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!