Week 4 Round-Up

The field school moved out to the Wye House plantation this week, delving into the history of the slave laborers. Using historic maps and aerial photography of the landscape, graduate student Benjamin Skolnik identified what we believe to be two slave quarters, and we have spent this first week attempting to find the foundations of those buildings.

Salt glazed brick. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

Salt glazed brick. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

There are currently five units open, three in an open field and two in a wooded area across the cove. Under the trees, Unit 69 found animal bones with cut marks—a sign of a domesticity—as well as whole bricks, and a mixture of cut and wire nails. The bricks were not articulated, that is, not in their original positions, but this could mean that there was once a wall that collapsed. A few meters away, in Unit 68, the excavators found much of the same, and also interpreted their brick rubble to be the result of wall collapse. They discovered a wide diversity in bricks, with a variety of qualities. One sort of brick that has been found in all of the units this week is notable for its thick blue-green salt glaze.

Across the water, Units 65 and 66 have been finding debris of brick, mortar, and stone, evidence of the potential slave quarter. Unit 65 found a possible foundation along one wall of their unit, and Unit 66 hopes that they have found the continuation of that wall in theirs. Both units found similar artifacts—glass bottles, cut nails, bones, and an identical style of button. Unit 67 is likely on the outside of what used to be the building, containing a rubble mixture of brick, mortar, and oyster shells, along with thrown-away objects such as glass, bone, painted or transfer-printed whiteware, and black basalt—a dense, glossy black ceramic.

Glass lecture. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

Glass lecture. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

On Thursday, Jocelyn Knauf lectured to the students about different types of glass, helping them to understand more about how bottles and other containers were made and identify their time period. An excellent resource for us and others interested in glass identification is the Society for Historical Archaeology’s Bottle Dating Guide.

As part of my research on the gardening practices at the Wye House, I have begun to take pollen samples from the units. Archaeology in Annapolis has previously done pollen analysis in the Wye Greenhouse and its attached slave living quarter, as you may have heard in Dr. Leone’s lecture last weekend. With this new data, we may be able to draw further conclusions about the gardening traditions of the enslaved people at Wye.

  1. How do you know that you found slave quarters?

  2. Benjamin Skolnik

    It is incredibly difficult to say with absolute certainty that anything we find as archaeologists is anything.
    Frequently, what we do is use multiple sources of information to figure out what it is that we’re digging up.
    Check the blog sometime later tonight or tomorrow for a post specifically about why we’re digging where we’re digging and what we’re finding there.

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