Sunday, May 16, 2010

End of Week 1: A Building (Re)Discovered

The first week of the 2010 excavation season has come and gone and we're hoping the good weather portends well for the rest of our time at the house. During this week, we focused our efforts on uncovering more of the outbuilding discovered last summer. Thus far, we've been quite successful. Two 2x2m units revealed a section of foundation stones and a large portion of a cobble floor. Curiously, the foundation appears to either peter out or change direction (see the picture below) at a certain point. As you can see in the image below, the wall runs northward, but does not seem to be present in the next unit to the north. This may mean the building was not a simple four-walled, rectangular structure or that portions of the foundation were disassembled and reused or discarded. Only time will tell.

Above: Two 2x2m units; the unit to the south (bottom) shows foundation wall running south to north on the western side of the unit with cobble flooring on the eastern side, while the unit to the north (top) shows only cobble flooring.

After we finished the excavation of the two units shown above, we decided to move to the south in an attempt to find the corner of the structure. In the bottom right-hand corner of the above image, you can see a patch of tan soil -- this is the backfill from one of last year's test pits. In this test pit, we found a large stone we believed to be part of the southern foundation wall of the structure. So logically, we thought, excavation of the area between this year's units and last year's units would result in the identification of the southwestern corner of the building. Lo and behold, we were right.

Above: Staff archaeologist Alex excavating in the corner of the outbuilding.

Now that we've located one corner, we need to find two more corners to determine the overall dimensions of the structure. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we will be placing test units in line with our current foundations in an attempt to find where the walls end.

The trend of extraordinary artifact totals continues: I estimate that in our three full days and two half days of work last week, we recovered close to 1,000 artifacts. The vast majority of these finds comes from a single layer above both the floor and foundation walls that is full of 19th-century material. Because it covers both the walls and floor, we believe this layer may represent trash that was deposited on top of the building once it was no longer in use. If this is the case, it means we can very tentatively place the date of the building's demise around the late 19th-century. I can't mention artifacts without noting another trend that has continued, and even escalated, during our work: the button count continues to rise! On Friday, the screening of two buckets of soil from the trash deposition layer yielded 17 identical copper-alloy buttons, two of which still had cloth wrapped around them. These same two buckets also contained approximately 12 copper-alloy hooks and eyes (clasps used to secure clothing). What these finds mean in the grand scheme of things is yet to be determined.

During this week of work, we were incredibly fortunate to receive assistance from a number of sources (see below). In addition to our regular group of wonderful undergraduate volunteers, graduate students from Boston University who happened to still be in the area very kindly donated their time to a fellow student and their efforts were greatly appreciated. Additionally, Ellen Berkland, City Archaeologist for the city of Boston brought a hardy crew out take part in the dig. Their combined labor provided a strong boost to the season's progress. And we also were aided by the extremely energetic and adorable hands of some enthusiastic visitors to the site. To all who helped out this week, we offer our humble and profound thanks.

Below: Our industrious crew of helpers hard at work (left); help comes in all sizes (right)

Stay tuned later this week: a look at artifacts from the outbuilding excavation to come!

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