Anthropology Field Notes

University of Delaware Anthropology Fieldwork by students and faculty

Category: Northampton Furnace Archaeology Project (page 1 of 2)

Northampton Furnace- Day 13, Nov. 22

Our last class in the field!  We focused on finishing Test Units 4 and 5, but the weather did not cooperate.  The rain came early and the temperature dropped.  Despite the miserable conditions, we excavated Test Unit 5 below the demolition layer finding a few nineteenth-century artifacts and several rodent burrows.   By the end of the day, we finally located the bottom of the foundation wall in the south half of the trench (Test Unit 4).  Only one mortared course remained. The foundation wall seems to have been disassembled and robbed of stone from the interior.  We also finished digging shovel test pits to the north and east of the structure finding a mix of eighteenth and nineteenth-century artifacts, but we did not find any features. Unfortunately, we were not able to wrap up all the excavation and documentation that day.  Therefore, we came back on November 26th and finished the remainder of the mapping and photographing before backfilling the last units.

The south half of TU 4 looking north showing the mortared stone wall

Finishing mapping the trench in the cellar hole.

The well-camouflaged stone wall of the “corn house.” The foundation stones are covered in green moss.

Even though the fieldwork was finished, the students successfully presented the preliminary results of their hard work at Hampton National Historical Site on December 7th.   Over the winter and early spring, we hope to analyze the recovered material culture and write a report detailing of our findings.  Stay tuned.

Thank you to all the field school students and Brittany Bednash who helped to write this blog.  Please contact Adam Fracchia ( if you want to find out more about the project or have any questions.

The hardworking 2019 field crew.


Northampton Furnace- Days 11 and 12, Nov. 8 and 15

We reached the bright orange subsoil (a non-cultural soil layer) in the north half of the trench (Test Unit 4), but no wall.   The excavation of the south half of the trench unearthed a range of artifacts, including a slate pencil and nineteenth-century ceramics.  We finished the excavation of the Test Unit 3 and began the slow process of mapping and photographing the unit.  In Test Unit 5, we excavated several layers of soil with several interesting artifacts like a stoneware marble and a lice comb fragment before finding a demolition layer of stone and mortar.  To the southwest of the dwelling, we also found another wall feature which likely corresponds to the “corn house” depicted on the 1843 Barney map.

West wall profile of the north half of TU 4 (left side) and TU 2 (right side). The mortar and rock layer is visible just below the sign board as is the bright orange subsoil.

TU 3 showing the north and west foundation walls

A slate pencil found in the south half of the trench, TU 4

Demolition layer in TU 5

Northampton Furnace- Day 10, Nov. 1

We resumed excavating the trench, finding several slumping layers of soil but no wall.  One of these soil layers contained a large amount of small mammal bone.  Unfortunately, we failed to find any artifacts within the small builder’s trench in TU 3 that could help us date the stone wall. We also documented evidence of extensive rodent activity that has mixed soil layers even at the base of the foundation wall. To explore the wall further, we opened TU 5 on the other side of the stone wall.   We hope this unit will explain the nature and sequence of the structures.

Stone foundation wall of the dwelling

Artifacts from TU 3

Northampton Furnace- Day 9, Oct. 25th

The weather finally changed from hot and humid to misty and mild. We had an appropriate haunting hike through the fog to the site just in time for Halloween.  Our shovel test pits have not yielded any trace of buildings or artifact concentrations. The excavation of Test Unit 2 and the trench continued, along with Test Unit 3. We continued the search for the foundation wall in Test Unit 4. In Test Unit 3, we possibly located the builder’s trench along the west wall, a pit in the southeast quadrant, and subsoil along the north and east walls.

Misty hike to the site

Excavating Test Unit 2 and the Trench

Northampton Furnace- Days 7 & 8, Oct. 11 and 18

We continued to excavate Test Unit 3, with the intention of finding the floor of the dwelling and the builder’s trench. These features did not appear within the unit, however we did find a fragment of an iron fork, along with slag, glass, ceramic fragments, and nails.  The unit had a mix of eighteenth and nineteenth-century material culture.  We believe the mixing of these artifacts is due to the rodent activity in the unit.

In Test Unit 2, we were unable to locate the foundation wall.  Instead, we located a possible pit for a post . Within Test Unit 2 we found nails, thimbles, scissors, mortar, plaster, slag, ceramic fragments, bricks, and animal bones.

To cover more surface area and aid in the efforts of locating the foundation wall, we started to excavate a trench (Test Unit 4)  just south of Test Unit 2 and leading into the cellar hole. Within the trench, we found many animal bones, nails, glass and bricks.

Beginning the excavation of the Trench, Test Unit 4

Northampton Furnace- Day 6, Oct. 4

October 4th was a gorgeous day in the “Maryland jungle” that yielded some interesting artifacts. We continued excavation within both Test Units 2 and 3. While we continued to search for the foundation wall in Test Unit 2, among brick and glass we also found a pair of small scissors. We followed the many courses of stone further in Test Unit 3 with the hopes of locating the dwelling floor and builder’s trench. The material culture we found included fish bones, a small rodent skull and bones, pipe fragments, various nails, buttons, ceramic fragments, mortar, plaster, bricks, and oyster shells.

Within the gorgeous “jungle”

Excavating Test Unit 2

Northampton Furnace- Day 5, Sept. 27

We continued to excavate Test Units 2 and 3 around the cellar feature. The purpose of Test Unit 2 was to locate the foundation wall, and possibly date the wall.  We know a structure existed in this location based on the 1843 Barney map.  Test Unit 3 is located at the corner of two walls.  We hope this location will be inside the structure and will yield intact living surfaces as well as information on the construction of the building, such as a builder’s trench.

Test Unit 1 proved to be shallow in depth and full of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century artifacts.  Based on this material and the unmortared stones, we believe this structure was a small outbuilding associated with the later furnace farm.

Nick Excavating Test Unit 3

Test Unit 1 fully excavated. The stone wall was only one course deep. A pier for a floor joist is visible in the right hand corner of the unit.


Northampton Furnace, Day 4- Sept. 19

We decided to clear and uncover another foundation feature which was hiding underneath many thorny wild rose bushes.  The building is believed to be date to the period when the furnace was under operation. The building does show up on the 1843 Barney map of the Hampton Estate as a dwelling.   It was quite the task to wrangle the “Maryland jungle” away from the foundation. We started two test units at this feature to document the foundation wall and another to test inside the building.  So far the test units have a greater variety of material culture including bone, an assortment of nails and ceramic fragments, slag, coal, and glass.

19th Century material culture: nails, ceramic, coal, animal tooth

Cellar Hole of dwelling partially exposed

Laying out test unit to find structure wall

Older posts