February 28, 2009
Although the labwork for the Higginbotham House project began over the summer, we haven’t posted anything about our progress yet. We are slowly working through washing (now wishing we had had more rain days:) and starting to catalogue. As we move forward with this process posts with pictures of artifacts will pop up. Broad interpretations, of course, will have to wait until the database is finished and the historic context is well developed…
Anyway, on to the finds!
June 7, 2008
On Friday we got a lot done despite the intermittent rain showers in the morning (and Teresa’s unfulfilled promises that it would clear up by 11am).
EU3 is turning out to be a very productive unit in terms of artifacts, producing a lot of historic ceramics, window glass and now, 35cmbd, many articles of personal adornment. In the southwest corner of the unit, along the foundation of the Higginbotham House, we found 5 shell buttons all in the same area. Because the significance of this find was ambiguous, we collected a soil sample and collected the artifacts in this area separately. It is difficult to interpret this find, however, though as we also found two broaches in this level. One in the Northeast corner and the other when looking through the screen. Below is a photograph of one of the broaches which seems to be a cuprous crown-shaped pin (though this might be a belt buckle). We still have no idea when it dates to.
EU4 and EU2 were closed out today. In EU2 Marisa and Kate D hit the C horizon (a yellowish-brown sand) at about 107cmbd. In EU4 Kate J hit C horizon about 72cmbd.
In Eu1/EU6 Ashley and Dave took out the artifacts in the trashpit feature and bagged them. The objects were wrapped in plastic styrofoam material and bagged individually. The milkglass dish was almost complete. Almost 30 cans came out and will later be analyzed for the manufacturing method used. We still haven’t identified the large car-battery-like object from previous posts.
In EU5 Mike chipped away at the complex stratigraphy he is finding. This unit does seem to show some of the similar stratigraphy with EU3 so Mike may find the same variety of artifacts found there. He is already pulling out buttons and found a ferrous toy jack.
Dave and Ashley laid out EU7, EU8, and EU9. EU7 is on the West side of the cottage. EU8 is on the West side of the Garge. EU 9 is on the East side of the Higginbotham House. Although Ashley managed to get through 15 cm of EU7, the other two will be opened on Monday. We are also planning to start STPs around the Hen House on Monday.
Have a great weekend! We are going to Polpis!
June 6, 2008
On Thursday we actually started to see some strata that may be subsoil in some of the units. Marisa and Kate D in EU2 are starting to come up with it at about 80cmbd. We are still getting some artifacts out yet so we are not completely out of the woods. Like rock stars, they managed to detect an entire post hole and a textbook postmold in the base of their tiny 1 x 1m unit. Now to find more postholes associated with that one! This would potentially allow us to say something about where structures may have been on the property in the 18th century.
Our unidentifiable-metal-object in the trash pit in EU1/EU6 has turned into a full-fledged early 20th century trashpit (Feature 2), complete with cans, a milk glass vase, and what may be an enamel pot. Although they managed to draw the entire feature in under and hour, they happily split the last Nantucket Bake Shop chocolate walnut cookie with everyone.
In EU3 at about 32cmbd (Level 3a) teresa uncovered a LOT of artifacts. A la more-artifacts-than-dirt type of context.Mostly modern window and bottle glass, mortar and brick, but also some interesting dark green glass, whiteware plates, and what may be some sort of non-ferrous metal decorative pin. The density of artifacts and the richness of the dark brown soil suggest that this may have been a previous ground surface.
In EU4 Kate J shovel-shaved away at the levels around Feature 1 (Pipe trench) and continued to cross her fingers that she would reach subsoil soon. Mike worked in EU5 excavating the yellow-brownish mottled layer that may be associated with some repairs to the back entrance to the basement. We called this Feature 5 as we thought it was going to be a builder’s trench. On Thursday he will be picking up the loppers and the shovel again to take out the next layer.
Things are going well and we are getting excited about Public Archaeology Week next week so hopefully you can come out to visit. Monday through Saturday 10-4pm!
Feature 2, Trash Pit
June 4, 2008
Today was our first rain day and we washed a wicked lot of artifacts. Seven hours was more than enough and we will hopefully be back in the field tomorrow.
June 4, 2008
We had a relaxing weekend and even got a chance to wash some of the artifacts from the STPs on Sunday. A lot of artifacts are coming out. We almost have an entire artifacts box full and we have been digging 4 days.
Today was a perfect digging day on Nantucket. We have 6 excavation units open right now with several features going. Mike and Kate J excavated a pipe trench running through their unit, which is West of the Higginbotham House Sunporch. The dirt in the trench is significantly lighter than the surrounding dirt and is probably re-deposited subsoil.
Kate D. and Marisa continued too dig Excavation Unit 2 East of the cottage and found several buttons as well as much typical 19th century domestic trash. The layers in this unit, seems to be similar, but not conforming exactly to the stratigraphy found in STP1, which is just a few feet off. They dug down to 57cmbs and they expect a large midden-ish level soon…
Teresa dug through layer 2 in EU3, against the West side of the Higginbotham House. The layer went down to about 28cmbd and cut toward the house, like a garden might be. At the base of layer 2 there were a lot of large artifacts, such as half of an 18th century slip-decorated redware bowl.
Dave spent the morning doing a detailed plan map of the paved surface in EU5 and after lunch Mike continued excavating in this unit. The stratigraphy in this area seems somewhat complicated, but it appears that the mottled level seen in EU3 may have a corresponding layer here, in the southern part of the unit near the house.
