The Unit A Rock Collection

After four weeks of the field school, the unit in which I am working, Unit A, measures roughly 60 centimeters, or about two feet, in depth. Needless to say, it is becoming rather difficult to climb in and out of the unit. Even though Josh and I removed a significant amount of soil from the unit this week, we did not find too many artifacts. Nonetheless, there has been a couple of interesting developments.

Kaleigh works to clean the floor of Unit A.

Kaleigh works to clean the floor of Unit A.

First, the hole we dug in our attempt to investigate the area formally known as Feature 1 is finally level with our unit floor. Not having a giant hole in the middle of the unit makes it ten times easier for both of us to stand in the unit while shovel skimming. But now that we are a little deeper beneath the Earth’s surface, we are noticing some interesting changes to the Feature 1 area –specifically, the outline of this cultural deposit is changing shape. It is no longer the rectangle we were initially dealing with, rather, it is now becoming more of a semi-circle. The deposit is also migrating westward — meaning that the original location of the former feature no longer contains traces of the burned coal and other cultural matter. The northeastern corner of Unit D is now exhibiting a collection of this mysterious black matter, suggesting that the deposit continues to extend beyond our western wall. However, Unit D is not as deep as our unit, so we cannot conclusively say that the deposit in Unit A runs into Unit D since we cannot compare the patterns at an equal level at this time.

Large rocks begin to appear in the western half of Unit A.

Large rocks begin to appear in the western half of Unit A.

The most interesting development of the week occurred immediately after Josh and I eliminated the awkward hole in our unit floor. While shovel skimming the very next level, Level 6, we kept hitting one rock after another in the eastern half of the unit. It got to the point where we could no longer use a shovel to remove the standard 10 centimeters of soil from the floor, but had to use the trowel instead. After a few hours of scraping around rock after rock, we had finally leveled out the unit floor as best as we could. In total, we counted 21 sizeable rocks on the surface and another 15 or so just beginning to peak out of the ground. Because of the large number of rocks present, we were told to remove another 10 centimeters from this level, making Level 6 a 20-centimeter-deep level. The field school did not meet on Friday, June 23, so by the end of the day Thursday, we were only about 1/4 of the way done removing the extra 10 cm of soil. However, I was able to remove about 10 rocks from the unit. We still have a long way to go, though, since we are using our trowels instead of shovels to remove the soil.

While excavating around the rocks, Josh and I began to speculate about what the rocks could represent. In his previous blog post, Josh stated he believes the rocks were used to control water flow around the building. Our professor suggested the rocks could have been knocked loose from the foundation when the building was moved in the early 1920s. However, since most of the rocks I was able to remove were either round or irregular-shaped pieces of granite, and the fact we are excavating in an area that is believed to be outside the building, I think it is possible the rocks may have been used for some decorative purpose, such as lining a flower bed or walkway. However, if the rocks were once arranged in a systematic manner, I am not sure how the rocks came to be placed in this jumbled mess. Perhaps they were haphazardly discarded here after the 1903 fire or once the building was relocated.

In any case, we may never know what our collection of rocks was used for. But then again, further excavation during our final week may be able to provide us with a clue as to the purpose of these rocks.

 

Goodbye Unit C, Hello Unit D

Beginning of the wall in Unit D.

Beginning of the wall in Unit D.

After working in Unit C for three weeks, with unsuccessful attempts at finding much of anything, it was decided that the unit was going to be closed. My field school partner and I were moved to Unit D. Unit D features a perpendicular wall that intersects the wall found in Unit A. This wall averages 50 centimeters in width and runs west/east. We think that it is an exterior wall because of how wide it is. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make new discoveries that will provide us with more information.

As I reflected on the transition from Unit C to Unit D, I was able to see Unit C as my “test-run” unit, where I was able to learn the steps of excavating and practicing until I could get it right. Once I started working in Unit D, I had a better understanding of the skills and what was expected. This allowed for me to finish tasks in less time and maintain a rhythm so I would not lose focus.

One of my proud moments this week was being able to match all the colors of the soil to the correct color on the Munsell Test. It required some concentration but I was able to get them right.

Kids from a local summer camp stopped by the field school.

Kids from a local summer camp stopped by the field school.

Another highlight from this week was getting a group of children visitors from a christian school. They came to learn a little about archaeology and try screening dirt. I was one of the volunteers who got to help show the kids how to screen. I work with children at my regular job, but this time, it was different because I was showing them one of the skills related to my major. So it was a great opportunity to share with them what I have learned and hopefully I inspired one or two of them to pursue this profession.

