Wrapping Up (For Most of Us, Anyway)

Lets just have a little wrap up of what the site looked like when we left today, what I did this week, and what’s happening next.


This week I continued to excavate in Unit D with help from Jerica on Tuesday and Wednesday and Becca today (Thursday). At the end of today we were down a bit shy of 70cm on our fourth level. Level four has been particularly difficult because it has a lot of larger rocks in it. In fact, when Jerica and I were digging 20cm guide holes at the start of this level we ended up starting skimming without having a Northwest corner guide hole at all because I got down to about a 60cm depth and hit rocks covering the entire bottom of the hole. Expanding the hole just led to finding more rocks so Dr Goldstein and Lisa decided we could just go on without it.

While Becca was helping me skim down this afternoon, holes started opening between the rocks (of which there were 15-20 depending on where you draw the line between a small rock and a big stone). Becca had to leave early today so after she left I mapped out where the rocks currently exposed were and then Lisa removed the majority of the rocks that were in the level so we’d be able to keep going down past them to finish out the level.  There were two or three that were in so deep that they were in the next level some so we couldn’t remove them yet but there is actually enough space to fit a shovel in across the majority of the level which is a change from before it.

Unit D large stones in level 4.

Unit D large stones in level 4.

Unit D after the larger stones were removed (after mapping).

Unit D after the larger stones were removed (after mapping).


At the end of the day…

  • Unit F has only produced a few small artifacts per level despite Josh B. and Spencer’s best efforts.
  • Unit E stayed closed all day with no one to work in it (though Susan Kooiman and Becca were working in there yesterday).
  • Unit B is so deep that Dr Goldstein had to bring in a step ladder for Cooper and Desiree to use to get in and out. They feel very isolated in their unit, you can’t see them most of the time and the walls muffle all of the sound from outside of it so they can’t easily participate in any of the conversations going on across the other units.
  • Unit A has passed their own large rock layer and found two pipes. One is a broken off terracotta one in the wall that’s strange flat bottom that implies that it is an old sewer pipe (a realization that came about after Kayleigh had stuck her hand in it to clean it out). The other pipe, a bit lower than the first, was also terracotta but wasn’t broken off. It ran all the way across the western wall of their unit.

What happens next

 

The field crew and a few members of our group including Cooper, Becca, and both Joshs will be returning to the field on Monday to spend a week or so finishing up everything we didn’t get done during the month we’ve been working.

Beginning Unit D

Unit C is totally closed and now serving as a place to screen into for unit B and now unit D is now officially being excavated.

Our first level was originally going to be a 20 cm level but, after we began uncovering what seemed to be the first course of a stone wall, Dr Goldstein had us continue down another 10 cm (making that first level 30 cm total) so it took a bit of time but the level is finally there. Today Josh from the field crew and Jerica were cleaning the walls and floors of the bottom of the level while I screened the dirt they were removing, cut roots, and generally tried to help them out without being in their way (an about 2×2 meter square is kind of small for 3 people to begin with but once you throw a ~50 cm wall into the mix as well, it’s not really do-able).

A view of the wall in unit A and the one in unit D when the latter was being uncovered on Friday. (Image courtesy of MSU Campus Archaeology Twitter)

We’ve also cut the unit wall on the eastern side back until we found the other side of the wall in unit A (only about 3.5 cm outside of our unit). With more of the wall exposed on our side, the wall in unit A seems to run straight and then turn a corner into our unit but we can’t tell yet if it turns there or if the wall in D is just another wall off of A’s initial wall and the wall in A simply has an opening in it for some reason we cannot yet determine.

Helpful picture showing the way the walls in A and D seem to connect (also from Friday, it’s much more distinct now) Image courtesy of the MSU Campus Archaeology Instagram

We’ve even found a few things in this unit already. Nothing major but after the last three levels of C having nothing but a nail or two even the bottom of one bottle and the mouth of another, a penny (year unknown until we can get it to the lab and clean it off a bit), a piece of terracotta, and, of course, the ever ubiquitous nails seem pretty exciting.

We’re still not sure which side(s) of the walls would have been inside of the building and which were outside. To figure that out we need to determine if the walls we’ve found are foundation or interior walls. While the walls are very thick like foundation walls are, we can’t say for sure which it is just yet.

We’ve even added another unit to the site. Unit E is between units A and B and is being excavated by field crew member Becca (with the help of Susan Kooiman today). If we’re listing miscellaneous things from the whole site, Unit B has their own wall (or wall-like thing) now too. It might be a lintel or sidewalk of some kind but it’s too soon to tell what it might be.

The Closing of One Unit and the Opening of Another

Unit C is done!

…Well, mostly done, anyway.

After four ten-centimeter levels, a good ten or so probe tests, and our final two levels only producing about seven nails and two tiny glass shards its been determined that unit C is now sterile (that means we’ve gone through all the cultural material and it’s just undisturbed sand now). So now we’re going to be finishing up our final tasks for this last level and the things we need to do to close a unit before we’ll be switching to a new unit, unit D, on the far side of units A and B from where we are now.

Field crew clearing overburden over future unit D

Field crew clearing overburden over future unit D. Photo courtesy of MSU CAP Twitter

Some of our final tasks for closing the unit involve cleaning up the floor of any loose dirt one more time and giving our North and West walls a very thorough clean (trimming roots, making sure it is as smooth and vertical as possible, etc) so we can take pictures and make profile maps of the stratigraphy of the walls.

