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US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Written on: January 27th, 2014 in Archaeology Updates US301

Alternative Mitigation of the Polk Tenant Site (7NC-F-111)

We have collected data from more than 50 well features excavated in Delaware, and this month at Versar we’re blogging about the beginnings of our data analysis. We have collected dozens of different attributes (such as depth and lining material), and our task now is to look for patterns among those attributes across time and place. At this stage, there are a couple of observations we can make about the materials used to line wells.

The earliest wells in our sample were all lined with wood until the second quarter of the 18th century. Most of these early wells were rectangular wood plank wells, though there is a wood plank well with a barrel at the bottom dating from probably the first quarter of the 18th century. Barrel-only wells appear in the sample by the third quarter of the 18th century, and seem to persist until the third quarter of the 19th century.  Masonry well linings appear later, and continue through the latest wells included in the study. The first brick well in the sample appears to date from the second quarter of the 18th century, while the first stone-lined wells date from the last quarter of the 18th century.

well material by date

well material by date

This makes some intuitive sense, and mirrors patterns in construction materials used for other structures. Brick makers and bricks might not have been widely available in the earliest years of European settlement, while wood would have been abundant. Barrels might also have been common, and an easy expedient for lining a shallow well, compared to the level of effort that would have been needed to line a well with brick or stone. All one needed to do was to remove the top and bottom of the barrel, and lower it into the hole dug for the well shaft. Since most wells excavated in Delaware are quite shallow, one could line a well with as few as three barrels.

Wells Map

Wells Map