As expected, today followed the universal law of archaeology mentioned yesterday. However, today was one of the coolest days we’ve had at the site thanks to cloud cover, which made working under pressure much more bearable. We were also visited by Linda Cordell and her friend Laura (whose last name escapes me—sorry Laura, I’m terrible with names!). As always, a visit from an expert archaeologist provided excellent insight into what we’ve discovered at Woodrow!
Unit 5. Unit 5 continued to produce multiple surprises and very interesting artifacts today. I also think we are closer to understanding the occupational history and architecture in the unit. While further investigating the pit feature mentioned yesterday Nick found more bear bone. Once the excavations in the pit were complete the crew worked on the rest of the unit. By the end of the day they had uncovered the nicest wall plaster we have seen at the site yet (of course, this happened after Linda and Laura left). What is most interesting is that we can see that the plaster was dug into, in order to construct the adobe lined pit full of bear bones. This was a very exciting discovery, because earlier in the day Linda told us about ritual animal deposits at other sites. At these sites, people would dig into previously occupied structures and deposit parts and pieces of select animals. What is more interesting is that this was done at different times, and in different levels of the empty structures. This would explain why we have found bear bone not only in the pit, but throughout the unit for the past 40-50 centimeters. The plaster also indicates to me that we are inside of a pithouse, and are just catching the face of one wall. Once we found the plaster we decided to remove the stones in the center of the unit that seemed to form a wall (which would have been constructed after the pithouse was abandoned). While removing it Nick found part of a mandible. At first we thought it was an herbivore because we only had the back three molars, and no canines. However, we did some online research when we got home (what did archaeologists do before Google image searches?), and to our untrained eyes it seems that we have a bear mandible. Although we are missing the front part, the molars look like what we should expect for a bear (Update* After looking more closely at the mandible, and at images for deer mandibles on Google earth, the mandible almost certainly is deer. Its amazing the difference taking a shower can make in perception after a hot day in the field. Still, a very cool deposit!) And what is really neat is that we found three large sherds associated with this mandible, each sherd of a different type (San Francisco Red, 3 Circle Red-on-white, and a strange sherd that looks like it might be a misfired Mogollon Red-on-brown).
Thus, it now seems to us that Unit 5 contains ritual deposits in a pithouse. It also appears that the pithouse was abandoned, filled with trash, and then had ritual deposits placed in it at later times. We still have not reached a definitive stratigraphic change, although it looks like we may be coming down on some roof fall. Tomorrow is the last day we have left to figure it out (during this field season, at least)!
Unit 7. Unit 7 also made significant progress today. Esteban and Jane were able to further define the north wall of the room, and found some excellent plaster still in place. The room is looking much nicer now that much of the wall fall has been removed. Unfortunately it looks like we will not be able to reach the floor in the unit this year. However, the work Jane and Esteban have done will go a long way for helping us understand the construction of the room, and will prepare us nicely for future excavations at the site.
Unit 8. Although Sean and Erin did not find the coolest stuff today (save for a very nice, small obsidian point. What can I say, projectile points still hold a special place in my heart), they probably worked the hardest at sweat the most. Sean and Erin are working in Unit 8, which we attached to Unit 3. This was done to further trace the pithouse edge we found in Unit 3. Because we know what the stratigraphy is, they worked on simply removing the 30-40 centimeter level of overburden above cultural fill. It would be great to further trace the edge of the pithouse; however we are running short on time. Most importantly, like Esteban and Jane, Erin and Sean are removing much fill and preparing Unit 8 for more extensive excavations in the future.
Tomorrow is our last day of excavation at Woodrow. By the afternoon the crew will need to start wrapping things up and profiling/mapping their units. I simply cannot believe how fast and how well this project has gone (save for the few minor road bumps such as our Suburban breaking down). As always, I wish we had one or two more days to explore the cool stuff we have been finding recently. But I guess we can view the ending of this season as a cliffhanger finale to a TV show; we’ll just have to wait until next season!