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NEWS FROM AVERY'S REST

March 20, 2016

Dear ASD crew and colleagues

We have been working steadily in the lab since January and all of the 2015 field season artifacts have been washed, marked, counted and weighed. We are not into our second phase of analysis – ceramics vessel definition, tobacco pipe analysis, brick analysis, etc. In addition, we have two reports in from specialists on samples we recovered from the well (Feature 176). The macro-botanical analysis was completed by Justine McKnight and the pollen and phytolith analysis by Dr. John Jones – interesting and complementary findings. We are waiting for the dendrochronology report based on samples of the box timbers and barrel from the well.

In the course of doing the ceramic analysis, we identified several red earthenware vessels with a black interior and exterior glaze. There is very little published literature on this type in the Middle Atlantic, though I think the type is widespread. Recent research suggests that the vessels from Avery’s Rest are most like a English ceramic known at Staffordshire Black, which in the UK has a date range of 1650-1720 – a good match for Avery’s Rest. Attached are some images of the finds from Avery’s Rest.

Lab work will continue through the spring and I’m scheduled to give presentations in Lewes and New Castle in May about our 2015 field season. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the ASD and Avery’s Rest.

Dan

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February 4, 2016

Dear All

Attached is an image of the Feature 176 well box timbers from the east wall; two of which mend. The mending tells us these timbers were not recycled timbers from other structures on site, but cut and split for the purpose of building the box around the barrel at the bottom of the well. Two of the three timbers, along with the one corner post, were cut for dendrochronology. Michael Worthington and assistant, from the Oxford Tree Ring lab, spent 4 ½ hours at the lab taking wood samples and recording information about the well timbers and barrel staves. They departed the lab with 9 wood samples (2 from the horizontal timbers, 1 from the corner post and 6 from barrel staves). Dating this well is important to our understanding of this part of the Avery’s Rest site and the dendrochronology hopefully will pin that down to within a year. Stay tuned

Dan

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2015 Oct 28

All

We’re still digging some this week. While most of the ASD equipment has been relocated to the lab in Frederica, we have enough equipment on site to do shovel tests and test units. We conducted shovel test south and southwest of the well (Feature 176) into areas previously unexplored – the shovel tests were virtually sterile. The areas are slightly downhill from the structure and well complex we’ve been excavating since 2012. We also conducted shovel tests parallel to the property line fence to the north in an area northwest of the structures and well. In that area the surface is approximately the same level as the structures and well, though that area too slopes away somewhat. In several of the “uphill” shovel tests we recovered a few 17th century artifacts, so we set up and excavated two 5X5 test units which contained a few more 17th century artifacts, including the ones in the attached image (one long terra cotta pipe stem and a split oval, black or very dark blue glass bead).

Next week we are de-mobilizing the rest of the equipment and may do one more 5X5 in the area of these artifacts.

THE END – S50/W145

Dan

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2015 OCT 7
ASD Crew and Others

Wow – what a day in the muck! We successfully removed the east wall of the timber box and two of the vertical planks outside the wall. It was like extracting wisdom teeth – 10 feet or so below the surface in quite wet and muddy conditions. We were only able to extract the east wall – all three timbers and a couple vertical planks. I know it’s hard for you all to visualize, but trust me – it was extremely difficult. We did not, and will not, remove the other three timber walls. If it far too dangerous to do so and they will rest where they are until some future archaeologists wish to go down there – we left them a note.

One quite interesting aspect to the recovery today – I pulled two of the vertical “planks” from outside the box and guess what – they were barrel staves! (not from the barrel we already removed!) . Talk about recycling materials! All the pieces are now safely under water in the lab. See attached photo of the recovery crew. We could not have done what we did today without the significant expertise and equipment provided by John Ferenbach. John had everything we needed and was exceedingly patient as I mucked through the silt and water trying to isolate the final, lower timber from the east wall and extract it. Thank you John!

Backfilling tomorrow – we are and starting to de-mobilize for the season.

