Friday, June 24, 2016

It's been hellishly hot lately. We start work at 5 AM and the sweat starts dripping from me at 6:30. We have been quitting at 10:30 AM and often I go into the office to do work and enjoy the AC. I spent two days excavating the entrance way to a Tortolita phase (AD 500 to 700) pit structure. Other people excavated the west half of the structure, uncovering a broken pot in the roof fall material, and some grinding stones (pestle and a mano), a few sherds of pottery, a bone awl, and a rectangular piece of stone (not sure what it was used for) on the floor of the heavily burned house.

Looking south-ish.

The structure is a house-in-pit, meaning the people dug a large pit, probably using digging sticks and maybe stone hoes. They then constructed a house inside the pit. It differs from a true pit house, where the wall of the pit is actually the wall of the house and is sometimes covered with plaster. In this particular house, there is a floor groove with postholes set outside the groove. After the posts were put in place to form the walls and support ceiling beams, other materials, such as woven mats or bundles of reeds, were used to form the interior walls, the bottom of these materials sticking into the floor groove. A few other post holes are present on the floor, perhaps used for posts to help support the roof. A poorly preserved plastered hearth is inside the entranceway. A small pit and a probable pot rest (a depression used for supporting a round-bottomed pot) are present on the adobe floor. We have been mostly excavating 1m by 2m units and half houses because it is too expensive to dig whole houses. In this case, the upper soil was very hard and difficult to dig. Archaeology costs money!

Looking to the north, the dashed line is the unexcavated portion of the house.

The entrance way was very elaborate, the most elaborate yet found at the site. A burned wooden lintel lay at the entry opening. The first step inside had grooves around it and a posthole at each corner. The second step was a sloping passageway with a groove on each side and three or four postholes. Burned reeds were present in the groove. The passage ended in a step down onto the pit structure floor, with curved adobe cones on each side, built around large posts. The passageway was quite worn from foot traffic.

Entrance way.

I have worked on two other houses from the same time period. Each is very different, although it seems that houses with floor grooves are most likely to be from this period while the true pit houses we find date to a later period. Architecture, like modern clothing, homes, and cars, change styles through time, as people experimented with new techniques and construction materials. The artifacts found on house floors help us understand the types of activities that took place inside the houses, and may point to activity areas, where certain craft activities took place.

I've been doing archaeology for 30 years this summer and still get excited by finding new things.

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