In October 2012 we set out to find the site of Richard Taylor's 17th century farmhouse. We found it and also found what appeared to be a second structure. Our objective in 2014 was to expand on the 2012 work and discover as much as we could about the 17th century building or buildings. At a minimum, we hoped to determine the dimensions of the house, its exact position and what the possible second structure might be.
This fall, led by archaeologist Craig Chartier of Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project, the Taylor Bray Farm Preservation Association along with the help of 40 community volunteers and 20 Dennis-Yarmouth High School students investigated the mid-17th century home site of the farm's original English settlers, Richard and Ruth Taylor. Possibly the earliest Euro-American home site to be professionally excavated on Cape Cod and one of very few encompassing earthfast construction.
The highlight of the excavation were several large soil stain features that were interpreted as remnants of the earthfast posts of the house. The large roughly ovoid stains had darker stains, the remains of posts rotted in the ground, near their centers. These darker stains were nine feet apart on center and formed a rectangular pattern, presumably the circumference of where the house once stood and reflected a 27 by 18 foot original structure with an 18 by 18 foot addition likely from the 18th century. See the diagram at left.
Features can yield the most information about archaeological sites. They can give indications to land use, contain datable organic remains, or can be a map to structural patterns like the ones at Taylor Bray. Features, however, cannot be brought back to a laboratory so they must be meticulously investigated and recorded in the field for later analysis. This work is slow and painstaking, requiring excavation in five centimeter (two inch) levels each recorded with precise drawings and selected photography. The features were bisected allowing them to be viewed in "plan" from above, as well as in "profile" at the center, exposing the depth and other characteristics. The remaining half-features were covered with plastic and back filled, leaving them for future study when more advanced technologies might give insights we can only imagine today.
Plenty of "traditional" artifacts were also recovered during the dig. The most numerous were nail and brick fragments and shards of deteriorated window glass. Some of the more exciting artifacts recovered during the dig were ceramics, gun flints, and a musket ball. The ceramics were largely utilitarian redware used for storage containers, milk pans, chamber pots, and such. There were also a few fragments of what would be considered finer tableware ceramics once part of drinking vessels or plates.
The smaller concentrations of artifacts differs from previous excavations around the knoll where archaeologists found larger amounts of domestic materials to the north and east of this year's excavation. The smaller number from this year's dig is further indication of the presence of the house in this location. It is expected to find more artifacts in what was the yard of a home than where the actual building stood.
Future archaeological investigations will likely return to these yard areas as this very important part of the history of Taylor-Bray Farm is pieced together. The Taylor-Bray Farm Archaeology Project has been an important contribution to the archaeology and history of not only the farm and Yarmouthport, but Cape Cod and New England. Only time will tell what the future of the project will teach us about the past!