Today, I learned two primary things about Woodrow Ruin: locating pithouses is extremely difficult, and relatively undisturbed, protected sites can produce a multitude of artifacts. We had another very productive day, and are starting to learn interesting things about Woodrow Ruin.
Unit 1. Today was a day of seeming ups and downs for Unit 1. The numerous rocks encountered in early levels continued throughout the unit today. This made excavation difficult. Although there was a mix of ceramics, most seemed to date from Style I or earlier, indicating that a Late Pithouse era occupation occurred in this area of the site. As I stated yesterday, the primary goal of Unit 1 was to come down on a hearth within a pithouse, as identified in the geophysical survey. By the end of the day, however, it was apparent that Unit 1 was not placed over a pithouse. The crew excavated two more levels (5 and 6), each 10 centimeters, and by the bottom of level 6, sterile soil was reached throughout the unit. A few interesting things bare mentioning, even though we think we reached the bottom of Unit 1. In level 5, the crew came across a soil change in the SW corner of the unit that appeared to be a posthole. A circle of dark, brown sediment apx 14cm in diameter was found in sterile soil. We were excited at first, but further investigation revealed that the “feature” was merely a rodent burrow (something every archaeologists has likely encountered). Sterile soil first became apparent in the western 1/3rd of the unit in level 5, but did not appear until close to the bottom of level 6 on the eastern 1/3rd. This gives the sterile soil a slope, starting higher up in the western end of the unit and sloping down to the eastern end. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Unit 1 is the difference in rock sizes in the profile faces. As I’ve mentioned, rocks of various sizes were found throughout the excavation of Unit 1. By the end of the day, once the unit was cleaned, it was apparent the southern profile face of the unit had rocks much larger in size than the north profile face. The small rocks found throughout the unit were part of the natural geology at the site; the large rocks, however, were undoubtedly imported from the riverbed. At this point, it is unclear why the rocks are differentiated like this.
As it became apparent that Unit 1 would not come down on a Pithouse, I began thinking about where to put the next unit in order to find one. In the morning, Lekson and I shot in 3 transects in order to systematically test the western half of the site for pithouses with a soil corer. However, this proved to be very difficult. The geology at Woodrow Ruin is very rocky, both naturally, and from the stones brought to the site to construct architecture. Thus, the soil core could not easily sink into the ground. We had to give up soil coring; we could not get the probe far enough into the ground to accomplish much. The few units we were able to sink did reveal interesting information, however. In each successful test, the soil core reached a depth of 90 centimeters, and no sterile soil was encountered. In Unit 1, sterile soil was encountered approximately 50 cm below ground surface. Thus, deeper cultural deposits, possibly pithouses do exist on the western half of the site.
Upon closer examination, I realized that Unit 1 was placed too far west to come down on the anomalous feature present in the geophysical survey data. Thus, once Unit 1 is closed (profile faces drawn, etc), another unit will be put in 2 meters immediately east of Unit 1. Hopefully this unit will come down on a Late Pithouse hearth. If everything goes well, we should have this new unit in place by the end of tomorrow!
Unit 2. As mentioned yesterday, the crew of Unit 2 spent today expanding the unit in order to define the eastern architectural wall of a room within the central roomblock. The crew accomplished this goal by the end of the day. At this point, it is still unclear whether the room was excavated by the GCAS, if backfill was placed in the unit, if it was unexcavated, etc. However, the crew did not excavate any deeper than they did yesterday. Now that the unit is expanded, we can hopefully begin to answer this question tomorrow. Regardless, numerous rocks and artifacts were encountered in Unit 2 today. So many ceramics were found that artifacts bags literally burst. These ceramics have not been thoroughly analyzed and identified yet. However, we did wash the artifacts today, and it is apparent that while mix of types was found in the fill of the room, Style II and Style III were the most common. Once again, it is unclear if these sherds were left behind in previous excavations, or if the room served as a trash dump once it was abandoned prehistorically. Regardless, I already have enough ceramics to keep me busy for hours! I’m also impressed with the amount of obsidian we have recovered at the site. It all likely came from Mule Creek, approximately 30 miles from Woodrow.
Just like day 1, day 2 was very successful. Although we still don’t know the condition of Unit 2, and did not identify a pithouse in Unit 1, we still have learned much from the site. And we have a ton of artifacts! It took the five of us nearly an hour and a half to wash two days worth of lithics and ceramics!
PS–We had a smokey morning, but the winds shifted and the smoke cleared by the afternoon. We had a pretty good view of the largest fire in New Mexico’s history from the site today. The smoke looked more like that of a bomb, than a forest fire.