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

Day 9

The morning started off with that enthusiasm that accompanies Day 9 (or day 5 for me); the light glistening at the end of the tunnel, yet sore bodies and tired souls knowing they need to finish working on the variety of features that are open across the project area. If you’ve been following the blog or live in the area, you know it has been hot. Today we felt a bit of relief, with the temperature only in the upper 80’s!

As some folks went off to work on a smear of bricks that were located in the spot that a pig-roasting oven was shown on the Sanborn maps, others went to work on redwood drains and postmold features. I joined folks on the other side of Taylor Street from Heinlenville proper, in the backyard of a residence that was built at some point in the late 19th to early 20th century. This feature was chock full of goodies!

We found more homeopathic medicine bottles, an Indian penny from 1896, lots of ceramic fragments (including several large—and I mean large storage vessels), and various personal items (like toothbrush fragments, clothing fasteners, and a shoe) to name a few. Most notably, however, was the amount of clamshells; they were everywhere! And of course Connie Young Yu was telling us how her family always loved having clams and black bean sauce. It is always such a joy, to have people with a personal attachment to the stuff you are digging up on the site; and even better when they are historians themselves! The worked continued on in that feature while I stepped away from the trench and began to get set up for tomorrow’s total station mapping of all of the work that has been done this year. More fun to be had…

Bryan Much

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh man was it hot today!

It is only my second day on the site, but I am already worn out from the heat. Besides the weather, though, today was a great day at Heinlenville. This morning I was screening for a feature where we found a whole cup. It was white with blue characters, and it had a makers mark on the bottom that says it was made in Japan. Though we at first thought it was a tea cup, Julia identified it as a noodle bowl.

Screening through the soil was extremely difficult. It was thick, dark clay that would not easily sift through the mesh screens. I recovered everything from animal bones, glass bottle fragments, rusted nails, and ceramic sherds, but only after fighting a losing battle with the lumpy, unforgiving soil.

Yesterday we opened up an area across the road. Today, I got a chance to explore the refuse dump found there. There are some great pot fragments that look to have been from large storage containers. The deposit also looks to have a great deal of bone, metal, and ceramics. At the very end of the day, Sandra identified odd soil changes happening in one of the corners. I am excited to work on that area more tomorrow and possibly learn the sequencing of the deposits. It might sound silly, but it is kind of like trying to determine, which came first, the chicken or the egg. We need to see if we can determine which color deposit came first and which deposit is on top of the other.

By far, the highlight of the day was a visit from the project’s biggest fan, a boy named Zach. Zach and his mom have come by everyday after school to check out our progress and see what we have found! He is excited to learn about archaeology and to see what we have uncovered. It reminds me why I became an archaeologist in the first place and gives me motivation to withstand the heat, push through the clay, and to recover the treasures hidden below the parking lot. Zach’s visits are also awesome because he brings us snacks! He clearly knows that the way to an archaeologist’s heart is through his/her stomach. Thank you Zach!

Emily Darko
Graduate Student

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Romance of Archaeology (or Lack Thereof)

Greetings from Day 7 of the Heinlenville excavation. I’m here to dispel the myth of the glamorous and exciting career of archaeology. There are no bullwhips or subterranean caverns full of snakes and the Ark of the Covenant. Actually, it’s grueling, painful and after seven days straight, you are downright delirious. Seven days of this also causes an inability to string a grammatically correct sentence together, so for that, I apologize.

Our days are spent in the hot, hot sun. The temperature today is somewhere around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. There has been this cruel ice cream truck playing “Do Your Ears Hang Low” every day, right about the time when our bellies are empty, our brains are tired and sweat is dripping from our brows.

We did have some excitement today. A reporter for a local newspaper came and visited our site. Luckily he missed the time when I was in my newest yoga pose – Upper-Facing Archaeologist – which was caught on film for posterity. After impressing my colleagues with my fierce unit flexibility, I stood up and heard quite a few bones crack and pop. The numbness in my fingers has yet to come back and my hands are full of open wounds and blisters.

As you can imagine, archaeology isn’t for the faint of heart. It is hard work, but at the same time, highly rewarding. Our job is to figure out the histories of those individuals who were not fully recognized or accurately portrayed in the written documents of their time. It would be a tragedy if their histories were lost or misinterpreted.

Mr. Heinlen was a pioneer of his time. While his contribution may not have greatly changed the effects of the entire anti-Chinese sentiment in the western United States, he was a positive force in the lives of those individuals who were lucky enough to reside in his community. His humility and courage to do what was right for individuals who were treated unfairly is what drives us to plow through these grueling, hot days. We are here to help continue his work and let Heinlen’s vision be revisited by current and future generations.

Wow, that makes us sound as if we’re superhuman. We’re all very humble people, but at the end of the day, when we get back to our hotel rooms, peel off our dirty clothes and pop open a delicious cold beer, we can sit back and know all of our hard work contributed something significant to the local community.

Karen Reichardt
Graduate Student

Thea here, good day to you all.

I want to tell everyone about the tours I gave yesterday during public day.

Naomi, AnnMarie and I were the tour guides and took tour groups around the site. We started them talking to Connie at the temple, because she had some really good pictures and she set the stage for why Chinatown moved to this place. It wasn’t as though they ‘fancied a move’, as Adrian said. It was because they were burned out of their original settlement by racist anti-Chinese riots.

