Dig Day #7

By Cecelia Murrell-Harvey and Katie Korth

Our excavations continued on Dig Day #7, October 27th. It happened to be a wonderfully mild fall afternoon with perfect working conditions. This was our second to last day excavating, so we made the most of the surprisingly good weather and worked extra hard.

Over in Area 1, Lot 4 stayed busy with their two units that are positioned at the front and rear of an old stable. Unit 1 began their day by drawing a plan detailing each layer and its measurements, and then starting a new context layer. The new layer was darker than previous layers, seemed very nutrient rich, and did not contain a lot of artifacts. The team took a soil core sample to see if lighter soil containing more artifacts was located beneath, but this was not the case. This layer was labeled as a feature and samples were taken to the lab to be tested, because this rich soil layer just may contain manure which would provide more evidence that we are excavating a stable.

1398Lot 4, Unit 1

Unit 2 of Lot 4 spent Monday afternoon closing their unit after not finding artifacts for a couple of layers. The team photographed their excavation unit completely and drew profile drawings that will help with later analysis. Profile drawings are very detailed and show the soil layers and measurements of each wall of the excavation unit.

IMG_1391Lot 4, Unit 2

In Lot 3, the interesting deposits continued. After attempting to clear out one of the many context layers, the team found yet another context layer and what appears to be a continuation of a previous one. Much of the afternoon was spent bringing the context layers to an equal plane and excavating out some more delicate artifacts, like complete bottles, faunal remains, and an almost completely intact shoe!

IMG_1400Intact shoe from Lot 3, Unit 1

The three teams on the other side of the park in Area 2 came up with some interesting finds this week. The Lot 10 team uncovered a large drainage pipe in their 1×1 unit. This could mean the team is excavating a privy, and that the artifacts in their unit have not been disturbed they were thrown in the privy.

amandaAmanda excavating in Lot 10

 The Lot 11 team found lots of iron artifacts and bones this week, standard for our excavations so far. They thought the day was shaping up to be unremarkable, but then they found a 2 cent coin piece with the date of 1865! The coin will be helpful as they date the context layers in their unit, since the coin couldn’t have been deposited until 1865 or later.

1865 coinTwo cent coin from 1865

The Lot 12 team continued with their unit and started a shovel test pit 5 meters from the unit.   According to the maps, their unit should contain a privy, but so far the mixed soil is puzzling and it might mean they’ve been excavating backfill from when 16th street was moved. They are hoping that a few shovel test pits will reveal the whereabouts of the elusive privy, because the artifacts in the privy could be more definitively connected to the people that lived on Lot 12.

kat pic

Kat working in Lot 12

We hope for good weather next week for our last full day of excavations! Is the team in Lot 4 really excavating a stable? Did the team from Lot 10 find a privy? What will the artifacts reveal about the people that lived in this neighborhood? Check back next week for more updates on these questions.


Public Open Day at the Roosevelt Park Excavations!

By Krista Eggleston and Kaitlin Scharra

On Saturday October 25th we hosted a public open day at the Roosevelt Park excavations. The highlight of our open day was being able to share our findings with the public. We had a number of activities for guests to enjoy while visiting our individual excavation units.  Visitors viewed historic maps placing the area in context and they were shown different historic artifacts that we’ve excavated over the past few weeks.  Families even got to enjoy washing finds as they were excavated to investigate the finer details. At the end of their site tours, visitors posed for group photos in front of the excavations in Area 2, and we posted an album of them on the Unearthing Detroit project’s Facebook page.

openday2The best part of the open day was that we were able to share our excavation findings and the history of Corktown with many different people who were interested in what we are learning. In addition to neighborhood residents and local families, we were visited by many fellow scholars of archaeology from other Cultural Resource Management entities and universities in the state including Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Oakland, University of Michigan and Michigan State Universities.  These interactions allowed us to discuss the difference and similarities between Roosevelt Park and other historic Michigan sites.   About 100 visitors came to Roosevelt Park for the open day. We look forward to connecting with Detroit’s communities more in the future.

openday1During the open day, in Area 1 Lot 3, several interesting artifacts were found. Near the north wall of Unit 1 there was a thin metal artifact with a paper layer attached, most likely the remnants of a tin can. Additionally a white embossed ceramic tureen lid and multiple bone fragments recovered. In this unit there was a clay ‘shelf’ along the northern wall which was also excavated. In Lot 4 Unit 1 a circular, thin iron artifact was removed, the shape of this artifact led the excavators of this unit to believe that it may have been the lid to a can. Several thin soil context layers were excavated, the last of which revealed the beginning of a new feature in the southeast corner of the unit; these thin layers appear to be similar to the layers previously excavated by the team in Unit 2. Unit 2 has dug deep enough to hit virgin soil, meaning that no more artifacts have been found.

