Thursday, May 5, 2011

it must be the culture historian in me ...

that sees this picture and wants it to be a birds eye view from the southeast corner of our site. anyhow I just thought is was kind of trippy cause it sure does look as though it is a vista west and down hill. Check out the title at the bottom of the picture.

No, really what i want to talk about is the difference between digging a test pit with an auger and digging with a shovel. Perhaps it was the fact that we used the auger first thing in the morning when we were all (relatively) fresh and that we got to use the shovel method after lunch when the sun was higher and my post prandial mood had kicked in. Makes no never mind though, I really love what we are doing. I got my fingers crossed that I will find something cool like my classmates. So far i have hallucinated pieces of plaster and ancient seeds that will unlock the secret of old school agricultural folk ways at DSCQHR. I will have plenty of zip lock bags and a ton of mandarin oranges for you all saturday am. see you then. mark

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Digging test pits is fun! Vanessa, Tung and I found multiple objects in test pit 3B. Starting off we unearthed several square nails.

And then at about 27cm we found the above object embedded in the East side of the pit. We carefully dug around it with our trowels and what appears to be a portion of a terracotta brick popped out. I used a dime for measurement in situ as my ruler does not photograph well.

But I had the most fun finding the tiny object in the photo above (sorry about the bad picture). We found the small object while screening the last of the 22-30cm level. It is an appx 1cm and 1cm folded metal object. On one side a small cross has been stamped (or cut) out. It has a verdigris patina and small spots of gold. Perhaps a clasp for a book? We got so excited that while trying to photgraph it we dropped it and had to spend some time on hands and knees recovering it. Prof. Hartley happened to be at our site and dryly mentioned that it might be better to photograph it in the laboratory as opposed to the field.

Can't wait until next week when we can open up a 1 x 1!

Remiss in my posting duties....

...but rather than digress into pithy excuses, I'll just get started. Here goes:

We have visited site DSCQHR a total of four times thus far. The area we are investigating has a mixed agricultural use, alternating between vineyard and orchard since the Spanish Colonial period to the present. While there is no known documented outbuildings or other architectural features within the site, we have been finding remnants of building materials consistent with Spanish Colonial architecture in the eastern boundary of our site quad: tejas (roof tiles) and ladrillo (thick floor tiles), and a couple fragments of lime plaster. These materials look deceptively like terra cotta or masonry brick to persons unfamiliar with these colonial materials. However, the burned core of the tejas and ladrillo is a feature that is absent in modern masonry brick and terra cotta. The presence of these materials in this location may indicate possible outbuildings, or possibly a trash pit/midden for waste materials from the destruction of adjacent structures. *I am still searching for S.A. Dietz's report on Mission San Jose (CA-ALA-1) which may provide clues for our investigation.

David P., our resident historian, discovered some interesting architectural history in an area adjacent to the eastern boundary of our quad while conducting research at the Diocese archives. Long story short: a vineyard owner's house mysteriously burnt to the ground after a parasite wiped out his vineyard. Insurance fraud? Perhaps, but it is not up to the archaeologist to speculate motive. However, my inner historian and skeptic proclaims a resounding yes.

It is possible that some of the materials we are finding also may be related to this structural fire, such as terra cotta sewer pipe and modern masonry brick. Any materials originating from above the eastern slope could have found their angle of repose within our site boundary. I could spend hours speculating. One thing we do know: our surface finds are the result of bioturbation (dreaded rodents!).

Our foot survey conducted on 4/16 revealed the highest concentration of artifact clusters along the eastern boundary, running due north from our southern boundary, approximately N 0-50 E 80-90. Some cultural materials were marked along the western boundary between E 10-20, and a few sparse scatters were found between E 20-50 (Heavy emphasis on sparse). These clusters indicated where we would place our shovel/auger tests, which were conducted on 4/23 and 4/30. My auger teams and I tested between E 20-50, auger tests 1,3 and 5. Materials recovered for Test 1 included bone, tile, glass and metal fragments. Test 2 was completely sterile (no materials recovered) with the exception of coal found in the surface humus layer. Two very small fragments of decomposed granite were also noted at approximately 30cm. Test 3 along the southern boundary (aprox: N 10 E 30) yielded possible lithic material, possible olive pit (seed) and a small coal fragment at Level 1, 0-20 cm and Level 3, 40-60 cm respectively.

