Work on the trench began long before excavation did, however. During geophysics conducted earlier in the season to the east of Mound A, a magnetometer revealed four dark patches connected by four lines. This probable structure would later appear on a computer screen as a series of smudges and smears. Here, the field school finds an opportunity to complete one of its initial goals for the season: to develop a key for geophysics performed on the site. At this point, only excavation will reveal what the four dark patches and its attendant lines truly are.
Three small blue flags angle out of the ground, marking the location of these dark patches (the fourth is intuited). A midway point is chosen for excavation, cutting a line across the interior of the flags.
The students have become proficient excavators. They string the units, complete paperwork, and swiftly expose Stratum I and then II. In most of the initial units, the students don’t find anything. In two of the exterior units, however, they uncover large patches of red clay. More digging, staring, and pondering – the red clay patches begin to resemble a collapsed wall or roof. This idea is corroborated by two things: a long and intentionally parallel swathe of white clay, or, a possible wall trench; and a midden-like deposit on the exterior of the red clay, categorically different than the very clean interior of the red clay patches.
Dr. Blanton points to some clues which the students might have otherwise missed. This possible structure, for instance, is aligned with the eastern axis. It would have captured the rising sun rather dramatically (hence the nickname). Following more conversations, the field school hypothesizes they are staring at an earthen monument. It might even have had astronomical significance to those people living on our site.
As the field school arrives on site the next day, the radio hums gently: “there is a house in New Orleans…”
-Allen Luethke and Kelly Teboe