Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Update - 16 July 2013

We finally have a brief reprieve from all the rain this summer, but now we have a heat wave! Despite the tough Philly weather, all the volunteers have been very dedicated.

Volunteer Philippe gets a little artistic with the photo board

Over the past week, we have excavated up a few more shovel test pits (STPs) in the back of 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley. We have encountered a number of finds in the STPs including:

A large state stone and metal wire obstructing excavation of one STP. 

Potential remnants of a brick wall in another STP. 
Photo Credit: Jill Saull
 And a whole bunch of small historic artifacts. 
Photo Credit: Jill Saull

One neat historic artifact recovered is this stamped brick:

Today we potentially found the oldest artifacts uncovered at Elfreth’s Alley; we recovered a chert cobble and flake that could be Native American artifacts (SEE NEW UPDATED BELOW). Cobbles and flake are indicators of stone tool production. The items were unearthed in a historic soil layer preliminary dated to the mid-nineteenth century. While the artifact was not recovered from intact Native American deposits, the item does tell us about land use on the properties. The geographic location of Elfreth’s Alley on a terrace close to the Delaware River would have been an ideal location for Native Americans. 

UPDATE: After consulting with colleagues, the large stone artifact is more likely a piece of historic British flint that has been worked. This type of cryptocrystalline rock material was commonly used as ship ballast to provide stabilization in the hulls of vessels making the voyage from Great Britain to America. Elfreth’s Alleys location adjacent to the Delaware River makes it a prime location for artifacts associated with Philadelphia’s status as a port city. As indicated in the earlier post, this artifact was recovered from a historic stratigraphic layer. This context along with the evidence of the material type being of English origin, make indicate that this artifact is indeed a piece of worked English flint rather than an Native American artifact.

Chert cobble & flake

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