Rediscovering Old Foundations

Unit 66 is located where aerial maps and geographic calculations estimated old slave quarters to have been built. During the week and a half of digging my unit has spent a lot of time pulling up bricks. Going through the layers of brick rubble was tough, but the result was worth it. After removing the top soil we encountered large brick deposits almost immediately. Digging through a level of soil exposed a layer of large brick rubble. The layer was full of half and whole bricks and mortar inclusions. The bricks were accumulated in the northern half of the unit so we initially assumed that this was a distinction that could have separated an inside space from an outside space. We were hoping to find a foundation that would indicate we had come upon the old slave quarters we were searching for. Alternatively, this could simply have been because the medium sized roots in our unit were holding them back. At the bottom of the layer we found two articulated bricks, bricks that are in a distinct pattern, that were presumed to be part of a building’s foundation wall. However, we found no more articulated bricks in the level.

Pier foundation in Unit 66. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

Pier foundation in Unit 66. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

Further excavation revealed a separate layer filled with smaller and more easily removed crumble debris. This rubble began to extend throughout the whole unit. Disappointment reared its head as the chances of uncovering two distinct spaces dropped. Then a new discovery. We found that the articulated bricks were on top of another articulated brick square. All the bricks were mostly whole and attached together by mortar. We had found not a foundation wall, but the remains of a pier foundation. Pier foundations are brick pillars that are used to support a structure like wood posts hold up a pier.

Continue Reading »