SciFest ReCAP: The 2022 Artifact Mystery Quiz
We knew it was a hard quiz when our director, Dr. Stacey Camp, asked us for the answers. Of course, we couldn’t tell her what the artifacts were–that’s the point of a quiz!
This year we were back in person for SciFest, one of our favorite outreach events hosted here on MSU’s campus. We were thrilled to engage with our East Lansing community with hands-on activities. This year the line-up of CAP projects included excavation boxes, coloring pages, our fresh and fun Geocaching Tour, and … the 2022 Artifact Mystery Quiz! Like last year’s Guess That Artifact, the quiz features materials from our 2020 Service Road project and is designed to trick and teach.
Don’t worry if you missed the event, you can still take the 2022 Mystery Artifact Quiz. If you’ve already done so and–like Dr. Camp–need some answers, scroll down to learn more. Check out the ‘People’s Choice’ to see the most popular educated guess.
Correct Answer: King’s Men Cologne
People’s Choice: Crown Royal Whiskey
Know More: We can certainly understand where people were coming from with this one, there are some similarities between this bottle shape and Crown Royal Whiskey. One hint here is the near lack of a neck below the mouth of the bottle, a feature that is often used to make liquids pour more easily, and is present on most liquor bottles (though the length of the neck on such is sometimes fairly minimal). On cologne bottles, which often feature narrow closures called “sprinkler top” finishes–used to dab the liquid in small quantities–a neck isn’t needed.
The artifact was identified as King’s Men cologne, a product manufactured by 42 Products Ltd., thanks to a maker’s mark (“KINGS MEN/8”) on the base of the container. While no firm end date for this container shape or product line was found, the ‘first-use’ date for the King’s Men trademark suggests that it was in production by 1941. Perhaps predictably, advertising for King’s Men Cologne’s “virile scents” often featured images that drew associations between the product and British nobility, and a refined masculine gentility more broadly.
Correct Answer: Avon ‘Topaze’ Fragranced Cream Sachet
People’s Choice: Neutrogena ‘Topaze’ Face Cream
Know More: This ‘cream sachet’ was part of a wider set of fragrance products under the name ‘Topaze,’ manufactured by Avon Products. According to searches of newspaper ads, the ‘Topaze’ fragrance line was launched in 1959, and no definitive date was found for when this product was discontinued. The plastic gem embedded in the lid of the vessel was a tie-in to the product’s name and advertising campaign, which proclaimed it to be the “jewel of a fragrance”.
Correct Answer: Liquid Medicine Injection Vial
Know More: Container form is helpful in determining vessel function. The short, narrow neck of the bottle–impractical for pouring liquids–indicates that the vessel’s contents would have likely been accessed in some other way. The thin rubber cap, unlike screw-threading caps, permits needles to pass through and access the contents without opening the container and risking contamination.
In this case, we were also aided by partial and faint text printed on the bottle that helped us identify the container’s original contents. The vial contained the hormone oxytocin, a naturally occurring mammalian hormone that helps to regulate a variety of psychological and physiological processes including sociality, memory, pain, intimacy, childbirth, and lactation (Leng & Leng 2021). In medical contexts oxytocin injections are primarily associated with inducing and augmenting childbirth, treating postpartum bleeding, and inducing lactation.
These uses of oxytocin in childbirth have been known in some capacity since Henry Dale experimented with extracts from the pituitary gland in 1906, but it took until 1955 for the hormone to be sequenced and synthesized–becoming the first polypeptide hormone to be successfully manufactured artificially (Magon & Kalra 2011). A marking on the base of the object, “Neutraglas,” was present on glass containers produced by the Kimble Glass Company –a laboratory and scientific glassware venture– between 1941 and 1956, giving us a preliminary date range for the artifact (Harvard University n.d.).
Further research into the manufacturer indicated by the partial label of “Jen Sal” (short for Jensen-Salsbury), a veterinary pharmaceutical company, reveals that the injection vial was not produced for use in human health. This, combined with the context of this artifact’s recovery, may indicate that it was used in veterinary research and/or treatment at MSU.
Correct Answer: Oil/Vinegar Vial
Know More: Unfortunately, we do not know a lot about this bottle, and our identification is primarily informed speculation. The bottle was manufactured by the Knox Glass Company. The unique stylization of the container is meant to simulate the style of Italian wine wicker-covered bottles often called demigiana (Ciappi n.d.), which often contain wine or oil. An additional context clue that we didn’t provide in the photo is the ‘dripper insert’ –similar to what you might find at the top of a hot sauce or soy sauce bottle to control the flow of liquids– that is inserted into the mouth of the bottle. This all seems to suggest that the bottle is likely food-related and contained an ingredient for which controlling the flow of the liquid contents was a helpful feature. Combined with the wicker demigiana-esque vessel form, and the culinary association of Italy with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar, we infer that the bottle likely held some form of oil or vinegar.
Correct Answer: Calamine Lotion in Pharmaceutical Bottle
Know More: Several clues help us determine the function of this container. Considering vessel shape in isolation, the relatively small and rectangular form is largely consistent with bottles used for medical/pharmaceutical substances. More definite clues come from several embossed features, including a pharmacist symbol that looks like ‘3iii,’ where the character that looks like a ‘3’ is actually “℥,” a now rarely used symbol for ounces, and is followed by three ‘i’s to represent the number of ounces the container holds. The sides of the container also feature volumetric gradations, a common feature of pharmaceutical bottles used to easily measure doses. The base of the vessel contains the manufacturer’s maker’s mark (“Brockway” in cursive) alongside the term ‘Sani-Glas’ and a circled cross, trademarks of the Brockway Glass company used on pharmaceutical/medicinal containers. CAP fellow Rhian Dunn has dated the artifact between 1940 and 1964 based on the simultaneous presence of the cursive “Brockway” and circled cross symbol, which archaeologist Bill Lockhart suggests coexisted on the company’s pharmaceutical/medicinal bottles between these years (Lockhart et al. 2013).
