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 #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.

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!