Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | August 5, 2010

Rubble, Rubble Everywhere

Not too long ago I mentioned that we had opened up a large new excavation trench in order to locate the gable wall of the building. Well, we’ve been digging there for a while now, and we’re near the bottom in the north end. We’ve moved a lot of dirt, and I can say as a result that there is a lot of rubble in this trench. I mean, a lot of rubble:

None of this rubble seemed to form any sort of wall-like structure, but was jumbled about with various layers of fill. But that didn’t mean we were confused about what happened at this part of the site.  We found later nineteenth century artifacts (including porcelain electrical insulators) which must post-date the barracks building. These later nineteenth century artifacts were mixed in with artifacts that can only date to the twentieth century– including some sort of metal foil. If it’s aluminum foil, it is definitely a twentieth-century invention… which would mean that this part of the site was heavily altered sometime during the twentieth century.

The obvious explanation lies in the Second World War, when the U.S. Military erected defenses on the top of Signal Hill.  They constructed a gun emplacement at the north end of the site, which is still visible today as a prominent mound.  We suspect that during this occupation, heavy equipment was brought deposit fill to level out the land at the south end of the terrace, and perhaps to level out any stone walls from the barracks that might have still been visible on the ground surface.

Digging in the rubble disturbed during the Second World War.

In our trench, to the south of the heavy rubble deposit, layers upon layers of fill are visible.  The bottom layers start to trail off downhill, probably following the natural contours of the hillside that existed prior to the twentieth century. This clearly indicates that the twentieth-century fill events were an attempt to make level ground at the south part of the terrace.

However, we still kept hoping that some small part of the foundation lay undisturbed at the bottom of the trench.  Even if we didn’t find the gable wall of the building– if it had been disturbed beyond recognition– it’s still pretty clear that the very southern extremity of the terrace was not occupied by the barracks building in the nineteenth century- the ground just wasn’t level enough to be part of the barracks. So even without that smoking gun– the unequivocal remnants of a wall foundation– we could still be pretty sure where the gable wall used to be.

Sorting out puzzles like this– these ‘what happened to the site’ stories– are a key part of archaeological interpretation. They lead to great conversations in the field, much collective headscratching, and a lot of half-baked ideas tossed around throughout the day. Even though we weren’t sure what was going on at this part of the site, we’ve still been having a great time digging.

All that changed before noon yesterday, when we finally found an intact portion of the barrracks foundation, below about a meter of hard-packed, rubble fill!  Here’s the photo of the foundation as first exposed:

The first three stones of the foundation that we uncovered. We've since found an adjoining wall, and several courses (or layers) of stones underneath these.

By the end of the day yesterday, we had found more sections of this wall, running north south, and found where it takes a turn to the east…. in other words, we’ve found the gable end of the building! We’ve only got a small corner of it in the trench we’re digging, but the deposits inside the foundation are undisturbed, and they run deep– I’d say we have another 20 cm to go, at least.

Days like yesterday are great days indeed.  More to follow at the end of today!

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 31, 2010

It’s just one thing on top of another…

This is another post by a field school student, who writes about her experiences learning to understand and record the layers at an archaeological site.

Hi! I’m Erin Mundy, a 2nd year geology student at Memorial University. Taking part in the Archaeology field school at Signal Hill this summer has allowed me to notice striking correlations between archaeology and geology. Most people assume archaeologists just deal with human artifacts and structures. However, archaeologists also have to have an understanding about stratigraphic layers, and some of the concepts archaeologists use have been borrowed from geologists. For those of you who don’t have a background in Earth Science, here’s a little review. As layers of soil or rock accumulate, the oldest layers will accumulate at the bottom, with younger layers gradually building on top of them. This is called the Law of Superposition.

Also, layers have a tendency to accumulate in a horizontal fashion. Any rock layers that are not positioned in a horizontal unit have been affected by an event, causing the layers to fold or tilt. This is called the Law of Original Horizontality.

The understanding of these two laws is essential for archaeologists when dealing with a mapping technique called profiling. Here, archaeologists document the layers of each wall of their excavation trench by drawing them on a map. Wherever possible, archaeologists draw profiles of the North wall, East wall, South wall and West wall separately. To draw a profile map, archaeologists set up two stakes in line with their wall, placing them at opposite ends. Then, a string attaches the two stakes, using a line level to make sure this string is horizontally level. Then, a tape measure is taped onto the string.

(This picture shows the two stakes, string and tape measure of the East wall of our Signal Hill excavation.)

