Wow, the beginning of the Elkins B cellar hole has not been a disappointment for the crew from Hunter Research, Inc.! We started with the darker soils across the north end of the cellar hole removing between four and six inches. We have recovered close to two thousand historic artifacts from the top of the cellar hole. There are many fish scales, fish bones, mammal and fish bones, egg shell fragments, freshwater mussel, oyster shell, burnt peach pit, daub, a brass clasp (with a “P” inscribed on it), a small lead shot, French and English type gunflint fragments, vessel glass (dark olive spirits and pale olive vial), wrought nails, white pipe stems and bowls (one with both a Robert Tippet cartouche and impressed “RT” This combination is very rare!), tin enameled earthenware (pink and buff bodied) Nottingham brown stoneware, Westerwald tankard fragments (one with a partial royal cartouche…the upper part without initials), Hillegas Philadelphia redwares, buff Staffordshire ware, Midlands mottled, dipped white salt glazed white stoneware, some kind of slag?, thin brass wire (thread?) wound around something that has deteriorated and over 70 straight pins! The fill is rather sticky. We are processing the soil through the 1/8″ mesh until it is down to small balls which we are saving to float. The prehistoric features are proving to be interesting as well. As we had observed at the Holton-Cann site, we have a connected multiple pit feature which appears to have been located within a structure. On Friday with the approaching storm Sandy, we decided to finish off the smaller features, cover the cellar hole with plastic and our tent (lowered) and anchor down our site trailer. Now all we can do is sit back and wait for the storm to clear …and when it does we will be there!
What a great week at the Armstrong-Rogers site! During our last field session, a backhoe was used to strip off the topsoil from the site core. Now is the good part! We get to start digging into the amazing features we uncovered so far. A probable circular well, a rectangular outbuilding pit, and a building debris area were all divided into quarters, and excavation has revealed some great information. Digging the large stone and brick foundation has also begun, revealing that the building was purposefully deconstructed and some of the materials were robbed for reuse elsewhere. We can’t wait to finish uncovering this foundation to help determine what it was used for and how it was oriented. Very curious! Another fantastic event this week: Dovetail’s work at the Armstrong-Rogers site was featured as the Archaeological Institute of American’s Delaware open house excavation for National Archaeology Day! How exciting! We had a scout troop tour the site, as well as many people who came to see what we were up to. Although the site was a bit muddy because of rain the previous night, old and young came to look at the features and talk to the staff about the archaeological process and learn about the cool things we’ve found. It is so exciting to be able to share this site with so many! A huge thank you to the Dovetail crew for being great hosts and to all of our visitors who came to say ‘hi.’
- Dovetail’s Jon Lewis, Kerry Gonzalez, and Sara Poore expose a building foundation at the Armstrong-Rogers site.
So what happened to the warm weather? Despite a little rain and a lot of wet feet, the Dovetail team continued to work on the Armstrong-Rogers site this past week. Our task? Removing the topsoil from the site core to expose subsurface features. We already knew the area contained at least one building foundation, one other stone feature, and a buried terra cotta drain, but we uncovered several additional exciting finds including a large square feature with brick flecking and several posts and pits. All features were scraped to identify their boundaries and mapped in using a total station. This data was used to create a hand-drawn field map to help organize the remainder of the dig and will also be the basis for a post-field GIS map. Artifacts noted during our topsoil removal continued to span the historic occupation period of the site, from the second half of the eighteenth century through the late-nineteenth century. But while a lot of attention has been paid to the historic artifacts because of the presence of architectural features, the stripping also uncovered evidence of the prehistoric use of this area. A large rim sherd of fabric-impressed, quartz-tempered prehistoric pottery (possibly Hell Island Ware) was found along the western edge of the site. In addition, several possible prehistoric pit features were identified during the scraping. We will add these to our list of features to be excavated in the upcoming weeks. Very exciting!
