Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 Day 6: Backfill Day and Saying Goodbye

Yesterday began with a rush.  We only had the morning to complete excavations and maps before we had to backfill the entire site that afternoon. 

Here is a shot of the large area we opened up this week.

As you can see, we were scrambling to finish mapping one half while the other half was getting filled in.

The reason why we backfill a site is to protect it.  If we leave it open, it will not only deteriorate from exposure to the elements but also from human activity.  By reburying the Joseph Howland site, we can preserve it for future research. 

Backfilling is hard work and we stayed a little later than usual to get everything back into place.  In a few short weeks, nature will creep back over the areas we excavated and you'll never know we were there.

While we did locate another area of the previous excavations, once again we were not successful in discovering the foundations.  After six years of excavating at the Joseph Howland site, we have decided to take a hiatus from digging in order to focus on the data and artifacts we have collected since 2005.  Through a careful look at the maps we have made and by studying the artifact distributions throughout the site, we hope to have a clearer overall picture.  We also hope to have a better idea of where those cellars may be.  In time, we may return to "the dig" again, but for now we are going to say farewell to the excavations at Rocky Nook.

These seasons at Rocky Nook would not have been such a pleasant experience without all our wonderful volunteers.  Thank you to this year's team:  Pam, Alex, Connor, Carolyn, Betty, Dick, Melody, Randy, Tatiana, Tyler, Evan, Kristin, Elizabeth, Michael Go., Joann, Ellen, Jane, Martha, Vicki, Bill, Sarah, Mike, Jon, Eldon, Malka, Tracey, Jan, Jim, Michael Gi., and, of course, Ray.

A huge thank you goes out to the two guys that never missed a season and always beat the rest of us to the site in the morning, Jonathan and Richard!

Of course none of this would have been possible without the amazing archaeologists who volunteered a week of their vacation to lead the excavations.  We cannot thank them enough for their patience and helpfulness with all of us over the years.  Thank you so much, Dave, Beth, Jesse, and Anna.

Most of all, we thank Derek for his incredible dedication and leadership of the Pilgrim John Howland Society's excavations at Rocky Nook for the past thirteen years.  We are so blessed to have had him heading the project.  Thank you, Derek!

For those of us who are descendants of John Howland, the opportunity to excavate his and his son's properties at Rocky Nook has been an amazing experience.  It is a rare thing to pull something out of the ground and know that the last time it was held, it was in the hand of one's ancestor nearly 400 years ago.  That experience personalizes the story of the Mayflower pilgrims and this county's beginnings far more than any reenactment or museum could.  Those of us who have spent one week or many digging at Rocky Nook have had the experience of a lifetime.

Now, this isn't the end of archaeology at the Pilgrim John Howland Society.  There are artifacts needing conservation and everything we have done over the last six years will go through intense study.  Archaeology isn't just digging square holes to find treasures.  It also involves countless hours in the lab, analyzing all that we have uncovered.  After six years, we have a lot to analyze.  As we learned on Monday, the conservation process can uncover new things about the artifacts too.  Perhaps, after a few years of studying the data we can return to learn even more from the Joseph Howland site.  Of course, the site will continue to be maintained and surveyed regularly.

Thank you for following this year's excavation.  If you want to learn more about the archaeology at Rocky Nook, please visit the Jabez Howland House in downtown Plymouth, MA to see many of the artifacts from the previous excavations.  In time, artifacts from our excavation will be added to the exhibits.  In the meantime, check back occasionally for updates.

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