Posts Tagged ‘midden’

Evidence of early Polynesian settlement dating back to the early 1300s has been uncovered within a stone’s throw of central Whitianga, in a discovery of national significance.

A team of five archaeologists has spent two months at one of the Coromandel Peninsula’s largest excavation sites by the Taputapuatea stream, at a housing development on the outskirts of the Coromandel town.

According to archaeologist Andrew Hoffman, the site has been identified as a Polynesian settlement from the 1300s used for cooking and gardening. It also had a specialist working area for making tools and repairing waka. Among the hundreds of artefacts unearthed are rare large sized hangi oven stones, moa fish hooks, basalt and chert rock tools, a large midden, and flakes of unused rock.

The site revealed a sequence of flooding events that enabled archaeologists to establish that Polynesians would use the site for a season and then move on.

Trenches dug up to 1.5m deep reveal profiles of layers of varied sediments and radiocarbon dating of site artefacts suggest the settlement was occupied between 1310 and 1490, said Hoffman.

A large deep hole lined with large black rocks revealed an earth oven that was still greasy. Hoffman said it was rare to find earth ovens of this size and it was probably used for cooking animals like seals.

Heritage New Zealand Maori heritage advisor, Makere Rika-Heke said this discovery was a reaffirmation of some of the old traditions kept by local people which have been played out along the landscape.

The site beside Taputapuatea stream is at the base of a hill that is home to Te Wahine Moeroa o Taputapuatea Pa.

The location has significant links to Taputapuatea Marae on the coast of Raiatea, Tahiti, the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the waka- voyaging ancestors who crossed the Pacific and established themselves in Aotearoa.

It is said that Kupe, the great Polynesian explorer who voyaged to Aotearoa from Hawaiki bathed in the hot springs of Te Whitianga a Kupe after he moored his waka in Mercury Bay. He named the stream and pa after the Tahitian Taputapuatea marae because of its similar natural flora and fauna.

Rapanui (Easter Island), Hawaii, Arahurahu Island in Tahiti, Moorea Island and a reef in the Kermedec Islands all have sites of significance referring to Taputapuatea.

The artefacts and 4000 photographs taken will be analysed and recorded over the next two months.

However, the public will not be able to view the site as it is in the middle of re-filling for a subdivision block.

Original article:

DIG THIS: Archaeologist Andrew Hoffman displays a stone adze recovered from an archaeology dig on a new housing development at Whitianga.

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Overall site photo of the kitchen excavation area. The post-1775 kitchen, the kitchen most visitors see today, is the white building adjacent to the excavation area. Courtesy Mount Vernon Preservation

Topic: Washington’s kitchen
Mount Vernon, Virginia — Anyone visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation estate today couldn’t possibly miss, among other things, this U.S. Founding Father’s large, white, well-appointed mansion house and its associated outbuildings. It has graced post cards for decades. It represents his home as it looked in its prime, as he lived in it following his terms as the Nation’s first President.

What visitors don’t usually see, however, are the remains of a different estate lying just below the surface — different because, in 1775, Washington embarked on a major campaign to renovate and remodel the Mansion, outbuildings, and even the landscape, transforming it to the place visitors see restored today. Now, archaeologists are exposing part of the hidden pre-1775 footprint, more particularly the foundations of an early pre-Revolutionary War kitchen adjacent to the west side of the Mansion.

“We uncovered sections of the north, east, and south brick wall foundations of the first-period kitchen and the north cheek of its chimney base,” writes Luke Pecoraro, Assistant Director for Archaeological Research at Mount Vernon in a report. Other artifacts included fragments of white salt-glazed stoneware, a type of ceramic ware imported directly from England and used at Mount Vernon in the late 1750’s, and hand-painted pearlware, a type of ceramic ware that is not documented in the orders of imports to the estate, and thus could only have been revealed through archaeological investigation.