As we near the end of the field school, I can look back and compare how much I have learned and how many new skills I have acquired. I has definitely been challenging but worth that sweat. This job requires a lot of physical work and discipline in order to advance at a steady pace. Determination to look ahead to the final goal and a positive attitude to endure the hardships and overcome them.

CAP Field School: Week Three

Since having the large tree roots removed last week, Cooper and I have been able to work much faster in Unit B. Despite having the large roots that haunted us from the beginning removed, the remnants of the former tree hadn’t given up. As we went deeper, however, we kept finding more and more roots until eventually, we came across two very large roots that extended across the entire unit. Since we were no strangers to digging around roots, this surprise didn’t delay our progress too much. Although it was frustrating, our prior experience had prepared us and allowed us to react accordingly. We knew how to dig around the roots and complete levels without taking them out, even though we desperately wanted to rip them out. The frustrations I experienced with the roots, however, made it so much more satisfying when we finally cut them out. After finishing level 5, the roots were visible enough to cut out without disturbing the floor of our unit. Although I didn’t personally cut the roots out (shout out to Cooper, who did all the root work), it was so satisfying to see how clean our unit was without them. We had dealt with having roots in our unit throughout the entire field school and it was weird to see our unit looking so clean. I’m sure we will run into more roots eventually and we will know how to handle them but for the time being, I’m going to enjoy our clean, rootless unit.

Cement feature running along Unit B's south wall.

Cement feature running along Unit B’s south wall.

Although we found many roots, we haven’t been finding many artifacts. After finding the layer of nails and metal artifacts that I discussed in my blog post last week, we’ve only come across a few nails, some bits of glass, and some mortar. It has been a little disappointing to screen bucket after bucket and find nothing, I won’t lie. However, we did find something very exciting… ANOTHER WALL! Maybe. When recording previous levels, we had noticed that the soil along our south wall was significantly lighter than the rest. While shovel skimming, Cooper noticed something solid and we used our trowels and brushes to uncover a wall that runs east to west along our south wall. However, this wall is a little different than the walls that Units A and D have come across. Their walls connect and were made with larger rocks. Our wall looks more like old concrete and is a little deeper than the other walls. Due to these differences, we think this may have been part of a sidewalk or walkway as opposed to a foundation wall. Since discovering this wall, we have gone down two more levels, 20 cm, and we still haven’t reached the bottom. It will be quite interesting to see how deep it goes and see if we find any other parts of the structure. Artifacts are always cool to find, but learning about the structure of a building on my own campus is a unique experience that I can only have during this field school. Finding these structures has also helped me to focus on the larger context of the site as opposed to simply just focusing on the artifacts in my unit. With only a little over a week left, I feel like we still have a lot more to learn about Station Terrace however, these past three weeks have been a great learning experience and have solidified my plans to continue archaeology in the future.

Another view of the cement feature along Unit B's south wall.

Another view of the cement feature along Unit B’s south wall.

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.

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.

CAP 2017: Week 3 and 4

Last week, we dealt with horrible humidity and soaring temperatures. This week, we start off strong with a new weather predicament: heavy rain. During the weekend, the East Lansing area experienced some decent downfall. The result of this was a nice-sized swimming pool in our units. Okay, it may not have been that bad, but it was the first time we had to use buckets to gather up the water and dump it out else wear. But hey, at least we had some tasty drinking water for the day!

The other side-effect from the rain was that the soil in our units was much more damp than usual. Even after skimming off the top layer of our unit, the soil was still much higher in moisture content than usual. This resulted in soil that deformed with every step or knee, which made it pretty difficult to level out the floor of the level. However, today, Tuesday the 20th of June, provided near-perfect weather. The sun was not too harsh, but it helped to dry out the soil, which made it far easier to deal with.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

With regards to the unit KP and I work in, we have some interesting developments. Firstly, the “feature” that we found is much larger than we could have imagined. So, it was decided that we close up shop and continue on as though the burn layer full of coal and nails is its own strata. This was mainly done because treating it as a feature would be unwise due to the sheer size of it. The fact that it was filled with so much cultural material does indicate something interesting, but we have to move on and see what is further below before we make a decision as to what it could have been.

Secondly, as we reach the bottom of the 5th level, was have come across some very large rocks all throughout the Eastern half. Although we have not dug down deep, my speculation is that the rocks could have been placed there to control the flow of water, as in, keep water out or in. Only time will tell as my squadmate and I continue to dig deep beneath the surface of the Earth (about half a meter.)

Stone wall along Unit A's western boarder.

Stone wall along Unit A’s western boarder.

