Today we had a backhoe on the site in Delaware to help us dig our wells. But first I rode up in the bucket to take some pictures of the site from a higher vantage point. In the foreground is one of the two wells.
Some pits and a small, four-post structure.
The way we are digging these wells is that we first excavated by hand down to four feet below the surface, which as deep as you can go without shoring. Then we use the backhoe to widen the hole and slope the sides back at a safe angle, so we can keep digging down. We could get shoring, but this is cheaper and easier. If the well is deeper than about 10 feet (3 meters), though, you either need to get some fancy, expensive shoring or just dig with a machine and not go into the hole.
This picture was taken down in one of the holes after it had been widened, and it is about as clear as archaeology gets. The nearly white soil is the natural subsoil, and the darker, mostly brown soil is the well. The larger brown shape represents the hole dug by the well diggers. Inside that you can see a square that is the stains left by the wooden structure of the well; within that was the well interior. The soil between the outside of the well and the wooden lining was put there when the well was built, so any artifacts there help to date the building of the well. The soil inside the lining got there after the well was abandoned, so any artifacts there can help date the abandonment.