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April-November 2003InteractiveDig Mount Vernon
Laura Seifert and Eleanor evaluate the fill layers around the malt kiln.
Laura Shick water screens at the site.
Hasty bailing while the Fox crew sets up

Photos courtesy Historic Mount Vernon. Click on images for larger versions.
by Leigh Oldershaw

Digging into the Eighteenth Century

This week we once again found ourselves watching dark clouds pass overhead, wondering if we should give up and head to the lab. Luckily the deluge held off until Wednesday, so we had a fair amount of time to continuing digging!

At the possible cellar feature at the northern end of the site, Megan and Lindsey removed sandstone and domestic artifacts in unit 691, exposing a layer heavily laden with charcoal. Laura Seifert continued to work in the western part of the site on the malt kiln feature, excavating some of the fill and a small layer overlying the kiln's brick base. Opposite Laura, Kim worked on an intriguing square of the flooring that's filled with soil and charcoal rather than brick. Interestingly, this square is the same size as two brick piers lining up with it to the south, so it may also be a pier. If so, together they may make up the remains of the building's structural supports. If not, they could be related to the furnaces. Kim will be excavating this area over the next few weeks and taking a good look at the exposed profile. This one should be fascinating, so watch for future updates!

We also continued excavating the robber's trench. On the western side, I've been hanging upside-down taking off layers of clay covering several levels of rubble fill. Lisa spent the week doing much the same on the southern side of the distillery, with the added challenge of dealing with water-saturated soils. In unit 733, the possible location of the millrace outflow, Jen's group spent their time removing a pebble-filled layer of soil they believe will tell us how this area was filled. This brown loam and pebble layer is coming off to expose a gray silt layer, suggesting the feature contains different layers of soil relating to different depositional events.

We've reached eighteenth-century layers in almost all portions of the site, so we've changed our method of soil processing. We're now water screening all of the soil we remove from the site, hoping to collect more of the smaller and more delicate artifacts. This has been keeping Laura Shick busy! We've also started taking samples from each layer in hopes of recovering pollen and phytoliths to help determine the vegetation that was in and around the distillery building. This is vital in discovering the grains and other floral matter used in the distilling process.

We had to spend the rest of the week in the lab because of the rain, though we did furiously bail out the site one afternoon for a visit from the Fox News Channel! So ended another thought-provoking week at George's distillery.

Visit the bulletin board if you have any questions for us. Stay tuned for more explanations--and questions--coming soon!

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