Heinlenville was one of six San José Chinatowns. Archaeologists from the Anthropological Studies Center, Sonoma State University and local San José historians are working with the Redevelopment Agency, City of San José to unearth selected areas of Heinlenville and early Japantown. The test excavation took place from the 11th to 17th March 2008, and data recovery excavation was conducted from the 14th to 23rd of April 2009. Work continues now back at the ASC lab, as we process artifacts and soil samples recovered from the site.

Monday, June 1, 2009

An Artifact’s Journey . . . the Labeling Process

Hi Everyone! I’m sure you were waiting with bated breath for the next installment of the Heinlenville/Nihonmachi blog. I just noticed that the wonderful Thea has discussed the process of flotation. I’m here to hold your hand and gently guide you through the next process – labeling.

Carrie labeling glass sherdsAfter the artifacts have been cleaned, they are placed in new plastic bags with paper labels to identify where each lot of artifacts came from. Labeling is very important as it helps make sure that no artifacts are lost and its location information is always attached to it in some way. Afterwards, we go through and label each individual artifact piece with archival-quality ink and lacquer. What looks like clear nail polish is actually a specialized lacquer that maintains its integrity for much longer than your average Wet ‘N Wild nail polish from Target. The key is to not have these context/identification numbers crumble off 20 years down the line.

The thing about archaeology is that it doesn’t end once everything is dug up. And that’s not necessarily the only fun part. There is a whole process involved where we take great care to maintain the integrity of the artifacts we excavate and attempt to preserve them for as long as possible.

Enough with that fancy talk. I must admit, I thoroughly enjoy labeling. It’s a chance to see the dirty stuff we pulled out of the ground after it’s had a nice ice cold bath and a scrub down with a toothbrush. Since it’s been about a month and a half since we finished up excavations in San Jose, we’ve forgotten all the neat little things we came across throughout our 10-day field rotation. And as an added bonus, Erica, the Lab Manager, has a nice stash of chocolate to keep us going throughout the day. It’s very easy to win over an archaeologist. Usually it involves the delicious combination of milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and nougat. Just in case you need to send care packages to starving archaeology graduate students in care of Sonoma State University . . . ahem.

Anyway, thanks for listening! Stay tuned!

Carrie Reichardt
Graduate Student

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What do archaeologists do with soil samples?

Hello there out in cyber space! Thea here, blogging about what happened to the artifacts and soil samples that we took away from Heinlenville/Nihonmachi.

All of the artifacts we screened and bagged in the field must be washed and catalogued. Washing the potsherds and bottle glass are fun and easy, but washing the faunal bone is tricky, because you have to be very careful not to break it, and there are many small crevices to clean.

Some of the soil samples we took, we put through a flotation machine, for paleoethnobotanical analysis! Paleoethnobotany is the archaeological sub-field that studies plant remains from archaeological sites. Major research themes are recovery and identification of plant remains, the use of wild plants, and the co-evolution of human-plant interactions.

Thea processing a float sample.The flotation machine [Model A Flot-Tech] is the device by which these samples are procured. It is a dual chambered water tank equipped with a pump that circulates that water between the chambers. When you start the machine, one side of the tank slowly overflows into a fine mesh screen. You put the soil sample (about two gallons of soaked soil from a specific place in Heinlenville) into the side that is overflowing, and the light weight plant materials float to the top and spill over into the screen! It is a fun and wet job, so it was a blessing to get nice weather last week.

This week is also nice, and that is good because we are wet screening. Wet screening is exactly what it sounds like: you screen a sample of dirt using water to wash away the loose dirt, revealing the artifacts.

We are finding a lot more stuff, and stay tuned for more interesting blog as the artifact processing goes on!!!

Thea Fuerstenberg
Graduate Student

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We made it!

Somebody at the end of the day said: “We made it until the ninth day…!” Yes, we made until the last day … though physically we leave the site tomorrow, today was really the last day of work. The last day is normally reserved for finishing things … “sketch map and draw the cross-section of this wall, while I’m going to do the stratigraphy … so, the light clay is underneath the dark clay with inclusions … and next to the dark clay with no inclusions….” Other people would be cutting small sections to find out more about a certain feature … “Oh, no … this pipe seems to go further … we don’t have time for this! Hurry, hurry …” tic, tock … the day is almost gone ….

Our sore muscles and bodies need a rest after so much hard work … mixed feelings of sadness for leaving site, and happiness for a well done job, and because we can go back to our houses, and back to our normal lives … so much we have learned!!! So much we will learn … once we put all the pieces together!!!

Despite my body aching, the partial sunburn and missing my home and friends … I look back and I feel fortunate … I have participated in bringing back to life the lives of many Chinese and Japanese … their stories won’t fall into oblivion.

Rut Ballesteros
Graduate Student