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)



  1. I think you have a point regarding the size of the chimney stack. However, if the plan of the barracks is accurate, and if the measurements we did last year are right…wouldn’t that mean that the north gable wall would be kind of in the middle of nowhere? How would you explain that discrepancy? The plan is wrong? We can’t properly use a tape measure? These British engineers realized after drawing that plan that this building wouldn’t fit on the terrace? They decided to remove a room of the barrack?…so many questions! Post more pictures! And I can’t wait to here more next week about the new pit you’re gonna open! 😉 Good job fieldschoolers!


  2. Hi Stéphane…
    For those of you who haven’t yet perused our archives from last year’s project on Signal Hill, Stéphane was one of the staff members from last year. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over questions like this with him

    So: Yeah. There is a discrepancy with the north gable wall– and if there was a problem with the measuring tapes, then I blame you *completely*, by the way ;). I remeasured everything this year again, and it just might *might* fit on the terrace if my latest theory is right.

    And besides…. if the fireplace base we had last year was for a double hearth, the south wall of the building is off the terrace anyhow, so one way or another the building as measured doesn’t actually fit very well on the terrace as it exists today.

    So, I think the only way to resolve this is to open up a really long trench at the south end of the site, and figure out if the gable wall is on the terrace or not. One way or another, I’m going to solve this before the summer is over.

    I’ll post more pictures to satisfy your curiosity 🙂


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