Now here comes the hard part. Archaeologists must look at the wall of their excavation trench and determine where the different layers of sediment are. Sometimes this can be easily seen, as two completely different stratigraphic layers (such a gravel layer and sandy layer) are easily distinguished from each other. Sometimes making this distinction is difficult. Stratigraphic layers can be folded, tilted and merge together, making it very hard for archaeologists to determine the lines between different deposits.

Here, three distinct rock layers can be seen. (Instructor notes: one of the reasons that this site is great for teaching students about archaeological excavation is that the stratigraphy is [for the most part] relatively clear. Trust me, it’s not always this clear…). Archaeologists then take horizontal and vertical measurements of the location of the different layers, which are then used to create a visual picture of the different layers.  Profiling is important for providing context for the artifacts found at the excavation site.

Measuring the location of stratigraphic layers...

By understanding the succession of layers, archaeologists can help build a timeline for the artifacts they find. Needless to say, rocks can’t be taken for granite! (haha – thought I’d throw a geology joke out there!) (Instructor notes: Erin, that is a *terrible* joke, heh). The links between geology and archaeology are based in our quest to uncover our past– our human past or the geological history of our planet. .. but even if you’re not an archaeologist or a geologist,  feel free to come out to the dig and explore our site!

–Erin Mundy, student.

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 26, 2010

The Elusive Gable Wall…

Excavations around the fireplace base are beginning to wind down, as by the end of the week we’d hit bedrock around the base.  With this in mind, we opened a new trench last week– and it’s a big one.

It stretches 9 meters long in the north-south direction, and it’s two meters wide… it’s going to take some concerted digging to get finished!  Fortunately, we dug right beside this trench last year, and so I know that the deposits in this area aren’t terribly deep.

Here’s a view of the trench after we first opened it…

Somewhere in this trench, we hope to find the gable (end) wall of the building.  We didn’t find it last year, and so if it’s on this terrace at all, it should appear somewhere in this trench. We laid the trench out so it’s as close as we can be to the edge of the terrace, without going over the side of it.

Rubble, first emerging from the ground. The plastic bags you see in the picture are being used to stop dirt stirred up by our excavations from falling down through gaps in the rubble.

We started to find some suspicious-looking rubble in the middle of this trench (here, you can see it in the foreground of this picture).  Was this collapsed rubble from a fallen wall? It’s hard to tell at this point… the rubble could simply be twentieth-century fill brought in to level the site during the Second World War occupation.

Things started to get a little more convincing later on in the week, as this picture shows below:

More rubble!

Here you see the crew working around more and more rubble in the foreground.  We’re still not convinced this is a wall instead of just a happenstance deposit of rubble (it is laying at a slightly incorrect angle to be a building wall)… but it’s the best indication we’ve had so far. The only solution: keep digging! More updates will follow, as our ideas develop.

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 23, 2010

What a Difference a Few Days Makes

It’s been a few days since I’ve written a post about what’s new with the excavations. I last described some interesting differences between the fireplace base that we uncovered this year, as compared to the one we uncovered last year.

Since then, we’ve completely exposed the south side of the fireplace base, which you can see below:

The chimney base at the North Range Barracks. It's not as well preserved as the other base that we found in 2009, in part because the site is much more shallow in this region. But it's still well-preserved enough to delimit its boundaries during excavations, and measure its dimensions.

It’s not as well-preserved as the fireplace base we excavated last year, because the site is much shallower at this part of the site. The fireplace base was laid on bedrock, which is only found at about 40-50 centimeters below the present day ground surface.

We’ve also been working on delimiting the northern face of the fireplace, though it’s much more disturbed in this area. We had a breakthrough yesterday, though, and it looks like we’re coming down on a much clearer set of stones that form a reasonably straight wall face.

What’s the most interesting, though, are the artifacts that are being recovered from beside the north face of the fireplace.  For the first time, we have a deposit that post-dates 1840.  We’ve often wondered what happened to the site after 1840– we know the building stood until about 1880 or thereabouts, but archaeologically we found no real indication of any use of the building after 1840.  Well, that’s all changed now.

We have deposits here that contain ceramics typical of the mid-1800’s, rather than the early 1800’s, as we are accustomed to finding elsewhere at this site.You can see one such ceramic fragment below– it’s a decorative handle, perhaps a drawer pull (it seems a bit small to be a doorknob). This is made of whiteware, which is first developed ca. 1820, but becomes increasingly popular by mid-century, virtually displacing all other kinds of tablewares.  In fact, we aren’t finding any other types of ceramic other than whitewares in this area, and the decoration that we find on them is entirely typical of the mid-century period.