Well, well, well. On the final day of fieldwork at the Rumsey/Polk site, we excavated a deep well. The upper parts of the well , also known as Feature 10, were dug down 5 feet by hand until we reached a layer of lime chunks that were tossed into the abandoned well. The upper parts of the well were filled at the end of the second, circa 1800-1855, tenant period. Some of the interesting artifacts from the feature include a horseshoe, a brass pistol butt cap, plus 18th and 19th-century ceramics like yellowware, engine turned redware, creamware, and annular ware, and whiteware. Wells are fabulous windows to the past; a very interesting way to learn what people were doing and buying, as they typically become deep trash dumps by residents once the well runs dry. Digging a well is no joking matter though since they can be very deep. The deeper you go, the more dangerous it can be to dig. Although the top five feet was dug by hand, we used a backhoe to dig the rest, and boy was it deep! The bottom of the well was reached at 32 feet below ground, the same as the elevation of the creek north of the site. When built during the 18th or 19th century, the well was dug by hand. Each well posed a danger of collapsing on the workmen. Some wells were dug 40 feet deep just to reach water. This really makes you appreciate the effort and danger associated with well digging during the 18th and 19th centuries. While digging the well, the backhoe carefully removed each soil layer, which the crew screened for artifacts. As you can see in the photograph, more than half of the well was filled with broken brick, which was probably part of the chimney to the home that stood nearby. Even though the well was filled with brick, the actual well shaft was made of wood, either as a long wooden box or stacked barrels. Artifacts found in the well revealed it was filled when the tenant farm was abandoned during the early 1850s. Broken brick that could not be reused on other properties, large chunks of lime used for soil fertilization, and topsoil were tossed into the deep hole to fill the void, which archaeologists re-discovered 160 years after it was abandoned.
Attached is the link to the minutes of the first meeting of the Route 26 Working Group
Join us as we celebrate National Archaeology Day on October 20th at the Armstrong-Rogers Site. Sponsored by the Archaeological Society of America, National Archaeology Day is a chance for folks to visit sites, see archaeologists at work in the field and in the lab, and to learn more about archaeology and the its importance! The Armstrong-Rogers site is an amazing look at an early historic domestic site and will shed light on the people that lived in this area. What a wonderful opportunity; so, bring your family, friends, students, scouts and anyone else interested in learning more about this great field and wonderful site, and come on out! Archaeology is going on in your neighborhood!
Here is a link to learn more about National Archaeology Day at the Armstrong Rogers Site
Here is a ling to learn more about the Armstrong Rogers Site
On September 24, 2012, the first Working Group Meeting of the Route 26 Project was held at the South Costal Library in Bethany Beach, Delaware. During this first working group an explanation of the project was given to members by the design team. The attached Power Point was presented to explain the project in detail.
The main event this week at the Bird-Houston site was well digging day, we used a backhoe to help us dig deeper into our wells than we had been able to dig by hand. We have three wells on the site, and we used a different approach for each. Of the two wells on the older half of the site, one was nearly sterile. We dug it to the bottom with a backhoe, and it was sterile all the way down. It was about 9 feet deep. The other well in this part of the site was our best feature, full of artifacts dating to around 1820. We had dug this by hand to a depth of about 4 feet. We used the backhoe to widen the hole so hand excavation could continue safely. The well continued to produce numerous artifacts, including these sherds of a creamware chamber pot.
When we tested the well in the newer part of the site, dating to around 1830 to 1920, we hit a solid layer of barbed wire about 4 feet down that we couldn’t dig through with a shovel. So the first thing we did with the backhoe was to dig down to that level and remove the barbed wire. The hole was widened at that depth to allow access, and the well was cleaned off and photographed. We had intended to hand excavate a sample of the well fill below that depth. However, the soil exposed at that depth was blue-gray clay, extremely dense and apparently sterile. So the backhoe was used to dig deeper. The idea was to dig only the east half of the well mechanically, exposing the profile; however, the exposed profile immediately began to collapse. The collapse exposed the remains of the well’s brick lining. The top of the brick section in the picture is about 6 feet below the stripped surface. The fill below this depth consisted mainly of brick from the lining, collapsed into the hole, with numerous nails but few other artifacts. The well seems to have had a fairly complex structure. As the bricks shown in the photo collapsed into the well, it was revealed that there was a layer of boards behind them, as if the well shaft had been lined with wood and then the brick ring built inside it. At the very bottom of the well was a massive wooden ring; the brick must have been sitting on this ring. The ring was about 9.5 feet below the stripped surface. It was an exciting day: three wells, each different from the other, and a lesson in the different techniques used in Delaware to dig and shore up wells.