Some exciting news, however, is that all of the active units have human-made walls in them. Yay! Unit B is slightly different though. Other than my own Unit A and the newly opened unit D, Unit C’s structure/wall is of a different composition. While the walls in Unit C are composed of large stones and plaster, Unit C’s wall seems to be made up of cement, which may indicate that it was once a sidewalk or cement lintel. Digging deeper may give us the answer. Let’s go DQ and CD!

On one last note, I would like to say this. Working in the pit, soft soil or not, can be pretty tiring on the body. I find that my knees are week and my arms are heavy. There’s sweat on my shirt already, and I’m as weak as spaghetti. Above the surface, I looked calm and ready, but in the pit I’m drained and unsteady. So, for anyone who thinks archaeology is just fun in the dirt, it isn’t. It’s both fun AND taxing on the body. So please, for the love of all that is holy, stretch so that your knees don’t explode. At least, that’s what I’m going to do.

Liquor Bottle Base

Earlier this week, Josh Eads and I concluded our work on Feature 1 and began working on the third level of our unit, which required us to remove 10 centimeters of soil from the floor of the unit. While shovel skimming along our western wall, I struck a hard object. Thinking I had come across another one of the annoyingly plentiful tree roots or large rocks in our unit, I forced my shovel forward in an attempt to slice through the object. Unfortunately, I succeeded and ended up knocking a few sherds of glass off a hidden object. After collecting all of the glass sherds, some of which were no larger than the tip of my thumb nail, I began pawing around in the soil to find the object I had struck. After a few seconds, I pulled a mostly complete bottle base out of the ground.

Pint Full Measure bottle from Unit A.

Pint Full Measure bottle from Unit A. Base with two serif B and letter 7.

As can be seen from the two images, the base itself is relatively complete, except for a piece I accidentally managed to break off when I unknowingly struck it with my shovel. Additionally, unlike the Diamond Ink Co. bottle I found a couple of weeks ago, this bottle still had a portion of the body attached. The words “Pint Full Measure” stamped into the body indicate this bottle used to contain liquor. After a fair amount of research on the serif-B maker’s mark on the bottom of the base, I have been able to determine that this bottle was produced by the Charles Boldt Glass Co.

Charles Boldt Bottle Base. Image Source.

Charles Boldt Bottle Base. Image Source.

The Charles Boldt Glass Co. was born in 1900 when the Muncie Glass Co., headed by Charles Boldt, purchased the Nelson Glass Co. Boldt’s new namesake company remained in operation until 1919. During its peak, the company had factories at four different locations: Muncie, Indiana; Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Huntington, West Virginia. Not much is known about the factories in Louisville or Huntington, but the factory in Muncie mostly produced Mason fruit jars, milk bottles, and other food package ware, while the factory in Cincinnati mostly produced liquor bottles and flasks. In 1910, Boldt obtained a license to manufacture his liquor bottles using automatic machines from the Owens Bottle Co., another large Ohio-based glass company. The bottle I found was most likely produced by one of these machines. Even though we are missing the portion of the bottle body that normally exhibits the tell-tale clamp scar of an Owens machine, the general shape of the base, as well as the circular seam pattern present, coincide with complete Boldt bottles that are known to have been made with these machines. After obtaining his license from Owens, Boldt dramatically increased his manufacture of liquor bottles, and the Cincinnati plant became Boldt’s most productive factory until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. Over the next few years, Owens Bottle Co. purchased most of the stock in Boldt’s company, and by 1926, had completely purchased the organization. Today, the company is known as the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, and is based in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Whereas I am ecstatic about unearthing a more complete bottle, this discovery has served as an important lesson for me: If I strike an object while shovel skimming, I better check to see what it is before I make an attempt at forcing my shovel forward. I’m just thankful that this was not a complete bottle to begin with, and that the damage done was not too severe. From now on, I plan to be extra careful while I shovel skim.

 

References:

Lockhart, Bill. “Owens-Illinios Glass Company.” Society for Historical Archaeology, https://sha.org/resources/newsletter-articles/owens-illinois-glass-company/. Accessed 17 June 2017.

Lockhart, Bill, Pete Schulz, Carol Serr, and Bill Lindsay. “The Dating Game: The Distinctive Marks of the Charles Boldt Glass Co.” Bottles and Extras, Mar. – April 2007, pp. 2-6, https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/BoldtGlassCo_BLockhart.pdf. Accessed 16 June 2017.

Schulz, Pete, Bill Lockhart, Carol Serr, Bill Lindsay, Beau Schreiver, and David Whitten. “Charles Boldt Glass Co.” Society for Historical Archaeology, 3 May 2014, https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/CharlesBoldt.pdf. Accessed 16 June 2017.