Area 2 Lot 10 was busy digging into a very deep ash layer located along the east wall. In this ash layer bottle fragments were found, and in addition to these fragments, an intact clear rectangular bottle was discovered. The west half of the unit was also excavated and contained multiple architectural artifacts. In Lot 11 the contexts excavated here yielded numerous glass, ceramic, and bone fragments. A clay context was uncovered here and along the eastern wall the excavators have begun to dig into an oval shaped feature. Within Lot 12 a deep oval feature was also excavated and this feature included a run-off branch. The feature was along the west wall and was possibly a privy vault. In addition, a post hole was discovered on the north end of the unit. Artifacts found in this unit today were mostly of an architectural nature.

Dig Day #6

By Lorin Brace and Amanda Roach

On October 20th gray skies once again extended over Roosevelt Park as our field methods class began Day 6 of excavations. Today, however, a new team of individuals walked with us over the length of the park, this new eye that peered over our excavation units as the day progressed was a media team from Science Magazine. Their presence added to the day a healthy motivation and excitement to share archaeological knowledge with the public.


Students prepare to excavate Area 1

This week In Area 1 Lot 3, further advancement of the excavation unit exposed some interesting deposits. A number of different contexts and artifact concentrations were appearing throughout the unit. There was a very concentrated deposit of iron and nails embedded into the East wall as well as a concentration of bone and ceramic in the North. In addition to this their previous context layers started to reveal more evidence of an ash deposit in the north end of the unit.


Students excavate the different deposits in Lot 3

The two units in Lot 4 continue to exhibit many differences, despite their proximity. Unit 2 includes a large ashy burn layer with a large concentration of nails and architectural material, while Unit 1 contains multiple features with a wide range of artifacts.

10_20Photo3A well cleaned excavation unit – Lot 4 Unit 2

In Area 2, Lot 10 the team continued excavation of an architectural feature of a reasoned to be demolished wall. Below this was a distinct line that separated two contexts in the unit. A large Ash layer RP 74 was located in the Eastern region of the unit, separated by a fairly straight line delimiting a separate context RP 75.

10_20Photo4 A small toiletry bottle (of Brownatone hair dye) uncovered in Lot 10

In Lot 11 the excavation of the 1x2m started to break through the clay layer and reveal artifactual finds. There was a concentration of iron nails, brick, and coal throughout the unit. Alongside these finds, fairly large animal bone deposits were located in the east and north regions of the unit. The team is also continuing to investigate a clay formation in the Southwest.

Lot 12 finished excavating the Southern half of their unit down on top of the features that were visible in the North half. In total there were three distinct features identified in the floor of the unit. Feature 16 is particularly interesting, and appears to be some sort of trench that runs parallel to the house lot boundaries.

10_20Photo5Three different features uncovered in Lot 12

Dig Day #5

By Dovie Jenkins and Katie Orlicki

Dig Day #5, October 13th, was another rainy day but that didn’t keep us from excavating our units in Roosevelt Park. As groups continue to dig through their units more and more artifacts are being revealed, especially in Area 1. Area 1 is composed of three units in two different lots. Each unit’s excavators are continuously exposing ceramics, bricks, glass, and nails. This week’s exciting finds from Lot 4 of Area 1 included ceramic pieces from a tea cup and a small ceramic doll head that is about the size of a thumbnail. While Lot 4 is coming across a few ceramic pieces, the archaeologists in Lot 3 have come across a lot of animal bones this week. The bone fragments that have been found were identified as being from a cow and a pheasant.

1016_F1 Ceramic doll head from Unit 1 in Lot 4

As groups continue to dig and units get deeper, more interesting stratigraphy is being exposed. In Lot 3 there are a number of different context layers being uncovered at the same time. There is an ash layer from what is thought to be from two different burn pits, a layer of mottled soil around the burn pits, and there is also a reddish/orange clay layer. Units 1 and 2 in Lot 4 have also been coming across different clay stratigraphy as their units continue to increase in depth.

F2Context layers from Lot 3, Unit 1. A. Burn pit 1 consisting of ash, coal, and slag. B. Burn pit 2 made up mostly of ash and coal. C. Mottled soil surrounding both burn pits. D. Layer made up of reddish/orange clay.

Area 2 made a lot of progress, despite the bad weather. Architectural elements like brick, mortar, nails, and plaster were common materials recovered in all three units, but the distribution of these materials is quite different for each lot. Lot 10 is located in the general area of a previous structure, and they’ve recovered many whole bricks. However, they have also unearthed evidence of burning associated with these bricks. One possible interpretation of this evidence offered by the group suggests that the previous structure may have been set on fire before being demolished. In addition to bricks and other construction materials, lot 10 also discovered lovely fragments of pottery decorated with a faint “crackle” design.

