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Tag: artifacts

2016 field update

Moses Brown Week 5, 10/24/16 
Danielle Morshead
Today is our fifth week digging on the Moses Brown site. There are 6 of us in the class, which is titled “Archaeology of College Hill.” We started out our first couple digs learning to use trowels and picks, which we use to work our way through the dirt. Trowels are better for gently scraping away at a layer, while picks are useful when a large amount of dirt needs to be moved in a short amount of time. We use dust pans to scoop up the dirt into buckets. We then “screen” the dirt by shaking it over a wire grate, which separates out the dirt from the solid objects (mostly rocks, sticks, and dirt clots). This way, we won’t miss any artifacts that may have been scooped up among the dirt piles.
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 The site we are excavating is on the Moses Brown school’s campus. It is located on the Northeast corner of the intersection at Lloyd ave and Hope street. We know that there was a house on the property that existed from 1885 until about 1940. We want to find out more about the people who lived there and we hope to do so by uncovering their past via artifacts and features that they may have left behind.
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Our goal for today’s dig was to “move a lot of dirt.” We are trying to get through context 2, which is at a depth of roughly 10cm to 20cm. Context one was just below the topsoil, from 0cm to 10cm. We determine the change in context either from the change in depth from decimeter to decimeter or else if there is a change in soil characteristics. We judge the soil characteristics by the amount of rocks, the color, and the consistency. We determine the color of the soil using the Munsell Soil Color Chart, while we determine the soil type by wetting it and testing its content for clay, loam, and sand. We also track our progress through the different contexts by measuring the depth of the pit in comparison to a fixed point using a line level. The pit I was working on today, MB4 (Moses Brown 4), went down to roughly 20cm-24cm.
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Today some of the artifacts and objects of significance we uncovered included a few brick pieces, lots of slate, a piece of vessel glass, window glass, some metal fragments, and coal. In the MB3 pit, there are lots of large stones that may be paving stones from the old house. In the past couple weeks we have found a pipe stem, a piece of bone, a few ceramic sherds, glass shards, many nail and metal fragments, and lots of modern refuse including a spider man action figure head, wrappers, and styrofoam.
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By the end of today’s dig we are nearing the end of context 2, and potentially will open context 3 next week. We noticed some soil color changes in MB3, which suggests we are reaching a new layer of soil. Stay updated to see what happens next!
Danielle Morshead

The Final Week of Digging

This week was our last week digging. Spirits were high and the weather was warm, but everyone was sad for digging to end. Our final passes did not yield any signs of house structures, although there was plenty of evidence for life at the corner of Lloyd and Hope. Because it was the last day, everyone was especially focused at efficiently (and correctly) moving a lot of soil in order to see what was below.

Our digs thus far did not reveal any visible evidence of house structures, so rather than excavate the entire trench we dug sondages in order to go deeper. Sondages are narrow deep trenches within the larger used to evaluate site stratigraphy deeper in the trench. Our sondages were 50 cm wide and went lengthwise north to south in the trenches. The sondages didn’t reveal any new stratigraphic units in the soils. In MB 2, the soil were slightly darker with depth, but were likely part of the same context. MB #1 had a large number of large rocks concentrated in their sondage, which could be archaeologically significant and indicate either a wall or backfill. As it goes with discoveries made on the last day, we may never know.

Axel and Maggie working in MB #1. The concentration of rocks in the MB#1 sondage is seen here

Axel and Maggie working in MB #1. The concentration of rocks in the MB#1 sondage is seen here

Despite no changes in stratigraphy, we did find multiple artifacts in MB #2. These included multiple pieces of white ceramics, as well as glass, slag, and a rusty nail! A lot of the ceramic pieces were small enough to go straight through the sieve, meaning some pieces were probably missed in our excavations. We also must consider the processes that created such intensely worn ceramics. Questions like this are an essential component of archaeological analysis, and were discussed in class. In his book, Excavation, Steve Roskams states that total excavation of a site is impossible, and the best way to fully understand and study a site is through interdisciplinary archaeological study. For our site, I think soil micromorphology has a lot of potential to show us interesting changes in the soils with depth.

 

Lucas and Julia were excited to find artifacts while sieving!

