Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A New Site for a New Season

The 2017 Smiths Island Field Crew (L to R): Xander, Sean, Katrina, Leigh, Fengyi, Karemy, Me, Ewan, and Ryan,
 with the infamous feature-attracting yellow water tank from 2010

The dig has started!  We are now all here in Bermuda (no thanks to JetBlue and JFK runway-crossing sea turtles), comfortably installed at our summer quarters in St. George's Preparatory School (thanks Garth, Mary, Unray, Kelly, and camp kids!), well fed (thanks, Somers Market!), well provisioned (thanks Cathie!), outfitted with our boat (thanks Geoffrey!) and have just finished our first full day of work out on Smiths Island. It is pretty stunning how fully nature reclaims a site in just two years' time:

July 2015
July 2017

 But our lean and fearless crew were up for the task of taking back Oven Site and getting it prepped for picking up where we left off in 2015, ready to get to the bottom of the newly discovered water cistern lying some distance from the main footprint of Oven Site and locating another structure we hypothesize should be close to it.  It was good to get back to commuting to work by boat and this year's team took readily to the water.

First order of business was culling some of the many allspice trees that grew up while we were gone and expanding the clear area around the cistern to join the excavation units there with the rest of Oven Site. We then rigged up tarps for shade, since we're finding it is a lot hotter and harder going to dig in Bermuda in July than late May (temperature swing now is 86/78 F, rather than 74/72 F).  While clearing the area, we found a very promising section of a stone wall some forty feet north of the cistern, and will make assessing this our first order of business.

Also, in clearing the area around the Cistern, we uncovered a puzzling feature cut apparently into an outcropping of native bedrock, looking much like the shrine-like alcove cut into the north wall of Oven Site, excavated in 2012. It goes quite deep. Stay tuned for more in the days and weeks ahead!

The Cistern emerging from hibernation. The new feature is above and to the left.

So, we are off to a good start and look forward to accomplishing a lot this season. We plan to spend about two and a half weeks at Oven Site and then return to Smallpox Bay to open up a very large area in search of more post holes and material related to the military and civilian occupation of the ruin that still stands there.  We welcome Bermudian volunteers and participants, so if you are interested in joining us between now and August 3, please contact me at! 

And finally, this just in from the Royal Gazette: Police raided a cannabis plantation on Smiths Island a couple of weeks before we arrived. We have been running into evidence of this for the past six years and I keep trying to interest some anthropology student to map out these sites and write the first "archaeology of contraband pot growing" thesis covering technologies of sustainability and secrecy, with maybe some oral interviews of farmers thrown in for good measure. So far no takers...

The 2017 Field Team is led by Leigh Koszarsky and Katrina Ponti and includes University of Rochester students Ewan Shannon, Fengyi Zhao, Sean Fischer, and Ryan Chui, Yale graduate student Karemy Valdez, and Bermudian Xander Cook, who is Cardiff-bound this fall to pursue a degree in archaeology.

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