I did NOT see this coming.
This past weekend, when I started excavating the location in the yard where I thought something was going on below the surface, I was fully expecting to find a cistern.
As it turns out, I was 100% correct in my thought that something - **something** - existed underground, but I was 100% wrong about it being a cistern; I (think I) uncovered a "dipping pool".
Like, a legit pool. Filled with water. That people sat in. And probably partied.
Let's back up a hair, lemme tell ya how I got to what you see in the above pic.
If you read the last post, you know that I stuck a shovel in the ground two weekends back and hit something mortarish a couple feet (turns out it was more like two and a half feet down) below the surface. Last weekend, armed with the knowledge that something was down there, I grabbed the shovels and got after it.
Except I didn't really "get after it". I didn't know what I was digging into. I didn't know if there was a structure I was going to run into or not. I didn't know what direction to dig. So, in fact, the digging progressed rather slowly for a little while as I gingerly poked and prodded my way below the surface.
I started by digging in the same spot I got into previously, found the horizontal mortar, and then worked my way west, with Freckles serving as the chief soil inspector. It seemed like the mortar was running uphill in that direction, which made me think I was on the top of a domed structure and heading towards its center.
Wrong. I was not on top of a domed anything; I was at the bottom of a big bowl. I didn't realize it, but I was on the verge of uncovering some sort of nearly vertical component of whatever was in the ground.
Finding the sloped, curved wall was pretty excited. As far as excavating a cistern and any old artifacts that may have been in the ground with it was concerned, the day had been a total failure. But, uncovering a giant, unknown buried thing, I dunno...any time you get to feel like Indiana Jones for a day or two, there isn't a whole lot that'll get ya down.
So I dug, and dug, and dug. Once I had a solid surface to run my shovels along, the digging went pretty fast. But I still didn't know what I was dealing with.
What I did know was this:
I knew the thing was bowl shaped.
I knew the thing was made of what appeared to be some kind of mortar, but no brick.
I knew the thing had been painted, several times (white, black, green, blue).
I knew the top of the thing's wall was at ground level, more or less.
I knew, to that point, I hadn't located any water inlet our outlet, or plumbing of any kind.
I didn't know what it was, but I was starting to lean towards "pool".
And then I discovered another thing, the inexplicable depression in the center.
Finding that got me even more excited - because what the hell was it?! - and despite it being pretty late in the day, I made a fire (not sure if you've noticed or not, but I've got a LOT of wood to burn), drank a beer, and kept digging.
By the time I was ready to call it quits, I'd uncovered 2/3 of the giant bowl-shaped thing and was pretty confident that it was some sort of pool. The following day, Sunday, with some of the excitement of discovering an unknown thing in the yard having worn off, I delayed finishing the digging to take the dogs out to one of the local rivers so they could have some fun.
Then it was back to the digging. When it was all said and done this is what I had:
In terms of dimensions the bowl structure looks about like this:
I did a little math, and a structure that shape has a volume of almost 3 cubic yards or 600 gallons. So...I removed almost 3 cubic yards of dirt by hand, and the pool would have held about 600 gallons of water.
Check out the pic below. If you pretend like everything in the pic, aside from the dog and the fire pit, isn't a giant pile of sh!t, can you see this thing being used as a place to cool off long before central air, and possibly even indoor plumbing, were a thing? I can.
I've had people suggest that it may have been a fish pond, or a fountain...but I can't imagine it being anything other than a pool, especially given its location off the side porch and under a big tree.
Now the question becomes...what do I do with it? Part of me feels like I should let that sleeping dog lie and just fill it back in. But there's another part of me that feels like it's here, it's been uncovered, and even though she's cracked in a bunch of places, and even though there's a big, ugly tree trying to send roots through the thing, maybe I should come up with some way to reuse or rebuild the structure...