Lucas and Julia were excited to find artifacts while sieving!

Daylight-savings time meant we finished under the light of a nearby streetlamp. Everyone was sad for the digging to come to an end. This was an awesome experience for learning field archaeology methods. All the wonderful members of the class (instructors especially!) made the dig a positive educational experience.

We will return to the trenches to finalize our stratigraphic sketches of the site and fill in the trenches, but next week we start in the lab and will more closely examine the artifacts we collected. What will they show? Check back soon to find out!

Sources:

Roskams, Steve. Excavation. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2001. 32-33. Print.

 

Ned Willig ’16

Week 5 Excavations

The fifth week of our excavation brought beautiful weather: sunny and 54 degrees Fahrenheit. We tried to take advantage of the sun, as the following week brought Daylight Savings Time and consequently darkness for the second half of our class. It was also our second-to-last excavation day so we wanted to be as productive as possible.

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L to R: Axel, Lucas and Maggie diligently sifting soil from Trench 1

I was digging in Trench 2 this week with Julia, Ned and Charlotte. Since the week before Trench 2 had closed Context 2, we decided to get as close to closing Context 3 by the end of the session as possible. Since Trench 1 found a soil change when they began digging Context 3, we decided to all begin by digging on the northern side of the trench and proceed with caution. Unless we found a soil change around ten centimeters below the top of Context 3, we would define Context 3 as an arbitrary layer, used for locating our artifact finds stratigraphically.

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L to R: Emma, Andy, Julia and Char taking notes and discussing how to proceed in Trench 2

It was cramped having four people digging on the same side of the trench, but we pretty quickly realized we were not finding the same soil change that was occurring in Trench 1. As a result, we defined Context 3 as an arbitrary layer and continued to remove soil as quickly as possible while maintaining a watchful eye for potential finds. As we dug, we noticed many small rocks and a few large rocks, though they did not appear to have any structural significance. Still, we dug around the larger ones carefully and did not remove them unless they were naturally dislodged from the soil as we dug deeper. We also found one piece of ceramic!

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Ned keeping a careful watch over Trench 2

The soil in Context 3 was mainly sandy loam, with some gray clay-like inclusions and darker soil in areas. By the end of the session we still could not find a clear soil change, so we decided to level the floor of the trench as much as possible, and take an “in progress” closing picture, in case we decided to continue Context 3 at the next session. It was definitely sad knowing it would be our last full digging session, but I am excited to process our finds and try to interpret our results in the lab.

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Closing picture for Context 3, Trench 2

Emma Byrne ’17

Week 4 Excavations

After an exciting Family Weekend at Brown University, with parents, children, and curious people paying us visits on the Moses Brown excavation site of The Archaeology of College Hill, we are back at it, excavating trenches one and two, hoping to discover yet more artifacts and meaningful finds.
Family Weekend, if anything, has been the occasion to move forward drastically in the excavation of our two trenches—leading to trench 2 starting the digging up of context 3, and trench 1 retracing the delineations between context 3 and 4.

L to R: Axel, Maggie, and Lucas getting to work in Trench 1

L to R: Axel, Maggie, and Lucas aren’t put off by having to navigate the messy stratigraphy!

Trench 1 is indeed facing a peculiar stratification structure, with context 3 (representing the clear, sandy beige soil change) not spreading across the whole surface of the trench. The soil change seems to disappear under a thin layer of beige sand on the west face of the trench. While the original soil change goes deep in the other faces, the north-western face creates a junction between the clear brown soil change and a darker, sensibly moister soil very similar, if not identical, to context 1. Our incentive is, then, to excavate context 4 in order to retrieve another soil change—one that could be connected to the soil of context 3.

This is exactly what we found; just about ten centimeters under the level of context 3 lays another soil change. This new soil change spreads all over the now-excavated northwestern face of the trench. Separated by a clear line, the deeper soil is darker than that of context 3. It is, however, a clear change in color and texture that contrasts with the soil of context 1, bearing more resemblance to the sandy beige color and texture of context 3’s soil.

Our TA Eve lends an enthusiastic hand with the sifting!

Our TA Eve lends an enthusiastic hand with the sifting!

