Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 10: "Featuring" Julie

When people think of archaeology they automatically envision artifacts but, we find so much more than broken bits of glass and ceramics. Today, the Market Master’s House is only one of four 18th century buildings still standing in Bladensburg; however, over 100 years ago barns, offices, and houses stood all around this humble stone building. Indeed, these structures likely left behind traces of themselves and activities related to their function. Sometimes, we find stone foundations, brick lined outhouse holes, and trash middens. These remains are called features. The difference between a feature and an artifact is that you can’t take a feature into the lab, you have to photograph, map, and take notes before you bisect, dig, and remove it from it’s original context.

Over the last two weeks, we have found an amazing artifact assemblage that dates from the mid 18th through the mid 20th century. But, we have also found features in every unit. Some of the features are only subtle changes in soil color and texture. For example, we found the archaeological signature of a roof drip line in two of our units that suggests the 18th century Market Master’s House either had a roof that extended a few feet beyond the current roof edge or that another structure was nearby, perhaps a covered work area or porch. We also found a beautiful mid 18th century posthole and post mold behind the house in Test Unit 1 that indicates a nearby building. We opened up new excavation units this week and I am sure we will find more features, and of course, artifacts.

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