Tuesday, June 2, 2015

First Week and Then Some

Apologies, dear readers, for not posting as often as I should; it's been a busy, productive week but also exhausting - and the evenings I hoped to blog were spent either sleeping or playing the highly addictive game of One Night Ultimate Werewolf...

The field school officially started last Sunday with a new assignment - a visual St. George's scavenger hunt. Pairs of students (one new, one returnee) each had to find the modern locations of a dozen old late 19th/early 20th century street scene or house photographs, with a few 1810s sketches thrown in for good measure. Jim and Bailey won with nine matches, but every team got at least four, and learned how much (or often how little) St. George's has changed in a hundred years.

Gabby, Ethan, Me, John, Cameron, Sam, Bailey and Jim. Mimi, Alice and Leigh were hiding in the Oven...

That pesky yellow tank always seems to be
where we need to dig!

Since Bermuda Day's history class and equipment move, we've made tremendous progress on Oven Site. The first few days were laboriously spent removing the backfill that protected the units through the off-season - a bonding experience that also often reveals students' personalities and temperaments. I'm happy to say that all went very smoothly, with no talk of mutiny or desertion despite pretty hard labour, and by Friday we broke ground on new units.


Profiling the trench
Since the pairings for the scavenger hunt were so successful, we kept them for digging partners this first week. The students learned stratigraphic sequencing first-hand by recording the profile of the southern trench face, which will soon be destroyed as the adjoining units are excavated. With this accomplished, we progressed through the surface layer to early 20th-century quarry debris (Master Context 018), a 19th-century layer reflecting quarrymen's activities (Master Context 003), and a long, thick quarry layer dating from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century (MCxt 005) to bring us to the top of the 17th-century earthen floor (MCxt 006).

The top of the 17th-century
floor layer

And then... I made everyone start new squares adjoining the ones they just excavated. Because one of the principal aims of this season's dig is to determine how the two phases of the Oven Site house intersect and how the interior and exterior of the house join, we will expose the entirety of the floor in the northern half of the house and bring it all down together. Happily, the students accepted the rationale for this exercise in delayed gratification and, as of this afternoon, have brought the new units down to the 18th-century quarry layer.

The finds thus far have been interesting - mostly 19th- and early 20th-century material. The workmen did a lot of drinking and cooking, reflected by the number of bottles, bones, and charcoal we found in MCxt 003. The bottles included a small square bottle marked "Hamilton Coffee & Spice" and an intact Pabst beer bottle - pre-Blue Ribbon! - which Jim dates to circa 1910.

We also opened three units to the north of the house in order to test the hypothesis that the occupants discarded larger articles of trash in the front yard. Natural bedrock was very close to the surface and, in the first unit, no early material was found. Hopefully units further north will reveal occupation evidence, or we will need to change our thinking on trash deposition, and perhaps look for a midden.

Besides work, we've had several nice surprises. The response from my call for Bermudian volunteers has been very strong - more than a dozen - and we had our first one out today (thanks Ryan!). My start-of-season talk at the World Heritage Center was very well attended, and I had the pleasant surprise of being presented with a signed copy of William Zuill's new book, The Pirate Menace, by the author himself. Katrina, my future U of R graduate student, joined us and was the first to earn our exclusive 2015 dig shirt by completing three days of work.

We also visited the Bermuda Archives on Friday and had an excellent sampling of early documents.

 And coming home from work last Thursday, we had the great pleasure of seeing an 18th-century naval frigate docked by Penno's Wharf - L'Hermione, and then saw her depart the next morning, complete with a cannon salute.

Life in Block House has been fantastic and everyone in St. George's has been so friendly and supportive. Somers Market is keeping us well fed, both with Salad Bar fare in the evening and bread for our ubiquitous PB&J sandwiches. I also bought 40 lbs. of bananas and 12 bags of apples to keep us all scurvy-free in the weeks ahead.

Finally, we announced today the members of Team Jim and Team Leigh, which broke down along gender lines. Let the Gelato Cup Games begin!
Team Leigh: Ethan, John & Cameron

Team Jim: Gabby and Bailey
Returnees Alice, Mimi, and Sam

Katrina, Heather, and Ryan

The Alice Death Stare

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

GO TEAM LEIGH!! Happy digging miss you all soo much!!