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Monday, September 14, 2009
Today was our first day out at the dig site, the John Brown House. I had been to the JBH a few times before; however, my time on the lawn has been limited. We started off with a short tour of the site during which Elise discussed the work done by last year's class and Krysta noted some site-specific points of historical significance. This year we will be working on 4 units, while last year the class worked on 5. Units 6 and 7 encompass preceeding units, therefore, the backfill will need to be removed before work proceeds. My group was working near the main building on Unit 9. This unit will (hopefully) present some evidence of old outhouses (i.e. the servent's quarters and barn) that are believed to have been located behind the main building.
Our unit, which is 1 square meter, is located a few meters west of the current JBH--which showed signs of additions to the house following the initial construction. Therefore, the old outhouses may be located in the proximity of our unit or Unit 8. Our work today consisted of lining the unit's border with string so to mark the extent of our upcoming excavation. Alex was our sribe while Elise and I worked out setting up the site. We used a string, level, and tape measure to figue out the points at which we must dig to level the block. Our unit was relatively level across with minimal variations in terrain. We finished day one's work with a picture of our unit.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Ready, Set, DIG!!! What a fun day at the John Brown House! We began to work on our 1 square meter plot today, Unit 9, following last week's efforts on lining out the site. Initially, it was necessary to outline the border to which the extent of our digging would strectch. This was accomplished by breaking the ground with a shovel (carefully, mind you!) a couple inches inside the line which we laid out last week. Instantly, I noticed a significant change in the underlying soil in the Northeastern corner--the rocky subterrain made it very difficult to get the shovel head through the upper layers. Following this feat, Krysta explained how I should begin to scrape off the vegetation from the plot. Alex and I noted the possible significance of the varying vegetation--the West side of our plot displayed much fuller weeds, in comparsion to the mossy East side. This possibly suggests underlying features as the thick roots of the weeds were not allowed to meet the necessary depth in these areas.
We then began digging at a slow, horizontal pace, merely scrapping off portions of soil. Not much more than 2 centimeters down (if, that!), we began to notice a change in soil composition--as there was a great deal of localized rocks and shards in the Eastern portion of our plot. A great deal of these deposits were slate, which may be suggestive of portions of an outbuilding's roof, as it was customary at the time to roof houses with slate. Instantly, we were forced to throw down the shovels and get down and dirty with the trowels. Through a series of sifting efforts, we managed to come across numerous pieces of wood, coal, and glass. Although the glass may prove to be a recent addition to the site, the coal will prove valuable in dating this contextual plot. In completion of today's work, I worked on forming the wall (which Krysta made me nervous by saying I was now "entrusted with the task of") of no return for our plot. I accomplished this with the use of a trowel by following the line we laid out last week. Something to look forward to next week...we may have accidently unearthed some pottery shards from the next contextual level, and by "we", I mean Krysta and I...but shhh!
Monday, September 28, 2009
EUREKA!!! We found pottery today! Ok, yes my reaction to the first shard of whiteware we uncovered today may have been slightly premeditated and slightly exaggerated but I was in the limelight of a real live camera man who was filming for the dedication of Rhode Island Hall as the new Joukowsky Institute. We began a new context today as last week there was a considerable change in soil color and composition. Overall, we were able to dig down to the desireable 10 cm mark past our last context level. This means we will begin our 3rd context level next week.
