Sunday, September 13, 2009

Final Update for the Season (a bit late...)

After six productive weeks in the field, we have come to the end. Granted, that end was about three weeks ago, but no matter.

Our final week in the field yielded some interesting finds. We spent the time excavating in the bottom of the cellar feature while also choosing to extend the northernmost unit by another 50cm. It was a fortunate decision because in the northern wall of the extended unit, we discovered what is almost certainly a portion of the northern wall of the stone-lined cellar. In addition, we've exposed a greater portion of the western wall (visible in the picture below on the left). Towards to bottom of the cellar, against both the western and northern walls, we found two caches of large fragments of earthenware vessels (butter pots, milk pans, etc). One of these deposits can be seen in the video clip below.

Above: left - Volunteer archaeologists Andrew Griffin and Cory Hodson excavating in the bottom of the cellar feature; right - video clip of an earthenware cache next to the northern wall

At this point, the future of the cellar feature is uncertain. As it is constricted to the east by a live gas line and the existing driveway and to the south by a water drain, we may have done all we can do with this feature. That said, we've recovered such a wealth of information, in terms of landscape use, building construction, and artifact use, that this isn't necessarily a problem. Without the necessity of re-excavating approximately 6 cubic meters of backfilled dirt, we will have more time in future seasons to devote to the other areas on the property, namely the outbuilding to the north of the house and the shed-like feature to the south of the house that we had initially planned to investigate this season.

With the field season completed, the processing begins. Artifacts will be cleaned, sorted, and cataloged. All of our paperwork will be typed up and all of our drawings will be digitized in Adobe Illustrator and other digital editing software. Research will begin into the artifacts and their relation to the property, all in preparation for the writing of an interim site report. This report will be placed on file with the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) and the Fairbanks House library. Basically, although we're no longer digging, the real work has truly begun.

As a closing note, I would like to personally thank a number of people without whom this project would never have gotten off of the ground. Thanks very much to Dr. Mary Beaudry of Boston University for her close guidance throughout this project and into the present. Thanks to Richard Lowry for connecting me with the Fairbanks House. Thanks to Dr. Alex Service and the Fairbanks Board for their continued enthusiasm and support. Thanks to Ellen Berkland, city archaeologist of Boston, for her assistance both in the excavation and processing of artifacts. And lastly, a hearty thank you to my wonderful volunteers, especially Maggie Burr, Josh Howard, Alex Keim, and Adrien Smith, for their consistent service, interest, positive attitudes, and willingness to put up with me.

It was a fantastic summer and we look forward to future work at the Fairbanks House and beyond. Keep an eye on the blog for more updates about the archaeology of the country's oldest timber-framed house!

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