Today we continued working on the unit that we started yesterday, which ended up holding quite a few surprises. As we used our trowels to clean up the loose soil, Allen discovered an especially significant artifact in the same area that we were finding the shells yesterday – a wig curler! Wig curlers were used in the 18th Century to maintain men’s wigs, which George Washington’s brothers were known to wear. They are made of ball clay and vary in size, and those recovered from Ferry Farm all have a variation of the same “WB” maker’s mark on each end. These unique artifacts are especially significant at Ferry Farm in part because there have been over 150 found at the site – most of which were discovered during last year’s excavation! This was our second wig curler of the season, so we were all very excited about it.
Once we had the unit completely cleaned up, I noticed a strange concentration of artifacts within a circle of darker soil in the southern half of our unit. We stopped and asked our Site Directors Laura and Eric for a second opinion, and they agreed that it appeared to be a feature of some kind. The term “feature” in archaeology refers to archaeological remains that cannot be moved, such as buildings, trenches, post holes, or middens. We were instructed to bring the rest of the unit down to the same level as the feature so that we could see if it expanded or if there were any more. As we carefully scraped off a bit more of the soil, we noticed a second circular feature just above the first. Before long, we had the unit completely level and wrapped up the paperwork for the context. Eric assigned the two features numbers, but we will have to wait to excavate them until later, as we need to bring the surrounding units down to the same layer to see if there are any other features that may be related.
At this point, the other two groups had each been assigned a different feature to work on that was uncovered during last year’s excavation. We are currently shifting our focus toward excavating these features so that we may gain a better understanding of the site and what we are working with. Once Allen and I had completed our unit, Laura assigned us to work on a large pile of shells in the unit directly north of ours. We had to begin by giving the unit a fresh scrape so that we could better define the boundaries of the feature. It took a little time, especially because it extends into a second unit to the north, and by the time we were done, it was time to go home! Tomorrow we will continue to work on the shell midden feature by mapping and excavating it!