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.
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).
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.