Trench 2, although not confronted with further soil changes, kept excavating context 3, and discovered more ceramics and pottery. After a growing list of artifacts (including nails and pipe pieces), trench 2 reaffirmed a high density of artifacts, which contrasts with the fewer finds in trench 1.

L to R: Emma, Julia, Char, and Ned are hard at work in Trench 2 and excited about all those artifacts

L to R: Emma, Julia, Char, and Ned are hard at work in Trench 2 and excited about all those artifacts

Despite the weather getting sensibly colder with October coming to an end, excitement among the students of the Archaeology of College Hill only intensifies, as bonds between our small team get stronger.

Lucas Troadec ’18

Week 3: Ceramics Begin to Appear

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A large piece of pottery from Trench 2 that may have been part of a vessel or a component of the architecture. Pencil for scale.


This past Monday marked the third week of excavation at the Moses Brown site, and we are all feeling much more confident in our ability to utilize our tools. This week, the soil was very moist because of the large amounts of rain that we received over the weekend, which made digging much easier in both trenches. At the end of the second week, both trenches were able to close context 1, so this week was very exciting as we moved on to context 2. In trench 2, there was a very dramatic soil change in the northwest corner, which does not seem to match the soil at thislevel in the rest of the trench. Here, the dark-brown, silty clay began to change into a beige, sandy soil. We are not exactly sure what this soil change might be, but we hypothesize that it might be a part of where the foundation of the house was demolished and then filled. However, we will not know more about this until we can dig further.

 

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Sherds from a transfer printed vessel in Trench 2. Pencil for scale.

This week was very interesting in terms of artifacts! This week we were able to recover large pieces of glass from both trenches, as well as a large amount of coal from trench 1. In trench 2, we found a large piece of ceramic, which looks like it may have been a piece of a brick from the facade of the house or a piece of pottery (see left). In trench 2, we also recovered some pieces of what looks like ceramic dining-wear, some of which has a blue pattern printed on it (see right) and some of which is all-white (see below left). These new finds are very encouraging, and they indicate that we are digging in the right location.

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All-white sherd of possible dining ware from Trench 2

So far, I am thrilled to be participating in this course. It is such a cool hands-on experience that I really have never had the opportunity to partake in. Finding artifacts is one of the most amazing sensation, not only finding the artifact but connecting that to a real family that actually lived in this site almost 200 years ago. It is a uniquely thrilling experience, and I literally cannot wait to get back into the trenches, though my arms are still sore!

 

Maggie Gray ’17

Closing Day Excavations

After 7 days of excavation, Monday November 3rd marked our last day excavating on the Quiet Green this semester. Since we had just one last day to answer lingering questions, we approached both trenches with specific goals and used string to portion off areas of the trenches on which to focus our excavating efforts. With daylight savings time having ended the day before, we started an hour earlier than usual, but the setting sun acted as a reminder throughout excavation of how little time we had left!

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Isobel and Frank working around our feature (and the water pipe!) in trench 5

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The final photo of our complete work in trench 5, with the closing day’s sondage (and our feature) visible at the top

The week before, Frank came across a cluster of rocks extending from the middle of the Western section of trench 5 about 60 centimeters into the center of the trench. Our main goal for the week in trench 5 was to determine whether the feature was a surface or whether it extended further down into the ground and was part of a wall or a foundation instead. We started off by running a piece of string from the North section of the trench to the South section and decided to dig deeper only on the Western side of this divide, which contained the feature. We dug about 10 centimeters down on both sides of the feature and found very little evidence of any artifacts. After clearing some of the dirt around the feature, we realized we were able to insert a trowel directly into the dirt below the feature, suggesting the feature is a surface. With a better idea about the nature of the feature, and a suspicion that the dirt surrounding it was natural deposit due to the lack of any artifacts, we ended our excavation in trench 5. We took final closing photos and measurements of the trench and Catie and Andy taught us how to measure and draw the stratigraphy of the Western section.

