Time to draw some stratigraphy! This week in the field, we were yet again blessed with outstanding weather that allowed us to stay warm and keep the trenches well lit for our drawing purposes. We originally intended to work for half the period then wash more artifacts from our dig but the light allowed us to work for the entire time! I was in trench 1 with both Lucas and Emma, and we had the difficult task of drawing the stratigraphy of our somewhat confusing cross section.
Essentially, a stratigraphy drawing is an illustration of the differences in soil that accumulate over time. As time passes, soil changes or new sediment is introduced, leaving layers of differing content. These differences can range from changes in color, texture, or material found, to more complex indicators like pollen or chemical molecules that might need the assistance of devices. We can do a lot with this stratigraphic data, but primarily it is hoped that we can use it to both date what we found within the layers and also make inferences to what might have been happening during that period of time.
Unlike Trench 2, we were tasked with a complicated, but interesting, soil change matrix. [Editor’s note: a friendly rivalry has developed between the trenches. All assertions herein are the author’s own.] Trench 2 followed the textbook example of appearing like a seven layer cake, with each soil layer being relatively flat and in order. Trench 1’s stratigraphy was less orderly, with rock inclusions and rogue layers abounding throughout.
We started off by first looking at the wall of the trench we were about to draw and picking out the important layers that needed to be rendered on our graphing paper. After deciding on what layers to draw, we used our trowel to mark the layers themselves. After this, we lined up the tape measure along the side of the wall and corresponded each 10 centimeters along the wall to a point along the marked line. All in all, we had 20 points along the 2 meter long wall for each layer. It was actually surprisingly tiring! We had to squat in the trench without hurting the wall while also keeping the measurements accurate. Once we got to the rock inclusions and the strange layer in the middle, we certainly were feeling exhausted!
After corresponding each point along its respective layer, 6 in total, we looked at our drawing, and I realized how I was both impressed by how different the soil can be from layer to layer and also frustrated because this illustration served as a reminder that our trench was difficult to dig in for a reason! I soon came to realize though that this frustration I was feeling was somewhat unwarranted. Of corse we were not able to dig as much as we might have wanted to keep our data as pure as possible, but what was told to me multiple times over the corse of the dig finally started to resonate. These complicate layers have their own stories to tell, and that in itself is exciting! Sure, the ceramic sherds and metal pieces have their place in our digs, but they should not necessarily play a bigger role in our discussions just because they can be washed and held in our hands! I am really interested to see what we can gather from this soil, because to the untrained eye, it might be just dirt, but something tells me that we are going to find out a lot more about earth underneath our feet.Axel Getz ’18
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.
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.
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!
Roskams, Steve. Excavation. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2001. 32-33. Print.
Ned Willig ’16
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.
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.
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!
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.Emma Byrne ’17
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.
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.
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.
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
On a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning, our class and fellow archaeologist students from the graduate school gathered for Community Archeology Day! With the extra hands, we were excited to make a good deal of progress in both of our trenches. Both trenches were working on context two, and we were able to identify a similar sienna-colored, sandy soil change in each trench, that would begin context three. It was very interesting to talk to the graduate students about our project and their projects and interests. We also learned a lot about their digging techniques and strategies while working in the trenches with them.
This weekend was family weekend for both Brown and the Moses Brown school, so we had quite a few families stop by to check out what we were doing and see some of our finds. We all took turns describing our project and our goals to the visitors, and showing them some of our finds. Some of the visitors even got down in the trenches with us to help dig!
We uncovered a few exciting artifacts during our dig. Trench 1 noticed a fair bit of coal and charcoal inclusions while digging. In trench 2, we found about 6 nails primarily in the middle to east side of the trench. We also found quite a bit of slate in this part of the trench. Additionally, we found a piece of a pipe stem, and judging by size of the hole through the stem, we deduced that it was from the 19th century – right around the time period our house was first inhabited! We also found a clay marble, which is pictured below next to a modern day marble that one of our visitors happened to have in his pocket!
It was awesome to have so many people from the archeology department to come work with us on Community Archeology Day. Talking to our visitors and fellow archeologists about our project got everyone really excited and more invested. It was also great to make a lot of progress in our trenches and to have some neat artifacts to show for it! I am looking forward to see what we find next, especially as we approach context 3 and 4! I am having a lot of fun working together with my class mates, and we are all learning so much.Julia Schoenewald’17
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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:
Frank Goodman ’16
In trench 5, we cleared out context 1 (the topsoil) entirely this week! It was quite a job – lots of sweeping. The yellowish hard clay described last week spanned all of the trench, and clearing off the soil thoroughly enough that we could see it everywhere took a good portion of last week’s excavation and all of this week’s. Trench 6 has also been coming down onto the clay in places, but owing in some part to the absolutely absurd amount of roots over there, it’s taken them longer to clear it thoroughly.
This week was a bit frustrating – it feels like we’re waiting to find something interesting, the few scattered nifty artifacts notwithstanding. Starting with tomorrow’s excavation, I’m hopeful that trench 5 will start to encounter evidence of the path to the President’s House. This being my first excavation, I’m not quite sure what to look for, but the notion of uncovering something that was placed there deliberately, instead of just small objects accidentally lost on the grass is really exciting!
I’m starting to appreciate the level of detail in the Roskams text we’ve been reading [Excavation, by Steve Roskams]. I was surprised at how easy it is to get frustrated with the work when we haven’t agreed on an at least somewhat-systematic method of excavation. I found that sweeping all the dirt back from one side of the trench towards the other was most effective, as it’s more efficient to pick up large amounts of dirt in the dustpans at a time. But if someone else was trying to excavate around a large rock, or was troweling more carefully to try to find the boundary between contexts in a certain spot, my technique just ended up getting in their way. Once Catie [our TA] jumped in and gave some suggestions about the right order in which to do things, it got a lot easier.Harpo Jaeger ‘14.5