Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Falls Rd. Mysteries

After two full weeks of excavation at our site on Falls Rd., we can confidently report that we are somewhat confused as to what is going on in the ground. Ok, so it's not quite that bad, but we are finding some mighty odd things. In my last blog I wrote about a circular feature that we had uncovered in the unit where I am working. We excavated it through two different stratigraphic layers and uncovered . . . nothing. Practically no artifacts came out of it, and those few that did will not provide us with a date. Thus, we decided to take down the two layers (stratigraphic levels 3 and 4) of gravelly sand that the feature cut through. In each of these layers we found . . . nothing. Well, almost nothing, and certainly nothing that will help us to date the layers. At this point it became clear that a strip of dark orangish clay running along the south edge of the unit was even with level 3 and above level 4, so we made that Feature 3 and excavated it. Finally, we found some stuff! It appears that Feature 3 is the result of runoff deposition in a channel cut through the ground by running water, and the runoff was transporting something--tin cans. In addition to the numerous small fragments of can, we were able to recover several larger chunks, including an entire can bottom. We'll have to take a closer look at the cans in the lab before we will know if we can date them, but we also recovered a partial bottle base with embossed lettering that should prove datable, as well as a piece of sponge-decorated whiteware ceramic. We are fairly confident that the feature dates to the first quarter of the 20th century.

After finishing the feature and levels three and four, today Jacinda and I worked our way through level five and a good way into level six. Both of these layers consist of pale, silty sand streaked with orange silty sand. After excavating a good foot or so of soil without finding any artifacts, we used an augur to dig a core straight down through the soil in the hopes of finding out if there are any other layers beneath the silty deposits, or if the silt continues right on down to subsoil. When we had dug about two feet down with the augur and detected no change whatsoever in the soil, we made a judgment call that there was probably nothing else down there before subsoil, and given that there are no artifacts in the silty sediments, it would be a waste of time and effort to keep digging any further in this unit. While it would be really interesting to know why there are several feet of silt deposits in this yard, we don't think that further excavation in this unit will be able to tell us anything about the occupation of this lot. Tomorrow we'll draw profiles of two or three of the unit walls so that we have a record of the stratigraphy, and then we will start on a new unit.


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