Digging Begins

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!


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