Dan

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2015 OCT 6
Attached is an image of the site this morning, showing the profile and roof collapse into the well. We removed all the boards, black plastic and block, adjusted the roofing system at departed the site at 10:15 – too wet in the bottom to work. We’re going to let the well de-water another 24 hours (had 3’ of water in it late last week) and tomorrow use a backhoe to remove the overburden and get down to the level of the well timbers. Hand excavation will then resume with the removal of the timbers and posts – backfilling will follow. Stay tuned

Dan

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2015 OCT 2
Dear All crew and colleagues

Attached is a brief visual report on some interesting artifact finds from the well we are excavating at Avery’s Rest. The two objects were recovered from soil packed between the outside of the barrel and inside the timber box/retaining wall. I have no idea what the wooden artifact is (suggestions?), but the other is definitely a large sherd from a gourd cup/bowl/ladle. We plan to have the materials positively identified by a paleobotanist (McKnight).

Next week is timber box removal week – one timber and one corner post have already been recovered and are safely underwater in the lab – see attached visual report. The bottom of the post is square off, the top is to the top of the image and deteriorated. Note the angled gut on the timber. The timber is wedged shaped, being 4” wide at the top and tapering to ½” on the bottom – I think the timbers have been recycled from some other structure, modified and then used for the well retaining wall.

Dan
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2015 SEP 28
All

What a great and exciting day at Avery’s Rest! We were able to successfully remove the barrel from the Feature 176 well. Surprisingly (to me), 18 of the 19 barrel staves were extracted in one piece; one stave came out in two pieces. All staves were numbered in advance, then wrapped in plastic after removal and placed into two large containers. The containers are now at the Heite lab and filled with water so that all staves are wet, except 3 that were too long for the containers. Those 3 are wrapped in black plastic awaiting submersion in our “kiddie pool” later this week. We identified 3 barrel hoops associated with this barrel. The upper hoop/strap was poorly preserved, but we have pieces of it identified at strap #1 (from the top). The second strap down was better preserved, and we have all or most of those pieces. Strap #2 was nailed to the barrel from the outside in two locations on opposite sides of the barrel. Near the bottom of the staves is a 3rd strap, that is still in place. The 3rd strap also seems to have been nailed to the outside of the barrel, but the staves came free of it rather easily.

Francis Lukezic, conservator with the MAC lab in Maryland, joined us all day and was tremendous assistance in handling the staves and packing them for safe transport. Thank you Francis!

Tomorrow ‘s tasks are what I am calling “Muck and Hoop” Day. We need to remove and wet screen sediment remaining in the box and remove the lower strap #3. After that, we will clean the box timbers and posts for better photographs and then measure and draw the elevations in preparation for box/retaining wall removal. While we planned to remove the box elements on Wednesday this week, the weather looks miserable for that effort. I also need to prepare the lab to receive them. So, it’s likely that the box will not be removed until early next week. We’ll button up the site tomorrow for pending bad weather and hope the box weathers the storm.

Dan

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2015 SEP 24
All

Attached is a very special image of the well casings from Feature 176 – the focus of our 2015 field season. The ASD crew started work on this feature in May, 2015 by redefining the plan view below the base of the plow zone and then slowly worked down by sections until we reached the preserved well shaft and water table. We carefully removed a tremendous amount of soil, both in the large builders trench surrounding the well shaft and in the well shaft proper. It was apparent to us 3 months ago that this well had been dug twice, once when originally excavated for the well and again for some type of repair. The nature of the repair was not apparent until we reached the bottom of the well. Based on the image attached, it seems that the repair was to place a barrel ( 3.5 feet tall) in the bottom of the well and surround it with a heavy timber retaining wall. It seems logical that the retaining wall and barrel were installed at the same time – we’ll find out next week with more excavation. As you can see, the ASD AR crew has done a superb job of excavating around the barrel and in the box to define the construction elements of this very early, likely 3rd quarter of the 17th century well.

A number of specialists in wood conservation, plant remains analysis, pollen analysis and dendrochronology have been contacted to help us analyze the well timbers, barrel and their artifact contents. Some of those specialists will be visiting the site as soon as Monday. We also made a few unusual artifact finds, which I’ll report on later. Stay tuned

Dan
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2015 SEP 18
All

The artifacts in the attached image were recovered during wet screening of the contents of the barrel liner of the well (Feature 176). While the barrel contents were filled with organics (floral and some faunal remains), there were few human manufactured artifacts. The two in the image are most diagnostic, as others were mostly brick fragments towards the top of the barrel and a couple nails. The terra cotta pipe motif is interesting – we’ve seen this motif in one other place on the site – fill in the cellar hole adjacent to the well. The fish hook is in incredibly good condition – I could use it today to go fishing! We also found one more “gold” plated straight pin.

