Monday, February 10, 2014

We're Back for the 2014 Summer Field Season!

Simpson House ca. late 19th century
After taking last summer off, we are excited to get back in the field for summer 2014 and continue our research at the Simpson Lot! This lot was donated by descendants of Ezekiel Simpson and included a three-story Louisiana-style mansion, a series of slave domiciles, and other structures and features from the 19th and early 20th centuries such as a well, cistern, and a variety of associated outbuildings. The mansion is unique for this geographical area because it had a partial basement that included a kitchen, possible slave quarter, and other associated rooms.

Southeast corner pier of slave cabin excavated in 2012
During the summer 2012 field season, a portion of the UWF terrestrial field school investigated the Simpson Lot through systematic survey, geophysical survey, and test units. The 2012 crew identified numerous features on the landscape including a brick structure composed of 8 piers, associated brick features, a possible privy, and a slave cabin structure.
Slave cabin on Simpson Lot

This summer we will continue our investigation of the Simpson Lot and the most important objective will be to uncover and document the architectural features and cultural material of the elite Simpson residence. Stay tuned!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Student Profiles

Stan Wakefield graduate high school in 1984 and joined the U.S. Navy the same year. After basic training he served onboard the U.S.S. Estocin FFG-15. He left active duty in 1988 and joined the reserve force. After 911, Stan was recalled to active duty at NAS Fallon NV as military police. After leaving the reserves in 2003, he moved to Gaeta, Italy for three years before moving back to the U.S. where he settled in Pensacola, FL. He finished his Associates Degree at PSC in 2011 and started at UWF in the Fall of 2011 working toward a degree in archaeology. Stan enjoyed every aspect of field work, from excavating to GPR and total station.

Zach Sternand is a junior from Fort Walton Beach, FL who is majoring in Biological Anthropology. He is most interested in paleoanthropology and hopes that learning the proper field and excavation techniques at the Arcadia Mill field school will extend to his future career. What he is best at and has improved the most on is mapping.

Aaryn is originally from Steamboat Springs, CO but now lives in Fort Pierce, FL. She is in her Junior year at UWF majoring in archaeology, with a specific interest in classical archaeology. Aaryn joined the Arcadia Mill field school to gain further knowledge of contemporary field methods, and due to her interest in the site area. Her favorite part of field school was completing plan and profile view maps of units.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Successful Access Archaeology Day!

This last Saturday those of us in the Arcadia Mill Field School held a site visitation day, and we had an excellent turnout! Of the 70 to 80 people who came to Arcadia that day, 34 visited the site and another 60 went to the visitors center and field lab. Pretty good considering that we were only able to give tours at the site for about two hours because noon rains forced the site to pretty much shut down.

If you missed this Saturday, this week will be our last week for excavation, and Friday the 20th is our final volunteer day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Arcadia Mill crew is winding down our field season, meticulously mapping, digging, and documenting surface and subterranean features throughout the site. So far, we have completed: forty-two 50cm x 50cm shovel tests; two 1m x 1m test units; and five 1m x 2m blocks. Our primary focus has been finding and exposing as many structural foundations as possible for Structure 1, the hypothesized slave cabin. Both 1m x 2m test units in the area have perfectly captured the southern corner piers of the cabin. 
The southeast corner pier of the slave cabin.

In addition to traditional excavation techniques, the archaeologists at Arcadia Mill have been using geophysical tools like soil resistivity and Ground Penetrating Radar. As archaeology is a destructive scientific process, these tools help to test our hypothesis without breaking ground. Next, we will process the raw data obtained through geophysical tests as we begin to solidify our theories about the Simpson Lot. 
Ramie Gougeon, Campus Survey PI, visited Arcadia
to teach students about soil resistivity

Many people in the 1800s spent little time indoors; hence, it is important to compare inside artifacts and features with those from outside. Men and women could cook, clean, socialize, clean tools, etc in their very own backyard. Test units have been placed inside and outside the cabin structure to compare soils, features, and artifacts. Together, these may help to answer questions about lifeways and foodsways at antebellum Arcadia Mill.
Key hole from the front yard of the slave cabin

Ardi the Archaeology dog, double checking our paperwork and maps.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Access Archaeology Day!

For those who cannot visit Arcadia Mill’s new excavation site during the workweek, the University of West Florida’s Arcadia Field School is going to be on site Saturday, July 14th, from 10:00 to 3:00.

