Rounding Up Rubbish

The site where Brody Hall stands today (intersection of Harrison & Michigan Ave) was once used by the city East Lansing as a landfill. There is little historical documentation on the landfill, which made it difficult to find information about the site. What we do know is that it was active from the early 1900s until the 1940s. The artifacts recovered during construction projects and CAP excavations near Brody and the Emmons amphitheater date to the late 1920s and early 1930s. This suggests that this particular portion of the landfill was used during that time period. The most plentiful artifact type is glass bottles. The bottles show us a rare glimpse of the different kinds of products used by people living in East Lansing at the time, from health products to milk and alcohol bottles.

Bottom of bottle with Owens Illinois makers mark, factory and date codes.

Bottom of bottle with Owens Illinois makers mark, factory and date codes.

The process of dating the bottles was not too complicated, mostly due to the guide the Society for Historical Archaeology has that explains the changes of bottle morphology though time. Small markings such as lines or pontiff marks that are caused during the process of glass molding can tell help you narrow down the time frame more. As the methods used for making glass bottles changed, small characteristics of the bottles changed with it. Another way for dating glass bottles are the codes/date stamps or company marks found on the bottom, similar to the way modern day plastic bottles have numbers for the quality of plastic and recycling marks. These bottle marks are a much faster way to identify the company that manufactured the bottle and can even be helpful enough to tell you the time frame it could have been made and even the location it was manufactured.

Owens-Illinois made Steuer wine bottle

Owens-Illinois made Steuer wine bottle.

It has been interesting to learn about how the process for making bottles has changed throughout time because it is something that I normally would not have the opportunity to research. For my research project this semester I have decided to focus on learning what I can about health in East Lansing around that time. By looking at these bottles I have started thinking about the types of products we found and comparing it with the kinds of products we still use today. The similar products were household cleaners, such as bleach or ammonia, and various kinds of alcohol like whiskey and wine, but when looking at the healthcare products we found some things I would not have thought of as being used.

Bromo-Seltzer ad from 1937

Bromo-Seltzer ad from 1937. Image Source.

The products used for cleaning such as Roman Cleanser, the first commercial version of bleach cleansers, and Little Bo beep Ammonia are not new to many people. Some of the kinds of alcohol we found that many have not heard of are Wilkin’s Whiskey and Hiram Walker Whiskey. The healthcare products we found were Wildroot and Vitalis, haircare products that are still around, but have fallen out of common use. There were also a few bottles of Bromo-Seltzer, an early form of antacids. Hair gel and antacids are not new products, but it is easy to see that varieties and companies can be popular at a point in time, but then other companies rise to replace them. There were still some healthcare products that were easily recognizable, such as the Listerine bottle mentioned in a previous post. Another way to be able to see how the culture thought of the product in that time is to look at their advertisements. Looking at these products and their advertisements can show us the differences in ways of life that we normally would not think about. Researching health from this time period has been an eye-opener for how people used to live. I have learned so much about the different kinds of health and how much we have changed over the past hundred years.

Finishing up the Field School

Our last week has certainly been eventful, we have all been working hard to finish up before Friday, while also having a lot of visitors come by to learn more about what we were excavating.  Last Wednesday a Vacation Bible School group came to learn about Archaeology and looking at artifacts that we had found.  They had a great time screening dirt and finding artifacts like nails.  Today Dr. Goldstein hosted a lecture for Grandparents University so some grandparents and their grandchildren also came out to see what we were working on, some were really interested in our unit and some of the artifacts we were finding like the bone in our west wall.

Northwest corner of Unit B showing gravel layer and brick concentration.

Northwest corner of Unit B showing gravel layer and brick concentration.

While shovel skimming to get deeper we started finding a large number bricks in the northwest corner and there were a few more following the north wall.  They mostly seemed to be broken fragments.  There was one large, intact brick running along the middle of our eastern wall.  We had to map each brick, and then pull them up while troweling so we could try and find a mark identifying who made it.  We were hoping the one brick not broken would be the one to tell us, but it too had no mark.  When we pulled it up, we could see another brick that was laid beside it going into the eastern wall.  The intact brick and a few other pieces seem to have small breaks almost like stress fractures as if it used to support something heavy that was laid across it, one theory is that it could have to do with supporting the trolley.

Cooper and Desiree excavating Unit B.

Cooper and Desiree excavating Unit B.

We finally got to the bottom of the cement structure that could be a piece of the trolley turnaround, has told us that it is most likely not a sidewalk because of how thick it is.  We are deep enough that we can see how interesting our stratigraphy is.  The gravel layer seems to come out from the middle of the cement feature, suggesting that it could have been poured as a walkway or at least at the same time the feature was built.  In the northwest corner near the bricks it looks like it could be connected to the gravel layer, almost like the bricks were dumped first and the gravel was poured over it.  We also found a piece of glass right outside the pile of bricks near the northwest corner.

IPF came out again to help with roots in the newly opened Unit F.  The roots were so thick that they actually broke the first axe they brought so someone ended up having to come back with another later in the day.    Unit A found a piece of a pipe coming out of the center of the southern wall, which if it is not just a broken piece, could continue into Unit E, which also could have more pieces of our brick feature and the gravel layer.  We should finish up our next level early in the morning, hoping to find out more answer about what our cement feature could be.