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Niyo, Makana, and Raff working on the sondage in trench 6 to reveal more stratigraphy

In trench 6, our goals for the final day were less clear, as has been the case throughout excavation. We worked on clearing up the Western section so that we would be able to draw the stratigraphy and we opened up a sondage along the same side to try to better understand the relationship between the gravel-based context 3 and the yellow clay context 5 beneath it. Immediately after opening the sondage, we found three separate areas, stacked North to South. The middle one of these sections was more compact than the other two, so we aimed to first take out the two areas on the edges, then finding that these sections were actually lying on top of the middle of the three sections. Overall, these last excavations suggested that the gravel layer in trench 6 probably does not run across the entire trench in the way it did in trench 5, though hopefully everything will become a bit more clear when we go back to finish up drawings. Things have never been simple in trench 6!

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The final closing photo of trench 6

It was bittersweet finishing the excavations. We are excited to continue onto the carriage house this coming week to analyze the artifacts we found and hopefully piece together a more complete picture of what is going on in our two trenches, but it is strange that our relatively short time in the trenches is closed for the semester     and that we have now obtained all of the information that we will from the dirt!

 

Isobel Heck ’16

Family Weekend–Excavations

On Saturday, October 25, the class held a special day of excavation to coincide with Brown University’s Family Weekend and the AIA Narragansett Society’s Community Archaeology Day. We invited students, families, and members of the community to stop by, learn about archaeology, and excavate with us. Nearly every person strolling through the Quiet Green, enjoying the warm, sunny weather, stopped by the excavations to investigate — often bringing budding archaeologists to assist in the excavation!

 

Niyo helping two future archaeologists excavate in QG5

Niyo helping two future archaeologists excavate in QG5

During our last excavations, we uncovered a plastic irrigation pipe spanning the length of QG5 (seen in the above photograph). We received word from the Department of Facilities Management that the irrigation channel is inactive and that we could proceed with excavating beneath it. We finished removing the dirt context around the irrigation pipe until we found a uniform layer of gravel, which reminded us of the gravel cut we found in QG6 previously. With diligent work on behalf of the class and numerous helpers, we managed to remove the layer of gravel, approximately 7cm in height, entirely. Beneath the gravel was a reddish clay context, which we hypothesized might be sterile due to its similar appearance to the sterile context found at the end of last year’s excavations.

 

Raff and myself instructing another future archaeologist in QG6

Raff and myself instructing another future archaeologist in QG6

On our previous  excavation day, we removed a gravel cut running down the center of QG6 from the North scarp. However, the previous week’s rain uncovered more gravel north of the already excavated cut. We first worked on removing the remaining gravel, then we encountered a new yellowy clay context. We waited on excavating this context, because we still had soil from the previous context remaining around the recently excavated cut.Both QG5 and QG6 turned up ceramic, glass, brick, asphalt, and metal artifacts — including a beautiful piece of blue glass with visible printing from QG5. I’m looking forward to washing our ceramics and learning more about our artifacts in the Carriage House after the two remaining excavation days.

I enjoyed the excavations and festivities today not only because we had an amazing group of archaeologists and visitors, but also because it marks my one year anniversary with archaeology. Participating in the excavations during last year’s Family Weekend was my first hands-on experience with archaeology. I found my first artifact on this day: a piece of brick. Who knew I would find so many more pieces of brick this year? As part of a bet, I took an archaeology course the following semester. One year later, I’m taking my third archaeology course and have just declared an additional concentration in archaeology. I hope that today’s events end up producing even more archaeologists!

 

Here are some more photos from the day:

 

Andy and Raff planning out our day for the ever-complex trench, QG6

Andy and Raff planning out our day for the ever-complex trench, QG6

Assyriologist Willis getting in on the archaeology

Assyriologist Willis getting in on the archaeology

Isobel gives her sister some  excavation tips

Isobel gives her sister some excavation tips

All hands on deck for rock removal

All hands on deck for rock removal

Excavators on display

We had a constant stream of visitors–a great opportunity to talk with community members and visitors alike about our project

 

Frank Goodman ’16

Week 6 – Excavations

 Today was our last day excavating, and it was difficult to motivate ourselves considering it was so cold and, thanks to the Daylight Savings Time shift, sunset had been moved to the middle of our class time. Our phones told us it was only forty degrees Fahrenheit when we started the afternoon, and by the time we left it was probably at freezing—everyone was ready to call it a day. Continue reading