Thursday, August 13, 2009

Week 5 Update

As I write this blog entry in the oddly freezing cold archaeology lab, I can look out the windows at the rain pounding the building's A/C unit. Another day, another rain shower.

Since finishing up the outbuilding feature near the house for the season, we've moved back to our subterranean feature by the driveway. This week has been spent working on two units placed adjacent to the three existing units in this area (see the updated dig map below). We've also added a unit west of the original driveway line as another check on the local stratigraphy. The new unit was placed just west of our second test pit in which we found an historic posthole.

Above: Updated dig map (green units are in progress, blue units are finished, and orange units are finished for this season)

The two units placed in the area of the underground feature have proved very exciting. Beginning approximately 40cm below surface, we revealed a line of large stones running SE to NW through both units (see below). As we continued to dig down, it appears that there is a second course of stones under the first, a find that supports the hypothesis that these stones represent a wall in the subterranean feature. Our goal now is to continue digging on the east side of this line of stones down to the current depth of the first three units in this area. We'll only dig on the east side in an effort to preserve the structural integrity of the stones just in case they do actually form a wall. Once we've excavated down through the final level of ashy furnace deposit throughout the feature, we'll keep digging in all five units and hopefully discover the floor surface of this exciting structure.

Above: LEFT - overhead view of the top of the potential stone wall; RIGHT - view showing the five in-progress units dug into the subterranean feature

With only five digging days left (excluding our last day which will be spent backfilling our feature units), there's still a lot of work to be done to finish up the feature units and the extra test pit. Keep an eye on the blog next week as we come down to what may be the floor of our feature!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

End of Week 4: Of Newspapers and Outbuildings

The good news from the middle of this week: a reporter from the Daily News Transcript came out to the site on Wednesday to check out our progress and write up a piece for the paper (you can see the article here). The bad news from the middle of this week: the reporter came one day too late.

Thursday signaled a move away from the western yard of the property towards the area just north of the Fairbanks House. After carefully observing the current conditions in this location, we began by opening two units (we later added a third). There are a number of stones of various sizes poking up out of the ground and by drawing lines between them, we come up with the outline of a potential feature (see below).

Above: This photo shows the stones on the surface (outlined in red) and the potential lines drawn between them (dotted yellow lines). It also shows the units put in straddling these lines.

In an effort to test our feature hypothesis, we put in two units over these theorized lines. It wasn't long before we came down on two scatters of stones that support our hypothesis (see below). In the layers above these stones, we found hundreds of artifacts, most of which date from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries.

Above: Two overhead shots of the outbuilding feature.

One of the units turned up one very large rock and several other small ones in a line which we believe represents a building foundation. The other unit revealed a scatter of smaller stones which may illustrate a collapsed wall. These two test pits show that we clearly have evidence of some sort of outbuilding located to the north of the original house.

Above: LEFT - six buttons (five brass, one porcelain) from the two outbuilding test units. The top row of buttons has been cleaned using a water/lemon juice mixture while the bottom two brass buttons have not been cleaned. The larger brass buttons bear the backmark "BENEDICT/TREBLE GILT," a signature of the Benedict and Burnham Manufacturing Company. The smaller button's backmark reads "B.B. Extra Rich" and was probably made by the same company. RIGHT - two pipes from the outbuilding test units. The bottom pipe bears a decorative box with the name "McDougall's" stamped in it. The McDougall Company operated out of Glasgow, Scotland and began producing pipes in 1846.

As exciting as these finds are, due to a lack of time (only two weeks left!), we've decided to close these units and move back to the subterranean feature near the driveway. This outbuilding will be the central part of next summer's work at the site.

Stay tuned as we try to get everything wrapped up over the next two weeks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Week 4 Midweek Update: Sand, Sand Everywhere and Way Too Much to Dig

The weather has been warm and humid and those of us digging at the Fairbanks House have been fortunate enough to spend most of our time on a beach... sort of. After moving west of the driveway in an attempt to "look beneath the sand" found in our first line of test units, we were more than slightly chagrined to find that the sand is everywhere!

Above: Updated dig map (red units are planned, green units are in progress, blue units are finished)

After digging through a test unit at the base of the driveway mound and another to the west in the yard (see above), we found that the clean, sterile sand showed up in the bottom of these units. Confused and not a little exasperated, we placed another test unit roughly 50m west of the driveway near a cluster of trees. This choice of location was founded upon the hypothesis that large trees (these are at least 30-40m tall) cannot grow in pure sand. Apparently, though, they can, and do.

Although we're still a bit unsure about the sand situation, our days of clearing out meters and meters of the stuff have come to an end (we hope!). In an effort to explore another portion of the property, we laid out two units to the north of the house today in the area where our geophysical survey may have found a buried living surface. Hopefully these units will give us a hint about another historic building on the property (and provide something other than sand).

Stay tuned this week and next for what could be some exciting developments!

Left: Josh backfilling a unit with, you guessed it, sand.

Below: Josh and volunteer archaeologist Max excavated a unit in the west yard.