Doctor's Rounds and Fill-in Friday
|Final Group Photo at the End of Fill-in Friday|
During this past week, I felt like a doctor making hospital rounds twice daily, checking in with our three sites. I was ostensibly based at Cave Site and even managed some digging when not leaving it in the capable hands of Sam M. and Andrew. After hitting a flat plane of bedrock fairly early at the mouth of the cave (wherein we found a deep round posthole, possibly for constructing a blind or front wall to this part of the cave), we extended a unit west to dig within the cave proper. This involved actually being inside the cave to dig, which posed a particular challenge for getting archival photos of the tops of each context.
This second square went down quite a ways, yielding lots of mammal and fish bone but few artifacts which we could date. The exception was three sherds of Astburyware, a glossy-slip thin-walled red refined earthenware produced between 1725 and 1750 - a ceramic more fitting for the tables of rich St. George's merchants across the harbour than for a rustic cave in the wilderness.
Completing this second unit gives us a good sense of the height of the cave when it was in use. The sharp slope also suggests that next year when we resume excavations we'll find a lot more material adjoining the back walls.
|Mimi and Alice's artifact-rich square|
a plinth with drainage cuts adjoining it, an apparent quarry feature that dates to a different period, since this was exposed to the elements for quite a while (which allowed the stone surface to harden) whereas the other quarrying evidence at the site was soft-faced, indicating it was buried very quickly after being cut.
So in the end the evidence does not support this particular site as being that of Christopher Carter's first homestead, but the area still has all the attributes of their likely house selection. The next places to look are where the valley meets Cotton Hole Bight (looking for shallop-building evidence) and at the top of the valley, near where we've found a well or limekiln feature and a level area with lots of protruding cut stones.
Smallpox Bay involved the longest walk, which gave me ample time to contemplate what is going on with what is emerging as a very complex multi-use site. Leigh laid out units both inside and outside the stone ruin in front of the door to better date the site and shed more light on its unknown occupants and uses. As previously reported, the "GR" on the wall and military buttons of the 20th Regiment and Royal Artillery all point to the use of the site in the early to mid-19th century as either a sentry post (to monitor possible smuggling into St. David's or Smiths Island itself) or as a quarantine
medical site in 1843, when Yellow Fever hit the 20th Regiment very hard. But the story has become a bit more complex since we found clay marbles and a small cast toy cannon barrel, suggesting there were children living at the site. A report chronicling the 1853 Smallpox epidemic noted that it started in the household of a soldier living on Paget Island with his wife and provides evidence that married soldiers were apparently permitted to live off base in Bermuda, which may account for the toys. Alternatively, a non-military family may have lived here when the building was not being used for quarantine purposes. Clearly, the site was intensively used in the second quarter 19th century based on concentrations of Annularware and other ceramic types.
The same excavations also revealed the slots for floor joists set into the east and west walls, establishing that the building once had a wooden floor. This realization helps explain the relatively small size of artifacts found within (small enough to slip through the cracks of floorboards.
|Kelsey at the Mitten|
Besides working on the new sites, we also spent much of the last week sharing our discoveries with various visitors who came out to see them. An important component of archaeology and public history is to make broadly known the new knowledge that excavations generate; otherwise you might as well never had dug them in the first place. On Saturday we hosted Bermuda National Trust Director Jennifer Gray and members of the Archaeology Research Committee. The following day, the BNT ran a special tour boat out to visit us. It was so nice to see the students presenting their sites' findings and significance to visitors, demonstrating how much they had learned in the past month. One boy breathlessly asked if he could stand on the floor of Oven Site - carved out about 400 years ago, while others marveled at particular artifacts.
For those who couldn't get out to Smiths Island, the St. George's Foundation hosted a well attended public presentation of our findings on Wednesday night at the World Heritage Center. It was cool giving a summary talk in which some of the photographs in my powerpoint presentation were only three hours old. Our final visitors were His Excellency Governor Fergusson and his wife, who came out Thursday afternoon just as the last strata came out in the remaining units at all three sites - perfect timing.
|Ace shoveler Luke|
|Judd and Sam, post fill-in|
TEAM JIM by the closest margin yet! 1069.5 to 1065.6, or a win by 0.091%. Had Ashley not been a guest blogger, Team Leigh would be eating Gelato today. In terms of individual achievement, every student is either an upper-level Digger or Shovel Jockey and all should comfortably achieve Archaeologist (250 pts) next week, when they finish up and submit their journals and research papers when back stateside.
We're all just back from a final feast at Portofino's in Hamilton, later than we'd hoped thanks to Bermuda's idiosyncratic (at best) bus schedule (there was apparently a phantom St. George's bus at 7:45 we weren't able to catch despite being at the terminal then...). The students all fly out tomorrow - a mix of being both eager to leave and reluctant to depart. Yes, Bermuda does that to you...