As we move into this final week of digging, we are offered the rare opportunity in this area of excavation to be able to dig an untouched portion of the 18th-century ground surface. Since we completed the investigation of the three anomalies we set out to look at this season, we have moved on to a different aspect of the site. The ten feet long corridor that was the location of last year’s “L”-shaped Block 2 excavation is believed to be the location of a historic fenceline that was still standing during the 1970′s excavation. In fact, there have been several different fence lines present on this landscape since the encampment. These fence lines can been seen as evidenced in this Excavation Unit from the 2009 field season:
Post holes are another type of feature archaeologists can use to identify cultural occupation. Post holes generally consist of two components, the post hole itself and the post mold. The post hole represents exactly what it sounds like, the hold that was dug to put the post in the ground. The Post mold is the remain of the post in one form or another. In the above picture, you can see two different examples of a post mold; one where the post has been pulled and an open void was left in place and one where the post most likely rotted in place or was filled back in. Judging by the make-up of these post holes, they each represent a different fence line installation.
With the presence of one of these fence lines in the ’70s, archaeologists were not able to place excavation units where the fence line stood. As a result, this has left us with a relatively untouched section of the site. When we excavate these areas of the site, we encounter three distinct layers.
The first two layers represent different fill episodes, most likely related to the landscaping of the area around the Headquarters building. What lies below those two fill layers however represents the intact cultural occupation of the landscape.
Layer III represents the ground surface that George Washington would have walked on during the encampment period. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this layer has proved to be the most artifact rich layer of the entire three years of excavation. What we see represented in this layer is evidence of what is called, “Broadcast yard scatter.” In addition to disposing trash in subterranean pits, it was also common in past to just walk out the back door and cast your refuse out into the yard. Since we are located behind the building, we are located exactly where we would expect to find this type of refuse disposal. If we had a larger area of intact context, it would actually be possible to map a fan like pattern of refuse from the rear portals of the building. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the site this is not possible.
With this being the final week of excavation for this field season, we will soon be moving into the laboratory phase of the project. This involves the cleaning, cataloging, and analysis of all the artifacts recovered from this year’s field season. Now that excavation is wrapping up, we will start to show you some of the wide variety of interesting things we have been finding during the excavation this year. Stay tuned as we update you on all of the things that “belong in a museum.”