent artifacts from the 20th century. Six out of eight test pits turned up zero artifacts while the other two only turned up clear glass from a recent bottle and a bit of wire. The pits themselves ranged from 6-20 centimeters in depth before hitting bedrock, revealing that no previous housing foundations were present. The Dickinsons can go ahead and build with the confidence of knowing that they won't be destroying any of Bermuda's history as they do so.  
After our adventure across the island Monday and a sweltering day on Tuesday we all enjoyed a day off yesterday. Nobody (other than Professor Jarvis) was very adventurous in their activities in hope of recovering and preparing for the four straight days of digging to come.

Chloe clearing a Mexican Pepper tree whose
roots were undermining the
Smallpox Bay Cottage's foundations
Today were we blessed with the return of one of our most consistent volunteers, Chloe.  She is returned from her graduation from The University of Waterloo in Canada. Congrats Chloe!  We were also joined by two new volunteers, Khari and Suzanne. From the time of our arrival around early this morning until lunchtime we split into two groups: Kristina and I working on excavating the last remaining occupation layer in the main trench of oven site while Professor Jarvis, Anima, Leigh, and our 3 volunteers continued on clearing out the Smallpox Bay Site which will become our new main site starting tomorrow. 
Khari and Suzanne clearing the interior of
Smallpox Bay Cottage

Kristina and I found a number of artifacts that are consistent with those which have been turning up in previous occupation layers excavated.  A couple fragments of Spanish red-earthenware, charcoal, glass, and animal bones were the main finds.  Unfortunately, Professor Jarvis ran out of nails today and the second group was unable to lay out a grid at Smallpox Bay, ruling out excavations to begin there today.  After lunch, the larger group of archaeologists returned to the oven site where our new volunteers got their feet wet on “Hell Hill” which lies above the oven feature.  Anima graciously helped our rookies remove rubble and learn basics of troweling.

Oven Site is coming to a close. Tomorrow is a new day set to be full of clearing roots in the topsoil levels of the new Smallpox Bay site.  We are looking forward to a nice dinner at Margie Lloyd’s home where we will all dress to the nines!  Stay tuned in for photos of our fancy attire...

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