Poor’s Manual of Industries. Vol. 7, New York, Poor’s Manual Company, 1916. Accessed 16 June 2017.

 

Week 3 – Unit C

Alex and Jerica discuss their mapping plan.

Alex and Jerica discuss their mapping plan.

As the team continues to make progress in our work, I think it is safe to say that we have faced a few challenges along the way. This week in particular, the heat and humidity have intensified. I, personally, am not used to this kind of physical work. I have felt my body getting tired quicker as the summer weather settles in. One of the advantages that we have is that we have tents to keep us shaded for most part of the day. Not every archaeologist is lucky enough to have a tent to shade them from the sun. So this increases my respects for archaeologists even more.

My favorite part of this week was sketching the north wall of Unit C. It took me some time to get it right but the process taught me that, in this field, it is very important to pay attention to detail. Mapping requires a lot of concentration in order to get all the details right. It is also important to be a team player. My field school partner, Alex, has been a great team player and, in my opinion, we have been able to get a lot of work done in the couple of days that we work together. Mapping the wall would have been so much harder had it not been for Alex’s help.

Alex and Jerica discussing mapping the north wall.

Alex and Jerica discussing mapping the north wall.

Another one of my favorites is doing the Munsell Test. Finding the right color of the soil has been challenging as well, but it makes me want to keep trying until I can match the color to the right shade. I think this is one of the coolest steps when finishing a level of our unit. I actually went online and took a Munsell Hue Test to sharpen my skills. I was surprised to have scored a 7. So here is the link for those who are interested in taking the test and finding out how sharp your color vision is http://www.colormunki.com/game/huetest_kiosk .

Even though Unit C had an exciting start, we found ourselves screening buckets worth of clay, really nice rocks, and some more rusty nails. So it was decided to close the unit and move on to Unit D. The day Unit D was excavated, the field crew found a bone that could be from a cow. So, as we head into week 4, I am looking forward to making more intriguing discoveries and continuing this journey.

Jerica measures a depth on the north wall.

Jerica measures a depth on the north wall.

I think that my least favorite part is taking notes. I have always been a visual and hands-on learner. When I’m shovel skimming or sketching, I get “in the zone.” So, stopping to take notes of measurements or of what we just did, can be a little tedious for me. But I think that everyone has a favorite and least favorite thing about their job. All in all, the field school has been an awesome learning experience for me.

This is it for now. Until next time, fellow readers.

CAP Field School: Week Two

After a week of digging around tree roots and finding nothing but nails, Cooper and I began to find some interesting things in Unit B. One of those things happened to be a lot more nails. Underneath a layer of clay, there was a layer of darker soil that consisted almost entirely of nails. This was interesting because although we had found many nails before this, we had never seen so many in one area. This only occurred within a small layer of dark soil and not many nails were found in the subsequent layers of soil. There were so many nails that it looked like a whole bag of nails was dropped. We aren’t quite sure yet why there was a layer of nails but perhaps, with further excavation we can gain more information.

Unit B South Wall.

Unit B South Wall.

Clip from Unit B.

Clip from Unit B.

Around that layer of nails, we also found a few metal artifacts that were interesting. We found a wheel and what appears to be a door stopper in our first level which was exciting since these were the first artifacts we found that weren’t nails. Although we didn’t find nearly as much in our second level, we did find a metal clip and what looks to be a coin or button. Both artifacts were quite corroded so it was hard to tell figure out exactly what they were. Hopefully after some time in the lab, we can gain more information on these artifacts.

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!

I won’t lie, excavating our unit has been very frustrating at times. Our unit was at a weird angle and had countless tree roots, large and small, that made it very difficult to dig. It took us over a week just to finish our first level, but I’ve learned that’s archaeology. By having to deal with these difficulties, I’ve learned that archaeology isn’t easy because the dirt doesn’t care if you want to have a nice clean, square unit. We had to take our time, be patient, and always have root clippers handy. It was frustrating sometimes to see other units finishing levels but I think having to deal with these additional difficulties has made my experience more useful. Without encountering these difficulties early on, a young archaeologist may have an idealistic idea of archaeology and subsequently, unable to deal with challenges at a time when the stakes are higher. I’m glad that I can encounter some of these challenges during this learning experience because that will make me better prepared for the future. After finishing our first level, which took over a week, we finished our second level in just over a day. As we start our third level our unit looks completely different than it did a week ago because the large roots along our west wall that have characterized our unit have been removed. I was relieved at first because it will make everything much easier, but, in a way, I’ll miss the roots because I’ll miss the challenge. However, we still have a long way to go and undoubtedly many challenges to face. I can’t wait to see what other challenges lie ahead!

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.