Another Day, Another 10 bags (give or take) of Artifacts

The crew washing artifacts at the end of the day

The crew washing artifacts at the end of the day


Archaeologists have to wear many hats. We need to know a little about geology, osteology, geometry, and many other “-ogy’s”. We also have to be artists (to a certain extent). Today, Lonnie and Erin got to practice their art skills. They spent most of their day drawing the north and east profiles of Unit 5. For non-archaeologists, a profile is the flat face of an excavation unit. We draw profiles so that we have a record of the stratigraphy in the unit. This is important because after we leave the field it will tell us how deep a floor was, how deep trash fill was, etc. Sometimes profiles are straightforward and east to draw. The profiles for unit 5 are not, and they also are two meters tall. Erin and Lonnie did a great job though! Once profiling was done, they established a new unit, Unit 18, directly north of Unit 5. This is another 1 x 2 meter unit stacked directly north of Unit 5. We chose to dig here because we think it will reveal more of the center part of the room. Lonnie and Erin (and anyone else who excavates in Unit 5) have their work cut out for them though; we know they have to dig through 2 meters of fill to reach the rooffall.

Erin and Lonnie profiling

Erin and Lonnie profiling

A new unit was also established in the great kiva today. We were able to do this because we found a surface at the bottom of Unit 15. This is the same surface that we first saw in Unit 12. While we didn’t find any artifacts on the surface, we did find some interesting breaks in the surface. A piece of the surface is missing in the center of the unit; at this point it is not exactly clear why the surface is missing, yet there is no evidence the missing floor was caused by a hearth or posthole. The missing surface may be part of a groove cut into the floor. As expected, we also found the surface missing in the northeast 1/3rd of the unit. This matches the break in the surface we found in Unit 12, and the lack of surface in Unit 9. Once we exposed the surface we photographed and documented it, then covered it back up. Eventually, we will remove the baulk between the units and fully expose the surface. However, the longer it can stay covered and protected, the better. Our plan now is to excavate a new unit, Unit 19, directly east of Unit 12 (creating a trench from our first two units). We hope to expose more of the surface with this unit, and possibly identify a wall of the great kiva.

Surface in Unit 5, facing west

Surface in Unit 15, facing west

Eventually, we will figure out what is going on in the adobe-cobble room. Today, however, once again brought confusion. What we thought was a corner seems not to be. We did, however, identify more of the surface, and found a piece of shell and a crystal on it. However, the surface is not as nice as the previously exposed surface in the area. By tomorrow we hope to have the surface completely exposed for much of the adobe room. Hopefully, we will finally begin to understand the layout of this structure.

The Archaeology Southwest/University of Arizona Preservation Archaeology Field School visited us at Woodrow today. They are actually working close to us this year, at the Dinwiddie site. It was great showing around the site to students for the first time, and I look forward to seeing what they find at Dinwiddie!

The Preservation Archaeology Field School checking out Woodrow Ruin

The Preservation Archaeology Field School checking out Woodrow Ruin

Jakob

(Field) Monday, (Field) Monday

Hello Everyone,
Today was the start of our third week in the field at Woodrow Ruin. No “major” discoveries were made today, but we did move a lot of dirt!

Today was a pretty straightforward day for Unit 5. The morning started out with Erin clearing the remaining baulk in the unit to the surface. We collected two more dendro samples along the way. The floor is now exposed entirely throughout Unit 5. After the floor was exposed, we covered it back up (like everywhere else in the unit), and began cleaning Unit 5 up. This consisted of making the unit walls nice and neat, so we can have a good look at the stratigraphy in the unit. The plan is to draw the profiles tomorrow, and then expand the unit north.

Erin cleaning a profile in Unit 5

Erin cleaning a profile in Unit 5

Unit 15 also had a pretty straightforward day. The crew worked on removing fill to the level of the surface that we identified in Unit 12. As expected, the crew hit wallfall above the floor. Interestingly, the wall fall was found only in the eastern 2/3rds of the Unit. In fact, the wall stopped almost immediately at the point where there is a break in the surface in Unit 12. This is another piece in the puzzle of the great kiva. Our best guess is that the wall fall is missing in the western 1/3rd of Unit 15 because the people who constructed the shrine we found at the bottom of Unit 9 removed it. Once again, the presence of Style III sherds (which date to the Classic period) under the shrine indicates the shrine was built sometime after 1000 AD. This means that the great kiva was abandoned, then the walls collapsed (or were pushed in), and then at a later point in time someone came back, dug through the wall fall in the center of the great kiva and constructed a shrine in it. Tomorrow, the crew should begin to expose surface in Unit 15.

