This blog follows the reconstruction of the Revolutionary War Public Armoury on the James Anderson site
Reconstruction of the Blacksmith's & Public Armoury
August 17, 2012
Many of you have watched the Roving Webcam over the summer, no doubt marveling at the meticulousness of archaeological excavation! Indeed, it is a slow and careful process. Since our start in early June, we have sorted through and excavated an extraordinary number of fencepost holes. The Armoury’s western boundary was, apparently, non-negotiable. Or was it?
In addition to fenceposts, archaeologists have excavated two other important features at the Armoury this summer. One appears to be a sawpit. About ¼ of this sloped-sided, flat-floored pit has been excavated to date, and the chunks of clinker, bits of iron, and French gunflint it contained suggest that (once it was no longer used) it was filled with Armoury debris. Our best guess…and this may change as we continue the sawpit’s excavation… is that it was part of the 1778 staging area for the Armoury’s construction. Carpenters may have prepared materials for the Armoury on site, rather than bringing them to the property fully finished.
A second interesting feature is a privy, excavated just this week. The rectangular pit looked alarmingly like a small grave from the surface, but contained a far more peculiar set of artifacts: large pieces of window glass, whole bricks, clinker, iron, lead shot, and two cow horns. And how do we know that it is a privy? Bags of soil sent into the lab for flotation (a process in which water is circulated through a sample of the dirt, allowing lighter components…seeds, small bones, and fish scale, typically… to rise to the surface) produced thousands of raspberry and/or blackberry seeds, the archaeological “signature” for privy fill.
What’s most interesting about the sawpit and the privy is that they sit on the far side of the Armoury fence (outside of the complex), and yet are filled with Armoury debris. This leads us to wonder about the nature of this fence. Was it down for time to increase the Armoury’s useable space? Or was it not yet standing when the sawpit and privy were in use? To add another wrinkle, these features are only inches from the fenceline, so it wasn’t a bold encroachment, but a rather timid one.
Two more weeks of excavation remain in the summer season. We look forward to answering these and other questions as the project draws to a close. In the meantime, enjoy the new Roving Webcam angle which allows viewers to watch our Building Trades brick masons as they construct the tin shop chimney!
Contributed by Meredith Poole, Staff Archaeologist
Funded by a generous gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr., of Big Horn, Wyoming.