As with the foot survey, our shovel/auger tests yielded the largest caches at the eastern boundary of the site. I look forward to (hopefully!) staking units and really breaking ground this coming Saturday 5/7!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Maker's Mark on China

Hey Fellow Classmates,

   I was hoping to find this flagged artifact this last week again, but I couldn't re-locate it to take a better picture, so this picture is a little (a lot) blurry! In my notes I wrote that this partial maker's mark had the letters "John Mad" showing so I sought out to find china makers that had similar marks via internet research. My research brought me to this site... John Maddock and Sons China, which shows the different maker's mark of the John Maddock and Sons Brand of China over the years. The website states that the earthenware and China company started producing in 1855 in Staffordshire. This site will show the different maker's marks as the years progressed. Based on the sketch I drew, I believe that this mark appears to fit into the 1880-96 mark because of the inner circle that is barely showing. It would also fit in the 1960 category because of the lack of a crown on top of the mark. However, this is a very preliminary guess because of the lack of a clear picture to go along with my sketch. Next week I will continue to search for this piece again as I know that it has been flagged and hopefully provide you guys with a better representation of the mark.

Here is more info on maker's marks from CA State Parks...

Has anyone else seen maker's marks on any of the other artifacts we have flagged? Also, the CA Parks website has a glass bottle collection online that has some common bottles and their maker's marks on them which is really interesting because I know we have found a good amount of glass.

Have a great week!


Day 4 On-Site

This week it seems the class is fully engaged in archeology and working well as a unit. Jokes and caffeine get us through the long days, but our minds are on the job. Teamwork seems to come naturally now, or at least the willingness to share scarce resources like plastic bags, shovels and screens. The class is working faster and more efficiently each week. I enjoyed finally getting in the dirt but also appreciate having strong guys on my team. I know the allergies were killer for a lot of folks so I will be bringing extra bacterial masks (AKA ninja or SARs masks) next week.

During morning brief the class was introduced to alarmingly gusty winds, which thankfully did not worsen throughout the day. In fact, once the sun began beating down after lunch, the wind was a blessing. Professor Sonny returned our field notebooks with comments on how to improve them, reminding us to add more narratives in both notebook and blog. The class seems to have a solid understanding of what field notebooks are all about now. Ironically there was much less time to write or sketch today, as we were all busy with manual labor.

David gave us thought-provoking info on the history of the site: in the 1800's the surrounding area were wineries, the plot directly uphill from our site was burnt down, and that area became a picnic park (please correct me if I'm wrong). The hypotheses are that some of our artifacts originate from that uphill plot and were washed down by rains, and that the historical records of this area may reflect only the viewpoint of the missions. Professor noted that from his own experience written histories and archeology are somewhat speculative (ie. The Bible, Chinese history)--often, the historical record reflects only a certain segment of society (ie. the upper class). Archeological finds can reveal the lives of commoners (ie. the lives of slaves in pre-Civil War U.S.) that would otherwise be unknown and ignored by historical record.

I appreciate the discussions that tie our site work into history and hypotheses, as that is close to the cultural anthropology I'm familiar with. Thanks to David and Mark for bringing in books. Archeology is really a world apart from cultural anthropology.

Handmade Bead

Dear DSCQHR Excavation Diary,
Today, I found a handmade bead. It was a pretty good day.

Last Saturday, I got to be part of a really fun test pit group with fellow classmates Dani, Steve, and David P. (aka The Holy Shakers). Our pit was up by the East Boundary datum point. We had a great time leveling out our 50 cm pit together, sifting the contents through a 1/4" screen, and logging our finds.

Our first level went from 0 - 20 cmbg; we found interesting pieces of glazed ceramic (two different types, both red and white paste), molded glass, a couple of nails and some non-human bone fragments. We all kept switching tasks around, so everybody got a chance to dig, level, transfer the soil, shake the screen, and investigate the screen contents for goodies. We gossipped about other classes, commiserated about midterms, and got to hear more about the history of the site from David.

It was during a stint of screening soil lifted from the 20 - 30 cm level that I found the bead. I am prone to a certain amount of excitability in the mornings; before I really understood what was happening, I was bouncing around like an idiot, yelling "I FOUND A BEAD! I FOUND A BEAD!" And then lots of other people became excited too. That was a pretty fun moment up there on the hill.

After my initial flipout, I calmed down and assumed it would just turn out to be a plastic Barbie bead or something. Upon further inspection, a few folks both wiser and steadier than I dissuaded me of such maudlin thoughts: I was informed that it was a Glass Bead. Woo hoo!

(That's when I remembered that I left my camera AT HOME, the first time I've done so all quarter. Of course. Luckily for me, David pulled out his trusty iPhone, took some photos, and promised not to post them himself; he emailed them to me so I could do the honors. Thanks, David!)