Examining the Great Kiva

Examining the Great Kiva

Stones on the east, none on the west

Stones on the east, none on the west

Once again, describing the developments in Units 6,10, 11, 13, 14, 16, and now 17 is difficult to do in a blog post. I’ll just say that we may have found part of another wall running parallel to the original wall we identified last year. We will continue to excavate tomorrow, and hopefully find more wall/surface. Currently, it seems like we have one room constructed of adobe/cobbles, measuring approximately 4.5 meters by 3.5 meters.

Unit 15, possible wall on the right

Unit 16, possible wall on the right

Sorry today’s update is a bit short; its just one of those days in archaeology where we move a lot of dirt, so that we can get to the good stuff later. Overall, it was another beautiful day at the site!

Jakob

Week 2 in the Books

Today marked the end of our second week at the site. I can’t believe we’ve already been excavating for 10 days, and the project is just about halfway done! Like usual, we made some excellent progress today, and are really starting to understand the site.

The crew in Unit 5 spent the day removing the excess baulk along the east wall from last year. Doing this really helped us understand the stratigraphy of the pithouse. Like some of the other things I’ve tried to describe, explaining what we’ve learned is a little hard to do via a blog. I’ll do my best. Basically, we found a distinct vertical stratigraphic break along the east profile face. The northern 2/3rd of the profile is full of cobbles, ceramics, mammal bones, and other “trashy” fill. The fill in the southern 1/3rd has few cobbles, is finer and sandier, and has fewer artifacts. Thus, we have two different depositional histories in the units. Currently, the best explanation I have for the different stratigraphy is that the northern part of the unit is in the ramp, and the southern half is along the pithouse’s architectural wall. Figuring out the architecture of the pithouse is great. However, we also found a burnt corncob today! This is the first piece of corn we have excavated at Woodrow.
By the end of the day almost the entire floor in Unit 5 had been exposed. It should be fully uncovered by the end of our next day (our Monday, everyone else’s Wednesday).

1200 year old corn

1200 year old corn

East profile of Unit 5

East profile of Unit 5

Unit 15 also made excellent progress today. For the most part, the day was spent removing overburden from the Unit. We did expose more of the hard-packed adobe surface from the historic period (we found a few more pieces of tin in it). After this was documented it was removed, and the crew worked on digging down to the surface we found in Unit 12 yesterday. By the end of the day the crew had reached the large stones that appear to be wall fall above the surface.

Checking out the action in the Great Kiva

Checking out the action in the Great Kiva

The crew in Unit 14 was able to expose surface throughout the unit today. Although we did not find any architecture, we did find several flat-laying sherds. After the floor was uncovered and documented we covered it back up, and established a new unit, Unit 16. This is a 1 x 2 meter unit with the long axis running north to south; it is directly south of unit 13 and west of Unit 14. With any luck, we will find more of the adobe wall in Unit 16. In fact, right at the end of the day we found what appears to be adobe in the SW corner of the unit.

Surface in Unit 14

Surface in Unit 14

Overall, we had another excellent week at the site. It really is amazing how much we learned in a week!

Looks like everyone could use a good shower

Looks like everyone could use a good shower


Jakob

Slow but steady…

Today, we collected the least amount of artifacts in a day from the site so far this year. The crew was pleased with this, because it meant we only had a few bags to wash when we got back home. It didn’t really affect my post-digging day much; Delton and I had to run trash to the dump (just one of the many joys of being a project director). We recovered so few artifacts because every unit was doing slow, delicate work. Once again, this is not a bad thing at all. Slow, delicate work in archaeology usually means we are excavating a floor, roof-fall, or other important feature.

For most of the day, the crew in Unit 5 worked on removing fill below the “shrine” feature we found above the roof-fall last year. Just like the rest of the unit, there was much burned material in this fill. We were able to collect a few more dendro samples, which was very exciting. Unit 5 also wins the prize for finding the “coolest” artifact today; they uncovered half of a glycymeris shell bracelet. After the burned roof material was removed, the floor was exposed. No new features were found on the floor. Once the floor was identified, we covered it with plastic sheeting and a layer of fill to protect. Erin and Dean are now working on baulk left in the NE corner of the unit from last year. Once the baulk is removed, we will have floor exposed throughout the Unit, which will help us decided where to excavate next.