Discovering more everyday

Butchered bone in west wall.

Butchered bone in west wall.

After our nail layer we were not finding much besides mortar and a few screws until we found something sticking out of our west wall.  We can tell that it is a bone, but until we are finished with out unit we have to leave it be, although I’m not sure how we will decide who gets to pull it out.  There are signs of butchering done to the bone, and because of its size and the cow scapula that was found nearby in Unit D we believe it could also be cow.

Besides the bone we were not finding much else than nails and mortar, until I felt something that felt like scraping concrete while shovel skimming near the southeast corner.  After getting a better look with the use of a trowel, we knew that we were looking at a small foundation or wall of some kind that was running along our south wall, but it was much different in material and size than the other walls found in Units A and D.  It also seems to be slightly off from true cardinal directions much like how the other wall is, although it is deeper.  Until we get down deeper we will be unable to determine what it is exactly, and we are hoping the new Unit E (courtesy of CAP grad students and interns) could help us to figure out if the walls connect or what their relation were to each other.

Cement feature running along Unit B's south wall.

Cement feature running along Unit B’s south wall.

Around the same depth as the wall we did notice a layer of gravel that was found mostly on the western side, which could have been used as a kind of filler or pathway around the time the wall or foundation was built.  When looking at the west wall near the northwest corner you can see the gravel line in the stratigraphy, it is very uneven so we are still not sure if it is natural or man-made.  If it is man-made then perhaps it will show up again in Unit E, which shares balk our unit.

Gravel layer.

Gravel layer.

Starting above the wall were 2 roots that were as thick as an arm coming out of the southwest corner running in different directions throughout our unit.  One came out of the west wall, dropped down to the depth with the wall, running alongside it into the east wall.  The other one also came out of the west wall near the same spot, but ran down and through the middle of our unit, spreading in multiple directions into the north and east walls.  Most of the roots were removed in pieces as we would get down deep enough to remove another piece.  The roots we cut turn an odd green color, we only have guesses as to what it is or if it’s related to the disease that caused the tree’s removal.  Under where a root was we also found a piece of brick near the center of our unit that leads us to believe that there is still more below for us to find.

Week 2

Unit B South Wall.

Unit B South Wall

Once we got below the dark layer that contained the bed of nails, we were no longer finding them as consistently.  It was quite a quick change from finding up to 10 nails in one screening to finding none.  The thin layer can be seen on the walls in between two layers of similar soil, so we think that someone could have spilled all those nails or dumped them there.  Today IPF came out and to help us with the roots in the southwest corner and west wall.  The roots were slowing us down because of having to dig around them, so they came and cut out them with a chainsaw.  This allowed us to fix up the walls and corners that we were having problems keeping them straight because we were unable to get completely under the root to clear our the dirt.

Clip from Unit B.

Clip from Unit B.

Although we were no longer finding nails every bucket, we were still finding new artifacts.  I found a clip of some kind, which at first I thought could also be a part of a zipper, although the piece inside seems to go along with it being a clip.  Desiree found a broken piece of glass as well, we at first thought it was melted, but after talking with Professor Goldstein, we think it could be a piece of a bigger glass object.  We found a round metal object, which we at first thought was a coin, probably a dime by the size, but it seems almost too light, so until we clean it we will be unable to determine if it is because of erosion or if it is not even a coin at all.  Another artifact we found was a type of wheel that seemed too small to be for a modern desk chair, which could have been on the bottom of a cart or some kind.

Jerica and Alex are finishing up another level, before they might call their unit sterile and move to the new one, Unit D, which was dug out of the west wall near Unit A thanks to the help of Campus Archaeology field crew.  Josh and Kayleigh are getting closer to finishing the excavation of their feature, which seems to be a pit where someone may have dumped the remnants of a fire along with some bricks and pieces of broken ones.

Disc - possibly a button or small coin. Hopefully cleaning it up in the lab will tell us more!

Disc – possibly a button or small coin. Hopefully cleaning it up in the lab will tell us more!

This week has been really hot, yesterday was not so bad because of the breeze, but this morning the humidity was pretty high and there was no breeze so everyone made sure to drink lots of water and to try and stay in the shade.  Tomorrow is supposed to be just as hot, but we will not that stop us from getting the next level done.  We have the guide holes all dug out, just need to shovel skim the level down another 10 centimeters.



Finishing up Level 1

Cooper excavating in Unit B.

Cooper excavating in Unit B.

We began with setting up our units after clearing the top layer of the entire surface.  We had some big roots in the northwest and southwest corners that we had to dig around to get the guide corners to the correct depths.  There was a layer of clay that had to be worked through while shovel skimming to get our first level even with the guide holes.

We found many rusty nails, at first they seemed randomly spread out in our unit, but once we got down a little deeper with shovel skimming the nails seem to be concentrated on the western side of our unit.  The western side has darker soil than the east, which has a layer of clay that goes deeper than the other, with the difference running almost down the middle of our unit.  We also found some pieces of broken glass in the western side.

After having gone down the first 10 centimeters below the line level line, Dr. Goldstein decided that the first level was still too shallow due to the natural slope.  We needed to go down an extra 10 centimeters in our guide holes in order to make sure the first level was even.  After working through roots and clay, we have gotten our first level almost all the way down to the correct depth and kept it level, so tomorrow we should be able to finish it up.