The identification of the contents within the bottle is admittedly somewhat speculative and is primarily based on its hue. A possible alternative is that the bottle contained bismuth subsalicylate / Pepto-Bismol.
Correct Answer: Glue Bottles
People’s Choice: Ink Bottles
Know More: These artifacts were initially pretty confusing, and I’m not sure we would have identified them quickly without the input of Campus Archaeologist, Jeff Burnett, who had used similar containers in school as a re-usable container for glue. This seems to fit with the rather unusual rubber applicator attached to one of the bottles, which allows for the even application of glue along a flat surface. Due to the propensity of American consumers for single-use containers like your typical plastic Elmer’s glue bottle –and perhaps in part the unfortunate reality that school supplies are often purchased directly by teachers out of their own pocket rather than in bulk by underfunded school districts– other CAP fellows had never used a glass glue bottle. The bottle was manufactured by the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company and has been dated between 1920 and 1964.
Correct Answer: Lustre Creme Shampoo with Lanolin
Know More: While it may look like an unusual type of container for shampoo by contemporary standards, the squat-glass shampoo jar made of ‘milk-glass’ (a term for opaque-white glass) was common for much of the 20th century, and this container style was similar many other cosmetic products like cold-creams and balms. This type of container may not be practical for the prevailing liquid formulations of shampoo most people use today but made sense in the context of ‘cream-style’ shampoos which dominated the market in the early decades of the 20th century, competed alongside liquid shampoos in the post-war and mid-century, and declined by the 1960s and 70s.
A similar and contemporaneous transition can be seen in deodorant styles, which transformed from primarily cream-based formulations in squat milk-glass containers to elongated colorless glass and plastic containers with the increasing popularity of liquid roll-on and solid-stick deodorants (Bennett 2022b). The wider assemblage of materials from the Service Road Landfill (~1958-1963) contains a mixture of both cream-style and liquid shampoos, though liquid formulations are notably more common. CAP fellow, Benjamin Akey, has elsewhere explored the possibility that the mixture of older and newer styles of such products on campus could represent the increasing age diversity of campus residents in the post-war era, following the increasing provision of family housing options at the university.
Lustre-Creme shampoo was first produced by the Kay Daumit company starting in 1944, and purchased by the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet company in 1947 (Bennett 2022a). While no firm end date of distribution for the product has been found, it ceases to appear in newspaper advertisements in the early 1970s, giving us an approximate date range of 1944-1973 for the artifact.
Correct Answer: Glass Syringe
Know More: Identifying this artifact came down solely to its form–the interlocking pieces (‘plunger’ and ‘barrel’) were a pretty clear indication that this was a syringe. We have a little less to explain here, as we could not find any diagnostic features on this artifact to help us date or identify the manufacturer of the item.
Correct Answer: Wishbone Salad Dressing
Know More: Depending on which salad dressing you reach for at the grocery store, this one may have been one of the easier questions on the quiz–Wishbone dressing continues to use this woven-diamond motif on the sides of their (now plastic) salad dressing bottles. Aside from that continuity, the vessel form does provide some clues. We can assume it is a liquid from the elongated form and neck of the vessel, which both help to maintain a consistent flow while pouring. The long, relatively wide neck of the bottle is ideal for pouring viscous liquids, whereas an elongated narrow neck might suggest a thinner liquid, such as a beverage.
Embossed marks on the base of the bottle (3 [circled-B] 62) indicate that it was produced by the Brockway Glass Company in 1962. While we don’t often get firm one-year dates for artifacts, many glass container companies, including Brockway, employed two-digit date codes on certain kinds of bottles throughout the twentieth century–rendering dating many of the glass containers in the Service Road collection fairly simple. The embossed marks also include the patent number for the proprietary bottle, “Des. Pat. 169344”. You can see the drawing included in the patent record here.
Credits: Emily Milton designed the blog, made the quiz, and photographed artifacts; Ben Akey conducted the research and wrote the artifact Know Mores; Jack Biggs fixed Emily’s photography and made the images look nice.
- Leng, G, Leng, RI. 2021 “Oxytocin: A citation network analysis of 10 000 papers.” J Neuroendocrinol. 33:e13014.
- Magon, N., & Kalra, S. 2011 “The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor.” Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 15 Suppl 3(Suppl3), S156–S161.
- Ciappi, Silvia n.d. “The wicker bottle: a long history from its origins to the seventeenth century”. Online magazine article. https://magazine.dichecibo6.it/en/il-fiasco-una-lunga-storia-dalle-origini-al-xvii-secolo/
- Harvard University n.d. “Kimble Glass Company 1901-1997”. Webpage. Harvard University’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. http://waywiser.fas.harvard.edu/people/5105/kimble-glass-company
- Lockhart, Bill, Peter Shulz, Beau Schriever, Carol Serr, Bill Lindsey 2013 “Brockway Bottle Machine Co. and Brockway Glass Co”. Hosted by the Society for Historical Archaeology. https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/Brockway.pdf
- Bennett, James 2022a “Colgate-Palmolive-Peet.” Webpage, https://cosmeticsandskin.com/companies/colgate-palmolive-peet.php
- Bennett, James 2022b “Deodorants.” Webpage, https://cosmeticsandskin.com/fgf/deodorants.php