On March 27th, the long-anticipated day had finally arrived — at long last, we were able to start our excavation work at Old Swedes Church! After our prep meeting in the community center building, we went outside to consider the logistics at each excavation unit. With Professor De Cunzo leading the discussions, we evaluated each site for location, accessibility, work space, work flow, and problems we might encounter. For example, besides determining the actual excavation boundaries at each site, we also needed to identify the location for what is essentially a second large work station, where dirt will be sifted and stored.
At two of the units, we determined that nearby downspouts could lead to water infiltration in the excavations. For both of these locations, we decided that downspout extensions provided by Rebecca Wilson of Old Swedes Foundation would be enough to divert water away from the digs.
Each group had their own unique challenges to work through as they laid out their excavation units. For example, the team under the south porch needed to be careful about locating their dig so that the organist for the church could still access the stairs to the gallery. The team near the bell tower had a unmovable downspout landing directly where they were digging, forcing them to accommodate that as they laid out their excavation. They also needed to delay setting up their interior excavation so the congregation could access the church for Easter services. Since this group’s location is possibly the highest traffic area surrounding the church, it was important for them to find a sifting area that was out of the way of visitors. They located a spot under a nearby tree that is away from the church and sidewalks. As for my own group, we identified a location for sifting (and dirt storage) between the two north buttresses. This location is probably a bit further from the excavation than is ideal, but it is nicely tucked away from the sidewalk area where visitors might walk, and it keeps us off the cemetery grounds.
As work commenced at my team’s site, near the northeast corner of the building, we measured out our 2.5′ x 5′ dig area and lifted 4 bricks from the sidewalk, allowing us to place our corner pins. We quickly discovered that the pins could not be firmly set because of a deep layer of masonry sand beneath the brick sidewalk. So this could present a challenge. However, these pins still worked for our purpose today, which was to lay out the perimeter of the excavation site and commence with the mapping of the bricks, which constituted our “layer 1.”
We measured the brick courses, including large cracks, so we could accurately map each brick for eventual replacement in the correct location after our work is complete. This was challenging, since even the “regular” pattern of the brick was irregular due to ground undulations and (probably) frost heaving over the years. So we had to map the “waviness” of the sidewalk’s brick courses to make sure we had accurate locations for each brick’s original position.
As we left today, we covered our site with a tarp and secured it with the four bricks we had removed for our corner pins. Next week, we need to find a way to better secure our corner pins, establish a firm datum, and then begin removing layer 1 — the sidewalk bricks. Now that are set-up is complete, we are all quite excited that our trowels will hit finally the dirt!