Tuesday, November 10, 2015

We'll get back to these sand-covered, shovel wielding, sweaty people in a minute...

     This month I went back out to the Garden Patch site near Horseshoe Beach, FL. For those of you following along, last time we went out to visit this project, run by Dr. Neill Wallis and Dr. Paulette McFadden from the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), we assisted in conducting a few types of remote sensing. This time we were testing some of the remote sensing leads with good ol'-fashioned excavation. This is just one of the ways archaeologists decide where to dig a hole. 

            Dr. Wallis and Dr. McFadden decided on an ambitious excavation plan to dig two 3x3 meter excavations (called units or blocks) over the span of two four-day work weeks. FPAN joined the crew for the last two days and helped finish up Unit 2 (which took one day longer than expected, not unusual in excavation- see last month's blog about our run-in with the weather). During excavation we ran into quite a few features that took extra time and attention. 

            A feature
is "any physical structure or element, such as a wall, post hole, pit, or floor, that is made or altered by humans but (unlike an artifact) is not portable and cannot be removed from a site." Usually, an area of soil or sand that is darker than what's around it (because we're in Florida, with our generally light colored sand, the dark is an indication of something out of the ordinary, dark can also come from burning, something archaeologists love because we can use carbon from burnt wood for dates). 

            The two types of features we identified at the site were post holes and pits. Post holes are the holes that people put posts in, most often to build structures. Think of the hole you dig to put the support beam of a fence in- it's the same idea. These are usually what archaeologists use as evidence of buildings, assuming they're in the proper configuration and size (a large circular configuration might indicate a house).

One of the many post holes we excavated. One method is to cut the feature in half so you can see the whole profile, like we did here.

            Pits are, well, pits people put stuff in. Post holes and pits are similar in the archaeological record, usually seen as dark spots. But pits mean different things. Instead of a structural element, they were often used for storage or sometimes cooking.

This pit was in the wall of our excavation, we followed the same method of cutting it in half to see the whole profile. Note the rest of the excavation stopped at the whitish sand to the left and right, while the pit goes deeper. The white sand is the original ground surface, so the pit was dug into it. 

            The artifacts collected will be cleaned, cataloged, and interpreted back at the FLMNH, and they will help Dr. Wallis and Dr. McFadden interpret what was happening at this amazing Middle Woodland period (ca. AD 100-500) site!  Keep an eye out for their future publications, and updates from us on their work!

Our team after backfilling the excavation (we have to put all the dirt back in the hole!) 
Back row: Angelica Costa, Austin Jacobs, Rachel Iannelli 
Front row: Rachael Kangas, Dr. Paulette McFadden, Dr. Neill Wallis

Text and Photos: Rachael Kangas, Outreach Assistant, East Central Region

For more on Garden Patch:

-McFadden, P.S., 2014. Archaeological Investigations of Threatened Stratified Sites in Horseshoe Cove, Northern Gulf Coast, Florida. The Florida Anthropologist 67(4):179-195.
-Wallis, N.J., McFadden, P.S., 2013. Archaeological Investigations at the Garden Patch site(8DI4), Dixie County, Florida. Miscellaneous Report No. 63, Division of Anthropology,FloridaMuseum of Natural History. University of Florida, Gainesville.-Wallis, N.J.,McFadden, P.S., 2014. Suwannee Valley Archaeological Field School 2013: The Garden Patch Site (8DI4). Miscellaneous Report No. 64, Division of Anthropology, Florida Museum of Natural History. University of Florida, Gainesville.-Wallis, N.J., McFadden, P.S., Singleton, H.M., 2015. Radiocarbon dating the pace of monument construction and village aggregation at Garden Patch: A ceremonial center on the Florida Gulf Coast. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 2: 507-516.

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