This week's dig was full of finds for the spectacular duo (myself and Julie...sorry Alex) at Unit 9. Amidst the flurry of excited outbursts, mostly by Elise for reasons that still allude me, we found many more pieces of glass (some green and yellow), more coal, what appears to be a rusted nail, two small sheets of copper, numerous shards of pottery (both white-ware and cream-ware), and two pieces of hand-painted porcelain (each of which has a small colorful design). This finds are important as they are located close to the main building, hopefully suggesting the presence of an outhouse or extention of the building. We also found some larger pieces of slate (2x2 in) which could further suggest the presence of roof tiles. The soil color changed again near the end of class, which means we will need to take another Munsel at the beginning of next week's work. What might Day 4 bring?!!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Keep On Keepin' On! So today, we continued on with our current context. Last week we thought we may need to begin a new context since we started noticing a uniform change in soil color across three of the four corners in our unit. However, after realizing that the measurements were uneven, we continued scrapping the surface and settled on the chance that the change in soil was due to a backfill at some point. We found a good amount of glass, a piece of broken plastic, some oddly shaped wood piece, a rusty screw and a rusty nail. Our assumption that the darker soil was due to backfill may have been proven by the uncovering of an electrical pipe, that is a current addition to the subsurface in the Southeast corner of our unit. Industrial trenches are often wide and deep, and followed by the backfill of turned up soil. Towards the end of the day we began to discover larger slabs of slate/rock arranged in a linear manner. This could suggest an underlying architectural feature. In addition to our digging, we also went on a tour of the JBH today. We learned a great deal about the plots history and why our units are particularly significant. Talk about igniting the fire...especially when we noticed that the porcelain collection had hand-painted designs which were VERY similar to the shards we found last week!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Oh the wonderful Providence weather! Our unit was completely flooded due to the rain throughout the weekend. We started off by scooping out all the water and then scraping off the muddy silt. At that point, we began a new context as we had reached the arbitrary 10 cm-mark past our last context. The soil became much rockier as we moved deeper, possibly suggesting backfill due to the pipe that runs through the southeast corner of our unit. We found a number of rusted nails, screws, and one that was large enough to possibly be a stake. In addition, we found white fragments that Alex believes might be paint. The rock features eventually gave way, therefore, denying the possibility of them being part of an architectural feature. I did find some rounded rocks that fit around the pipe--their composition was more indicative of concrete than naturally-forming rock. Another interesting find was a landscaping tag for a plant near the pipe. This may have been accidentally burried with the pipe. The end of our day was highlighted by the emergence of a hole that was filled with water. This may simply be due to the excessive rain, however, it could also be a source of groundwater.
Monday, October 26, 2009
We encountered another water-filled, muddy unit this week due to a lot of rain during the weekend. After scooping out the water, the first step we took was scraping off the muddy silt so we would more easily be able to distinguish between context changes in soil color and composition. The northern part of our unit was much more rocky in composition than the southern portion. We found a great deal of brick pieces, glass, and more iron-corroded objects. The southeast corner finally gave way to the landscaping tag that was found last week. In addition, the pipe was now uncovered to stretch across a wide area of the southeast corner. Directly under the landscaping tag, I found a 1-inch piece of pipe that had obviosuly been an effect of construction and the ensuing backfill. We were forced to close the unit today due to a find of a live electrical wire extending diagonally (northwest to southeast) through our entire unit. Based on the state preservation plans, the wire was supposed to be placed about 3 ft to the north of its realized location. After taking our final photo, Krysta helped us begin an STP, shovel test pit, about 3 ft east of the footpath. This location was chosen based on our assessment of where outhouses may be located and stringent upon the fact that a geothermal well is going to be put there soon. This is greatly interesting since we are now getting to learn about a sense of rescue archaeology.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Today we continued working on our new unit, STP 3. For once, the weather wasn't the most enjoyable--misting rain and relatively cold. However, we were able to get a full day's work finished without any problems. Due to daylight savings time, some of the class started early and our class was cut short. Sadly, I only got to work on the unit for an hour and a half since I have class until 3. We started a new context based on soil composition change rather quickly, which could have been due to the dryness of the underlying soil. Nevertheless, we began finding numerous shards of glass and porcelain in the subsurface. Our work was slightly interupted due to a huge root stretching through the middle of our unit. However, we found it was easy to chop out and then we continued on at a relatively quick pace. Past the root, there was a wide emergence of brick fragments, substantial pieces of coal, and one very large pottery fragment. Towards the end of the day, we hit a soil layer that was clearly lighter in color and much rockier in composition. After deciding that it was a new context, we attempted to level out the floor of the unit for a new picture. In the midst of this effort, I uncovered a piece of brick that was slightly smaller than a tennis ball. These finds could be indicative of an underlying outhouse or structure. Hopefully we get to dig once more next week before closing the unit, so we can explore the next context.
Monday, November 9, 2009
This week was our final stay at the John Brown House. We continued digging in our Shovel Test Pit for about half of the class period, including the extra time prior to class. We found numerous fragments of brick, yellow glass, and pottery. Most interesting were the large shards of whiteware found, which were indicative of a plate, noticeable in its shape and striations. In addition, there was a large abundance of coal and slate. Towards the ending point of our digging, we found a large piece of brick which was about the size of a baseball. Eventually, we reached a soil that was very light in color and fine in composition. Krysta told us that this was the sterile soil which was the point to which such a test pit would ideally reach. Following the sifting of the last bit of soil, we created a profile of the wall, so to depict the changes in soil composition. We finished the day with some manual labor (FINALLY!). All the pits had to be backfilled, which proved to be an heavy-laden and time-consuming task. However, we did manage to cover them all before we left for the day. We are now going to spend our time in the lab, interpreting our finds and producing a report of this semester's work.