June 11th: Another New Trench Opened… and Stuff!

The newest trench, 101.T4. Note the barrel piece in upper left.

June 11th was a pretty busy day. Not only were we busy drawing and finishing up 100.U1 and 100.U2, we also cut out a large wood plank in 101.T7 and then decided to start another trench unit.

This trench unit, 101.T4, was located just south and abutting 101.T3 (makes sense, right?). We knew wood features were just under the surface so we tackled this excavation slowly and with trowels. Very quickly we found some interesting items including a pipe bowl, a possible piece of leather strapping (a belt-not the kind you wear-perhaps?), and a semi-circular piece of wood in excellent condition.

This piece of wood was found lying flat only about 10 cm below the surface of the trench. Found just sitting beside it (or was it attached?) was a lot of very fragile screen material. Could this have been part some sort of jig or screening machine? We decided to proceed cautiously and determine if the screen material was in fact attached or just closely associated with the wood by chance. It turned out the screen material was not attached, but instead just happened to fall in the same place as the wood. This screen material was very fragile, and was hard to remove without seriously damaging it, but we were able to recover much of it in one piece.

The wood was bevelled on its surface along the semi-circular side. As we better defined its shape, we saw that the underside was bevelled as well. I began to suspect that are find was not as exciting as first thought. I made the executive decision to simply pull it out of the ground (mind you-this was after making sure we took every precaution to ensure its integrity) and it turned out that is was simply part of a wood barrel. More specifically, a split bottom of one.

Here's me cleaning off the barrel bottom.

Note the copper mineral residue still attached to the barrel piece.

Now it would seem this is not a significant find at first. However, the barrel bottom’s underside was covered in copper fines, and this allows us to identify its purpose, a shipping container for copper “mineral.”

How do we know its the bottom? Well, the bevelled edge is greater on the side that does not have copper residue, and the greater bevel edge is necessary for attaching the barrel staves to the bottom during its coopering. Therefore it must be the bottom and not the top of the barrel.

Now then, by looking at the size of the lid and the angle of the bevel, one could make determinations as to the size of the barrels used at the mine. Along with that information, one could determine the amount of copper mineral the barrel could hold, and then continue to make various calculations regarding shipment weight, etc. So in the end it wasn’t technology we discovered, but it was still significant.

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About Sean Gohman

Currently a PhD Degree seeking student in the Michigan Tech University's Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program.

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