A decorative ceramic drawer pull, typical of the mid-nineteenth century, as we uncovered it in the ground.

Now, of course, the next job is to explain why this deposit occurs here, but not elsewhere on the site. Was only part of the building in use by the mid-century? Were these occupations swept away from other parts of the site after the building fell down? (I think if this is the case, we’d have found some evidence of this, but as yet we have not).  Furthermore, does this more recent deposit sit on top of earlier nineteenth century deposits? The only way to answer that: more digging.

And speaking of more digging, we’ve also opened up a new trench at the south end of the site to try to find that elusive gable (end) wall of the building. Right now we’re digging through a good bit of compacted fill, which takes a bit longer, and so I’ll update you once we get down to the nineteenth-century levels at the site.

We’ve also been dealing with some unusual weather this season. We were rained out yesterday morning for a while (it’s not that archaeologists are allergic to rain– it’s just that heavy rain means our ability to see artifacts in the ground is greatly diminished as the soil turns to mud).  By late morning, the clouds had retreated, the raingear had been removed, and the sun came out in true summer rock-splitting fashion.

This sunny weather was also accompanied by some of our favourite visitors to the site: whales. We can see (and hear) them close to our site quite often… and it’s days like this that make me love my job even more than I already do. This is the view from my office window, and it’s a pretty amazing one:

One of the many humpback whales that we've seen from our site.

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 18, 2010

A Different Perspective…

Here is yet another student post, this time about how a different view of a site can give you a totally different perspective.  Here’s Steven’s thoughts on why archaeologists look at aerial photos of a site.

–Amanda (Instructor)

Hi! My name is Steven England and I’m a student on the Memorial University Archaeology Field School at Signal Hill.  Today, I’d like to talk to you about aerial photography, and its great value to archaeologists. Aerial photos are most often used as a means of examining large swathes of land in a fairly short time period. That makes sense; from that high up one can see a great deal of landscape. What may look like hills and natural depressions at ground level may take on a whole new appearance from the air. Evidence for human occupation sites may be seen, such as the remains of a wall fortification or an irrigation canal, for example. Vegetation growth is a great indicator of these sites; for example, plants will grow taller and thicker in a buried canal due to the depth of the soil changing moisture and nutrient availability. However their growth will be stunted if they exist over a buried stone work for the opposite reason; a lot less soil may be present. Having a bird’s eye view can really make vegetation growth differences stand out.

There are two main types of aerial photography; oblique and vertical. Oblique photos are taken at an angle and allow the observer to see changes in elevation in the land, as well as being able to provide a three dimensional view of the site if multiple photos are taken and overlapped. The other type of aerial photography is vertical. This is taken from a top-down perspective, and is often done by other organizations such as mineral survey and forestry groups. Archaeologists can gain access to these photos though, and can use them to look for features in the landscape that point to a site.

There is technically a third type of aerial photography, taken from high altitudes. Can you guess what it is? If you said satellite imagery, you get a sticker! [Amanda notes: sticker offer is only hypothetical; requests will not be honoured].  Satellite imagery can be a useful tool to archaeologists; it can be used to show networks such as roads, as well as the extent of an agricultural area used by an old society. There are drawbacks to using these techniques however; the most pressing issue being the high cost; it’s not cheap getting photos from a satellite or fueling a plane to fly over a portion of land to take photos. However the data is becoming more accessible, innovations such as Google Earth make archaeological site hunting an activity that any average person could do, if they were so inclined.

A practical application of aerial photography can be seen in the picture below.  This is an example of a vertical photograph:

An aerial view of Signal Hill, with our site and its surroundings indicated by the white rectangle.

As the name suggests and as this picture shows, vertical photographs are taken at a 90 degree angle to the ground, usually from high altitudes in planes. In this particular picture, the general area of our site is highlighted in the white box. This picture is from the Survey & Mapping Division of Newfoundland.

This next picture was taken from Google Earth, showing a satellite view of the area around our site:

Another view of our site, with the surrounding area in white, and the immediate area of the site in orange.

