The Archaeology of the Old Stone Mill in Newport, Rhode Island

The method of building the tower became clear as our work progressed. A construction trench, varying in depth from nine inches to two feet from the original surface, had been dug in a circle to receive the column foundations. It was slightly more than seven feet wide. […]

These foundations were then capped over with a layer of mortar, probably as a means of leveling them up before beginning the construction of the columns. […]

[…] On these prepared mortar surfaces the columns were then built, the stones perhaps roughly shaped after setting, and the drum then plastered. […]

The Excavation

On the advice of a committee of the Society for American Archaeology extensive excavations were made in 1948 and 1949. Many of the pro-Colonial (Arnoldist) supporters were— violently opposed to any and all digging. […]

[…] We lifted one section of the sidewalk surrounding the tower. This was, perhaps, the most crucial moment of the season for the Norse supporters: they were sure that the remains of a round church ambulatory would be found in the region […] We cleared the area with great care, but found the yellow clay, as before, completely undisturbed; no sign of foundations, no postholes, no Norse artifacts. […]

[…] But it is significant that the lowest levels has nothing but Colonial Material […]

[…] two general locations in which significant finds could be made to date the tower. […] it was necessary to refill the construction trench before the lowest stones of the column drums were put in place. This refilling was essential to hold the unfitted foundation stones in place in order to support the columns. Anything in this refilled material must antedate the tower. Secondly, there was a line of brown loam passing under the mortar cap, in at least one place. In two more places it passed under some of the column stones, suggesting that here the cap had disintegrated. Finds in this lowest loam layer would have to be contemporary with the structure […]

[…] In this brown loam several objects were found: two very small fragments of a clay pipe; one a small plain bowl fragment with no datable indications, the other a piece of pipestem with a trace of a beaded rand […] decorated pipestems were common in 17th century.

[…] both the inside and outside edges of the construction trench were clear and undisturbed. […] The other pottery fragment retained a small area of glaze on its outside surface, and clear marks of the interior surface treatment. The ware had an orange paste, with a brownish glaze decorated with small irregular purple specks […] similar examples had been found in Jamestown, Va., which could be dated to the last half of the 17th century […]

Source: William S. Godfrey Jr., "The Archaeology of the Old Stone Mill in Newport, Rhode Island," American Antiquity 17 (1951): 120-129.

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