Closing a unit also often includes back-filling the opening but we won’t be doing that this time. IPF has been kind enough to offer to back-fill the entire site when we’re finished since there are so few of us on such a short project and such a large area needs to be backfilled. Since the placement of unit C is conveniently close to the other units we will screening into it instead once it’s finished. This means that the excess dirt that would just go to the back-fill piles for IPF to deal with (after we’ve carefully removed any artifacts) will fall into the unit itself instead which should make a little less work for the back-filling crew. It also means that we won’t be carrying buckets of dirt up and down the stairs around the edges of the excavations to the screens which should make screening the dirt a little faster (not to mention easier in this heat we’ve been having).

It’s only been about two weeks but closing unit C still seems a little bitter sweet. The new unit should be inside the actual Station Terrace building, based on what was found during last year’s excavations, and should hopefully have a greater wealth of information for us to find, after all, the field crew found a really cool cow scapula just while removing the three feet of overburden to bring it down to the same level as the rest of the site.

Our first large cut bone – found in new unit overburden- most likely cow scapula. Image courtesy of MSU Campus Archaeology Twitter

 

On the other hand, unit C has been Jerica and I’s primary focus since the beginning and to leave behind the very visible progress we’ve made for a whole, untouched (apart from when the field crew removed the majority of the overburden) unit seems like a bit of a set back but it should be fun nonetheless and with the amount of trouble we had getting to grips with the way the unit borders need to be laid out initially, I’m sure it will be helpful for us to get to go through the process of setting the unit up from start to finish again (hopefully in fewer than five tries this time).

 

1882 Indian Head Penny

NNC-US-1860-1C-Indian Head Cent (wreath & shield).jpg

A penny from an earlier year that features the same design. Image courtesy of the National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.

For the most part, Unit C of our excavations has mostly produced nails, glass and ceramic shards, and a few fragments of small animal bones but last Friday (06/02) we uncovered an 1882 Indian Head penny. This type of penny has been popular among coin collectors ever since they began to be produced (though it suffered a small decline in popularity between the 1930s-1960s, possibly because the bronze version of the Indian Head cent was still in circulation and may have been overlooked as too common for notice). However, due to the advanced age of the coin, it’s a bit more of a collectors item for modern numismatists who wish to expand their collections, especially desired are those specimens with lesser wear (though some is expected since even the newest of the original Indian Heads are about 126 years old now).

1882 Indian head penny excavated from Unit C.

1882 Indian head penny excavated from Unit C.

Some History

Indian Head pennies were issued by the United States Bureau of the mint between 1859 and 1909. The ‘Indian Head’ was designed in 1859 by James B. Longacre, an engraver employed by the mint, who was directed to develop alternatives for a previous design of hir (the ‘flying eagle’ design which was issued in exchange for worn Spanish silver coins between 1856-1858) after the design was determined to be too difficult to reliably reproduce in the copper-nickel alloy the coins were to be made of. Longacre finished four possible designs by November when the Indian Head pattern was selected from the options and approved by James Ross Snowden, the director of the Mint at the time. Production began on the first of January, 1859. The original 1859 minting had a laurel wreath on the reverse side that completely encircled the ‘One Cent’ text but in 1860 Snowden decided to alter the design further, leaving the ‘Indian Head’ unchanged but swapping the laurel wreath for an oak leaf wreath that didn’t quite encircle the denomination and a narrow shield design that filled the gap in the wreath. Throughout the 1880s, Longacre’s design was reissued as demand for pennies increased, probably due to a decrease of the cost of stamps making pennies more popular. The design finally ceased to be stamped in 1909 when it was replaced with the modern style of penny featuring Abraham Lincoln on its face in honor of the centennial of the hir birth.

The Design

Despite the name, the image on the face of the coin is of not actually of a Native American at all but is actually a white woman who is supposed to be the goddess Liberty wearing the native headdress. According to a popular legend, the facial features of Liberty on the coin were based on Longacre’s young daughter, Sarah, who ze sketched when ze tried on the headdress of a visiting native but Sarah Longacre would have been 30 years old when the design was made rather than the 12 the legend claims and James Longacre hirself not only stated that the face was based that of a statue of Venus, on loan from the Vatican, which ze saw in a Philadelphia museum but after the design was approved in 1858, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Howell Cobb, in which ze denied it was based on any of the features of any member of hir family.

A neat numismatist fact: The most popular pricing guide for US coin collectors is ‘A Guide Book of United States Coins’ by Richard Yeoman (also called The Red Book). The early editions of the guide have become collectible in their own right and there is now a guide book to collecting early editions of the guide book for coin pricing called ‘A Guide Book Of The Official Red Book Of United States Coins’ by Frank J. Colletti.

Additional information about the penny: http://www.usacoinbook.com/coins/306/small-cents/indian-head-cent/1882-P/

Additional information about John B. Longacre: http://www.usacoinbook.com/encyclopedia/coin-designers/james-b-longacre/

References

  • JM Bullion. “Indian Head Penny (1859-1909)”
    https://www.jmbullion.com/coin-info/cents/indian-head-pennies/
    Accessed: 06/03/2017
  • JM Bullion.  “1882 Indian Head Penny”
    https://www.jmbullion.com/coin-info/cents/indian-head-pennies/1882-indian-head-penny/
    Accessed: 06/03/2017
  • Coin Trackers. “1882 Indian Head Penny”
    http://cointrackers.com/coins/14612/1882-indian-head-penny/
    Accessed: 06/04/2017