The lookout is highlighted in white again, and the rough area of our dig site is within the orange square. As you can see, this satellite image does not show detail as clearly as an aerial photo.  [Amanda notes: clearly, it’s time to take up a collection to launch our own Field School Satellite…]

Last but not least, is an oblique aerial photograph, showing the same general area of our site, but in much greater detail:

A fantastic view of our site... you can see the terrace that we're working on just at the top centre of the image; below that, on the terrace below, are the stabilized archaeological remains of the nineteenth century canteen. Several of the prominent ridges that you see are actually large man-made stone walls that surround the terraces. Signal Hill may look abandoned today, but in its heyday as a British mililtary site, it was a highly engineered, built-up hillside. Click on the image to view a larger version.

I obtained this photo from a local photographer named Andrew Collins, who was nice enough to let me use it for this entry. [Amanda notes: Andrew, my thanks as well for giving permission to post this amazing photo!!!].  As you can see oblique photographs show relief and shadows on the terrain, and can help pick out significant features in the landscape. By looking at the above photo, one can see that there was a rockslide nearby where we are working. As of last week, we’re focusing on finding the exact location and dimensions of the British barracks that was built here. Due to this rockslide, it could be possible that a portion of the building’s north foundations may have slipped down the hill too; making our job a lot more difficult if my hunch is correct. Further excavation will solve the mystery, hopefully.

There you have it folks, a quick introduction to aerial photography. Not only are these photos very useful, but they’re fun to look at to try and find your house too!

–Steven England, Student.

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 17, 2010

Hot Archaeologists, Or What to do when the Thermometer Rises

This is another student post– not so much about the site this time, but about what the students are learning about being archaeologists. In this case, Megan was inspired to write about dealing with the elements when working outside all day, and how hot sun can make everyone a little crazy

–Amanda [Instructor]

To begin, I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a very silly story that will, at the very least, make you roll your eyes and wonder how old we all really are.

June 14th was yet another hot day. We seem to be getting a lot of those lately and the heat has definitely sunk into our brains by this point. It’s making us a little crazy [a combination of heat and sleep deprivation led me to name my trowel Spartacus. Creative, I know].

The heat makes everyone a little crazy...

Anyway, it was lunchtime at the dig site and Amanda had left, with promises of freezies upon her return.

After the group had eaten lunch, we decided take some photos of the excavated trench.

Well, we ran out of film in the manual camera and, being the bright students we are, couldn’t figure out how to change it. To be fair, we didn’t try very hard as we didn’t want to ruin the film.

Anyway, I took the letter board and removed the words “north profile” and replaced it with “will work for freezies”.  The sign ended up taped to a bucket so people could see it as they walked by and we camped out with our gear to wait for Amanda.

Our sign received a head shake and slight laugh from her when she got back, with popsicles. Apparently St. John’s was suffering a freezie shortage.

Yay! Popsicles! The great thing about doing archaeology in an urban area is the immediate access to frozen treats... which have an immediate positive impact on heat-exhausted archaeologists.

Oh well, they’re both the same anyway. At this time, the sign was changed to read “yay
popsicles” while we stood around eating. Aren’t we all so mature?

Anyway, to get on to the [educational] point of this entry…
The elements are not something to be taken lightly. They can change at a moment’s notice so I think it’s safe to say that clothes make the archaeologist.

You can always wear an old pair of jeans but I find it much more comfortable to wear hiking pants. Jeans tend to restrict movement, trap heat and take a millennia to dry when wet. Hiking pants are designed for this outdoorsy stuff…they dry very quickly, aren’t very heavy and in some cases will zip off at the knees. [Note for the females: I found a pair of inexpensive zip-offs in the men’s section of a local department store… they’re totally worth it]. They also tend to have a dozen pockets which come in handy for storing gear.

Read More…

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 16, 2010

Unexpected Developments…

I mentioned in a previous post that we’ve uncovered the base of a second chimney base at the North Range Barracks.  It was unexpectedly larger than I thought, measuring 3 meters across in the north-south direction. The chimney base that we uncovered last year measured 2 meters across in the north-south direction. I’ve been wondering if this different size means that the 2009 chimney base was meant to support only a single-hearth fireplace, whereas the 2010 chimney base was meant to support a double-hearth fireplace, with two hearths laid back-to-back, as the historic map of the site indicates.

Mapping the edge of the fireplace base as it first appeared in the ground, just below the sod. We've since opened up new excavation areas to expose the base since this photo was taken, but we don't expect excavations to take very long. The site is quite shallowly-buried in this area, so we should be finished up here shortly.

