Wednesday, June 11, 2008

First Discoveries at Burrell Orchard

Our first week of the 2008 field program is underway. We began with a two and a half hour orientation program for this week's students then set to work.

We began at the south end of the orchard, looking for evidence of a boundary feature. By boundary feature, I mean something like a ditch or stockade fence that would have enclosed the Burrell Orchard site on the south side, much like its neighbor to the east, the Burrell Fort site (see previous post). The north, west, and east sides of our site are naturally demarcated by steep shale cliffs, but the south side appears to be open. We also want to see if the site extends very far beyond the orchard and into the open meadow to the south.

We set out three 2.0 x 2.0 meter excavation units along our east-west, 500N baseline. Our plan is to take these units down in 10 cm levels and screen all soil to recover whatever artifacts remain. This way we will be able to carefully observe changes in the soils and identify cultural strata.

We quickly began to find a mixture of prehistoric (flint flakes and fire-cracked rock) and historic debris (window glass, nails, a button, and even a 1969 quarter!) in the upper 10 cm level. By the end of day 2, we exposed what appears to be a buried midden stratum containing loads of fire-cracked rock mixed with charcoal, burned soil, and flint flakes. This layer appears to have been deposited by the prehistoric inhabitants of the site and perhaps represents the debris from their cooking pits.