Farewell Annapolis

Digging the skeleton in Unit 26.

Digging the skeleton in Unit 26. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

This week was definitely one of the most arduous, yet entertaining weeks so far. Early in the week, our team from unit 26 unearthed an articulated animal skeleton. We have yet to determine the exact species, but we believe it to be a young lamb or goat. Initially, it was thought to be a calf (baby cow), but with further examination of its jaw and teeth, the idea was declined. By Monday, we had dug around the skeleton enough to see the skull, jaw, teeth, torso, ribs, and small remains of the tail bone. The bones, however, were in very delicate condition. Nevertheless, it was an extremely exciting find, especially after having recently closed up our feature, a cistern, in the same level. Our team was really lucky to have such an active site. Unfortunately on Tuesday, the rain seeped through our tarp (which helps protect our units) and the bones were fused with mud; thus much of the marrow and spongy bones deteriorated. We managed to save as many pieces as we could, but I was somewhat disappointed at our loss.

As the week went on, our team was a bit sadden at the thought of leaving Annapolis. It is such a historic and friendly city, and our site, as mentioned before was proving to be an exciting find. By Wednesday, we were expected to start our sterile level and digging our window, like many of the other sites had done or where in the process of beginning. Unit 26, however, was not there yet. Therefore, we worked as quick and efficiently as possible in order to catch up. Luckily our unit did not have to back-fill on Friday, and we had more time to draw our profiles and photographs. This was our learning experience of the week.

Profiles, as our TA Beth told us, was alike to playing charades. And it truly was. It was interesting the amount of detail and work that goes into drawing profiles; and even working with a partner was a bit difficult, but definitely worth it. I had such a good time looking at how our site had progressed by measuring and drawing the profiles. The best part, was having to draw artifacts that were in our west wall, but were inside the cistern, underwater. At first I was hesitant to put my hand in the water, but it was a laughable and entertaining experience! We had a good laugh, because initially we though the cistern was a privy. And I’m thankful it’s not. If you’re wondering how we concluded it was a cistern and not a privy, well let me explain. Initially, when we found the molded cement, we simply thought it was pieces of mortar. The deeper we got, the more of the supposed mortar we came upon, until our partner Esther dug deep enough to uncover the depth of the rectangular hole. The more she dug, the more water would filter in, and a sewage smell would emerge. Due to the smell, we determined it was a privy. However, after we had drained the water and all the artifacts were taken out of the feature, the smell evaporated. ¬†Furthermore, Tuesday, when it rained and water seeped in, the entire feature was also full of water, an uncommon purpose of a privy, according to our field school’s director, Dr. Leone. In addition, our unit is located on a street that used to be inhabited prominently¬†by Whites during the early 1900s, while the James Holliday house was located on a prominently Black street. As Dr. Leone explained, Annapolis first established sewage lines and then running water lines. Therefore, a prominently White street would have had access to sewage lines first , and then eventually running water. However, the establishment of running water took time, and thus, our site would have needed a cistern as opposed to a privy. Thus, our rectangular feature is a cistern! Interesting and enlightening information, right?

I had no expectations when I joined the field school, but I’ve loved it so far, I’ve learned so much, and hope to learn much more in the upcoming three weeks at Wye!


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