Glycymeris bracelet from Unit 5

Glycymeris bracelet from Unit 5

We made some very interesting discoveries in the great kiva today. The day began with the crew carefully scarping and brushing the ashy surface we found yesterday. We once again found several flat-laying sherds on it, and a complete, nicely made obsidian projectile point. It soon became clear that we almost undoubtedly were on a surface. Although I thought the surface might have been from a later, intrusive occupation yesterday, I now am fairly confident that the surface was from the original use of the great kiva. I put a test window in, and about 10 cm down (which is the average thickness of a great kiva floor) saw sterile soil. Additionally, the sherds on the surface were primarily Style I and II, which date to when the great kiva should have originally been used (around 850-950 AD, for non-Mimbres archaeologists). So, we have an original occupation surface on which something burned intensely. This is great! However, it does not explain why in Unit 9, towards the center of the great kiva, we have sherds that date to the Classic period below sherds that date to the Late Pithouse. Currently, the best explanation I have for this is that someone dug into the center of the kiva during the Classic period and made the shrine we discovered in Unit 9. Although we don’t completely understand the occupation, abandonment, and reuse of the great kiva at this time we are making excellent progress, and know much more than we did a few days ago. Because I think the floor is from the original use of the great kiva I did not want to excavate through it. We therefore established a new unit, Unit 15 immediately south of Units 9 and 10. It is a 3 x 1 meter unit that will help us understand the surface we found in Unit 12, and should also help us delineate the break between the floor and fill in Unit 9.

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Surface in Unit 12

Profiling in Units 9 and 12

Profiling in Units 9 and 12


Unit 14 also made some excellent progress today. The day was mostly spent excavating down to the surface, and then uncovering the surface. By the end of the day, the crew had just started uncovering the surface. We will continue to expand and exposing the surface tomorrow.

Kelly and Megan excavating surface in Unit 14

Kelly and Megan excavating surface in Unit 14

It’s almost June, and that means its starting to get hot in southwest New Mexico. I don’t know the official temperature, but it almost certainly made it into the 90’s today. Still, 90 is not too bad…

Jakob

A Little Less Confusion

The confusion from yesterday cleared up a bit today at Woodrow Ruin. We are beginning to understand the adobe architecture in Units 6/10/11/13 better, found the floor in Unit 5, and found a very ashy, burned area in the Great Kiva.

Lonnie and Erin found the floor in Unit 5 early this morning. After days of delicate scraping and brushing, no more large burned beams were found. A few small twigs and reeds were uncovered to start the day, along with a very cool piece of burned fiber used to tie thatch together. The floor was immediately below this fine material. As I expected, it was initially difficult to distinguish the floor from the burned material that was above it. However, once the floor was defined it was easy to trace and expose. We found no new features in the floor. After the floor was exposed, we covered it with plastic sheeting and laid several buckets of backfill on top of it. Although it may seem crazy, we reburied the surface to help protect it while we worked on the rest of the unit. The crew, which now consists of Dean and Erin, will work on removing baulk in the unit left over from last year’s excavation. We are doing this to fully expose the surface in the Unit, in order to properly decide where to expand excavation of the pithouse.

Burned thatching in Unit 5

Burned thatch in Unit 5

In situ bowl in Unit 5

In situ bowl in Unit 5

Burned twine from Unit 5

Burned twine from Unit 5

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Surface in Unit 5

After a week and a half of mixed fill that consisted almost entirely of ceramics and cobbles/architectural debris, the crew in Unit 12 began to find something different today. About mid-morning Lori began to notice ash about midway through the unit. This ash extended in patches east in the unit. A test window revealed that this ash layer is at least 10 cm thick. It also seems to cover almost all of the eastern extent of the great kiva. This is very interesting. We found no evidence of an ash layer in Unit 9; the ash simply isn’t present in the earlier unit. The as in Unit 12 is not a thin lens, but a thick layer that would be visible in Unit 9’s eastern profile if it were in Unit 9. So, the ash seems to be confined to the eastern half of Unit 12. Several flat-laying sherds were present in the uppermost layer of the ash. This indicates that the ash could possibly be on a surface, yet the test window does reveal at least another 10 cm of ash. The fill mixed with the ash is also different than what the crews working in Unit 9 have seen so far. It is softer, looser, and seems to have a higher density of trash artifacts.
At this point, it is unclear what the ash layer represents. Currently, my best guess is that it was an intrusive deposit associated with cobbles protruding from the east profile. The presence of Style II ceramics in the ash fill indicates that the deposit was made some time in the mid 10th century. I do not think that the ash is on the original occupation surface of the great kiva, based on the depth of Unit 9, and the fact that we found no such deposits in that Unit. Still I am wary of simply digging through the ash and possible surface, in case it is the original occupation surface. We will therefore work very carefully in scraping and clearing the ash.
A “cool” artifact was also found in Unit 9 today, just above the ash layer. We found what appears to be a cloud blower. It is made of clay, tapered at one end, and has a hole running through it. If it is a cloud blower, it is the largest one I have ever seen. It is partially broken, so it is difficult to determine exactly what its function was. Still, we have found nothing else like it at the site so far.

