Archaeology at the Mill Progress Report – Pt. 2

Earlier this year, lead archaeologist, Dr. Mike Johnson, wrote up a progress report of the archaeological work that has been done at the Mill to date.  We’re excited to present  Part 2 of his “Thoroughfare Gap Archaeology News” below (Click HERE for Part 1).  Expect to see Part 3 of the September TGA news posted here in the near future.  


Based on that assessment, at the beginning of this year three, four-foot squares were laid out in that area.  Square 1 was placed adjacent to and outside the western wall of the historic foundation.  That was to identify a possible builder’s trench for a possible house and to avoid historic disturbance to the prehistoric stratigraphy, which might be higher inside the foundation.  Square 2 was placed just inside the foundation immediately east of Square 1 and Square 3 was placed in the center of the foundation immediately east of Square 2.

Excavations on the three squares have been going on throughout the Spring and Summer of 2016.  As of this writing they are approximately 15 inches deep and several inches below the last historic evidence.  The historic part of the site was extremely interesting and produced a wealth of data.  The artifacts indicated that the feature was occupied throughout much of the 19th century.  Burned soil, charcoal and burned artifacts indicate that the site may have burned down, although not due to a fire of the intensity needed to melt glass.  Rock rubble within the foundation indicated that the house walls were stone part of the way up from the ground.  Artifacts also indicated that a female occupant possessed fine quality clothing as indicated by the quality of the female buttons.  The ceramics and glass also indicated some degree of affluence (Figure 5).

tga-1Figure 5.  Sample of historic artifacts from the 2016 test excavations.

Figure 5 shows: (1) a floral decorated brass button; (2) a floral decorated black glass button; (3) one side of a carved bone utensil handle; (4) an agateware doorknob sherd; (5) a cluster of in situ “ironstone” basal sherds; (6) a cut glass (jet ?) cross pendant; (7) a floral embossed tableware bowl sherd; (8) a brass, two piece, Civil War, eagle shield button (the only Civil War era artifact recovered from the excavation); (9) the bottom portion of an elaborately molded black glass bottle, and (10) several mended, hand painted floral and annular pearlware sherds.

Figure 6 shows the raised feature that is within the rectangular lines of large rocks that are the foundation walls.  One can see the drop-off to the screening area on the far side of the raised landform.  One of the large rocks that form the foundation edge can be seen exposed next to the water level to the left.  The closest test square (Square 1 – N960E3468) is just outside the west wall of the foundation.  Two foundation stones can be seen to the south (right) – one under the kneeling pad and the other behind the white spray bottle.  Unlike the other two squares, it produced very little construction rubble, indicating that whatever foundation stone that was above ground collapsed inward.  One can also see a slightly higher mound between the farthest square and the screen area.  It is likely chimney rubble.  The foundation has not been mapped but it paces off at approximately 20 feet east-west and 18 feet north south.

tga-2Figure 6.  Looking east toward the 2016 excavation area showing the raised landform of the foundation.

It is possible that the site is one of the two shown in the foreground of Figure 7 as it is located immediately before the bend to the north in the current railroad bed.  It appears that the collapsed chimney rubble on the archeological foundation is at the east end, like those in the photograph and the position and distance in relation to the mill and old railroad tracks are similar.  The alternative is that the archeological foundation is located from where the picture is being taken.  At some point it might be possible to approximate the distance from the mill to the nearest house by measuring known distances in the photo and relate them to dimensions of other features in the photo.

tga-3Figure 7.  Late 19th century (?) photograph of the mill and Thoroughfare Gap from the east.

Part 3 of this article coming soon!


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