Dig Day #9: Backfill Day!

Mallory Moore

November 14th was a very eventful day for all of the excavation teams here at Roosevelt Park. This day was our very last chance to dig as we backfilled all of our units after an hour into the class period. After today we will not be returning to Roosevelt Park this semester. Even with this limited dig time, all of the teams were very productive.

The Lot 7 team found a great deal of plaster, wood, nails, and remnants of the house’s wall that once stood in the area. The team began to hit sterile soil in the northwest corner and found this layer throughout their entire unit towards the end of our dig time.

The Lot 13 team uncovered a metal pipe with an unidentified purpose in their unit going from west to east in their unit. This team also fully excavated the brick column in the center of their unit. They believe this column’s purpose was to support the house structure rather than an outbuilding because of how well-built and sturdy it is (Figure 1). The metal pipe is believed to have been placed their well after the column was placed, as indicated by the different soil layers around the pipe.


Figure 1: Column and pipe from Lot 13

The Lot 15 team worked on completing a .5 meter by .5 meter shovel test pit in their area because they had missed the outbuilding they had aimed for when completing their standard sized unit. The team discovered a broken tobacco pipe bowl, a large iron stake or nail, and a good amount of brick and mortar. The building materials indicate they were in an area where a small structure once stood.
Lastly, my team in Lot 14 dug for a brief amount of time to confirm we had reached the sterile soil, and once we did we were able to stop. Once we cleaned up the walls and completed all of the final recording details, we were able to remove all of the artifacts protruding from the walls. We discovered several bricks and nails, a few bones, and a piece of transfer-printed ceramic. Along with removing the artifacts, our team was able to excavate the hole in the north wall of out unit to determine if anything else could be learned from the inside (Figure 2). There were not markings or artifacts in the hole so its purpose is still unknown at the present time.


Figure 2: Excavated hole from Lot 14 with a trowel for scale

After the first hour of digging, all units had to stop and begin the process of documenting and mapping their units. Each unit team had to photograph all of the walls and pick one of the walls to do a scale drawing of on graph paper identifying the different soil layers. After this process the artifacts were removed from the walls of every unit and backfilling began. We put all of the dirt that was removed over the last few weeks back into the units. This process is important to the field of archaeology because as much as we want to learn from the past, it is also important to preserve the land for the future.


Dig Day #8: Final Dig Day

Allison Hebel 

As the last dig day drew near, ambitious groups trekked out early Monday morning to excavate.

The group working in Lot 15, who completely excavated their unit last Monday (October 31st), opened a new unit in Lot 16 (Area 3). Although their last unit in Lot 15 produced relatively few artifacts, their new unit turned out to have quite the surprise. They discovered an intact creamer thought to be made of white ironstone (Figures 1 and 2). It is rare to find anything intact in the field. What can this creamer say about the previous residents’ dining practices?


Figure 1: The size of the creamer


 Figure 2: An inside look at the creamer from Lot 16

The ladies of Lot 13 also began early on Monday. The pressure to make progress and finish their unit drove them. After clearing the crumbly brick and mortar debris out of the unit, the group discovered a column made of four full intact bricks and one half brick (Figure 3). The brick column is a lot smaller in terms of its width than previously imagined, but much deeper – it continues downward for at least four more bricks. What made these bricks stay intact and the ones on top disintegrate? The race to expose the depth of the column will drive them out again early next Monday.


Figure 3: Brick column in Lot 13

It was all hands on deck in Lot 7. Breaking through their thick clay layer and closing their unit was their top priority. The students’ goal was “to dig as fast as humanly possible”. To all of our excitement, they discovered a large piece of decorated wall plaster or paper! Once dried and examined this will tell us something about this house’s interior design. They plan to return early next Monday before digging closes for the season.

Team Bones in Lot 14 also made a lucky find. They discovered a tobacco pipe bowl with a partial stem attached (Figure 4). What can this pipe tell us about personal habits? This group planned to excavate to the bottom of the privy chamber discovered last week, which extends 119cm from the grass to the ground. They made a lot of progress today.   


Figure 4: The pipe bowl and stem from Lot 14

This was a day of exciting discoveries, but a bittersweet day because it is the end of the excavation season. Before we fill in our units next week, most of us will be here early racing against the clock to make our final discoveries and finish excavating. Until next time!

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!

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!