Monday, August 6, 2012

Last day of 2012 field season

The flurry of activity in our 2x2 in Area C.
The last day of the 2012 field season proved to be one of our busiest, but the crew pulled together and successfully completed our work and backfilled both remaining excavation units in Area C before taking a cooling swim in the Escambia River, a now-annual tradition at Molino.  The pictures below provide a glimpse of our busy work to finish bisecting and sampling wall trenches, draw and Munsell profiles, and line the units with landscaping cloth before dumping load after load of dirt back into the units, bringing them back up to the original ground surface.  In a few months, once the leaves fall and vegetation begins to grow back, the forest will begin to return to its original appearance this spring, awaiting our planned 2013 field season.

More work in the 2x2, removing feature samples and mapping.
Even though we had a smaller crew this year than any previous season, we feel that our work was an unqualified success, even though as usual we will need to come back to follow up on many new questions raised by this year's work.  In 2012 we finally discovered the northeastern corner of the 1760 stockade trench, we confirmed the termination of the apparently unfinished stockade wall on the northwest, we found several new smudge pits including our largest cob pit to date, we discovered a completely unknown burned structure floor in the middle of the mission compound, and we identified no fewer than eight north-south wall trenches crossing our now 13.5-meter-long wall trench in Area C, two of which seem to belong to opposite walls of the same building.  We found many new artifacts of daily life at the mission, and took a large number of soil samples for flotation and eventual botanical analysis.  In sum total, 2012 was a resounding success, and we thank all the students, staff, and volunteers for their help in making this year both rewarding and fun, and the Marlow family once again for their hospitality and support.
Another view of the race to finish the 2x2.
Patty and Danielle measure and draw profiles in the 1x2.
Students carefully lining units with landscape cloth.
A line of dirt-filled wheelbarrows awaiting completion of our units.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

One day left!

Sherd of Rhenish stoneware found today in feature context.
Today our field crew powered through our fourth full day of fieldwork under clear summer conditions, bringing home literally scores of bags full of soil from the multiple wall-trenches and other features now being excavated in our two remaining open excavation units.  Like a swarm of ants, students are working quickly but capably in our 2x2 meter unit to dissect the intersections between four separate wall trenches and several other adjacent features.  Nearby, several good examples of postholes were excavated today in a 1x2 m unit, which is also being brought down to sterile subsoil before mapping and backfilling tomorrow.  A few pictures from today will preface what promises to be a very busy and eventful day tomorrow as we close down the 2012 field season at Mission Escambe.

An archetypical posthole profile.
Profile of the deep, double post shown in an earlier post.
The double post after excavation of the other half.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Race to the finish

X-ray of 18th-century iron fishhook (with barb) found last week.
Under clear and hot conditions, Tuesday's fieldwork at Molino witnessed even more progress toward our final day this Friday. Continued feature excavation was paired with the backfilling of yet another two 1x2 meter units, leaving just three open units (though totaling 10 square meters). The pictures today provide images from the bisection of intriguing double post with a pair of clearly-preserved postmolds within a deep figure-eight shaped posthole, and also shots of an x-ray of the fishhook found last week in Area C, and a large, well-preserved nail found in the stockade trench in Area B.

Bisection of the double posthole begins.
Excavation continues at a lower level.
Completed bisection of the 32cm-deep double posthole.
Large iron nail with rust flaking away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The final week begins

Kristina continues bisecting the stockade trench fill.
Monday's fieldwork at Mission Escambe continued in high gear, as our crew worked efficiently and energetically to extract as much data as possible from our remaining open excavation units before the 2012 season ends this Friday.  Most remaining work this week focuses on feature excavation and profile mapping, and even though most students are no longer digging with shovels or sifting large wheelbarrows full of dirt, the detailed, close-quarters work of wall trench and other feature excavation is where archaeology is most obviously a detailed scientific endeavor.  The photos below illustrate some of our finds and activities on Monday.
Lead buckshot found within the stockade trench fill.
Katie and Kendall work on unit profiles.
Nick works on mapping his deep excavation unit.
Wesley and Michelle continue digging and profiling trenches.
Remaining dark fill in the junction of two wall trenches.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Feature dissection and other 9th-week activities

Brooke and Wesley dissecting wall trenches in Area C.
Our ninth week is over, and only one week remains in the 2012 field season at Mission Escambe.  This week has seen a variety of activities, ranging from the careful dissection of intersecting wall trenches and other pit and trench features, the backfilling of a number of excavation units, a visit to UWF's Campus field school at the Thompson's Landing site, and a frustrating number of rainstorms at all hours, including more crew drenchings.

Four-way dissection of intersecting wall trenches.
Dissections of multiple features and feature sections.
The eight north-south wall trenches that are now known to intersect our 13-meter-long east-west wall trench in Area C represent quite a puzzle, and this week we finally began dissecting the intersections with two of these features.  This type of excavation is very intricate, involving the excavation of multiple and crossing bisects through the middle of each trench in an effort to discover whether one trench cut through the other (and if so which), or whether both were in use at the same time (which would be unlikely).  The pictures posted above and below here illustrate the complexity of this type of feature excavation, though this doesn't even begin to show the amount of paperwork and maps and individual provenience bags and tags that must be filled out for each and every section as excavation progresses.