More work in the well next week – stay tuned.

-Dan
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2015 SEP 18
Dear Colleagues

Attached is a visual report on our progress in excavating the “new” well (Feature 176) at Avery’s Rest. As you can readily see, it’s a pretty complicated well. Initial interpretation is that there are three things going on here at this level 1) an original box liner that was repaired, as represented by the vertical planks; 2) a reinforced box shown by the heavy timbers and interior corner posts; 2) a barrel liner with partially detached barrel straps (indicating that the space in the box was a void when they detached). This construction is different than the other well recovered in 2007 (Feature 11), in that that horizontal timbers in the box are not mortised into the corner posts. For this well, it looks like the corner post(s) were simply vertical supports against which the timbers rested.

We completed all wet screening and flotation of the barrel contents and recovered some interesting artifacts (images later). We started excavation within the box liner but outside the barrel to give definition to the construction elements. Next week we will continue into the box to the depth we can reach and then likely remove barrel staves in the illustrated section to get a full profile of box and barrel – we’ll see if that works out.

I’ve been in touch with paleobotanist, Justine McKnight, and she is interested in conducting the floral analysis of the well contents and has also provided contacts for pollen analysis of the box sediments and dendrochronology of the timbers and, perhaps, the barrel. Over the next couple weeks I’ll obtain proposals for this work to bring to the ASD board for action. Our thinking right now is rather than spending a fair amount of money on well shaft barrel and timber conservation, ASD grant-in-aid money may be better spend on specialized analyses of the perishable contents.

Back in the field M-W next week

Dan

2015 SEP 12
All

Attached is a brief visual report on artifacts recovered from the barrel lining the well we are excavating (Feature 176). We removed most of the soil matrix and contents from inside the barrel this week and wet screened all the soil. We also have a sizable sample for flotation. As you can see, the organic preservation was amazing and we had some surprises. In the first image I can see peach pits, a possible pumpkin or winter squash stem, twigs that look to me like fruit trees, etc. There are also numerous wood shavings and/or barrel parts and a couple possible barrel straps (not in the image sent).

While there have been few artifacts found at the level of the organic preservation (about 7-9 feet below the base of plow zone), we did find 2 gold plated straight pins (second image)! We have about 10 or so buckets of soil remaining to be wet screened and about 67 buckets for flotation, so more organics and perhaps other artifacts remain to be recovered next week.

Dan

2015 SEP 10
All

Attached is a visual report on the status of the excavation of the well at Avery’s Rest. As you can see, we completed removal of most of the fill from the barrel that lined the well shaft in Feature 176. The contents of the fill were rich in floral remains, some shell and some bone. Alas, virtually no datable artifacts so far – one small piece of white glazed, tin-glazed earthenware and one small pipe stem fragment. The floral remains included peach pits, twigs and branches of what look to me to be fruit trees (perhaps peaches?), a possible pumpkin seed, a pumpkin stem, a few leaves, many wood shavings that look like they were produced by a draw knife or plane, etc. We are still in the process of wet screening and floating the fill and will complete that next week. I’ve been in contact with Justine McKnight (paleobotanist from Maryland) who is advising me on care of the materials and is interested in conducing the analysis.

I’m still working on interpreting the well construction at this level. The preserved and cut upper edges of the barrel are 7 feet below the base of plow zone, while the current water table is at 9 feet and 1 ½ inches from the base of plow zone. No evidence of the barrel occurred above 7 feet. So, was the barrel contemporary with the placement of the box well shaft liner or was the barrel a repair that took the bottom of the well shaft below the limits of the box liner? Excavating the fill between the exterior of the barrel and the box should help sort this out – maybe.

As for excavation, our next step is to remove the fill outside the barrel and to the box lining the well shaft as a separate context. We need to do this as much as possible before attempting to remove the barrel. The barrel has 19 staves of varying widths – all measured in situ yesterday. I’ll provide another update next week on the feature and tomorrow, some images of the artifact and ecofact finds.

Dan


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