Dig Day #7: Spooktacular Digging

Happy Halloween….and Happy Excavating!

Hanne Willeck

October 31 was another cool fall day in the field.  In keeping with the holiday, we began with some spooky finds – a mysteriously cracked brick in Lot 13, and dead black squirrel next to the Lot 7 excavation unit!

The Lot 13 team continued to excavate around a large brick and mortar pedestal (Figure 1).  This appears to have been a support base for the corner of a structure that previously stood on the site.


Figure 1:  Brick and mortar pedestal in Lot 13

In Lot 15, the team finished digging their third layer of soil and continued into a very orange fourth soil layer.  After finding very few artifacts in both layers, it was decided that excavation would stop on this unit.  They will begin digging a new unit in a different area next week.

Nearby in Lot 14, another interesting feature was uncovered, this time a large circular hole along the north wall (Figure 2).  This may be from a drainage pipe that was part of an early plumbing system.  The hole continues more than 20 inches straight down into the ground.


Figure 2:  Circular feature in Lot 14 with one of our excavators standing in as a scale model

In Lot 7, the line of rocks from the possible wall was removed and excavation began into the clay layer underneath.  By the end of the day, the north side had revealed a darker soil section next to a sandy section containing small mortar and plaster bits.  Further investigation will continue next week.

All teams added to their collections of research artifacts with glass, ceramic, nails, metal, brick, and animal bone.  The day’s top find came out of Lot 13 – two pieces of jaw bone (Figure 3)!  This may have been from a young goat, since the teeth were still sharp and the middle section of the bone had not fused.


Figure 3:  Two pieces of jaw bone recovered from Lot 13

Only a couple field days remain.  Stay tuned to see what else we uncover!


Open Day: Nadine’s Post

Nadine Duchaine

Our archaeology Open Day was held on Saturday October 29. It was a typical Michigan fall day in that it was cool, windy and cloudy. With dark clouds rolling in we were nervous that it would rain but it held out in our favor!

It was an active day but everyone took breaks to share information with our dozens of visitors about Roosevelt Park and the community that once stood here. Visitors included family, fellow students and a curious public making up to least 80 people! Fellow archaeologists from Wayne State and nearby colleges came to look as well. All the teams spent time in their lots showing visitors what we do here.

Team Trowel in lot 13 had an exposed brick feature in the south wall of the unit. Possibly a wall? They will uncover this mystery next week when the team expands the unit. They found a fragments of flower pots and faunal remains.

Team Stratigraphy in lot 7 found a metal pipe post hole in the southern section of the unit. So far the team uncovered nails, bottles, glass and architectural material. The team had to break out some new tools, a pix axe, in order to start breaking through the clay deposit.

In lot 15, Team Plumbob, found large faunal remains, ceramics and many rusty nails! The team is in their 3rd context layer and no end in sight to the items they are finding.

Lot 14, Team Bones, my team and I were lucky enough to have no odor during Open Day. But it looks like we hit a trash deposit. Animal bones, rivet to a shoe, ceramics and many metal items were just a few things found. The daughter of our teammate Terri, informed us that our lot was also a Pokestop!

Open Day: Gavin’s Post

Open Day: Can You Dig It?

Gavin Swantick

Saturday, October 29th, a beautifully warm autumn day, was Wayne State Archaeology’s biannual Open Day.  The purpose of opening the site to the public is to educate the community about archaeology and how it applies to their everyday lives.

Guests from all over the Greater Detroit area visited the site at Roosevelt Park.  Among the various attendees were Wayne State Anthropology Department faculty and alumni, family and friends of current students working at the dig, and members of the public at large (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Visitors during Open Day view the excavations at Lot 7.

Additionally, Eric Seals of the Detroit Free Press was present to conduct interviews and to take photographs for an article about the event which was published on Sunday, October 30.  Those who attended the event were able to see active excavation work along with various artifacts which had been previously unearthed from the park’s numerous excavation sites (Figure 2).  Many attendees expressed a newfound interest in archaeology, especially in an urban setting.  Other visitors were surprised that a neighborhood had ever existed on the site of Roosevelt Park.


Figure 2: Dr. Ryzewski explains the process of site profiling to Open Day patrons.

Overall, the public seemed impressed with what has been unearthed so far, and showed great support for Wayne State Archaeology.  For example, Dr. Suzanne Baker of Oakland Community College commented that she “thought the students did an excellent job presenting [their excavations] and answering questions” (Figure 3). She also said that her daughter, a high school senior interested in archaeology, was excited to attend.  The purpose of the Open Dig Day is both to inform and educate the public about the importance of archaeology in Detroit, and in that sense, the event was a rousing success.


Figure 3: Kailey McAlpin shows off artifacts found at Roosevelt Park to Open Day guests.


