A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Summer 2000 Excavation Off and RunningAfter two and a half days of classroom and laboratory lectures we hit the ground at the Lott House running. It was good to get back into the
field after a 10-month lay-off. We set up two teams of four people each and laid out two trenches on each side of the kitchen door. Part of each trench is technically
under the lean-to. Prior to excavation we removed large boxwoods and brush from the surface. If you remember from last week's update
we are excavating in this area not so much to find artifacts but to uncover information with regard to two questions. What can we learn from the foundation of the lean-to? What are the various levels of the roadbed and how do they
relate to the house?
Left, students set up a trench. (Courtesy Brooklyn College)
Team 1, working in the trench south of the door (N33 E29.5), has already gone through the topsoil (about 10 cm deep) and one layer
of roadbed (presumably the turn-of-the-twentieth-century roadbed that you see in all the historic photographs of the house). This layer was
comprised of mostly ash, gravel, coal and clinker and extended down about 10 cm as well. Little in terms of artifacts was recovered from
within the matrix (the consistency and contents of the soil), but this was to be expected. Under this layer is a very large area that appears to be
fill. It is a reddish brown clayey soil. Two
twentieth-century cast-iron sewer pipes have been uncovered in this stratum. The pipes enter below the lean-to and most likely extend to meet the
city's water/sewer system under East 36th Street. In 1998 we uncovered another portion of this sewer system just to the south of the stone
foundation. Although it is still to soon to determine when the fill was put in, early-nineteenth-century pearlwares are being recovered. These
include blue transfer-prints and several flow blue pieces. There have also been a lot of mid-nineteenth-century mochaware sherds as well as a
number of animal bones.
Team 2 is working to the north of the kitchen door (N36 E28.5). Once below the surface and the ashy roadbed layer (approximately 10 cm
below surface) they hit a dense shell layer. This layer extended about 10-15 cm in depth and produced whole and crushed clam and oyster
shells. Just when we thought that we couldn't find anymore shells at the Lott House! (Of the over 57,000 artifacts recovered so far at the Lott House, approximately 18,000 are shells.) Hundreds of shells were recovered and the students noticed something curious while excavating this layer. It
appears that the majority of whole clam shells were purposely laid, with the interior of their shells, in a downward position. It really is
impossible to say if this was done on purpose, but clearly all of the complete shells were facing one direction. They did not
appear to have just been tossed into the area. Finally through the shell layer Team 2 also has hit the reddish brown clayey soil. Some pipestems, pearlware and mochaware were found within this layer as well.
Right, the ashy roadbed surface in N36 E28.5 (Courtesy Brooklyn College)
With regard to the lean-to foundation (recovered in both trenches) there do appear to be some differences here compared to what we
uncovered last year along the north side of the lean-to. The 2000 trenches indicate that the foundation is much more substantive on this side than in the 1999 trench where the stone extended only a few courses below the ground. It's too early to speculate on this yet but further
excavations on the south side of the lean-to will help.
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