Archaeological Features

by Jean Cascardi Archaeology Crew Chief

On this blog and in our bi-weekly updates we frequently discuss specific archaeological features that CART has discovered on sites across the county. Currently, the team is working diligently at excavating “Feature 5,” a feature that likely represents evidence of a full cellar indicating the physical remains of a structure. Unlike artifacts, features cannot be removed intact from their original location in the ground in order to analyze in the lab. Often features will contain artifacts that provide archaeologists with clues as to what their past function was and in turn infer site function and possibly even distinct activity areas within the structure. As defined by www.archaeological.org a feature is: “any physical structure or element, such as a wall, post hole, pit, or floor, that is made or altered by humans but (unlike an artifact) is not portable and cannot be removed from a site.”

Archaeologists often identify features in the field by carefully observing irregularities in soils, artifact concentrations, and rock concentration. For example, CART first identified Feature 5 as a change in soil color below the plow zone. Feature 5 soil differed from that of the surrounding subsoil generally encountered on this area of the site. In addition to the soil difference, archaeologists observed a distinct line separating the feature soil from the subsoil. The clear difference further indicated that the soil likely represented a feature. The picture below shows the separation of the subsoil from the feature soil.

The corner of the test unit pictured below revealed a redder soil than the remainder of the unit, the redder soil is the subsoil and the feature is located in the rest of the unit. The purple line in the photograph on the right highlights the separation of feature soil and subsoil.

Test Unit with Feature

 

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About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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