Archaeologists know, based on the estate inventory taken after Washington’s older half-brother Lawrence’s death in 1752, that there were four pre-1775 outbuildings, which included an earlier storehouse, dairy, kitchen, and washhouse. In conjunction with the archaeological record, this has defined an approximate visual concept of the earlier Mount Vernon Mansion complex. To further investigate and elucidate this earlier construction, Mount Vernon’s Historic Preservation and Collections Department, in conjunction with the Historic Preservation Program in the Department of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland (UMD), organized a field school led by archaeologists and consisting of students representing 8 U.S. universities. Says Pecoraro: “The focus of the summer [2013] field work was the 1775 kitchen, offering an opportunity for us to explore the first generation of outbuildings at Mount Vernon, specifically an early kitchen and dairy, that George Washington inherited from his brother Lawrence and used for approximately 20 years before tearing them down to enlarge the Mansion, build a new kitchen, and connect the two with a covered archway.”

“A single test unit was opened for the dairy, where we encountered the intact southwest corner of the building’s sandstone foundations,” added Pecoraro. “Artifacts found in the eighteenth-century dairy destruction rubble included fragments of ceramic vessels, plaster from the interior walls, and a decorated rim to a wine glass bearing a pattern that was identical to a sherd recovered from the near-by South Grove midden.”

The South Grove midden was a refuse pit used by the Washington family and enslaved families during the late 18th century. Located near the family kitchen, it was excavated by archaeologists from 1990 through 1994, resulting in the recovery of nearly 300,000 artifacts.
“Our final discovery [for the 2013 season] was the cobblestone surface of what we believe to be George Washington’s circular driveway,” Pecoraro continued. “In some places it is less than an inch below the modern road surface. These cobblestones had been documented in two previous excavations.”

For mor information link to mountvernon.org

Original article:
popular archaeology
Dec4, 2013

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Topic: Midden at Mount Vernon

Archaeologists struck the motherlode of artifacts over two decades ago near George Washington’s Mount Vernon mansion house. Now the treasures are online for all to see.

Most people wouldn’t even think about an 18th century refuse pit. But for archaeologists, it can be a veritable goldmine of information about the past. And for archaeological investigators at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home and estate near the Virginia banks of the Potomac river in 1990, no pile of garbage was as precious as the one located just south of the famous restored mansion house in the area historically known as the south grove.

Designated the South Grove Midden (a “midden” in archaeological parlance is another name for a trash dump), clues of its existence actually first emerged in 1948, when members of the Mount Vernon grounds crew excavated a hole in the area to plant a holly tree. A number of artifacts dating to the eighteenth century were recovered, telltale clues that the south grove area could be the location of midden deposits formed during George Washington’s lifetime. This would be no surprise, as the area was near the Washington household kitchen and it was common in the 18th century to dispose of household refuse near where it was generated. Spots not far from the back doors of kitchens were considered prime dumping grounds back then.

But it wasn’t until 1990 when archaeologists began to seriously focus on the spot, after a grounds crew again encountered historic deposits while constructing an irrigation system. From 1990 through 1994, full-scale excavations (see image right) recovered nearly 300,000 artifacts, an unprecedented array of household items deposited by the Washington family and enslaved families over several decades in the 18th century.

“The South Grove Midden collection represents the largest and most significant collection of artifacts excavated to date associated with the domestic lives of the Washington households,” says Eleanor Breen, Deputy Director of Archaeology at Mount Vernon. “One evocative artifact after another – from the unique to the prosaic – tells the interconnected stories of Mount Vernon plantation’s earliest residents: Lawrence and Anne Fairfax Washington; George Washington in his bachelorhood and as a newlywed; and the enslaved Africans and African Americans who labored in the mansion and outbuildings.”

Thus as any archaeologist would say, the artifacts in themselves are not the real treasure. It is the information that can be gleaned from them. The South Grove Midden artifacts have afforded scholars and the public alike with a remarkable window on life on George Washington’s estate during the period of its occupation by the Washington family from about 1735 to 1858, and evidence of activities there before and after that period.

Nothing spoke to this more when, in January 2013, the most significant finds were highlighted in a searchable online database of no less than 711 key objects, including photographs, detailed summaries, and catalogue information, all interfaced with documentary and thematic material information that in essence makes them accessible to any visitor. But, says Breen, “the Mount Vernon Midden website is more than an e-museum, it’s a digital humanities effort to present the individual artifacts in layers of both archaeological and historical context.”