For various reasons, we thought at the end of last year that the 2009 fireplace base could not be the one located at the gable (narrow) end of the structure. Test excavations intended to find the gable end wall of the building did not locate any such wall…and if the historic map is correct, the gable wall of the building should be beside the small single-hearth fireplace base. So, we assumed that the 2009 fireplace base was in fact one from the middle of the building, that supported a double hearth fireplace.

But the size discrepancy between the 2010 and the 2009 fireplace bases has led us to question this. And the only way to decide the matter is to definitively locate the gable wall of the building, if we can. So to that end, we’re finishing up our work around the fireplace base in the next week or so, and then we’re going to lay out a big, long trench to try to find the elusive gable wall.  After looking at the north and south ends of the site, the best place to go looking for the gable wall is at the south end of the site… the north end appears quite eroded, and bedrock is visible along the surface, suggesting that the site may have eroded away in the years since the building was abandoned.

So: new plans for Monday….Opening a new trench to see what we can find– it’s always exciting to see what’s underneath a new patch of sod!

Stay tuned to the site tonight for updates, including  a new student post about doing archaeology, and the effects (both mental and physical) of working outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 14, 2010

Another Artifact Post!

This is the first post from one of the students enrolled in Memorial University’s Archaeology Field School… and there should be more posts as the season continues (and yes, other students, that was a not-so-veiled hint).  In this post, Ashley tells us about one of the exciting artifacts that she found while digging at the site.

Hey, I’m Ashley. I’m studying Archaeology at Memorial University. This summer I’m doing the archeological dig at Signal Hill, and so far it’s been an amazing experience! The dig at the North Range Barracks has already gone beyond my expectations. The artifacts that I have found so far include refined earthenware transfer print ceramics and coarse earthenware ceramics. I have found tobacco pipe stems, glass, and a lot of iron nails.

My most amazing find was a shako plate. The shako is the name for the hat that the soldiers wore, and the plate is a badge that was located at the
front of the hat. [Amanda notes: examples of shako hats can be found in museum collections, though on our archaeological site we usually only find the metal fragments associated with them, as any other fragments of the hat would not survive burial in the ground].

I found three small pieces and a large piece of the shako plate. The large piece had a ‘R’ with 99 underneath it. This indicates that the shako was intended for a soldier in the 99th Regiment of Foot. This piece was an incredible find!

The shako plate, as it appeared when we uncovered it during our excavations.

[Amanda notes:  Here you can see a very similar shako plate, but for a different regimentAs you can see, ours is poorly preserved by comparison, but it’s still an exciting find for us. Interestingly enough, the 99th Regiment was not known to be posted in Newfoundland.
Perhaps this was a spare shako intended for that regiment, but never distributed, or perhaps it was traded, or perhaps a soldier from that regiment briefly stayed here while en route to another place… we may never know, but speculating is half the fun

Not only is this site amazing, the site has a great view for whale watching… So I encourage everyone to
come up to the site!

–Ashley, Memorial University Archaeology Undergraduate Student.

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 14, 2010

What Lies Beneath…

One of the most common questions that tourists ask us is “what are you finding?”.  We usually run through the typical repertoire of artifacts that we find in a day, and take a few out to show tourists.

A small ceramic bowl, as it appeared when it was first uncovered. We'll mend these pieces back together in the lab.

One thing that people often don’t realize is that most of what we find is broken, bashed, squashed, crushed, stepped on, or otherwise fragmented… We definitely don’t find pirate gold or buried treasure.

Instead, we find the remains of soldiers’ tableware, including smashed ceramic plate and bowl fragments like the one you see to the left.

This is an entirely typical ceramic find for us. It’s only a portion of a ceramic bowl– we didn’t find the remaining half– and the part that we did find has been further fragmented into smaller pieces.

It’s very unusual for archaeologists to find an entire ceramic vessel, and even more unusual if it hasn’t been smashed into many smaller pieces.

But even though it’s been smashed into pieces, it’s still important to collect. We can piece the sherds back together in the lab, and if enough of the ceramic object is present, we can reconstruct an approximation of what the original object looked like.

We also find ceramic tablewares that are useful because they have well-established dates of manufacture.

The artifact to the left is a fragment of a type of ceramic called Creamware (so named for its yellowish colour).  Creamware is usually said to be an invention of Josiah Wedgewood, and was introduced in about 1762, and remained popular until about 1820.  The artifact below is a type of ceramic called Pearlware, which was introduced around ca. 1780, and remained popular until about 1830. We can then use this chronological information to help provide a date for the site– one of the more popular methods involves the calculation of a mean ceramic date, which will give us a midpoint of the site’s occupation.

