Friday, May 21, 2010

Posted by Molly Russell, graduate student from the University of Maryland, Department of Anthropology:

What a day! What a week! A lot has been going on around here at the Indian Queen Tavern. Dirt is piled high all around the site – dirt that has been chock full of interesting information!

Mike and I have been digging for the past three days in Trench 3, Unit 5. Let me tell you, this is one confusing unit. Yesterday we thought we had evidence of two different post holes from the 18th century. Post holes are formed when a small hole is dug, a wooden post is placed in the hole, and the wooden post rots to leave a dark stain in the soil. So when an archaeologist comes across dark circles in the soil, post-holes seem like a likely explanation. However, the farther down we dug the less they looked like post holes because the dark soil veered off in a different direction the deeper we went. It seemed as if the investigation of these post holes would not be an open-and-shut case – that would have made our day too easy! Mike was digging one of these post holes out and found ceramics dating back to the 19th century. That could possibly help explain the mystery of the amorphous post hole. These 19th century artifacts may have been part of a later intrusion that cut into the initial 18th century post hole. Only time (and more digging!) will tell if this theory is correct.

In our unit we also found some interesting artifacts. There were a few sherds of some beautifully decorated blue and white Chinese porcelain dating back to the mid 18th century. Mike, however, truly had the find of the day. He had been digging through a lot of mud when pulled out a mysterious brass object. Modern technology (i.e. a cell phone with the internet) confirmed that this object was most likely a cask-tap from the 18th century. Talk about an artifact that truly speaks of the site’s tavern past!

Jenna and Jen opened up a new unit today. So far they are finding a lot of building materials, glass, and ceramic that date back to the late 19th and 20th century. They have been working through the heat to learn more about the information that these artifacts and the soil contain.

Nicole is working in a mucky mess! Her’s is the unit farthest west in the first trench. So far you can see a brick footing for a former outbuilding, but the high water table is making it difficult to dig through the mud and water.

Lisa, in the unit right next to Nicole’s, has found evidence of some post holes (remember those?). As I am typing this, though, the dug out holes resemble small ponds rather than features. Water has interfered yet again!

The soil in Frank and Janet’s unit has not been dug down as far as Lisa and Nicole’s unit, so a lot of their artifacts date back to the mid-18th century. They too have some post holes, and they too have encountered water during their excavation. Maybe next week we’ll all have some drier conditions.

Rick has continued to take up the brick layers that line his unit. We are hoping that once he is able to get down past these we will be able to gather some useful information about the transformation of the site over the past few centuries.
Finally, we would like to thank all of the volunteers who have been working hard over the past few days! They have been digging, screening soil, and generally getting very dirty! They have been a huge help, and we are all very appreciative of their work.

Thanks for checking in, and check back next week to see what we’re doing over here in Bladensburg.

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