Cloudblower?

Cloudblower?

I think we finally started to understand the adobe mess in Units 6/10/11/13/14 better today. We started the day by trying to remove excess fill in order to better expose the surface/floor. Unsurprisingly, the surface was initially hard to define. I therefore decided to clean up the NE corner of Unit 13, which was an adobe/cobble mess. As I cleaned the wall, fill neatly fell off a very nicely face adobe wall. Most importantly, we found what appears to be a corner. This corner attaches to the original adobe wall we defined last year, and runs southwest to northeast. Unfortunately, no wall is attached to this corner. As I have hopefully made clear, digging adobe is difficult because it does not preserve well. It is also very likely that the adobe wall was destroyed (at least partially) prehistorically. Once again, the profiles of the units we have dug help us understand where the wall was. On the NW side of where the missing wall should be, the profile is full of fist-sized cobbles, indicating sterile soil. The fill south of this lacks these cobbles, and is full of trash. Thus, I think we may have finally defined at least some of the boundaries of the room. We added a new unit today, Unit 14, south of Units 11 and 6. Unit 14 should be located on the interior of the room, and should contain part of the hearth we defined in Unit 6 last year.

Megan and Josh working hard

Megan and Josh working hard

Finally, Dean Hood joined our project today. Dean spent the morning pin flagging all surface architecture visible at the site. I will later go through and GPS these pin flags. Doing this will hopefully give us an idea of how many surface rooms there are at Woodrow Ruin.

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend! We still have two more days of work for our week, but will have Memorial Day off.

Jakob

Land of Confusion…

Anytime archaeologists dig a hole in the ground we learn something, even if the hole has nothing in it. Today we continued to dig our holes in the ground, and even though we were learning about the site, it is not quite clear what we learned at this point…

Out of all the units currently under excavation at Woodrow Ruin, Unit 5 is the least confusing. However, Unit 5 currently has the most delicate material, and we are moving slow (which isn’t a bad thing). Erin and Lonnie continued to excavate the burned roof today. After spending the last few days on the roof, we are beginning to have a clearer picture of the stratigraphy. The uppermost layer is burned mud/adobe; this would have covered the beams and thatching of the roof. Yesterday, we excavated many beams below this mud/adobe capping. Today, we found a lot of reeds and smaller organic material from the thatching, and also some evidence that we are getting close to the surface.
The day started with the identification of many small burned reeds and other material used for thatching of the roof. Lonnie even found some burned string used to tie roofing material together (such finds are rare)! Overall, the fill in Unit 5 was almost completely defined by burned material. Every artifact we recovered had evidence of burning. While having so much burned material is great (it often helps with preservation, if the artifacts don’t disintegrate), it also means we will have a tough time distinguishing where the floor is, because the floor will either also be burned, or heavily stained by burned materials. However, we are starting to see some evidence of the floor. Today we found the top of an upright jar sticking out of the fill. The bottom of this jar will almost certainly be on the floor. We also found a complete, but broken, small, Mimbres Style I bowl. Complete artifacts would have been left on the floor, in the burned roof, or on top of it. Due to the position and types of artifacts we are finding, I imagine we should be to the floor within the next couple of days.

Overview of burned material in Unit 5

Overview of burned material in Unit 5

Burned thatching in Unit 5

Burned thatching in Unit 5

Style I bowl from Unit 5

Style I bowl from Unit 5

The crew working in Unit 12 continued to remove fill full of chronologically mixed ceramics today. We still have not defined any architecture, or found any burned material or surfaces. This is somewhat confusing, but we still are not as deep as we were in Unit 9 before we stopped excavating there. Towards the end of the day the crew started to expose several large cobbles that seem too large simply to have washed into the great kiva, which is more confusing. There is no surface or roofing material below these stones, and mixed fill is found below them. As with the “shrine” discovered in Unit 9, the sherds immediately around and between the cobbles were primarily Mimbres Style II and Style III. These types are supposed to post-date when this great kiva was used (in the Late Pithouse period). Additionally, the large cobbles seemed to be confined to the south side of the unit; large cobbles protrude from the south profile, and are virtually absent from the north. Currently, the best explanation I have for the sherds and cobbles is that the cobbles were part of some sort of intrusive feature (maybe another shrine, or even room?) built in the kiva sometime around or shortly after AD 1000. Hopefully tomorrow we will begin to understand the occupation of the great kiva better, especially if we reach the depth that we stopped in Unit 9.

