Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Historic Heartbeats II and other visitors

Walking the (Kristina F. memorial) Plank, about four feet above the house floor

As we enter the last week of the dig, we've had many visitors come by the site - lots to see, actually, since my students and volunteers have moved an INCREDIBLE amount of dirt - more than 70 contexts in nine units and eight test pits at three different sites AND helped discover seven new sites for future investigation. On Sunday, we had two groups of visitors come by as part of the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs' Historic Heartbeats series - this time a field trip instead of the usual lecture. Both groups were very enthusiastic and asked lots of great questions of me and the students. Thanks to Kim Dismont-Robinson for organizing it and making it possible for so many interested students of Bermudian history to get out to this wonderful island! (Also a big thanks to Smiths Island residents who put up with this temporary invasion!)
Geoffrey and son

Today we had another group of much younger visitors - 24 six-year-olds from St. George's Prep and their teachers - who heard about what it was like to live here in the olden days. Several boys couldn't believe that we had dug the whole site with only a trowel - which led to a bit of confusion because they thought we only had one trowel and shared it between us... At least one child asked Jonathan if he was a pirate - but whether this was because of his roguish look or the pirate flag on our boat was unclear... Several of them said they'd come back when they were old enough to volunteer (16) - and I look forward to seeing them in the future - and maybe some of their teachers a bit sooner!

In cleaning up the entire Oven Site for the public visits, we took stock of the various sequences of post holes and other features. In taking off the final lowest layer in unit N4E6, we discovered another post hole about where the corner of the house should be and began excavating it.  Unlike the other nearby large round postholes, this one went down quite a ways. Anima dug it until it was too deep for her arm, then Khari took over. When it surpassed his wingspan, I took it down the final six inches or so - in total 30 inches into the stone floor and more than ten feet below our site datum point. It is the deepest posthole we've found yet, another indication that it might be the corner - so deep to structurally anchor the framing of the whole house. It was really useful to get an overview of the whole layout as excavated - the better to plan for various extensions next summer.
Trench looking west - note the three large central post holes in the lower left, center and right below
the semicircular cut in the back wall
With only one or two days left, we removed the final (and thankfully thin!) rubble layer at the bottom of the trench and attacked the area that students have resorted to calling "Hell Hill" due to its mass of roots and sloping surface. A fair array of 18th and 19th c. artifacts came from this area, which it turns out does not go all the way down to ground level or cover a vertical wall, as originally thought. Instead, the beginning of yet another of those odd oven-like circular cuts has started to emerge - and will have to wait until next summer to get dug!

And finally, two more new post holes appeared when we were cleaning up the area in front of the hearth - formerly hidden by the large dead cedar tree abutting the wall. This post probably supported the lateral mantel in front of the fireplace, which rested in the groove we excavated last summer. With any luck (and no new surprises!) we should have the last of this year's digging at Oven Site done tomorrow and then move back to Smallpox Bay cottage to finish our investigative dating units there in the afternoon.

AND another Bermudian volunteer earned his t-shirt today - congrats Khari and wear it well!

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