Today was our first day back in the field since our “weekend” (Wednesday and Thrusday), and it was very productive! A new unit was established, we had a visit from the ASU field school, all crews recovered pounds of artifacts, and we discovered new artifact types previously absent from the collection this year.
Unit 3. Like Unit 1, Unit 3 continues to be enigmatic, producing different interpretations with every level excavated. At the start of day, we thought that perhaps we were beginning to see the outline of the pithouse observed in Unit 1. We defined what appeared to be part of a pit dug into sterile sediment in the eastern 2/3rds of the unit (see picture below). However, when we excavated deeper, this apparent pattern disappeared. Interestingly, the artifacts recovered from the upper levels of Unit 3 were somewhat different than those in Unit 1. The size of the ceramic sherds was larger, and the density of sherds was greater. This led us to think that the unit was in a trash deposit. However, by the end of the day (level 4), sherd size and density had dropped. Large “blobs” of adobe/jacal/wall melt were encountered throughout the day. By the end of the day, all of the early trends and patterns had disappeared in the unit. The crew is now coming down on what appears to be sterile sediment in the western 1/3rd, which does not align with the possible pithouse in Unit 1. Yet we encountered something very similar to this in Unit 1. We were ready to close Unit 1 when we decided to excavate a bit further, and we continued finding cultural material for the next 3-4 levels. Something similar may be occurring in the unit now. Perhaps both units have a cap of what appears to be sterile sediment, with cultural fill below. Regardless, we will excavate another level or two to at least determine if anything lies below level 4.
Unit 2. Today, we encountered a new stratigraphic layer in Unit 2. At first, I thought we may be coming down on a floor or surface, but by the end of the day I was not so sure about this anymore. After the crew finished mapping level 5, I put in a test window along the east wall of the unit. After 5-6 cm, I hit a layer of material much harder than the loose fill above. I excavated this out for a bit, and it did seem to continue. Thus, I thought it may be a surface. However, it soon disappeared, and was not consistent. While floors and surfaces are often in poor shape in the Mimbres region, this was too poor to be deemed a surface. Still, it is something different. We may have reached a level of roof/wall melt. It could be something else entirely also. Rocks and other artifacts are still diving beneath this level, so more remains below. Right at the end of the day, the crew found the largest sherd of the project yet. This sherd is another piece of evidence that leads me to believe that the room the unit is in was unexcavated. Although it is not a complete bowl, a sherd (it seems almost too big to call a sherd) this large would have been collected. We will continue excavations tomorrow, and hopefully come close to hitting a surface!
Backfill Unit 1. Today, Kyle and Josh, site stewards for Woodrow Ruin came out and volunteered to help with our excavations. I decided to have them screen back-dirt piles from previous excavations in the roomblock. This may seem a bit silly; why screen dirt that already has been excavated? However, we know that archaeology in the middle part of the 20th century was not as meticulous as we are today. Excavated fill was rarely screened, leaving many artifacts behind. Thus, I can still learn about the roomblock from the material in the backdirt pile. And Kyle and Josh found enough artifacts to keep me busy all next academic year. They filled four large paper sacks with ceramics and lithics. I had them use 1/8 inch screen (smaller than what the other crews are using), in order to catch as many artifacts as possible, since the dirt already had been excavated. Kyle and Josh found a small obsidian projectile point (we also found a point in Unit 3 today), shell, bone, and small beads that would have fell through a ¼ inch screen. Their screening of the back dirt was very successful, and I hope to screen more in different areas of the site!
A great start to the week! Thanks to the ASU field school for visiting today!