Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Fun Visit!

This past Sunday I had a visit from a great group, the Special Needs Scout Troop 364 from Belleville, NJ!  They stopped by Elfreth’s Alley in the morning, and I gave them a tour of the street and an overview of the archaeological investigations on the Alley.  We discussed a few of the basics of archaeology from stratigraphy to screening, and I showed them a bunch of the artifacts recovered this past field season.  They were a fun bunch and asked great questions such as whether the cobblestones along the alley were original (they are not!) and what the fire marks on the homes stood for (different fire insurance companies).  It was a pleasure talking to such a wonderful group! 

Special Needs Scout Troop 364

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Update - 16 October 2013

Over the past two weekends, returning volunteers have come out to the Alley to help finish up excavation. Specifically, we have been working on completing two test areas: unit 14 and shovel test pit 3. 

Working on Unit 14 and STP 3

Volunteers screening

As mentioned in the last update, Unit 14 has produced a large number of historic artifacts. A wide range of ceramics has been recovered in recently excavated layers. Most of the ceramics continue to be small fragments and many date to the 18th century including pieces of whieldon ware, manganese mottled ware, tin-glazed earthenware, and Staffordshire slipware.

Fragments of ceramics recovered from Unit 14

A lot of straight pins were recovered during earlier excavations of Unit 14, but the levels we excavated at the end of the weekend had significantly fewer straight pins. While the number of straight pins decreased, the number of pipe stem and bowl fragments increase considerably. Very few pipe fragments were noted up until this point.

In addition to the numerous historic artifacts found, an artifact of prehistoric origins was recovered last Saturday: a broken biface was unearthed identified in a historic layer. Biface is a term used to denote a stone tool that was worked on both sides. This biface was made of Pennsylvania Jasper. As a previous post explained, the land surrounding Elfreth’s Alley would have been a prime location for Native Americans to inhabit. 

Katie holding Jasper biface she found

Japser biface

We are now approximately 2.5 feet below ground surface, and the artifact density has decreased. It appears we are nearing the end of the historic fill. 

Shovel test pit 3 (STP 3) was located just south of the small garden wall behind 124 Elfreth’s Alley.

Matt working on STP 3

The soil in the test pit was very mixed and included several different colors and textures. Shortly after beginning excavation, a brick wall was unearthed in the eastern section of the shovel test pit. The bricks continued for four courses until a stone foundation wall appeared below the bricks. A cast iron pipe was also uncovered in the center of the shovel test pit. 

Brick wall visible in profile of STP 3

These finds were not unexpected; in 2011 and 2012 we unearthed portions of the same wall (Wall #1) and pipe under the brick patio. When we initially found the stone foundation wall, we hypothesized that a narrower brick wall may have once sat atop the stone foundations, but no evidence of these bricks were recovered in previous excavations. STP 3 confirmed our hypothesis. Also it appears the terminus of wall #1 is in the center of STP 3. This roughly aligns with lot dimensions shown on historic maps, indicating that the wall conforms to historic lots lines. Expanding excavation of the shovel test pit would reveal whether the wall turns at this terminus, in other words whether this is the corner of a former building. Very few artifacts were recovered from STP 3. Excavation of the pit was terminated became too difficult to excavate due to the pipe. 

A bit more excavation needs to be completed, then we will back fill Unit 14 and the courtyard will once again transform into a roaming ground for tourists.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pennsylvania Archaeology Month

October is Pennsylvania Archaeology Month!  There are lots of really neat events to celebrate archaeology throughout the state.  A few of the activities are described at the bottom of most recent post on the This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology blog, written by The State Museum of Pennsylvania/Pennsylvania Historical and Museum.  Two notable events coming up specifically in Philadelphia are:

Dialogues with the Past: Celebrating Temple Archaeology!

107 Gladfelter Hall, Temple University 
October 24th from 5-:8:45pm

Temple University’s Anthropology Research and Learning Center is hosting a symposium highlighting the archaeological research being conducted by Temple Students and Faculty.  Six graduate students, including myself, and five faculty and staff will be discussing a wide range of topics from the origins of New World agriculture in Columbia to evidence of a unknown brigade encampment at Valley Forge.  After the presentations, guests will be invited to view artifact on display in the
Anthropology Research and Learning CenterI am slotted to present on my work at Elfreth’s Alley from 5:55 - 6:05pm.   As soon as the complete schedule is available, I will post the information here. 

Explore Philadelphia’s Buried Past 2013 

National Constitution Center, Kirby Auditorium 
October 26th from 10a-3:30p 

This archaeology month event includes diverse talks about archaeology completed in the Philadelphia area.  The event is hosted by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum and the National Parks Service. More information about the event and a program of talks is available here.

Both events are free and open to the public!  Hope to see you there!