September Excavations at Dooley’s Ferry

The first of this fall’s three long-weekend digs at Dooley’s Ferry is, quite literally, in the books. Volunteers from as far away as Monticello showed up and helped excavate three new test units (TU6-8) in the area we believe was the back yard of the structure that appears in both historical documents and the geophysical data collected earlier this year.

DFSepDigThere are a lot of artifacts to process, as, like during the Spring Break Dig, the artifact density for the units was quite high. There are the usual lot of nails of different pennyweights, ceramics of different sorts (though primarily whitewares), and significant amounts of glass (both flat and vessel). The structure was definitely not a log cabin (which tend to be thin on nails) and had glass windows in them (some early cabins had paper coverings on the window that would be soaked in oil to make them translucent).

A clay marble and a jack suggests the presence of children playing at the house. A bone die could either be a child’s toy or evidence of more adult diversions. As we process the artifacts, we will find more such small finds that tell us about the inhabitants of the site. See Mary Beaudry’s work on small finds research.

The primary goal of this fieldwork was to identify the age of the site. We know there was a building there in the 1860s and later, but we don’t know how old it might be. A piece of blue shell-edged whiteware and a reed stem pipe suggest that there may be an antebellum component, which would push the date of habitation earlier than the documents tell us.

Amazingly, we had three rain days. We were chased out of the field by a gullywasher on Thursday, and we didn’t even try to go out on Sunday and Monday. Given the drought conditions the area has been laboring under for the past couple of years, I’m certainly not going to complain.

We’re set up well to proceed with our next round of excavations in October. Look for more posts before then, here on the Trowel ‘N’ Transit.

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