Monday, July 9, 2012

Week Four Recap

Week Four's recap is written by Matt Kalos, another Temple University graduate student studying historical archaeology, who has been helping out at the site.

Last week was one of the hottest on record in Philadelphia, but we maintained our progress. Specifically, we came to the bottom of Unit 7. Many visitors have asked us how deep we will go in our test units, to which we typically reply "sterile soil." Sterile soil, often called "culturally sterile soil," is the term archaeologists use to signify a level of soil on which humans never interacted: there are no artifacts and no features. Depending on the site, this level could be only a a few inches below the ground surface, such as a field in the country side, or several feet below the modern ground surface, as is the case in many urban settings that contain "fill." At Elfreth's Alley, our sterile level is about 2.5-3 feet below the modern ground surface.

Next week we are looking forward to moving behind 126 Elfreth's Alley. So far this summer, our excavations have taken place behind 124 or in the pathway between the two lots. By opening units behind 126 we can compare and contrast the artifacts and foundations that we find to illuminate the similarities and differences between the lots. Archaeology is often a science of scale. So far we have been focusing on a "small scale" and the information the specific units can provide. On a larger scale we have mainly focused on the lot at 124. By moving our work over to 126, we will be "zooming" out farther in order to get a sense of the bigger picture of the lots at 124 and 126, and hopefully a bigger picture of the people who lived on Elfreth's Alley. 

Reopening Unit 2 which is located behind 126 and was excavated during the summer of 2011.

Before backfilling the site, Unit 2 was lined with plastic sheeting last year so we could easily locate where excavation was halted.

Unit 2 reopened with brick and mortar foundation wall present.

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