March 2008

Statistical Research, Inc., carried out its last regular day of fieldwork for the Joint Courts Archaeological Project on Friday, March 14, 2008. Sixteen months after we began, we finally completed excavations in the project area—with the exception of a narrow utility corridor that remains in service, as discussed below. We spent the last two weeks of March shutting down the field operation, backfilling some of the excavations, removing and servicing field equipment, and cleaning up the site. Our attention now shifts to the careful analysis of our discoveries, including the skeletal remains and burial-associated artifacts from the many graves of the National Cemetery, the staggering number of artifacts from the many post-cemetery features in the project area, and the relatively few but important artifacts found in association with two prehistoric pit houses.

The last two weeks of regular fieldwork were spent on a variety of excavation tasks aimed at making sure every part of the former cemetery had been thoroughly explored. An especially important task was to revisit parts of the project area with the backhoe, mechanically stripping areas where we had already hand-excavated all of the graves identified in our original stripping. In parts of the former cemetery, most notably the area of high grave density discovered in the western portion of Council Street, the combined presence of multiple, overlapping graves and a variety of later, intrusive features (especially utility trenches) made it difficult to be absolutely certain that every grave feature had been identified and excavated. Using the backhoe to remove the fill from intrusive features and then explore beneath them, we eliminated any doubt about the thoroughness of our efforts. During the first two weeks of March, we identified another five graves, which we then excavated by hand.

The total number of graves discovered and excavated in the National Cemetery now stands at 1,095; the total number of excavated burials is 1,012. It is possible that these numbers will increase slightly when we return to the field later this year to excavate below the high-voltage electrical lines still in place (and energized) in the project area. A reroute of these lines is currently under construction in Stone Avenue and Alameda Street, on the west and south sides of the project area, but the reroute will probably not be complete until summer. The trench that holds the energized lines is fairly deep, but the possibility exists that graves (disturbed or undisturbed) are still present below the trench. Our fieldwork will not be definitively complete until we excavate below the trench.

This is the last regular monthly report for the Joint Courts Archaeological Project. We anticipate providing less-frequent reports about our progress in the analysis and writing stages of the project, but we have not yet settled on a schedule or a format.

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