Defining the Beam

From this photo the beam looks very sturdy and stable, but its actually quite fragile. If you stepped on it you might fall through it.

One of the last tasks tackled during excavations at the mill was trying to better understand the purpose and size of the large beam that seems to divide the stamp room and wash house. We’d uncovered this piece of architecture weeks ago but we never fully cleaned it off of all the sediment in order to help preserve it (its much more fragile than it looks-in some places it’s almost rotted through) until the very end of the field season.

Lots of rain the previous Sunday helped us out a lot by saturating the wood and surrounding sediment, thereby defining notches and where sediment could be removed from the fragile wood. We spent the morning cleaning up the beam and found quite a few mortises and post holes in it. this beam definitely supported vertical beams, probably support posts for the southern wall of the stamp room. When we were done the beam looked great, and really stands as an excellent example of the construction techniques of those working at Cliff.

Now looking west. The white is a layer of latex for a soil peel of the excavation's soil stratigraphy. Also note how not all the mortise joint holes line up. Could this mean modification over time?

View looking east. Note all the mortise joints in the beam. The smaller ones on each side of the larger post joints were likely housing smaller diagonal support beams

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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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