Dig Day #6: Features in Full Swing

Kailey McAlpin

Monday, October 24th was another successful day in the field for WSU archaeology students!

Team Trowel in Lot 13 spent the day excavating a feature made up of primarily architectural material (Figure 1).  The feature could possibly be part of a foundation wall, but is unusual in that artifacts were discovered on, under, and within the feature!  Stay tuned as Team Trowel continues to uncover more about their mysterious architectural feature.figure-1Figure 1: WSU archaeology student Ashlee Jed and WSU archaeology Professor Dr. Ryzewski hard at work in Lot 13

In Lot 14, Team Bones was busy digging up a feature of their own (Figure 2).  Diggers found a great deal of artifacts while excavating the feature, including animal bones, metal, coal, a pumpkin seed, and animal teeth.  It looks like Team Bones may have stumbled upon a trash deposit and we can’t wait to see what types of artifacts they discover next!

figure-2Figure 2: Terri Renaud, member of Team Bones, carefully unearths the feature in Lot 14

Next door in Lot 15, Team Plumbob made great progress transitioning from their second to their third soil layer (Figure 3).  Within these soil layers, students found some special artifacts, which included an eyelet, pieces of fabric, a brick, pieces of decorated pottery, and animal bones.  Due to the scattered distribution of artifacts, Team Plumbob believes that their excavation unit may be situated in the backyard of what was once a residential property.  Only time (and more digging) will tell!

figure-3Figure 3: Team Plumbob sifting soil with the Michigan Central Station in the background

Over in Lot 7, my team (Team Stratigraphy) was busy unearthing two features that appeared in the second soil layer (Figure 4).  The first feature included a row of large rocks surrounded by clay and may have been used to level the ground in order to build the foundation of a house.  The second feature was a circular, yellow discoloration in the soil and may indicate that either a metal pipe or a post hole was once placed there.  The second soil layer also yielded high volumes of artifacts, leading Team Stratigraphy to believe that their excavation unit may be part of the backyard and the foundation of the house that once made up a residential property.

figure-4Figure 4: Zack Diedrich and Hanne Willeck, members of Team Stratigraphy, sifting soil and photographing architectural features in Lot 7

Will Team Trowel figure out what their feature represents?  What will Team Plumb-Bob discover in their third soil layer?  Why were there so many artifacts discarded next to the house on Lot 7?  And what ever happened to that weird smell in Lot 14?!  We’ll keep you posted with the answers to these questions and more as we continue to excavate Roosevelt Park!

Dig Day #5: International Visitors

Tameshja Brooks

With nice weather and the help from our friends from the University of Windsor across the river, each lot got a lot accomplished at Roosevelt Park today. Unfortunately, Lot 14 was still dealing with the awful smell from last week, but soldiering through it they uncovered a deposit that would turn out to be a pit-like feature (a trench for a privy?). They also found a flower pot fragment and began to reach their next context in the northwest corner. Clinker, glass and bone were sifted out with help from Sam and Nicole from University of Windsor’s history class on Detroit in the 1880’s. Brody, another student from Professor Huffaker’s class, also helped them trowel around a brick that appeared in their northwest corner.

fig1Figure 1. Professor Shauna Huffaker from the University of Windsor’s History Department assists in sifting in Lot 7. 

Nearby in Lot 15, our diggers thought they were right on point in finding the outhouse in their house lot. While working through their second soil layer they found wood planks, glass, and most notably a large animal bone fragment.

fig2aFigure 2. Lot 15’s animal bone fragment.

On top of these finds the students feel confident they are right above their next context layer, which means careful digging and more paperwork in their future.

Over in Lot 7, a lot of items related to past inhabitants’ leisure activities were found. The students uncovered things like marbles, a die, and a wheel possibly from a toy. These artifacts  may link to children of the families that once lived there.

Last but not least, my Lot 13 made great headway on the multiple context layers that threw us into a paperwork frenzy last week. We expanded our excavation unit in order to expose the feature we thought to be a trash pit and, it yielded many artifacts, just as we hoped.

fig2Figure 3. Lot 13 preparing to expand the excavation unit.

In summary, each group walked away from the day with a lot of discoveries and goals for next week’s class. Check us out next week to find out more about our progress here at Roosevelt Park. And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our Open Day on Saturday October 29, from 1-3pm!

fig4Figure 4. Cute puppy helper / mascot of Lot 14. 


Dig Day #4: Artifacts Galore!

Lisette Wittbrodt

Monday, October 10th was another great day for digging. The day started off a little chilly but once we got going, the sun warmed us right up. All the groups made some exciting finds and lots of progress today!

