Thursday, July 4, 2013

Update - 4 July 2013

Elfreth's Alley, 2012

Happy Independence Day! Elfreth’s Alley’s history actually extends back to a time before the birth of the nation. The small street was formed early in the 1700s, and it was a witness to the American Revolution over 70 years later. Today the Alley is a poignant symbol of American history.


We are a few weeks into our summer excavation and things have been slow but steady! The Philly weather has been very rainy so we had to cancel a few dig days, which has set us back a bit, but we have still been making progress. Thanks to all the awesome volunteers how helped out in Temple University’s Anthropology Laboratory when the rain thwarted our digging plans. With the help of volunteers we relabled several bags of artifacts from the 2012 excavation season with the site number and appropriate catalog numbers.

Volunteers working in the Anthropology Lab

Despite the soggy conditions, we did manage to get in a few days of digging. At the end of June we focused on continuing excavation of Unit 13.
Volunteers working in Unit 13
 This past week we switched gears a little bit and started excavating shovel test pits in the back portion of the lot behind 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley.

Back portion of the property

Today the Elfreth’s Alley Association owns the property that extends to the south of the small garden wall; however, based on historic maps, the current property did not always extend that far back. Instead that back area comprised a separate lot and had an independent land deed. (This portion of the property was not associated with the current property on maps until after 1922.) The back area is not directly accessible from the street and does not appear to have been accessible in historic times either. It is still unclear how this land was utilized in the past and historical research on this area is ongoing. A late nineteenth century maps show a wooden structure on the property, but no indication is made of the function of the structure.
Volunteer working on STP

This past Monday and Tuesday we extended our excavation grid into this back area and started excavation of shovel test pits (STPs). The first STP (30S, 5E) we explored had very clear delineations between the soil levels. The ground surface was covered with reddish and gray gravel fill overlaying black plastic sheeting. This gravel appears to have been laid down in the 1980s for landscaping purposes. The gravel is followed by three other stats that are very sandy and loose with a lot of cultural material in them. Historic artifacts recovered include bottle glass, shell, redware, window glass, brick fragments, and nails. Digging was obstructed at a depth of approximately 1.4 feet below the ground surface due to the number of brick inclusions and a metal object in the north portion of the STP. Much of the material recovered was architectural in nature including a large quantity of brick indicating that perhaps there was also a brick structure on this property at one point.

STP (30S, 5E)

Over the next few weeks we will continue exploration of the STPs in the back area. Stay tuned for more updates!

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