Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Update - Completing the Square / Underwater Features

We were excited to discover what we think is the fourth corner of one of our proposed structures at Area A. Wherever an archaeologist works, it is important to know the sorts of things to look for in the ground so that he or she knows an architectural feature when she sees it. The footprint of any given structure is dependent on the region where the remains are found, so understanding local building traditions and soil composition are imperatives before digging begins so that we know what to look for. In soft sandy soil like at Arcadia, even housing associated with individuals of low socioeconomic status needed to have piers or supports that wouldn't rot when exposed to the comparatively high acidity of sandy soil. While ironstone has survived underground relatively intact over the years, the brick tends to get crushed under the pressure and root action, leaving the fragments behind in a tightly packed cluster. We've been careful to leave eposed bricks in situ until we could verify whether or not they are from a scatter or are in fact a destroyed pier.

Finding and identifying architectural features can sometimes lead to frustrating false alarms. One of our other units found a dark stain in the ground that appeared to be a posthole at first, but as they began excavating it separately, they saw that they had actually found a rodent burrow. These anomalies are nevertheless documented in case their presence could explain some of other part of what we are seeing in any given provenience.

Our field school's maritime component has been hard at work every day mapping Pond Creek and associated mill features. They have found sunken timbers, pieces of ironstone supports, and even square-cut channels in the side of the bank that suggest the presence of roads and bridges. They have also mapped the opening in the dam through which water traveled on its way to the textile mill via the "head-race," a part of a mill that carried the water from where it was being stored to where its kinetic energy would be best used to operate milling equipment. Since the water's strength comes from its height rather than the speed of the flow itself, it was only necessary to cut channels that descended a few inches every hundred feet. Because of the soft soil conditions in the area, wooden and ironstone linings and supports remain in the ground from where they were used to help protect the earthworks from erosion. Stay tuned for detailed underwater photographs and maps as they come in!

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