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April-November 2003InteractiveDig Mount Vernon
Volunteer Summer at the southern edge of the millrace outflow feature
Rubble and brick area could be a furnace, an old rubble pile, or even disturbed floor.
The edge of the stone rubble, lower left, directly overlies subsoil and is not a cellar as previously thought. Laura cleans a layer of schist and mortar, right.
Artifacts found in the eastern foundation wall robber's trench fill

Photos courtesy Historic Mount Vernon. Click on images for larger versions.
by Lacey Wallace

An Exciting Week

This was an exciting week for interpreting the features of the distillery. We uncovered some answers, as well as posed new questions. At the southern end of the excavation, Jen, Dan, Mandy, and Lacey finished excavating the second unit of the millrace outflow, then drew profiles of the feature where it continued into the adjoining units. Artifacts found in the outflow feature included construction debris (mortar, brick, schist, sandstone, etc.) and domestic artifacts, possibly eroded from or associated with the miller's cottage up the hill, including a button similar to those found at the northern end of the building. Recently, iron pieces including bolts and straps have been unearthed, which may give a clue to the distillery's architectural hardware or the production of the nearby--but not as yet located--cooperage's barrel fittings. Jen and her team will excavate the next unit to the west, hoping to find similar deposits as in the other two. There are more interesting and slightly mysterious features in this unit as well: two postholes that still contain fragments of their wooden posts and a linear sandstone feature. The postholes are not the large, square ones characteristic of so many colonial American archaeological sites; rather they are small and slightly round. This is possibly because they functioned as fence posts, as opposed to structural posts supporting a building. The fact that they still contain so much wood from their decayed posts seems to suggest either very good preservation conditions, or a relatively recent date. They were first uncovered beneath the same layer that revealed the millrace outflow and other eighteenth-century features suggesting that these may be from the same time period.

Mandy and Scott have been cleaning another unidentified feature: an isolated area of brick and rubble at the western part of the building. Containing brick, sandstone, and mortar, it appears similar to the burned areas thought to be furnaces, but the soil here is not burned. The red coloring is from a high concentration of brick fragments, rather than from high heat. The fact that the surrounding soil does not appear heat-altered does not discount the furnace interpretation.

[image]A copper button and two other flat copper alloy artifacts found in the fill

At the northern end of the site, Laura, Lyndsay, and Megan have been continuing in the units once thought to represent a filled-in cellar feature. While removing a robber's trench filled with rubble where they think there once was a foundation, they also revealed that their hoped-for cellar fill was only a rubble layer a few inches deep and rested on subsoil. What is perhaps more interesting, is that underneath the fill, which consisted largely of charcoal and sandstone, they have found a fairly flat surface of schist pieces, possibly representing the exposed surface when the building was built. In the fill, artifacts such as construction stone, ceramics, glass, and nails were found as well as some small interesting metal objects. The relationship between the northern extant foundation and this extension that could be a floor is as yet undetermined. Some very thin layers where excavated overlying the schist layer that could possibly represent a living surface. This hypothesis will be explored as the adjacent units are excavated.

The western robber's trench is nearly excavated. At the eastern extent of the foundation, more robbers' trench fill was removed. Artifacts from this fill include bone, brick, nails, construction debris and ceramic.

Leigh cleans back a profile of the robber's trench at the western edge of the building.[image]

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