So, tablewares like this, despite their fragmentary state, can tell us a lot.  They can indicate not only how the soldiers set their table, and whether or not they used expensive tablewares to do so… and they can also tell us something about how old our site is.  This is why even the most prosaic of artifacts– small, smashed bits of ceramic pots, plates, and dishes– are important to us.

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 10, 2010

The Hunt for Chimney Base #2

Yesterday I posted that we have a plan for this season’s excavations– and our plan is to answer some architectural questions about  the site.  The North Range Soldiers’ Barracks occupies the length and breadth of a terrace just below Ladies’ Lookout. One of our goals is to determine just how this structure fits onto the terrace, which is not really much larger than the building’s footprint.

The terrace where the North Range Barracks site is located (outlined in red). The terrace is not that much larger than the footprint of the building.

This summer, we want to find a few key structural portions of the building, and one of these is a second chimney base.  The North Range Barracks had four chimney stacks in total. There were two chimney stacks at either end of the building, which were built for single-hearth fireplaces.  Two more chimney stacks, located in the middle of the building,  were built for double-hearth fireplaces (the hearths were built back-to-back).  In 2009, we found one of the stone bases that supported the hearth and the chimney itself.  The hearth and chimney had been dismantled or demolished at some point, and have not survived, but the large mortared stone platform that was built to bear their weight certainly has.

The historic map of the North Range Barracks, showing where the location of chimneys are. I've posted this map a lot on this blog... but that's because it plays an important part in our interpretation of the site. I find myself consulting it so often in the field that I ought to get it laminated... my paper copy is currently covered in pencilled notes, dirty fingerprints, and squashed mosquitoes.

In order to find the location of a second chimney base, we consulted the historic map of the building (as I discussed in yesterday’s post). The chimney stack bases should be 50 feet apart. So, when deciding where to dig this year, we ran a measuring tape 50 feet to the north from the approximate centre of the 2009 chimney base. Here, we laid out two trenches in a T shape. If the chimney stacks aren’t aligned in a perfectly straight line, or if the position is offset from that recorded on the historic map, our trenches should catch them.

And so, we’ve begun excavating in these two trenches, in the quest for the second chimney base.  In one trench, we found a jumble of displaced stone rubble, brick, and mortar fragments. We were clearly digging near the right place, but none of the stones appeared to be laid one on top of the other in an intentional fashion.

In the second trench, we had greater hope of finding the chimney base from the moment we removed the sod. At other places on the site, the sod is deep and difficult to remove, but here, we began hitting rocks directly beneath some much thinner sod. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had found the chimney base…and there was much rejoicing. I have to say, the luxury of finding a large structural part of the building right away and (most importantly) knowing its function was really gratifying. We set about cleaning off the top of the chimney base and trying to delineate its northern and southern boundaries. It didn’t take too long to find them– though they’re absolute extent is not certain right yet, as we’ve only exposed the top course of mortared stone.

I consulted the field notes and maps from the 2009 excavations to remind myself of the other chimney base’s north-south dimensions. I couldn’t remember the exact dimensions of the 2009 base off of the top of my head– and this serves as a really good example of how important it is to take detailed field notes, maps, and photographs as we excavate… Nobody’s memory is perfect!  That’s why when we excavate, we place such an emphasis on documenting what we do, as a means of creating a permanent record of what we found at the site.  So, our field notes and maps from last year showed that the 2009 chimney base measured about 2 meters across, in a north-south direction.

…and that’s where things got interesting. As near as we can tell, right now, the north-south dimension of the chimney base that we’ve uncovered this year measures over three meters across.

The second chimney base at the North Range Barracks. We have only uncovered a portion of it here, but the base begins at the far edge of the trench in the background, and ends just in front of the sign in the foreground.

How to explain this? Well, right now, we’ve only uncovered the very top of the chimney base, and we’ve got to dig down beside it some more to confirm that we have in fact found its correct northern and southern boundaries.  But if this turns out to be correct, we’ve got some thinking to do, to try and understand why one chimney base is much larger than the other. I’ve got some ideas percolating in my head– weekends are great for brewing ideas– and I’ll save them for a post next week once we do a bit more digging.

Let’s hope the lovely weather we’ve had this weekend extends into next week so that we can get some more serious digging done…oh, who am I kidding. Even if it rains we’ll be digging, because I need to sort this mystery out! (Students, repeat after me: “I will bring my rain gear to work”).

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)

Older Posts »