Monday, June 23, 2014

Features Appearing

Last Friday we continued excavation in the 2x2 meter units.  It is a slow go, because the midden soil is rather high in clay content and loaded with fire-cracked rocks.  We have abandoned shovels all together in favor of trowels and brushes.   Several possible features have appeared on the floor of unit 498N 512E.  The image below shows that current floor at about 35 cm below datum.  You can see we have divided it into quadrants, which makes it much easier to take down the floor at different rates as needed and to more accurately provenience (locate) what we find.

The most obvious feature in this image is the large slab of siltstone in the upper left corner (SW quad).  Similar clusters of rock slabs were found in several  units in 2008 and their purposes remain uncertain.  They may have served as surfaces for preparing food or other activities.  In the lower left (SE quad) you can just see a brown-orange patch of oxidized soil (just above the upper left corner of our chalk board).  At first we thought this was a clay lens, but now I suspect it is an area of the midden deposit that was heated and hardened.  Perhaps this is an area where a fire was made and then the charcoal and ash were removed, perhaps by plowing.   In any case, these two features most likely represent a 'living surface', that is a level in the midden on which activities took place.  Finally, in the upper left corner of the lower right (NE) quad, near where the strings come together, is a rectangular patch of soil containing lots of charcoal.   This may represent the remains of a hearth feature or maybe just a lens of redeposited hearth contents.   Don't know what all this means yet, but finding any kinds of discrete features in the otherwise very homogeneous midden will help us better understand the sequence of occupations at Burrell Orchard.

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