|Detail of rare diamond notch on W.Va. barn|
Ph.D. candidate Kristen de Graauw, of the Historic Timbers Project, says she and research partner Shawn Cockrell have notably found two extraordinary diamond-notched structures, of which, based on historical literature, only about 20 examples have been documented in the eastern U.S.
Beautiful as well as practical, the rare notching method may be a tradition of northern European origin -- a question consequent researchers may answer, she says, noting that few scholars have focused on West Virginia's log-building traditions.
"What happened to those early cabins we don't know. They may have been burned, weathered naturally, or their logs may have been used to build later cabins, but so far we've not found any older logs being reused," she says. "They may still be hiding out there somewhere."
|Diamond notches on barn in eastern W.Va.|
"We're continually finding so much more than we set out to find, and I'm particularly happy that we're helping cabin owners make new discoveries along the way," said de Graauw.
Though the team is helping owners date the ages of their log structures, de Graauw initially launched the study as a means of discovering the pre-settlement history of central Appalachian forests.
By examining tree rings in core samples taken from timbers, de Graauw and Cockrell have been able to gauge the age of log structures, to the benefit of owners, though de Graauw's other goal is to learn more of the forests, of which the timbers provide one of the only records.
Scientists can gauge the age of logs by counting rings, and can gauge when the tree began growing by comparing the pattern of rings with patterns in other logs sampled. Logs sampled will feature similar ring patterns as a result of events such as droughts or cold snaps.
In addition to learning to appreciate the practical aspects of construction, de Graauw says she appreciates even more the sheer beauty of the materials and craftsmanship.
|de Graauw climbs into loft in historic log barn|
de Graauw said the Historic Timbers Project will continue to date log structures across the state and members hope to find examples of old cabins in the Ohio Valley along which many early European settlements were established.
The Historic Timbers Project may also be followed on Facebook at Historic Timbers.
|Cockrell (left) at remodeled cabin with diamond notching|
de Graauw now regularly tours the state, helping owners date their properties while discovering more about their histories.
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