July 27, 2007
by Meris Mullaley
With just about a week of the field school remaining, work at some of the excavation blocks has come to a close and a few smaller blocks have recently been opened. These last two weeks have (for myself) mainly been focused on the profiling of the walls.
After excavation ends in a block, the last step before it is considered “done” is to profile specified walls of the units. Profiling involves recording the appearance and order of sediment deposits in a unit. Photographs are taken and the thickness of all sediment deposits are measured and drawn on graph paper. This provides part of the context for the artifacts we have excavated.
One deposit present in PG 02-04 and PG 19-20 was a dark yellow-orange sandy deposit. This stratum yielded close to a dozen spent .45-70 caliber bullets, which were used in the trapdoor Springfield rifles. They were used between 1873 and 1890. This date was supported by an 1886 Indian head penny found directly below this deposit, providing the sand and bullets a terminus post quem date (meaning the earliest date it could have happened).
Completed profiles of blocks from across the site allow comparisons to be made about the overall stratification and deposit history. This sandy layer is not present anywhere else on site (that we have excavated) and perhaps has contributed to the slight hill on which units PG 01-04 were intentionally placed.
One possible interpretation of this deposit is a backstop for a firing range, including its bullets, was re-deposited on the Parade Ground as fill to even out the landscape.
The majority of this field school (excavation wise) is focused on the US Army Parade Ground—particularly the western barracks, kitchen and laundress quarters from the 1850s. However, other endeavors have been pursued at other areas on the Vancouver National Historic Reserve.
One aspect of field school is Survey. This week-long specialized lesson introduces students to methods used when looking for sites, assessing their significance or performing initial tests in areas of known sites. I led survey for two weeks. One week we focused our shovel tests (50x50 cm units) in the area of the Guard House. The next week, the shade-less hill was exchanged for the well-shaded and well-watered Officers Row, where we hoped to find kitchen remains to compare with those near the enlisted men’s’ barracks. The shovel tests did not find the Guard House. Two were located (according to historic maps digitized in GIS) near or in a 1880s structure. Another was full of at least eight levels (~80 cm) of gravel fill, possibly related to a road or demolition. At the bottom of this unit were brick fragments, but they seemed very damaged. It was concluded that any cultural material in that unit was blitzed by the gravel fill.
On Officer’s Row, two 1x2 meter units have been opened near two shovel tests that produced a large amount of brick, bone, charcoal, etc. in hopes of finding the fireplaces, kitchen or cellar.