The group in Lot 14 was continuing to uncover their outbuilding, and unfortunately could smell the decaying body of an animal somewhere in their unit. They didn’t find the smelly animal, but did uncover sherds of paned glass, an oyster shell, construction materials and faunal remains, including one very large, fractured bone sticking out of the north wall, which made the smell worth tolerating.

Lot 7 is broken up into two groups. The first, working on STP 4 at the corner of an outbuilding, found a very large ceramic sherd, as well as a mostly intact arm of a porcelain baby doll. They found these artifacts in their second layer, and hope to find a clay layer next, which would possibly mean they’ve located the floor surface of the outbuilding.

The other group working in Lot 7 decided to expand their third STP into a full unit measuring 1m x 1.5m. The group is working along the former corner of the house, which was once the main architectural feature on the property. They had much success with their artifact recovery, collecting toys, including a red die made of glass and a metal wheel about 2 inches in diameter, possibly belonging to a toy truck. The students working here also found a nickel from the 1920s with a buffalo on one side and a Native American’s head on the other, lots of bottle caps, colored glass, faunal remains and ceramics. They found their artifacts in the first soil layer of their unit.

Over in Lot 13, the group exposed the base of a feature they presumed to be a trash pit. The feature extends all the way up the south wall (figure 1) from the top of the fourth soil layer. They were also busy discovering pieces of ceramic and structural materials extending out from the south and west walls, as well as a pale brick on the north wall. They did a lot of work classifying and documenting all of their finds today.


Figure 1: Feature on south wall of Lot 13 outbuilding.

My group split up to work today. Two of our members continued to work in Area 3 at STP 5. They found a large piece of wood three soil layers down that cut straight across their hole going east to west. They had to cut it out to proceed. Also in their third context, they found two bones – one was part of an animal’s arm – and the other one had a more irregular shape and may have been part of a vertebrae (figure 2).


Figure 2: Animal vertebrae bone found in STP 5, Area 3.

Brendan and I worked in Area 1 with everyone else. We started a new unit today in Lot 15 after estimating measurements based on our maps and selecting a likely artifact-rich spot near an old outbuilding on a house lot that once faced 14th Street. Just in our first layer we found several bottle-caps, a shotgun bullet casing, a 1977 nickel, part of a broken comb, and a red button, along with many other artifacts (figure 3). We also found a lot of glass sherds, including some colored and textured pieces, and a small piece of milk-glass which may be a piece broken off from a teacup handle.


Figure 3: Various artifacts collected from Lot 15.

Overall, this was a productive day, and each group made great finds and collected artifacts to contribute to our research for the rest of the semester!

Please mark your calendars for our Open Day at Roosevelt Park on Saturday October 29, from 1-3pm. All are welcome to come and see our excavations in progress, and to learn more about the site from the Wayne State students participating on the dig. (This event is weather permitting and won’t be held if there is rain). 

Dig Day #3: Outhouses and more Outhouses!

Bridget Bennane

This week we all expected it to be a bit muddy but we were pleasantly surprised that there were no lakes in the park from the weekend’s rain! All units this week found some faunal (animal) bones (Figure 1)!


Figure 1: This is a vertebra (spinal bone) of an animal found in Lot 13.

Over in Area 1, Lot 14, they found a variety of items including a penny from 1944 and a rounded piece of metal that could possibly be a musket ball.

Lot 7, which is also in Area 1, had two shovel test pits going (STPs). The goal of STP #2 was to find the outhouse of the former houselot. They found a large piece of ceramic and lots of building materials (mostly mortar). STP #3 is along the boundary of the former house that is linked with STP #2’s outhouse. They found some oyster shells, a bell, and a high concentration of architectural materials (mortar, plaster, and brick).

The last group in Area 1 is working in Lot 13. They are investigating an area where an apartment building was constructed in the 1910s, possibly after the condemnation orders were issued for buildings in the neighborhood. This week they found some blue transferware pottery, which is a white ceramic with a blue decorative print (Figure 2).


Figure 2: A piece of the blue transfer-printed pottery found in Lot 13.

And finally, my group in Area 3 reopened (because we have to refill ours in Area 3 at the end of each dig day) our STP #3 and started another called STP #4. We are trying to hit as many of the outhouses in our area as possible in order to collect a wide variety of data about the people who once lived in the neighborhood before the park and train station were constructed. And we can do this because STPs are meant to be fast. So far we have located two of the outhouses and we’ve found everything from architectural material, to buttons, and a possible pig’s tusk (see the link below)!

Check out this link to see a 3D rendering (done by Beau Kromberg, a Wayne State anthropology graduate student) of the pig’s tusk from Area 3: https://skfb.ly/TZ7B

What kind of commonalities and differences will our STPs in Area 3 show us about the neighbors of that block? Using the faunal bones, maybe we’ll be able to assess the kinds of meat that residents in the neighborhood once ate.