NEWS FROM AVERY'S REST
March 20, 2016
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.
February 4, 2016
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
2015 Oct 28
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).
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
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.
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
2015 OCT 2
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.
2015 SEP 28
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.
2015 SEP 24
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.
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
2015 SEP 18
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.
2015 SEP 18
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
2015 SEP 12
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).
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.
2015 SEP 10
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.
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.
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