Dig Day #10: Into the Lab

Terri Renaud

Now that the fieldwork is over, it’s time to head into the lab to begin processing and interpreting our finds. The artifactual finds from all of the house lots will be examined and stored in Wayne State University’s Grosscup Museum of Anthropology and archaeology laboratory.

Today was our first lab day and we spent it cleaning the artifacts and setting them up to dry. The cleaning was performed in two ways: wet and dry brushing (Figures 1 and 2). The wet brushing is done by using a toothbrush to clean objects such as ceramics, bone, and glass that won’t be damaged by water. No soap or chemicals were used.  Dry brushing also uses a toothbrush, but it is used for metals or fabrics that would be damaged by the water.

artifact-cleaning-2Figures 1 and 2. Students remained in their previous excavation teams to clean the artifacts they discovered in the field. Additional WSU student volunteers also aided in the effort.artifact-cleaning

During the excavations the artifacts were collected and stored based on the context in which they were discovered. Each findspot or context was assigned a number in the field. Maintaining the association between artifacts and this context number as they are cleaned and examined is extremely important for our future analyses.  Each artifact storage bag had been carefully labeled with as much information as possible, including the house lot number, the date, and the initials of the excavators. When the artifacts are removed from the bags, we make sure the information stays with them by re-writing it on labels and new clean bags.  At no time do we want confusion about an artifact’s findspot.  We used sharpies and masking tape to label every surface where the artifacts were laid out to dry (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Artifacts were labeled and placed out to dry. Drying takes at least 24 hours.

Since our lab day was constricted by time and since we found so many artifacts this season, some of the processing work will continue next week.  Next Monday we will be finishing up the cleaning and beginning our research on the objects themselves.