Earthwork update

As of today, we have one more week at Garden Creek this season. To my considerable surprise, we seem to be on track to finish without much stress orscrambling (famous last words). We now have backfilled all but one of the eight units we opened this summer, so we are able to give our full attention to the earthwork ditch.

Cross-section profile of the earthwork ditch in Unit 6, before Stephen Carmody (PhD student, University of Tennessee) removed the flot column last weekend. The top zone of fill is dark, charcoal rich, and includes a considerable amount of mica sheet fragments. The middle zone of fill is yellow and more clayey. The bottom zone is subtly striated with brown and yellow sediments. We think these represent a series of dumping and erosion episodes that followed the initial excavation of the ditch. For scale, the floor of this unit is about 1.5 meters across.

When we last posted about the ditch, we had removed the first of three zones of sediment that filled the ditch, which revealed a line of rock filled postholes that more-or-less followed the shape of the ditch. The help of Pisgah National Forest Archaeologist Scott Ashcraft and some local volunteers have allowed us to move a lot more dirt since then!

Jess and Alicia successfully removed the middle zone of fill just before public archaeology day. Some of the rock filled posts continued into this zone, but we’ve discovered that they all end before we hit sterile at the base of the ditch itself.

Jess and Alicia at the base of the ditch, on top of the third/bottom zone of fill. The mottling in the high area on the right is caused by differential drying.

This past week, we moved into the third zone of fill. This zone has much fewer artifacts than the zones above it. Luckily, it is pretty easy to differentiate it from the homogeneous, yellow clay underneath.

Scott cleaning the ditch wall and floor, under Jess's supervision.

As mentioned above, this zone includes bands of gray and yellow sediment, which we think represent different dumping and erosion episodes. Some of these dumps are pretty discrete, and include fire cracked rock, cobbles, and broken portions of pots. Jess excavated one of these episodic features near the base of the ditch.

Cluster of rocks and potsherds (lower left) possibly representing a dumping episode in the third zone of ditch fill.

Next week, we’ll finish cleaning out the little bit of fill that’s left in the ditch. Then we’ll bisect the postholes we’ve identified outside the ditch, take some micromorphology samples, and backfill, backfill, backfill! Then back to Michigan for artifact analysis….

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About Alice Wright

Alice is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Appalachian State University. She tweets about archaeology, Appalachia, and cats @alicepwright.
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