This past week, a handful of special guests helped to excavate Unit 12 — the last unit of the project! Their efforts yielded the clearest profile views of the earthwork ditch that we’ve seen yet.
Of course, we’ve cross sectioned the ditch before, in last summer’s Units 6 and 8. In both cases, the profiles revealed a complex history of ditch digging and infilling, including multiple zones of fill, subsequent post emplacement, and post removal. However, sampling these profiles for further analysis was more problematic than anticipated. One profile was dominated by a rock-filled posthole, so it was difficult to clearly see its stratigraphy. Another provided bulk soil samples for flotation (thanks Stephen Carmody!), after which there wasn’t much left for taking micromorphology samples. Last, in Unit 8, we allowed the profiles to dry out too much before sampling, which led to some pretty messy micromorph blocks.
So! With the help of volunteers Rachel Applefield and Beau Carroll, a new unit was tackled, with the explicit goal of generating some sampling-friendly profiles. Luck was on our side — neither wall of the unit included a rock-filled posthole, and though the recent rains have led to some muddy work, the layers of fill are proving much easier to sample than those that got so baked out in August.
On Saturday, geoarchaeologist, friend, and all around awesome lady Sarah Sherwood came by Garden Creek with her pack of canine companions. She lent her expertise to our sampling efforts and helped to revise some working interpretations. For instance, contrary to some of my preliminary (and admittedly inexpert) notions, Sarah has hypothesized that the bottom zone of ditch fill may have been filled in deliberately (instead of through erosion). If she’s right, this suggests purposeful, historical changes in the way the enclosure was used, and perhaps shifts in the meaning of this space through time.
Though parts of the profiles are pretty chewed up, thanks to the resident earthworms, Sarah and I are hopeful that micromorphological analyses of these deposits will shed even more light on the history of this unique feature. I doubt her dogs share our interest in this work, but it was a pleasure having them — along with all these great archaeologists — at the site!