“In envisioning and designing the website with Mark Freeman of Stories Past, our goal was to reach a broad audience – from the archaeology enthusiast to the scholar of material culture. The website is structured like a pyramid with the individual object catalogue records at the top (with professional quality photographs that can be zoomed in on for greater detail and unique narrative text explaining the significance of the artifact), more extensive content in the middle (in the form of summaries of artifact sub-assemblages and thematic essays on groupings of artifacts), and the complete artifact catalogue at the base (accessed via http://www.daacs.org).”

To give an example of just one individual object record, one artifact, known to archaeological enthusiasts and scholars of George Washington as the George Washington trunk plate, is pictured at the website as object no. 2921. It represents both an affirmation of the historicity of George Washington’s experience during the Revolutionary War as well as tangible material witness to his genteel status in 18th century American society:

“Other artifacts excavated from the soil layers of the midden give us pause to consider how Lawrence and George Washington and other elite planters afforded this burgeoning genteel lifestyle,” adds Breen. “A singular artifact called a denier gauge [pictured as object no. 2922 in the database], a small magnifying glass that counted threads per quarter inch of cloth, focuses our attention on the enslaved men and women upon whose labor refined styles of life were based. At the beginning of Washington’s tenure at Mount Vernon, he oversaw approximately 30 Africans and Afro-Virginians, a community whose numbers would increase to over 300 at the time of Washington’s death in 1799. These enslaved individuals worked for the profit of their owners plowing the fields, forging the iron, cooking the meals, and sewing or weaving the cloth – the quality of which was measured and checked by Martha Washington using the denier gauge.”

The database contains much more than objects excavated from the Midden. Also documented are 3,839 invoices and orders, described through both picture and narrative. They constitute the record of his economic life before the Revolutionary War, from 1754 to 1773, including items such as fabrics, seeds, medicines, shoes, foodstuffs, and plantation tools shipped to him on a total of 26 vessels during that time period. Along with the other objects, Mount Vernon archaeologists say that these invoices and orders have helped, and will continue to be a key, to improving our understanding of material culture, consumerism, and economics during 18th century colonial America.

“The South Grove Midden and associated documentary evidence in the form of George Washington’s orders for goods from England and inventories of a local store in the town of Colchester provides the opportunity to study a dynamic period in American history,” says Breen. “What makes the 40-year period before the American Revolution unique is that access to consumer goods appears to have opened up for larger segments of the colonial population through a more sophisticated and far-reaching system of distribution for imported items – an event described as the consumer revolution. The artifacts and documents associated with the site offer an opportunity to explore this transformation through material culture.”

To view artifacts go to mount vernon midden.org

Original article:
popular archaeology
September 6, 2013


[Recovered from the South Grove Midden] This oval copper alloy plate, engraved “Gen: Washington,” is identical to a plate affixed to a trunk in the Mount Vernon collection which George Washington is known to have purchased secondhand on April 4, 1776, in Boston, soon after he took up his duties as general of the Continental Army. The plate on the trunk was placed over the initials of the previous owner, a Boston merchant named John Head. Throughout the Revolutionary War, the security of his official correspondence and orders was a perpetual concern for General George Washington. In the intervening weeks between the British evacuation of Boston and his departure to defend Manhattan, Washington obtained the travelling trunk to contain the increasing number of official papers in his possession. The trunk was part of General Washington’s baggage throughout the war, returning with him to Mount Vernon when he retired from military service in 1783. Given the similarity of the two specimens, the excavated plate almost surely had the same origin. The original trunk was made of rawhide, wood, leather and lined with linen. Only the metal hardware (tacks, hinges, and this plate) would survive archaeologically.

This is one of the few artifacts that we have found with George Washington’s name engraved upon it. The other object excavated from the South Grove Midden that can be linked directly back to Washington is the fragment of a silver scabbard collar engraved with part of his monogram (2696). Wine bottle seals with the crest, name, or initials of their past owners are encountered in the archaeological record at Mount Vernon and on other historic sites of the colonial period; however, it appears that George Washington did not have his own. The significance of these formally marked objects relates to an expression of gentility and status. For example, pewter dishes were widely available in the eighteenth century to consumers. However, a simple pewter plate could be elevated and distinguished with the placement of a family crest, as George Washington requested be done on a set of 96 pewter dishes in 1759.
— Object Detail from the Mount Vernon Midden Project website.
Photo courtesy Mount Vernon Preservation.

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