As usual, tours will be offered at the dig site and volunteers will be able to sift the soil that is being excavated. Visitors should come to the Arcadia Visitor’s Center to be escorted to the dig site. Anyone who wishes to work outside must bring pants and close-toed shoes. A hat and sunscreen are also strongly recommended. Water will be provided on-site, but a water bottle is suggested and volunteers should bring their own lunch.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to work with artifacts in the indoor field lab and will be able to clean and sort artifacts recovered from the ongoing excavation. All ages are welcome to both the field school and field lab, but children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Also, be aware that if you cannot come on the 14th, Friday, July 20th will be the last opportunity to volunteer at the site.

The Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site is located at 5709 Mill Pond Ln., Milton, Fla. 32583.

For more information, please contact:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fun with Aaryn and Anna in Block 7!

It has been quite an exciting few weeks at the site for power team Aaryn and Anna.  After the discovery of brick foundations for structures 1 and 2 there was quite a lot of mapping to be done.  Detailed maps are kept of every unit opened and all the features we uncover.  This is important for the general documentation of the site, as well as future research once we have left the field.  Many of the structures at Arcadia were built on top of brick piers, and they are often some of the best preserved remnants of their buildings.  Aaryn and Anna worked hard to map some of the 8 piers found at structure 2 (the base of the old water tower/windmill), and several of the piers and fireplace left at structure 1 (probably one of the slave cabins).  These maps will be an integral part of our efforts to interpret and better understand the site.  As they will tell you, digging is definitely not the only aspect of archaeology.  Maps, paperwork, and taking geographic readings with our many instruments take up much of our time and energy.  The synthesis between all of these elements is what will teach us the most about the history of the residents of Arcadia Mill.

That being said, we opened and excavated two units over the last two weeks that have proved both interesting and challenging.  These units made up Block 7, and were located just to the north of our proposed slave cabin.  There were a total of four features within this 1mx2m block. Not too far below the surface Aaryn discovered a clay cap, which was bright orange and terribly compact.  This type of deposit might have been laid down to provide a stable surface for a structure, or to provide a sturdy cover over something under the ground.  Then, Anna recognized a dark stain surrounding the clay which had a large concentration of charred wood throughout it.  This was designated a midden, which was related to some kind of burning incident.  It became clearer as we excavated that the burning was structural, as most of an intact plank was discovered directly beneath it, with large iron nails and fasteners still evident throughout the burnt wood.  Beneath the plank was another midden, this one full of some interesting artifacts, including a chamber pot and a cow’s tooth.  To the girl’s chagrin, this deposit became extremely dark and quite smelly, which indicates that it was at one time a pit for the disposal of organic waste.  With the remains of a structure and a chamber pot located directly above it, one of our best guesses for this collection of features is that at one time this area was most likely used as a privy and pit for the disposal of trash and animal waste.  Finding out that they had been sitting in a toilet for two weeks was probably not the best news Aaryn and Anna ever received… but our knowledge of the site and its inhabitants has still been enhanced by these excavations and the wealth of information to come out of Block 7. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Puzzling Brick Feature

Field school students Kyle Feriend and Matt Slycord excavated a linear brick feature very close to the 8-pier water tower structure that we discovered three weeks ago. 

The 1x2 meter excavation of this feature provided many questions as to its use, with few clear answers.  As Kyle and Matt excavated, they noted that the bricks formed what appeared to be a flat linear direction that descended downward west from one unit into the next.  With both units open and their bricks fully exposed, the observer can easily see that the bricks slope downwards into a depression and then rise again.

Several viable interpretive options have been put forward, including the simplest explanation, that it was either a floor, path, or road.  If this was its function, why is it interrupted by a depression? One hypothesis is that there is an underlying septic system that the feature collapsed into.  Another hypothesis is that the depression is not of natural causes; rather the curved brick feature was itself part of a drainage or gutter system of some sort. The latter explanation assumes that the depression was an intentional component of this feature, which is consistent with the acknowledgement that the bricks are not extremely displaced and the depressions curvature is fairly undisturbed. 

Only preliminary interpretations are possible before more extensive excavations proceed in this section of the site, which is reserved for a future field season.  The hanging mystery of features such as this is common and serves as a good reminder to the students of the prioritizing and time constraints that archaeologists are often forced to work under.