Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Bermuda Day! Dig Starts TOMORROW!

It's been a crazy busy couple of weeks, between a conference on a cruise ship to Bermuda with the Society of Colonial Wars, end of semester work at U of R, hosting two graduation ceremonies (History and the first-ever Digital Media Studies class), and then getting everything ready for the field school and the students landed and settled. But it has all been worth it as the start of Season Four begins. We have a great mix of experienced returnees - Leigh and Jim, and Belk Foundation Fellows Mimi, Alice, and Samantha - and five new students ready for the challenges of field school and Bermudian archaeology:  Bailey, Cameron, Ethan, Gabby, and John.

Miracle on Bridge Street 

The biggest challenge/worry was putting a roof over our heads. This spring, I had heard that a young couple were renovating Block House, the old semi-derelict Belco building next to Town Hall is St. George's - a fantastic location, and big enough to house the entire crew. (In past years, we've been spread across town). I signed up to be the first in the new building, but when I stopped by in early May on the cruise, it looked far from ready - missing doors, windows, bathrooms, and other semi-essential elements. But Faith promised me enough of it would be ready by move-in on May 23, and she, Neil, and her building crew moved mountains to make it happen.
 The rooms are all fantastic, spacious, and perfectly situated right near both the harbour and the archaeology lab. And with the last arrival (Gabby), we had a wonderful start of season barbecue on the roof, looking out over King's Square. I should have kept more faith in Faith!

In the mean time, Jim, Leigh, Samantha, Mimi, Alice and I stayed up at the St. George's Club, which generously donated the use of a unit near the pool. We spent our days working through the long but vital process of entering full descriptions of all previously recovered artifacts into a database for analysis and field consultation, and also taking inventory of all the equipment we will need in the field. Leigh designed a fantastic database system that links both artifact and context data for cross-referencing. 

All the pieces came together today - Bermuda Day - as the new students got a crash course on Atlantic and Bermudian history and we moved all our field equipment over to Smiths Island on Geoffrey's barge.

It was great to be back, but somewhat daunting to see just how much Hurricanes Faye and Gonzalo did to Eastern Smiths: many trees down and lots of vegetation overgrowth on all the sites. Sadly, the southern wall of Smallpox Bay site was blown down, but in the tumbled blocks we were able to make out letters (initials?) we never noticed when the wall was standing. And the northern wall with "GR" remains, which we hope to laser scan in order to precisely record and better read the inscriptions. Cave Site remains undisturbed, as does the Pitcher Site at Cotton Hole Bight.

The 2015 Season Investigations and Goals

The University of Rochester/Bermuda National Trust collaborative archaeological project picks up immediately where we left off last season, and will hopefully answer some intriguing questions that arose late in the excavations. We will spend our first three weeks finishing up our assessment of OVEN SITE, excavating nearly the entirety of the early/first phase house footprint in order to reveal early construction techniques, and then extensively survey the area in front of the house, hoping that we will find sheet refuse material that will further confirm its early dating attribution and reveal activities that residents engaged in. With the students fully trained in excavation and field recording techniques, we'll then return to Smallpox Bay and Cave Site and conduct a Phase I survey of the Cotton Hole Bight valley.
At CAVE SITE, we will finish the bisecting trench to determine its width and depth and better date its occupation, and then explore an adjoining area that may revel a second, almost completely buried outcropping. The presence of numerous postholes at SMALLPOX BAY warrants a clearing excavation, both to shed more light on the site's hypothesized use as a quarantine house and to reveal potential posthole configuration patterns indicative of the area's pre-1730s occupation.

After the exploratory trench at COTTON HOLE BIGHT did not reveal evidence of 17th-century occupation and seemed to confirm the site as the mid-18th-century Pitcher family residence, we now shift to broadly surveying the adjoining valley, particularly at the bay itself (where there may be evidence of boat-building activity) and the top of the valley, where we previously discovered either a small limekiln or large well. An array of test pits spread across the valley floor will also hopefully reveal the presence of any deeply buried early sites in the vicinity.

Sam, reunited with her Cave
We are ambitious in our research designs, but already have a great, highly motivated student group and several new Bermudian volunteers, who have responded to the Bermuda National Trust and St. George's Foundation's calls to members and the recent front-page story in the Royal Gazette profiling our upcoming season. Let the season begin!

1 comment:

Jonathan Zeleznik said...

Pardon the pun, but I like the new DIGS! Awesome to see where we are in the project since I was there in 2013. Happy digging this summer!

- Jon