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US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Written on: June 25th, 2012 in Archaeology Updates US301

Despite baking heat we continue to expose and document archaeological features at the Elkins A site.  The material filling up the cellar hole is now largely removed.  There was a mass of bricks in the southern half of the hole, probably collapse from a chimney.  One nice find from here is an iron pintle: part of the hinge for a door. We think that the cellar hole was filled in all at one time, presumably when the house was abandoned sometime around 1780.  So far we have seen no sign of the house that stood over the cellar.  This is disappointing but not surprising.  Houses in 18th century Delaware were often log buildings that had little impact on the ground surface, and they were often dismantled and moved to new locations.  This may be the case here, but it is hard to be sure yet because we also know that quite a lot of soil (perhaps as much as 1.5 to 2 feet) has eroded away from here since the 18th century, taking some archaeological evidence with it.  We will be testing out different ideas as the dig goes on.

 Around the cellar hole areas and patches of dark soil containing animal bone fragments, and broken pottery and glass are showing up as we clean down the surfaces exposed by the machine.  These soil patches are lying in shallow depressions and are interpreted as “middens” or trash deposits that accumulated as the occupants of the site disposed of their trash and garbage around the yard.  Archaeologists love other people’s trash: it provides us with a whole range of information about past ways of life that might surprise the people who created it.  One of the techniques we will be employing on these trashy soils is flotation: we basically pass soil samples through water to separate small fragments of  light organic materials like seeds, plant fragments and even insect parts, from the heavier materials that may also include evidence of past human activity. Examples are fruit pits, small pieces of bone and shell, and fragments of artifacts like ceramics, glass and metal.
The Clarke boys, Dr. Burrow, and the operator try out some new equipment at the site!