Digging into the Collections June 16, 2017

John Rankin House

I know.

I haven’t updated this blog as recently or as regularly as I had hoped.  I’m sorry.  Work at our sites has taken up the majority of my time this spring, and it is my job to do the archaeological investigations for these projects.  While these projects are fun and an essential part of archaeology (and the promise for fieldwork was part of the reason I took this job as its one of my favorite parts of being an archaeologist), it does stop me from having time in the office to do other duties, like blog writing.  So I’m sorry for not updating this blog as frequently as I said I would, but not sorry for being able to participate in some great fieldwork opportunities instead.
One of the projects, in particular, has taken up most of my time and produced some great archaeological results:  this is the construction of the new visitor’s center at the John Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio.  Once completed, this center will be an awesome addition to the site and help us better tell the amazing story of John Rankin, his family, and the town of Ripley.

Construction on the project began in January 2017.  In late April, we ran into six archaeological features, two with potentially great importance to the site.  One of these features was a giant midden (or trash pit) 2 x 4 meters in size with a ceramic pile in the center.

I’m still processing the artifacts collected from this pit, but there are hundreds!  The ceramic pile alone contained the mixed-up and broken pieces of 12-15 ceramic vessels (like crocks, dishes, and jars).  What’s awesome is that a lot of these can almost be completely reconstructed with only a couple of pieces missing.  From what I’ve seen so far, some of the materials seem to date to around 1880, which would after the Rankins lived at the site.  There is at least one glass container bottom that can be dated prior to the Civil War, which would place its manufacture to when the Rankins lived there.  So perhaps there are other artifacts that I haven’t gotten to yet that could also be related to the Rankins.  More work analyzing these artifacts needs to be done before any definitive dates for the feature can be given.

In addition to this midden feature, a stone foundation was also revealed.  It was approximately 7.5 x 4.36 meters (23 x 14 feet) in size and located near the barn seen in photographs from the 1940s.  The location of this foundation suggests that it could have been an old outbuilding for the aforementioned barn.  However, the location for the original barn built by the Rankins, where they hide the runaway slaves, has never been found.  Could this be the foundation for that barn?

A lot more research would have to be done, including more fieldwork, before we know for sure what this was a foundation of.  Hopefully in the future, we’ll have time to investigate this foundation further.  For now, I’ll continue to learn as much as I can about these new artifacts in our collections!… and try to update this blog more frequently 🙂

Posted June 16, 2017

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