10 Jun Royal St. Dig Update #2
Apologies for the slow updates; sometimes, after a day excavating out in the New Orleans summer heat, it’s hard to get much writing done!
This is a quick update on the progress of the field school itself. Thanks to a relatively dry couple of weeks, we haven’t had much lab time. Therefore, there hasn’t been much opportunity to photograph artifacts, but all of the excavation areas have been productive. Most of the material recovered so far dates from the second half of the eighteenth century, and there will be some great pieces of pottery that will be reconstructable with time in the lab.
Our excavation nearest the gate at the front of the lot has now revealed what appears to be the foundation of a structure that burned in the 1788 fire. This could be the same structure shown on the 1731 Gonichon map of the city; while our overlays show this building as being under the existing slab on the lot, this is very close. It could also be a previously undocumented structure from the Spanish colonial era, but further excavation should definitively answer this. Above this, there were many layers of compressed debris from the ca. 1790 to 1801 period, just before the nineteenth century building was built.
The unit located just behind the slab marking the location of the 1801 structure has been complex. After documenting the brick surface revealed previously (associated with one of the outbuildings from the 1801 complex), we elected to remove it, in the hopes that it had sealed levels associated with the ca. 1722 structure. Beneath it, there appears to be a series of living surfaces and midden accumulations from the late eighteenth century. We have not yet located a visible lens from the 1788 fire in this unit, but it may be close…
The two units at the rear part of the property are also producing primarily late eighteenth century material. One of the features at the rear is now pretty clearly a privy shaft, and it matches the location of privies shown as late as an 1883 Notarial Archive drawing. We have now bisected that feature, and found that it is filled with a dense trash deposit presumably from the ca. 1800-1810 period. This contained a number of interesting and unique ceramics, from a piece of Liverpool creamware with a patriotic design featuring Washington, Lady Liberty, and a map of the colonies, to numerous fragments of hand-built (presumably Native American) earthenware.
The base of the feature itself was unlined, but there were some interesting aspects to the deeply buried soils beneath it that could be related to early French development of the property. We are now exploring the other side of the feature, and the area just to its west, where I suspect there may be a second, later privy shaft.
The excavation at the rear corner has been the most productive unit by far, with large fragments of pottery manufactured from ca. 1750-1800 throughout. The fill is very inconsistent, and we suspect that there may be multiple fill episodes that may have disturbed earlier ones. Still, the material, much of which displays patterns that match examples from the other ca. 1790-1810 components, provides a vivid record of everyday life at the location.