Profile shot of excavated deep wall trench.
By week's end, however, two of these north-south trenches are showing signs that they may be two parallel walls of the same structure.  They are parallel and just over 7 meters apart from one another, and both are deep and flat-bottomed and filled with darker fill than the shallower east-west trench they intersect.  They also both seem to show a possible intrusive shallow upper trench within their fill, marked by thin layers of waterlain sand at the top (see photo just above).  This conclusion is preliminary, but we should know more next week before we have to conclude all excavations and backfill our remaining units.

A few additional shots of people and artifacts follow.

Michelle documents some water damage from a massive storm.
Incised rimsherd found within a shallow feature.
A good argument for fine-screening: bits of majolica glaze.
Brooke pouring backfill into a lined unit.
A visitor to the site: a "lubber" grasshopper.
Dr. Gougeon explains his excavations at Thompson's Landing.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Eight weeks down, just two to go

Long view of F. 122, with Wesley and Michelle.
With just two weeks remaining in our 2012 field season, the field crew at Molino is doubling down on their open excavation units, documenting and preparing some for backfilling, and finally beginning to excavate wall trenches and other features in other units.

View to north of Block 2, showing 2 E-W and 4 N-S trenches.
East profile of excavated F. 122 under clay cap.
Wesley removes clay from the a wall trench.
In Area C, the east-west wall trench initially discovered in 2010 as Feature 122 has now been traced in both directions to a full length of 13 meters, suggesting that it likely belonged to a large structure in the mission, possibly even the church.  Full exposure of a six-meter section of this trench this year also shows a total of four north-south wall trenches intersecting it in this area (along with the parallel Feature 19 trench nearly a meter and a half to the north).  Toward the end of this week, we have finally begun to excavate sections of this wall trench, showing its profile, or cross-section, and students are removing the last bits of overlying yellow clay from the other trenches so that they can all be carefully dissected in order to reveal which ones came first, or whether some or all were contemporaneous with one another (which seems unlikely given their spacing).  At this point, in our fourth year of work at the site, we still believe that these trenches likely reflect multiple rebuilding episodes concentrated in one specific area, all of which were perhaps cleaned out and filled with a thick layer of dense yellow clay as part of an overall rebuilding episode which began in June of 1760 under the direction of Spanish engineer Phelipe Feringan Cort├ęs, with the assistance of forced laborers from presidio San Miguel de Panzacola.  Nevertheless, until we can clarify building sequences and find some corners, details about these building episodes remain elusive.

From Feature 122: an iron fishhook, or just a bent nail?
This week was unfortunately interrupted by frequent rainstorms, which combined with our crew's site visit to the UWF field school at Arcadia Mill and a demo of archaeo-botanical flotation on the UWF campus for all field school students, limited our overall excavation time at Molino.  At this point we are in a race for time, combining careful and thorough documentation with our desire to complete as much as we can before backfilling at the end of the month.  This is often the time when some of the most important discoveries are made, so please check back for updates!
The Molino crew visits the Arcadia Mill field school site.
Leslie Raymer works with students at flotation.
Patty with Dr. Elizabeth Benchley and volunteer Alesia Hoyle.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week Seven in Review

Hand painted polychrome majolica sherd from near the stockade.
View facing north of 1x2m unit with more features than matrix.
Possible post stains within F. 122.
Our 7th week of fieldwork has passed alarmingly fast, in part due to the Independence Day holiday as well as a couple of rain interruptions, but our crew continues to make good progress, focusing on bringing all open units down to the feature level, and exploring and documenting those features that have already appeared.  One of our units in Area C has revealed a myriad of trench, post, and pit features, causing a halt to the planned excavation of the surrounding midden matrix in favor of detailed feature excavation, as shown in the picture above.  Even when excavating within the southernmost east-west wall trench (Feature 122) today, two dark stains resolved themselves just centimeters below, possibly representing postmolds within the trench (pictured above).  These kinds of details, while generating more paperwork, are precisely the information we need to interpret these architectural trenches properly and understand what they tell us about Mission Escambe.

Large aboriginal potsherds, including one with a handle.
Red filmed potsherd.
In Area E just to the northeast, the midden deposit associated with the burned clay floor discovered last week is turning out to be rich in artifactual debris, including Apalachee and Spanish potsherds, glass seed beads, and even some charred food remains such as calcined bone and a peach pit (pictured above and below).  Other units are also producing evidence for the material culture of the mission, including a tubular black bead and a probable buckle prong.

Charred peach pit fragment from the mission midden.
A calcined bone fragment, a rare find in Molino soils.
Tubular black glass bead.
Probable buckle prong, possibly from Spanish horse tack.
Wesley, Michelle, and volunteer Patrick Patch.
UWF's Arcadia Mill field school students visiting Molino.
Tasty desserts at the Friday picnic at Molino Fairgrounds.
Our crew enjoyed a well-deserved picnic this Friday at lunchtime, including a number of homemade treats that left us all feeling stuffed and happy.  We are looking forward to the next three weeks of our 2012 field season, and await each next discovery with eager anticipation.