Unit 13, the unit full of adobe architecture, was (of course) the most confusing unit today. I am going to stop pontificating about possible walls, crosswalls, and wingwalls until we have conclusively identified one. Describing the possible walls, and our ideas about the walls would once again be too difficult to do in a blog post. What I will say, however, is that the excavation of Unit 13 provided surprises. The fill we excavated in Unit 13 today was unlike the fill we have seen so far in Units 4, 6, 10, or 11. We found a large mammal long bone, and multiple pieces from a thick walled ceramic vessel (or vessels). The fill is also soft and dark in color. This fill is most reminiscent to the artifact dense trash fill that we excavated in Unit 5 last year. The different fill could indicate that we are excavating in a different room, or a different section of a room. Tomorrow, we should be able to uncover a floor in Unit 13. This should help us understand the layout of the room (or rooms).

Unit 6, 10, 11, and 13, facing east

Unit 6, 10, 11, and 13, facing east

Sample of large sherds recovered from Unit 13

Sample of large sherds recovered from Unit 13

Baxter and Megan figuring out Unit 13

Baxter and Megan figuring out Unit 13

So, we made great progress again today, but could not conclusively interpret much at the site. Days like this happen in every archaeological project. With a bit more excavation, we should have some more definitive answers.

Jakob

Dendro City!

Today was the first day of our second week at Woodrow Ruin. We lost Sean, and Natalie for a week, but Lori started working with us today. We picked up right where we left off last Sunday (which is our Friday, its confusing, I know).

The theme of the day today was dendros (short for dendrochronological samples). Today, we exposed and collected a number of dendrochronological samples, bringing our total from Unit 5 close to 15. This is a fantastic amount of dendros. As I mentioned before, I am hopeful that we will get dates from some of these beams. If these can be dated, they will provide valuable information not only for the site, but the upper Gila in general, where dendrochronological data is limited. Because dendros are so important, and are also very fragile, it takes A LOT of time to excavate just one. Thus, Lonnie and Erin spent most of the day working on exposing the dendros. I jumped into the action too, and actually spent the majority of the day in Unit 5. Along with collecting some great samples, we identified what appears to be the floor immediately beneath one of the beams. It may take a while to get to the floor, because there are so many beams, but having so many beams really is great!

Archaeology or construction site?

Archaeology or construction site?

Dendros in Unit 5

Dendros in Unit 5

Another Beam in Unit 5

Another Beam in Unit 5

The crew working in the great kiva established a new unit today, Unit 12. After discussing the rock alignment with other archaeologists and thinking about it during the weekend, I am fairly confident that the large, flat rocks at the bottom of Unit 9 are part of a shrine. Because we left these rocks in place, there is limited space to work in the kiva. We are really deep, and still haven’t found any diagnostic architectural features. We therefore decided to expand, and add another 1 x 2 meter unit directly east of Unit 9 (creating a 4 x 1 trench heading east from the center of the great kiva). This new unit should hopefully uncover SOME form of architecture. The crew made great progress today. As expected, we once again enocountered the hard-packed clay layer near the surface, which seems to be an informal use surface associated with the historic period. We also found what appears to be another posthole in the surface. We will not pedestal this posthole, because we want to expose as much prehistoric area as possible. Delton and Sara made great progress today, and will continue to clear cultural fill from the great kiva tomorrow.

Jakob and Delton establishing Unit 12

Jakob and Delton establishing Unit 12

Unit 12 (Post hole in top left)

Unit 12 (Post hole in top left)

If you read this blog last year, you know that on several occasions I was certain about something, and then a day later I had changed my mind. This is the case with Unit 10/11. Before our weekend, I thought that we had two rooms between the units. I am now confident we have only one. The crew working in Units 6, 10, and 11 had reached an end point this morning. We had what seemed to be the floor exposed, and needed to decide where to dig next. The only way to be completely confident about the surface was to fully expose the hearth in Unit 6. By doing this, we discovered that what we thought was a cross-wall really was not; the hearth extended through it and into the surface in Unit 11. Once we determined that we were excavating in one room, it was easy to determine where to put the next excavation Unit. Towards the end of the day, the crew established Unit 13, a 1 x 2 meter unit (with the long axis running N-S) directly west of Units 10 and 11. Our goals for Unit 13 are to expose more of the surface, and hopefully identify more adobe architecture.

Lori and Baxter Drawing Profiles

Lori and Baxter Drawing Profiles

Another great day at the site! Things are moving along very well!

Jakob