Posted by: signalhillarchaeology | July 22, 2009


Well, after another day of digging,  Stéphane’s theory about our strange stone structure is becoming more and more convincing (Stéphane, for figuring this out, I am definitely buying you a pint on Friday!!).  Up until this afternoon, we could identify three sides of the stone foundation: the south, east, and west sides are clearly visible.  But, we needed to find the north side of the structure, to give us an idea of its ultimate dimensions.  So, we expanded the excavations to the north, to try to find the elusive north wall.  We took a gamble, and laid out one new excavation trench directly to the north of the initial excavations, and another new trench two meters from the initial excavations. We hoped that we would catch the north wall in one of these excavation trenches (and silently worried that the elusive north wall would be in neither of our new trenches).

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that we’ve eluded the worst of Murphy’s Law of Archaeology #1 (Or, “The Part of the Site that Holds the Answers that you Seek will Remain Hidden in Unexcavated Areas”).

Success! You can see the north wall of the stone chimney foundation emerging below Aaron's broom. Huzzah for solved mysteries!

Success! You can see the north wall of the stone chimney foundation emerging below Aaron's broom. Huzzah for solved mysteries!

At left, below the broom of the skilled excavator, emerges the north wall of our stone chimney foundation.  Only the top tier of stones is exposed, but further excavation should expose several more courses of stone.

Based on its dimensions compared with our historic maps of the barracks, it looks like this was a single chimney stack.  What I mean by this is that the chimney foundation supported a single hearth. We know that the barracks also contained double chimney stacks, which would have supported two hearths placed back to back.  Here, we’re pretty sure that this is a single chimney stack foundation– and by consulting the historic map of the site, and looking for the rooms with single stack chimneys, we can guess that we’re digging in the room at the far right hand side of the map.

Now that’s a good archaeology day. We moved some dirt, found some great stuff (…more on this in another post later tonight), answered some pressing questions, and avoided Mr. Murphy for a day… Though I have no doubt that later on, we’ll run into Murphy’s Law of Archaeology #2 (“A Key Part of Your Site is Located Under the Dirt Pile”) or #3 (“You Will Find the Most Important Part of Your Site on the Last Day of Digging and Won’t Have Enough Time to Fully Excavate It”).

Stay tuned for more!

–Amanda Crompton (Instructor)



  1. If this is a single end-wall chimney, where’s the foundation? It certainly must be a chimney base, but is it too narrow to be one of the interior double hearths? It looks quite large to me. This just keeps getting better.

  2. We thought it was a single chimney, because we estimated the size (roughly speaking) from the historic maps of a single chimney… and this one seems to fit those dimensions better than the double chimney. Now, mind you, that’s a rough measurement taken from the small reproduction of the map that we have, and we estimated using all of our spare fingers and thumbs for counting, heh. Though we are assuming that the historic plan is correct in the first place…

    We were wondering if the building foundation was just behind where you excavated in ’84, thus accounting for all the rubble right behind your trench… though leaving a gap like that between chimney and gable wall of the building doesn’t really make sense… It seems like for every mystery we solve, two more crop up in its place.

    This is such an amazing site… See, I think you should really hop on a plane up here and join us for a few more days. 😉 We have a trowel with your name on it!!

  3. Fantastic .. really awesome subject. I will write about it as well.

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