Dig Day #3

By Paul Carlson and Athena Zissis

Another beautiful day at Roosevelt Park in Detroit! Our second full day of excavations on September 29th yielded much information for our team. Area 1 had a particularly exciting day with each of their three units producing exciting artifacts while Area 2 also had a productive afternoon.


Excavations of Lot 12 in Area 2

In Lot 4 of  Area 1 the team in Unit 1 expanded a 50×50 cm shovel test pit (STP) into a 1X1 m excavation unit to explore a potential feature found the previous week. When opened, they found another feature, but also possible evidence of the 2011 excavations – a wooden stake marking the boundary of the alleyway! Lot 4 took advantage of some extra help and opened a second excavation unit closer to the road (Unit 2). In doing so our volunteers exposed evidence of past burning activities. Not only was ash uncovered, but also charcoal and signs of headed rocks. Included was a broken tea cup base (see photo below). Thanks to our volunteer team for helping out with the excavation of Unit 2 in Lot 4!


Teacup base from Unit 2 in Lot 4

The most exciting find of the week for Area 1 was from Unit 1 in Lot 3; a deposit of several glass bottles was uncovered at the top of a new soil context. The most unique bottle was a small cobalt blue “Bromo Seltzer” medicine bottle dating to the 1890s.


Bromo-Seltzer bottle from Lot 3, Unit 1

Like Area 1, Area 2 has three active excavation units. Lot 10, closest to the church on Rose Street, started an STP along where they believe an old alleyway and a building stood in 1915. Due to a high yield of artifacts, predominately broken glass and building materials, they chose to expand it to a 1X1m excavation unit. Lot 11, directly to the south, hopes to be uncovering part of an old outbuilding with their 1X2m unit.


Unit 1, Lot 12 is a 1x1m excavation unit

Again further south, Lot 12 is working on a 1X1m excavation unit. This unit has been quite the puzzle for the excavators. It seems that they have found a potential posthole feature which lines up with what could also be a posthole feature in Lot 10, meaning that the alleyway had been located. They found a series of artifacts including glass, ceramics, and animal bones, but what is particularly interesting about this unit are what appears to be two distinct features. These features will be explored further next week.

Looks like next Monday will be an exciting day for everyone!



Dig Day #2

By Mark Jazayeri and Slava Pallas

On September 22nd – Dig Day #2 – the first full day of excavation at Roosevelt Park finally arrived! It was a beautiful fall day and every member of the Roosevelt Park team had his or her own objective to achieve. There are two particular areas that we are interested in excavating, one on the Southwest (Area 2) and one on the Southeast (Area 1) end of the park. The first task for every team is to establish a location for their excavation unit. There are a couple of ways that an archaeologist can do this. One of the ways is to do a small sample unit called a shovel test (STP). This involves digging a 50X50 centimeter square pit to identify areas rich in artifacts or stratigraphic features. Two of the teams dug STPs and they were successfully able to narrow down sites of interest. The other four teams used historical maps and established boundaries to find an area of interest.

In Area 2 the Lot 11 team commenced digging a 1×2 meter excavation unit on the boundary of an old alley way. This is the first time the class is working in Area 2, so we are excited to see what the teams find here!

                    1×2 meter unit, Lot 11

Meanwhile, the Lot 10 team next door was busy digging a smaller 50×50 cm STP unit, but that didn’t stop them from making an exciting find! During their excavations they found a miniature Jesus figurine. It appears to have been part of a cross. Lot 10 is located directly next to a church – could the find be related to church activities?


Athena and Katie show off their special find from Lot 10 – a pendant fragment with Jesus on it!


Close-up of the Jesus medal.

We had many colleagues come to help us on site on Sept. 22nd. We had a visit from another graduate student (Sarah) who lent us some elbow grease working to help shift through soil and look for artifacts. We also benefited from our local volunteer (Don), whose years of experience working with Wayne State archaeologists were helpful for the students who had never excavated before. Finally Dr. Jeffery Howard (from the Wayne State University’s Geology Department) returned to continue his research on the magnetic soil features of our excavation areas.


Dr. Howard detects magnetic fields in the soil.

In Area 1 the two teams worked together to determine where another alleyway used to exist over a hundred years ago. This was an important first step to determining where the boundaries of house lots used to exist, and where the best places to put an excavation unit might be. An alley way is an important area to look for artifacts because there are usually fences defining the boundary, and trash tends to accumulate there. We have maps, and we know the locations of the streets from that time, so using meter tapes and a compass, we were able to identify the boundaries of the alley way.

