Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Ritual Objects" and Caution

Remember this? It's an artifact from Mission Spit salvage. We found two of them, and after agreeing that none of us has seen anything like it (and therefore could not pigeon-hole it), began speculating. In fact, I managed to convince myself it could be part of a ritual object, that we had somehow recovered two finials from a cross. Maybe the hundreds of sherds and shards didn't say anything more specific than "people here shopped at the Hudsons Bay store," but pieces of a cross brought by the Oblate Fathers of the Mission? Cool.

Of course, I knew this was speculation rather than science, and even though I tried my damnedest to find proof, asking the Oblate archives for images and scouring the web, to consider these parts of an actual ritual object rather than roosting them in the dingy pigeon-hole we know as "unidentified" would be a leap of faith. Great story, plausible even, but unproven.

So I told the story, with caveats, and held onto a kernel of hope that one day I'd find that proof. Maybe a third finial would pop up (or a fourth, if the bottom part had one as well), or a belated Oblate response indicating that yes, of course, all missions were issued with cast stone crosses. I was repeating this casual hope the other day as my daughters and I visited the beach once again.

And then, we saw one. Now, I had a trinity of possible ritual objects. One had eroded from a part of the beach slowly deflating as the engineered earthwork done during restoration settles into a natural repose. My kids knew this was exciting, and I told them, "This is so amazing. There should only be three, maybe four, of these things, and we've found three!" The only thing that could mess it up, I said would be to find a bunch more.

So yeah, there were a bunch more.

It took just a minute or two to find the second. Then in rapid succession, a third, fourth, fifth,...the crestfallen quickly lose count. All of them are like the original two, cast stone finials, broken at the base, exact same size and shape, out of the same mold. Worse yet, they were with other rubble, including some concrete test cylinders, basically the most recent material at Mission Spit, part of the rubble component dumped after the road was built. Some pieces (upper left in this shot) have tar and asphalt stuck to them.

Even though I did also find a couple pieces of 19th Century glass in the same area, the odds that these artifacts were dumped a century after the Mission have jumped way up. There's no certainty to the context. Given that asphalt and concrete were visible on the surface a year ago before the restoration project even occurred, these things could be just a few decades old.

But wait a minute. It was almost exactly a year ago when we removed the "Tenino Stone," a fountain that I've also posted about before. At the time, I found concrete test cylinders around and under this thing, which turns out to be one of three fountains for Priest Point Park made (and given to the city) by the Hercules Quarry of Tenino in 1915. The shot above shows the fountain and the rubble; based on the location of the shovel probe at the right of the shot, this is about where I found the finials, although it's hard to be certain in a re-sculpted landscape.

So maybe, the cast stone was a decorative element of the fountain, or some other early Priest Point Park feature. (There I go, speculating again.) Once again, I cast this idea to the net in hopes that, once again, someone will know more of the history, or recognize the artifact, or otherwise help me move from speculation to knowledge.

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