F3 Pottery sherds with faint “crackle” design Lot 10, Area 2

Lot 11 once again had an enthusiastic guest excavator. They recovered many animal bones, which are likely food remains. Lot 11 also uncovered building materials, brick fragments, mortar, hinges, and nails. Yet, unlike the other excavation unit in area 2, most of these materials are fragmented. In addition to food remains and building materials, the lot 11 group also found broken bits of pottery and many types of glass.

F4Animal bones left over from the previous residents’ meals Lot 11 in Area 2

Lot 12 made considerable progress excavating their main excavation unit and their shovel test pits. They have found all kinds of materials, including brick and other building materials leftover from road construction, but they have also recovered several whole artifacts.

F5The group from lot 12 huddles around a screen in search of small or broken artifacts Lot 12 in Area 2.

Answers to Popular Questions

By Eric Boulis

Over the course of the past couple weeks in the field we have had many visitors asking questions, so here are a few answers to the most popular inquiries.

  1. We do not sell the artifacts we find. Ever. The artifacts we recover tell the story of Detroit’s history and they are materials for us to take care of for the public benefit – not to sell for private ownership and profit. We carefully record what we find and where we find it. The artifacts enter our collections where they are stored and analyzed. In some cases they will also make their way into displays in museums, and in all cases we will share our findings through publications, presentations, and social media for those who are interested in them. map and house
  2. We do not just pick a spot and start digging. There are many archaeological methods and questions we use when determining where to dig. At Roosevelt Park, we identified research questions and then used historical records, old real estate maps and a modern park map to create a layered site map of where things where in the past. We also use high tech imaging equipment to see if there is anything under the surface, small test pit digs, and magnetometry, before we open larger excavation units.

I hope these points help to clear up any questions or misconceptions that any of our readers have about what it is we do and why we do it. Everyone, of course, should feel free to come out and visit us on Oct. 25th from 1-3pm for our public Open Day so you can see for yourselves what we do and how we do it!

Dig Day #4

By Kat Slocum

October is upon us and so is the cold rain! During our fourth dig day on October 6th everyone worked diligently to continue excavating our units, despite the inhospitable weather.

In Lot 3 of Area 1, the field team had several interesting finds including a large quantity of architectural material, animal bones, glass, and two features. In archaeology, features are defined as structures within a context layer. They may include a post hole, fire pit, privy and many other traces of the past built environment. The team in Lot 3 has hypothesized that their two features may be a fire pit and a midden (a trash deposit). Slava (pictured below) and her team worked hard last week to collect artifacts while fighting the cold rain.)

(photo 1) Slava

Pictured above is Slava Pallas, a graduate student at WSU. She is working with her team to determine the extent of the two features found in last week’s dig.

Nearby in Lot 4 there are two excavation units underway. Unit 1 has revealed a variety of architectural material and last week they even found what appears to be a fuse cover (pictured below).

(photo 2) R & SPictured above is a unique artifact with the black lettering “R & S” with a production number beneath. Future research is needed in the lab to know more.

In the second excavation unit in Lot 4, students have found some notable artifacts, including star patterned glass (pictured below).

(photo 3) Star glass Don Adzigian, holds up the newly unearthed star-patterned glass.

Area 1 is revealing a great deal of artifacts and archaeologists are working hard to sift all cultural material/artifacts from the soil in their units. It’s a dirty job, but exciting when they find something that hasn’t been seen in decades!

(photo 4) SarahSarah Beste meticulously sifts through soil and keeps an eye out for anything to be sent back to the lab for research.

Over in Area 2, the excavation teams are benefited by having some very prominent historical features guiding their excavation. To this day there are staircases leading up to the front of the houses that stood here during and prior to the construction of Michigan Central Station. These staircases located on real estate and fire safety / insurance maps, to help pinpoint research areas.

(photo 5) stairsPictured above are two of the staircases still visible under the shadow of Michigan Central Station.

The three excavation units in Area 2 are providing buckets full of artifacts. These artifacts include mostly architectural material, glassware and concrete. In Lot 12, students are noticing that their unit seems to have been covered by some sort of fill from construction. We think it may be from construction of a nearby road or even a destroyed structure in the backyard of the house. We expanded the unit in an effort to find out what the material may be from and how far it extends.

With so many things to find and so many questions remaining, it’s worth stopping by for a visit during our Open Day on from 1-3pm on October 25th. Come out, volunteer, and discover Detroit’s history right under your toes!