After bagging the find, something else occurred to me: even though I felt very enthusiastic, I realized that I didn't actually have a clue as to the significance of finding the bead. I'd just picked up through earlier, overheard conversations that finding a bead was a Very Good Thing. Also, I was informed that it was fortuitous to find such a small bead when we were using a 1/4" screen; it could have very easily gone right through the mesh. Still, what was the big deal?

I went around and asked a few people, who told me that the Ohlone used to trade beads with colonists. Okay, that's a start! But, why was it up on the hill? Was it from an orphan? (Unlikely). Did it belong to one of the Native Americans who grazed their cattle in that field? Or was it maybe washed down the hill from the burned-down home that David told us about? Those questions are harder to answer, of course. The main point I took away from my enquiry was that finding a bead was Proof Of Ohlone Indians In The Area. Which we kind of already knew, but still... pretty sweet!

Once I got home, something else occurred to me. We were all calling it a "glass bead". But did the Ohlone have glass-making capabilities? A google search told me that the Ohlone mostly made shell beads. This was before David had sent me the photos, though, so I got all fussed that maybe it wasn't a bead from the Ohlone after all. However, upon closer inspection of the photos...

... what do you think? Could those swirly lines spiralling along the outside the bead be shell markings? 'Cause that would be pretty cool!

Later that morning, I also had the opportunity to relocate a very sweet and incredibly cozy millipede, who was curled up tight about 30 cmbg for a nice cool nap in the moist clay soil. But people were decidedly NOT as excited about that, unless you call flapping their hands and walking very quickly in the opposite direction "excited". Which, I guess, you know, you kind of totally could.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I left my funny title for this post in my test pit...

hopefully I didn't contaminate it.

Notes and bad jokes from 4-30-11.

Today began with a brief history (of time) lesson from David. David's history background provides insight into the kinds of artifacts we might hope to find as we move further along the excavation process. Professor Hartley was quick to point out that the historical side of archaeology needs to work hand in hand with the more physical side of artifact collection. Finding the right balance between data analysis and historical accounts of a location is an important part of the interpretive process. (As a side note David, I really enjoy your posts, please keep them coming)

After the introductory part of the day was over we broke up into teams to continue with test pitting and auger cores. I found myself in Professor Hartley's group going around and photographing the surface artifacts and logging and collecting them, except the turkey poop, we decided to leave that one in situ.
The early morning photog. team consisted of Christy, Ken, Charles and myself. We would clear the area around each artifact so as not to block the field of view, then we set up the tripod. You place an arrow with a scale on it next to the artifact and point it north so you can tell which way you're looking in the picture. Make sure you set a timer on the shutter of the camera so your unsteady hands don't shake the camera and ruin the picture. We had the aperture of the camera set to F8 to let in the most light and get the clearest pictures of the artifacts as possible, as some of them were rather small.

I enjoyed the photography work, but I really wanted to get my hands dirty after last week. No worries, I would get my chance, but first, LUNCH! For lunch, I had a delicious egg salad sandwich made from easter eggs which gave my sandwich a nice unnatural blue color. Kind of disquieting at first, but delicious in the end.

After lunch we spent the next hour or so with Phoebe, a colleague friend of Professor Sonny. Phoebe was nice enough to come out to the site and haul herself up that hill to give us a lecture on Paleo-ethno-archeo-botany. Points of interest during the lecture were the differences between Micro and Macro samples, collection techniques and research questions, or why the heck would you want to study pollen and phytoliths in the first place? As the afternoon and the lecture advanced, our shady refuge on the top of the hill was dwindling so we thanked Phoebe for her time and carried on with our test pitting. After shuffling the groups around, I found myself digging a test pit at the top of the hill in the blazing sun.

OK so after all that fun I was having last week with the auger cores, and the fun morning I spent with the camera. I just wasn't feeling it with the test pit. I don't know if it was my blue sandwich or the sun, but my energy reserves were dangerously close to empty. I trudged on though in the name of SCIENCE! (My apologies to Christy, I know I sounded really grumpy there a few times) The test pit crew was Kristy and myself, with Tung running the show up at the top of the hill. Our pit was a little bigger than 30cm, and I went a little deeper than 10cm on our first attempt at breaking ground. We ended up screening dirt after 15cm, and again at 30cm. You would ideally want to screen every 10cm however in the interest of time we fudged the numbers a bit. We found lots of interesting artifacts though. Some brick, ceramic, tile, and a peculiar piece of what looked like plastic I wish I took a picture of. We logged our findings and as it was 4:30 and we were all sunburnt and tired, it was time to call it a day. I look forward to next week and the prospect of opening up excavation units.