Ashley excavating (at a level every 15 minutes…) EU6, which is a southern extension of EU1 which is 50 x 100 cm. She did this in order to expose a large unidentified metal object in the center of her unit which is associated with Feature 2, a pit dug to bury it. we don’t really have any idea what this thing is…our most recent pondering waver between car part and waffle iron☺
We hope to get out tomorrow too, but it looks like rain so we may be washing artifacts most of the day…
Find below a rough plan view of our excavation units so far as well as a picture of that unidentified metal objec tin EU1/EU6.
May 30, 2008
Yesterday we laid out a series of excavation units oriented flush with the Higginbotham House and the cottage (EU 1, EU2, EU3). We also shot in one unit based on the results of our GPR survey just west of the HH sunporch (EU4)…more information to come on that. Visitors to the site from around the neighborhood and the Museum of African American History started to come by in the afternoon.
We left a little early to get ready for our public talk kicking off the project at the Nantucket African Meeting House. We discussed our research questions, the general history of the site, and the results of our remote sensing surveys. We got some good feedback about some questions we might want to ask in our research. One visitor, Bette Sprigs suggested that the accessibility of different types of food on the island during the 19th century may have been limited due to the remoteness of the island and the ways that information is controlled by different groups at different times. This is one question that will be important for thinking about why certain foods turn up at the site and others do not. L’Merchie Frazier, the Museum’s education director, also brought up some great points. She suggested looking into the occupations of neighborhood residents and seeing if there was a correlation with the proximity of the area with the nearby windmills. We also spoke about weaving and dyeing with indigo. We know that Seneca Boston was a weaver so it would be interesting to know what technology he was using, especially because there is a possibility that African methods of indigo dyeing may have been taking place on the island.
Today we started excavations at the House. We opened up three shovels test pits (STPs) in the backlot in order to figure out the stratigraphy in the area. All the STPs started out with very organic, dark soils. STP 3 soon hit a paving stone for a patio, though, so Kate J and Mike opened up a 1 x 2 m unit instead after the first level. Several other paving stones turned up after that and it looks like we may have a 20th century patio area (see photo below)… In STP1 we went through a few layers of furnace scale and various 19th century ceramics, nails, bottle glass, animal bones. Marisa and Kate D. started finding a lot of large mammal bones at about 55 cm in addition to large pieces of metal and other 19th century artifacts so we may be seeing a midden layer of some kind. Ashley excavated STP2 down to about 80cm (like a champ, really:) and came down on a silty sand layer (7.5 YR 5/8 Strong Brown) with some beautiful 18th century slip-decorated redware. We are hoping to reach an original ground surface soon.
Digsafe also visited us in the afternoon and helped us to figure out where the electrical lines were running into the outbuildings, including the garage, the cottage, and the hen house. Thanks Gerard!
Can’t wait for tomorrow!
May 28, 2008
Mike Way and I traveled to Nantucket today—it only took 5 hours from Boston (cab to bus to cab to ferry to cab to apartment). Our condo for the next few weeks is awesome! Lots of space and a backyard with a bar-b-que. Complete with understated Nantucket grey shingles.
We are busily getting ready for tomorrow. Inventorying kitchen accoutrements and working on our computers. Tomorrow the rest of the crew arrives and we set-up some units in the yard. Then tomorrow evening we have a talk at the Nantucket African Meeting House (6pm). Busy, busy busy.
May 26, 2008
In August 2006 John Steinberg (UMB), David Landon (UMB), and I (Teresa Dujnic UCB) spent a day doing a conductivity survey at the site in order to find out something about the subsurface deposits. Our hope was that conductivity would be an appropriate technique for subsurface testing due to the geological make-up of Nantucket. As a glacial moraine, the island is composed primarily of sand which is very resistive to electrical current. Archaeological deposits such as privies, postholes, and trashpits would conduct the electricity much more readily, allowing these features to be detected as aberrations in the conductivity reading.
We found some interesting anomalies which may have to do with the well (mentioned in on of the deeds), the fire cistern (mentioned in an 1843 fire marshalls report), or a privy on the site. (Which only makes sense in the absence of indoor plumbing…) We also potentially found an anomaly which runs east-west in the east yard space. This could indicate that there was a hard-packed path running from the Higginbotham House to the yard of the Nantucket African Meeting House.
It is very hard to interpret this data, so all of this will need ground-truthed in the field.
May 25, 2008
Welcome to the Higginbotham House Archaeology Weblog. This weblog is meant as a place to keep people informed about the progress of the archaeological project over the next few weeks (and beyond…)
The Museum of African American History is sponsoring an archaeological dig at one of the important historic sites on Nantucket, the Higginbotham House. The Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at UMass Boston has been hired to undertake the research and I am using this project as part of my dissertation research at the University of California Berkeley.
The Higginbotham House was built in the late 18th century by Seneca Boston, a weaver and formerly enslaved African American man. He and his wife Thankful Micah, a Wampanoag woman, would raise a family there and pass the property down to their children. Except for one year, African American families owned the home for over 200 years. This home became part of the political and social space of the community, and the Boston family became a prominent black family on the island and abroad.
Its Memorial Day weekend and I am preparing for traveling to Nantucket on Tuesday and beginning the dig on Wednesday. If you happen to be on Nantucket on Wednesday May 28th, David Landon (UMass Boston) and I (Teresa Dujnic, UCB) will be giving a talk at the Nantucket African Meeting House at 6pm to kick off the dig. The NAMH is located at 29 York Street.