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.