The ditch and the dogs

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.

North wall of Unit 12, with the ditch profile. For scale, the top of the ditch below the plowzone is about 180 cm wide (the unit as a whole is 230 cm wide). The right side is the outer edge of the ditch (i.e., outside the enclosure).

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.

Rachel and Beau, peeling back the upper zone of ditch fill.

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.

Sarah, shoveling back a balk of sterile subsoil to get a better look at the edge of the ditch -- as her noble dog Ty looks on.

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!

Sarah's dog Leo, surely contemplating the ditch.




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.
This entry was posted in Excavation, Features, Micromorphology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The ditch and the dogs

  1. Bennie Keel says:

    A beautiful profile of the ditch. I’ll be most interested in what yoiu make of all this.

    See you in Memphis?


  2. Alice Wright says:

    Yes! In fact, I’l be talking about the ditch in a session on Thursday. I’d love to get your two cents on it while I’m there!

  3. Bennie Keel says:

    I’ll be there. Have you a map with the mound and your grid?

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