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!

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).

 

CAP 2017: Week 3

Hot Weather and New finds.

This past week has had the most unbearable weather so far, but overall, the learning process at CAP 2017 Field School is still continuing! Although I probably differ from my peers, I find that the most difficult thing about this project is not dealing with the weather and the environment, but learning new processes, such as mapping, can be the most time-consuming. However, once the process is learned, future applications of that process tends to be done smoothly and more quickly.

As my “squadmate”, Kaleigh Perry, noted in her most recent blog, much of our time at the end of last week and this week has been spent excavating the Field School’s first feature, Fea 1A. We are almost done with that and we will then move onto the next layer. Oh joy! A quick summary of the feature is that it contains a gigantic amount of cultural deposits, such as coal and nails, and the high frequency of roots that pass the feature could indicate that the deposit was filled in slowly and naturally over time.

Knob and Tube Wiring

However, besides talking about the current state of the field school, I also wanted to discuss one of our more notable finds, which was the ceramic tube found in our unit’s first layer. Knob and tube wiring was used in “old school” electrical wiring in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but more specifically, the tubes were used to pass wires safely though beams, such as wood, to avoid electrical and thermal damage to the surroundings (Myers 2010).

Thomas ceramic insulator from Unit A.

Thomas ceramic insulator from Unit A.

At the digestion of this sweet and tasty (and very simple) knowledge, most people may think, “Cool. You found a nasty old ceramic tube used in outdated electrical wiring.” Although they are partially right, they would be missing the real meat of the knowledge sandwich, which is that you can use the ceramic tube to date an area! Ceramic tubes followed specific styles of their time, and not only that, but they also contained makers’ marks as well, both of which can be cross-referenced to give an idea as to what time period the tube, and potentially, a building, came from (Myers 2010).

And this, right here, what I just told you about dating, is one of the reasons why archaeology and anthropology is so important. Everyday items used by populations in the past can provide us with a massive insight as to what those people were doing and also when they were doing it. Thousands of years into the future, future societies could be able to date areas or buildings by which iteration of an Apple I-phones are in an area. So, the same dating processes that work in the past and present will always stand the passage of time, and will always aid archaeologist in uncovering what shenanigans people in the past were engaged in.

 

References

Adrian Myers. “Telling Time for the Electrified: An Introduction to Porcelain Insulators and the Electrification of the American Home” Society for Historical Archaeology Technical Briefs in Historical Archaeology 5 (2010): 31-42.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/adrianmyers/4

CAP Field School: Week One

Desiree excavating in her unit.

Desiree excavating in her unit.

The first week of the 2017 field school has quickly passed and, although my unit hasn’t found much of anything yet, I have learned so much. I’ve learned how to shovel skim, measure elevation,and dig guide holes. I’ve learned that archaeology takes patience from the many tree roots in our unit that have made things a little difficult. Most importantly, however, I’ve learned that I definitely want to be an archaeologist.

Coming into this field school I was a little scared that after getting hands on experience, I wouldn’t like archaeology. Although I’ve taken many archaeology classes, I wasn’t quite sure that I would like digging all day in the sun. Many past classes have strengthened my love for anthropology and have confirmed that I would like to be an anthropologist but this field school has been my first opportunity to apply those skills.  After just one week, however, I know that this is definitely the field for me. Even though our unit has had some difficulties getting around tree roots and finding anything but nails, I am having so much fun. Of course I hope that I eventually find something cool, but despite that I’ve still had a lot of fun and learned a lot.

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.

Campus Archaeology: Week One.

Week One: First Impressions, Dirty Digging, and Tired Bodies.

Josh & Kaleigh dig a guide hole in their unit.

Josh & Kaleigh dig a guide hole in their unit.

Well, it’s Tuesday, June 6. After Completing week one and working towards defeating week two, I can safely say that working for the field school has been pretty great so far. We started off our excavation by setting up a 2 meter x 2 meter guideline. Then, we dug guide holes into each corner of our unit and also in the center, which was supposed to be approximately 10cm down. After that, we shovel-skimmed the surface until we were 10cm down into the unit. Of course, this process has had its complications, but at the end of the first week me and fellow squad mate, Kaleigh Perry, have completed the first level.

Level 1 Artifacts/Debris.

Although we have not dug deep beneath the surface of the Earth, we have found plenty of items. The most common objects are nails and shattered glass. It goes without saying that the nails we find are incredibly rusty and sometimes are almost unidentifiable. Also, coal is plentiful. From small chunks to big chunks, KP and I and the other classmates have found plenty of coal. Not every item we found has been a nail or piece of glass though. Some of the noticeably distinct items found have been a four-hole button, ceramic tubing for electrical wiring, some decorated glazed ceramic pieces, and a fragment of a Diamond Ink Co. bottle. More information on some of these items to come, but if you want to read about the ink bottle fragment, my more initiated partner, KP, wrote about it in her first blog post here.

Overall Observations.

With regards to the artifacts and debris we have found thus far, there have been some noticeable patterns. Firstly, much of the glass and nails have been found near the Station Terrace wall that runs along the West wall of our unit. The nails/glass being found mostly in this area supports the evidence that construction and deconstruction of a building has been performed in this area. If these items were found in similar numbers in other areas of our unit, it could suggest the presence of another wall or that the building covered the area, but that currently is not the case.

In addition to the pattern of nail and glass fragments, some soil patterns exist as well. Based off of a prior excavation, the wall should continue to run South, past the current spot where it ends, which is a meter down our West wall. However, the soil changes from a dark color to a much lighter and tan color once we reach the “end” of the wall in our unit. We aren’t sure what this means, but its presence with the placement of the wall may be of importance, and naturally has been written down in our handy-dandy field notes.

Conclusions

Overall, the entire process of excavating is methodological, systematic, and most importantly, it’s a learning process. We are all new to the game and are learning a massive amount of this process, and even though my body is tired and I have a terrible sunburn on my hairline, I love putting my trowel into the ground and gettin’ dirty.

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