Excavation continued on the Quiet Green on Monday, September 30th. We had another spectacularly beautiful day and made a lot of progress.

Quiet Green Trench 3 (QG3), the more uphill and eastern of the two, had a mixed sort of day. We continued to find a great deal of material, but the soil composition remained the same. While artifacts are the most recognizable products in archaeology, appearing from museums to movies as the coveted goal of an excavation, the soil itself can tell us as much, if not more, about the site, its structures, and use. The consistency of QG3’s soil leads us to believe it is all part of a single layer, known in archaeological terms as a context. Changes in context, such as differences in soil composition/color/texture, show us changes in activities over time. We started this week with pick axes instead of trowels, because the soil is still a hard-packed top layer and we hope that once we move through it we will begin to find more variation in the soil that indicates the remains of different materials and activities in the trench.

Since we were working with picks instead of trowels, we moved much more earth, and found more artifacts, than last week.

Pick axe action in trench QG3

Pick axe action in trench QG3

The sifting team, shaking the soil through a mesh screen, stayed busy with a backlog of 5-gallon buckets to work through all day. Almost all of our finds came from the sifting process, as picking rapidly loosens the soil and then it is scooped out of the trench immediately. We found all types of objects including many pieces of brick, thick green glass from a bottle, and several nails. My favorite finds were a number of more delicate ceramic sherds that may have come from the same piece, as they all had a cream background with a medium brown somewhat floral patterning, and one larger piece even included the tops of several buildings.

Ceramic sherds from QG3.

Ceramic sherds from QG3.

Even after clearing almost 10 cm of earth, QG3 is still in the same context, Context 2 (the soil just below the turf). We will continue with the picks next week and hope to see a change in soil composition soon.

The other half of the class continued to excavate Quiet Green trench 4 (QG4). This is the westernmost of the two trenches currently being excavated, and corresponds to the area where the combination of historical research and geophysical survey indicated a possible path might be found. At the end of the first day of excavation (Sep. 21), traces of orange-tinted sediments were appearing in Context 2 (the soil immediately under the grass) on the western end of QG4. The aim for the day, then, was to remove Context 2 sediment until the trench reached a uniform level. We wanted to excavate down to the next context, which means digging until traces of orange sediment were visible throughout the entire trench.

Excavators used both a small pick and trowels to excavate the soil on the east half. When screened, these sediments yielded few finds – an occasional ceramic sherd and one rusted nail, along with small shattered pieces of glass, but predominantly broken brick. It should be noted that this scarcity of finds comes in stark contrast to the sifted sediments of the adjacent trench, Quiet Green 3 (QG3), which contained abundant ceramics, nails, and even a large (~15 cm long) brick fragment.

At the end of the day’s excavation, QG4 has been excavated down to a relatively uniform depth, though still lower on the western side. There was a considerable visual distinction between sediments on the western and eastern sides of QG4, although this is unquestionably due in part the moisture retention (and thus apparent darkness) of the more-recently excavated sediments. Nevertheless, the difference in soil composition should not be downplayed. The lighter colored sediments with orange inclusions on the western side of QG4 constitute a new context (Context 3), and further excavation will reveal whether Context 3 should indeed be identified as the path feature preliminarily identified by ground penetrating radar (GPR) in the 2012 season.

Notice the lighter soil on the right side of the trench -- the first trace of a lost path to the President’s House?

Notice the lighter soil on the right side of the trench — the first trace of a lost path to the President’s House?

While it is important not to draw conclusions too hastily from preliminary excavation results, the disparity between artifact finds in QG3 and QG4 is in line with the hypothesis that QG3 overlies the President’s House (a richer environment for highly concentrated artifact deposition), whereas QG4 overlies a historic path leading to the President’s House (presumably yielding sediment changes/slab lining, and fewer domestic/structural artifacts). Additionally, as mentioned above, the significant change in soil composition in the western half of QG4 in precisely the area indicated by GPR to contain a historic path is encouraging.

From QG3: Catherine Teitz
From QG4: Rob Weiner