Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remiss in my posting duties....

...but rather than digress into pithy excuses, I'll just get started. Here goes:

We have visited site DSCQHR a total of four times thus far. The area we are investigating has a mixed agricultural use, alternating between vineyard and orchard since the Spanish Colonial period to the present. While there is no known documented outbuildings or other architectural features within the site, we have been finding remnants of building materials consistent with Spanish Colonial architecture in the eastern boundary of our site quad: tejas (roof tiles) and ladrillo (thick floor tiles), and a couple fragments of lime plaster. These materials look deceptively like terra cotta or masonry brick to persons unfamiliar with these colonial materials. However, the burned core of the tejas and ladrillo is a feature that is absent in modern masonry brick and terra cotta. The presence of these materials in this location may indicate possible outbuildings, or possibly a trash pit/midden for waste materials from the destruction of adjacent structures. *I am still searching for S.A. Dietz's report on Mission San Jose (CA-ALA-1) which may provide clues for our investigation.

David P., our resident historian, discovered some interesting architectural history in an area adjacent to the eastern boundary of our quad while conducting research at the Diocese archives. Long story short: a vineyard owner's house mysteriously burnt to the ground after a parasite wiped out his vineyard. Insurance fraud? Perhaps, but it is not up to the archaeologist to speculate motive. However, my inner historian and skeptic proclaims a resounding yes.

It is possible that some of the materials we are finding also may be related to this structural fire, such as terra cotta sewer pipe and modern masonry brick. Any materials originating from above the eastern slope could have found their angle of repose within our site boundary. I could spend hours speculating. One thing we do know: our surface finds are the result of bioturbation (dreaded rodents!).

Our foot survey conducted on 4/16 revealed the highest concentration of artifact clusters along the eastern boundary, running due north from our southern boundary, approximately N 0-50 E 80-90. Some cultural materials were marked along the western boundary between E 10-20, and a few sparse scatters were found between E 20-50 (Heavy emphasis on sparse). These clusters indicated where we would place our shovel/auger tests, which were conducted on 4/23 and 4/30. My auger teams and I tested between E 20-50, auger tests 1,3 and 5. Materials recovered for Test 1 included bone, tile, glass and metal fragments. Test 2 was completely sterile (no materials recovered) with the exception of coal found in the surface humus layer. Two very small fragments of decomposed granite were also noted at approximately 30cm. Test 3 along the southern boundary (aprox: N 10 E 30) yielded possible lithic material, possible olive pit (seed) and a small coal fragment at Level 1, 0-20 cm and Level 3, 40-60 cm respectively.

As with the foot survey, our shovel/auger tests yielded the largest caches at the eastern boundary of the site. I look forward to (hopefully!) staking units and really breaking ground this coming Saturday 5/7!

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