Archaeology: Its Kinda a Muddy Mystery

So I’m not going to lie, when my group (Sarah and Drew) and I began excavating test unit 89 at Wye House I thought it was going to be a quick and somewhat dirty job; now, all I can say is it has been a dirty job.

We are excavating the yard space around a presumed slave quarter (previous field schools determined where the brick piers to the quarter were, making it possible to determine how large the quarter was). Test Unit 89 sits on a downhill slope about eighteen feet northeast of where the north wall of the slave quarter would have been; Unit 89 is also about fifteen feet west of a marsh (the marsh has made dealing with the soil very interesting… and wet).

Due to its proximity to the marsh and the quarter, we thought there might only be a few artifacts here and there that might have rolled down the small hill. For the first day of excavation our prediction was correct; there was grass and mud attached to the grass and not much else. Then, it was like the gods of archaeology began to favor Unit 89.

The second level (Level B) began to show promise when we found mortar, charred wood, ceramics, glass, slate, and even part of a pipe! As we continued excavating, my group and I began to notice that there was evidence of more iron pipes and an unidentified copper-like object began to appear in this level. We were not able to take these artifacts out because they were all only visible in Level B and actually buried in Level C. (It was annoying knowing there was something there, but we couldn’t touch it for fear of ruining the chronology in which the artifacts were being excavated.) Level B proved to become more of an annoyance when we had to keep cutting through roots to bring the level down at an equal rate throughout the entire unit. Through these annoyances we were soon rewarded with Level C.

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