May 27th: A Very Busy Day (and Stairs!!!)
May 27th was a busy day indeed. 101.T3 was basically finished, 100.T2 almost as well, and another new trench was opened to the west of these two, 101.T7. This post is concerned with 100.T2 and the fact that this trench sits on the border between two buildings, the stamp room and wash house.
The photo above shows the distinction between these two buildings rather well. Of course we can’t see inside the stamp room (that would be too easy, right?). 100.T2’s is a 4 meter long trench, and the first 3 meters of it are in the stamp room. The last meter overlies the “step” between the higher sitting stamp room and wash house that sits a few feet below.
Excavating 100.T2 for the first 3 meters required very little work. For the most part the features in this area of the trench are only 20-30 cm below the surface. The “step” however had a lot of sloping fill that needed to be removed. At the top of the step was a 30 cm wide board that ran across the entire east-west axis of the trench. This was in pretty bad shape and likely spent a fair amount of time exposed at the surface years ago. Under this board, an extremely large beam also ran east-west through the trench. Some of this board showed signs of char, but for the most part was a solid piece of wood. Cut into the top of this beam were a few small notches, likely post holes/mortises for the stamp room’s south facade. Supporting this large beam were granite blocks of stone. This was very interesting since you’d expect to find mine waste rock (its free building material), but knowing something about the geology of the area the Cliff’s trap rock was very soft, and maybe it was felt a sturdier rock was needed for this part of the construction.
These granite stones eventually met the working surface uncovered in 101.T3 days earlier. Now with most of that fill gone, the joining of the stamp room and wash house could be easily seen. How they worked in concert was still a puzzle though. We hoped to find a trough or launder starting in the stamp room and running into the was house. This would have helped explain how the stamping/washing process transitioned from one building to the other. There was no launder or trough however, we would have to wait a bit longer to find the clues we were looking for.
One big surprise discovered while digging out the fill in 100.T2 was the remains of stairs! The three-step stair case leads up from the wash house over the granite and wood beams into the stamp room. We may not have been able to see how material moved from one building to the other, but we were able to see how workers did it. The students (and myself) were really excited about this discovery. This is without a doubt the best feature available to us for interpreting the site to visitors. It’s hard to imagine large steam equipment and washing machinery when all there is are the mounts left. People can actually see a set of steps and know exactly what is going on. When you start with the easily identifiable, you can open up a visitor’s mind to the less tangible, ephemeral remains all around them.