May 19th: Progressing slowly
The end of the week brought warm weather and a slowed-down working pace. We were all pretty excited by our recent finds in 100.T1 (maybe too excited) and we spent more time debating what we found and where to open ground next instead of realizing we had a lot more work to do on this unit before moving on to other ones.
First, the perpendicular overlying boards were cut out with a saw (remember-archaeology is inherently a destrucitve process) in order to get a better look at the sloping planks underneath. They were fairly wide (two were over 35 cm) and all were sanded quite smooth. The sanding was more likely a consequence of their function than due to some intentional, aesthetic decision in their installation.
The trough running east-west just behind the planks was looking more and more like an area where a mortar box was housed. The stamps need a place to do their work, and in the 19th century, the mortar box filled that role. Iron boxes situated inside wood and earth housings received both the copper rock and the blows of the stamp shoe as water passed through it washing out the smallest particles of sand and copper. This material most likely ran down planks like those above, smoothing their surface by abrasion.
There was only one way to prove (or disprove) the mortar box theory. We’d just have to keep digging that trough out. We figured after another 25 cm or so we’d hit bottom. We were wrong.
The other trench (101.T3) was still having its surface levels removed, but we were uncovering more and more charred wood, some of whom looked to be in situ (sitting in place). One of the problems with working in 4×2 meter trenches is that it can take a long time to take them down far enough to learn the answer to your theories. It would be another day or two before this level revealed itself to be the unit that might change the direction of our original plans.