Image 5

Mark and Paul measure out a 50×50 cm shovel test pit (STP) in Lot 4 of Area 1.

While Mark’s team in Lot 4 of Area 1 was busy excavating a small STP, next door Slava’s team in Lot 3 of Area 1 started a 1×2 meter excavation near the alley way boundary. The Lot 3 team is hoping to find an area of the house lot where the garbage was deposited – a “midden” – a great find for an archaeologist! Midden deposits give us the best insights into the everyday practices of people in the past. We can find household ceramics, bones from the food residents ate, clothes they wore, and all kind of other things that people were throwing away! If we’re lucky, the Lot 3 team is also hoping we might come down upon an outbuilding as well. This is just the very beginning of the excavation, but some really exciting things are already happening at Roosevelt Park this fall!

Dig Day #1

Post by Krysta Ryzewski and Andrew Eppens

September 15th marked the beginning of the third Wayne State Archaeology field season at Roosevelt Park in Corktown, Detroit. Dr. Krysta Ryzewski of Wayne State’s Anthropology department is directing the excavation team as part of ANT5280, a fields methods class.  The field crew consists of 19 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in ANT5280, and an additional five graduate student and community volunteers, most of whom were previous students in the 2012 class.  This season Dr. Jeffrey Howard of Wayne State University’s Geology Department has joined the research team to conduct research on magnetic soil features using various remote sensing techniques.


Class receives an orientation to the site.

2014 Fieldwork Objectives

The 2014 research team is focusing on two different areas of Roosevelt Park (Area 1 and Area 2), the second of which has not been excavated before.  In Area 1, we will be returning to preious excavation locations where working class and immigrant houses once stood in the late 19th century. We are hoping to find privy deposits in the back lots of these properties, due to the valuable information about everyday lives that can be gleaned from such deposits.

Area 2 was also the site of several 19th century cottage houses, but it is located across the park to the southwest.  The excavations in Area 2 are searching for outbuilding deposits, but are also interested in studying buildings that were erected after the displacement process began.

In both excavation areas, special emphasis will be placed on examining the differences between household assemblages, architectural evidence, and contrasts in the material remains between the communities who lived in the former neighborhood before and during the displacement process.

First Fieldwork Day

Our first day on site involved an orientation to the park and a survey of the two excavation Areas using georectified historical maps and satellite images. The class was divided into five excavation teams. Each team will work together for the duration of the semester on a particular house lot. After dividing up into teams, each group selected areas to sample. map and houseThe group working in Lot 11 of Area 2 (Eric, Erica, Dovie and Graham) decided to excavate a small 50×50 centimeter shovel test pit (STP) along what they thought might be the edge of the historic alley way and an outbuilding. The purpose of the STP was to sample the house lot’s material culture and uncover the deposit’s stratigraphy. This sort of information is helpful for determining whether they should open up a larger excavation unit in the vicinity. From the STP, the Lot 11 team uncovered material culture that suggested they were in an interesting and productive area of the houselot that should be investigated with a larger excavation unit.

excavation unit

The first 1×1 meter excavation unit of 2014 was placed in Lot 12.

Next door, the team working in Lot 12 (Lorin, Kat, Katie, and Drew) measured out the projected location of an outbuilding using historical maps, compass, meter tapes, and landscape features. They opened up a 1×1 meter excavation unit and were still in the first soil level when class ended.

house lots

The team in Area 1 stands at the corner of the former house lots and raise their hands to indicate the number of each lot

Meanwhile, the remainder of the excavation teams worked together to map out the historical property boundaries in Area 1 and Area 2. By the end of class, they also identified areas of interest within their house lots and decided upon excavation strategies to use next week.

Mapping the Site

On Wednesday September 17th, Dr. Ryzewski, Mark and Lorin brought the total station and GPS out to the park to construct a site-wide map. The measurements they collected during the mapping afternoon will be used to establish a virtual grid over the entirety of the park.

lorin mark

Lorin, Mark, and the total station (and equipment for the Batman v. Superman film set in the background!)

Follow our progress each Monday on Twitter: @UnearthDetroit,  #RPdig,  @GLGMuseum.