Archaeology Update — Feature in Long Barrack Puzzles Archaeologists

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
November 5, 2019

Due to the raining days this week, most of the archaeological investigation that was conducted occurred within the historic structures. The Raba Kistner archaeology team completed additional excavations inside the southern room of the Long Barrack, which the historic architects requested.

The purpose was to further expose the foundation of the interior of the south wall of the structure, as well as to better understand the stones that had been encountered beneath the foundation. The archaeologists are trying to determine if the stones below the foundation are naturally occurring.

Ladder leading down to an excavation unit
Figure 1. Excavations in Unit 9 to reveal more of the base of the foundation. New excavation area is located in the left side of photo.

By the end of the week, excavations reached 70.8 inches at its deepest point, continuing to expose a sloping cascade of more limestone cobbles. It is possible that the bottom of the southern Long Barrack wall foundation has been located; however, the presence of the stones makes it hard to determine if the stones present are part of the foundation or an expansion of the limestone cobble deposit.

Final documentation was completed for Excavation Unit 9, and the unit was turned over to the preservation team. Artifacts encountered during the additional excavations were few, with just a couple fragments of burned rock and snail shell recovered.

Archaeologist inside an excavation unit
Figure 2. Excavations in Unit 16.

When the weather was cooperative, the archaeologists continued the excavations in the unit placed at the southwest corner of the Convento Courtyard, on the east side of the arcade wall. The deeper excavations encountered the same dark brown soils below the foundation that was observed running east-west. In addition, it appears that there may be stones below the support pad related to the mercantile store second story porch.

Step stool inside an excavation unit
Figure 3. Excavations in Unit 11 to better understand the feature. Feature is located on the right side of photo.

The stones below the support pad may be related to an earlier construction period. The archaeologists plan to resume work in that area once the conditions improve. Excavations within the darker soils produced very few artifacts, consisting mainly of chipped stone and snail shell.

Inside the Long Barrack in Excavation Unit 11, located in the central portion of the structure along the west wall, a feature that had been previously identified has created several questions. Due to the rainy weather, the archaeologists took the opportunity to further examine this feature. It consists of a stacking of limestone rocks, with what appears to be a post-hole observed in the unit profile above it. The archaeologists excavated the area at the base of the feature to gather more information. The feature extended into the unit approximately 15.7 inches from the north wall of the unit.

In addition to the stones, an area of a possible compacted soil containing lime was observed around the edges of the stone. The soils removed around the feature consisted of the dark brown clay that contained no artifacts. The feature consists of a concentration of limestone cobbles set atop a layer of ash-matrix, surrounded by a dark-grey silty clay matrix. Minimal artifacts were recovered from the dark-gray silty clay, limited to small numbers of snail shell.

The feature was documented and will likely be bisected in the following week to determine the interior makeup of the feature. Bisecting is a process that includes cutting and removing half of the feature, leaving the other half in place, and screening the feature’s soils.

Excavations in these three units should either be completed or be nearly complete by the end of the week.