One of the people asked why this German guy Heinlen would go to such lengths to help and protect the Chinese. She said it may be because he was from Ohio and people there were very anti-German. German churches were burned, and Germans experienced prejudice just like the Chinese had. It may have invoked empathy in Heinlen. At risk to himself and his family he leased land to the Chinese and even built a fence to help protect them.

One person on my second or third tour was a man who knew families of people who used to live in the Japantown area. As I was pointing out the historic building that is now a Cuban restaurant, he informed me that it used to be a gambling hall. He said that if you look through the alley, there is still this huge fence behind the back door. Apparently they built that fence so the high rollers couldn’t easily escape without paying their bill, and the fence survives today as a remnant.

At the end of the tour as I focused the group’s attention on the three surviving buildings, I tried to stress the importance of being aware that parts of this historic settlement still exist. It isn’t well known, and most of the community doesn’t pay attention. But the past still echoes through; in the original bricks that poke out of the modern stucco; in the shards of broken ceramics that lie inches under the feet of community.

Exposing the public to the richness of San Jose’s past not only facilitates a vast appreciation among the members of the community that joined us on our tours, but will hopefully trickle through more and more people as the friends that joined us talk about their adventures. This is how parts of the past, many of which have been glossed over by the history books, live on to increase the richness and substance of one of California’s most wonderful cities.

Thea Fuerstenberg
Graduate Student

Reflections on Public Day

Hello, My Dear Friends, we are your bloggers for the evening. We had a busy day in the hot sun and now we are lounging poolside together discussing the festivities of yet another successful public day. Let us share some our thoughts with you...

Carrie: I was one of the hard working people in the trenches. It might come as a surprise, but archaeology is pretty grueling work! It was warm out today and my fingers are still regaining sensation back from troweling for four hours straight. Having said that, seeing the public’s enthusiasm witnessing us in action made all the sunburned necks and farmer’s tans worth while.

Mike: This year more of the open area exposures were in process of being cleared rather than tested. The crew will have to finish about four features a day for the rest of the project.

Anna: As always it was entertaining hearing Adrian give his spiel about ceramics during the tour. He even received a round of applause at the end.

Bryan Much: It is always a humbling experience working on a site while the visitors ask questions about where their ancestors once lived…the intrinsic experience that defines why we are archaeologists.

Sandra: Working the front entrance gate was surprisingly fun, since it gave me the opportunity to find out why our visitors came to the site - about their interests in archaeology, their communities, and the history of their city.

Kate: As the photographer, I had the unique perspective of taking many tours with different groups. I feel that I got to see what the visitors saw – the big picture. I was so proud of my fellow archaeologists who were working so hard in the heat to make sure everyone had a good time and the site was well interpreted.

AnnaMarie: As one of the tour guides, it was amazing to see not only how interested but how invested the public was in what we were doing. Sometimes as archaeologists, we get lost in the science and often forget that without the actual people, archaeology itself would not exist. Archaeology is after all, first and foremost, about people, a fact that sometimes even archaeologists themselves forget.

Elaine-Maryse: As the oral historian I had the opportunity to interview Ed and Moffet, two old-timers that I had interviewed last year. They told great stories from their childhood and reminiscent about their life experiences in the same area that we are now excavating. It brought the cold asphalt alive.

Bryan Mischke: Hello from trench 11; we had a great day figuring out our feature but I’ll let you see all that at a later date…

And with that, we wish you a hearty goodnight – ‘cause we’re beat!

A. Guerrero, C. Reichardt, and K. Erickson;
(Grad students and grad student/photographer)
S. Massey, M. Meyer, B. Much, and B. Mischke;
(staff archaeologists)
E-M Solari (oral historian )
and A. Much (volunteer/wife.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Exporing Feature 151

What looked yesterday like a small, gravelly depression in a trench otherwise made of compacted clay, today took on a whole new dimension…

My name is Kristin Converse – I’m a graduate student at Sonoma State and a part-time employee of the Anthropological Studies Center. For the past two days I and Brian Mischke have been excavating feature number 151, which although it started out as an unassuming little dimple, has turned up some interesting artifacts and an ever-evolving story.

After a backhoe removed the modern asphalt and fill, and after the historic-era surface was scraped, mapped, and photographed, Brian and I began hand troweling the fill from the feature. Artifacts soon appeared and the outline of a pit began to take shape. We removed, among other things, half of a child-sized jade bracelet; the jawbone of a medium-sized mammal; a handful of buttons; fish bones; bird bones; a half dozen small glass ‘go’-type game pieces, a rectangular piece of translucent tortoise shell, the rim of a soy sauce bottle, and an intact, but cracked bowl in the ‘bamboo’ or ‘three circles with dragonfly’ pattern.

By noticing, differentiating, and following the changes in soil texture, we explored the northern extent of feature 151, leaving the southern half intact in order to reveal a good cross-section of the soil filling our feature. Several noticeable differences in the fill we were excavating had us scratching our heads, until we found the remains of vertically-placed lumber at right angles. Suddenly it appeared that we might have the remains of a wood-lined privy or outhouse on our hands (pun intended)! The later discovery of red clay sewer pipe extending into the pit, led us to believe that the privy had been plumbed subsequent to its original operation. And, late in the day, when our neighboring excavators discovered additional trenching aiming directly towards us, it appeared we might, in fact, be digging up the remains of a two-seater. Nevertheless, as the saying goes:

A crappy day in the field beats a great day in the office!!

Kristin Converse
Graduate Student

Friday, April 17, 2009

Working with the backhoe

Hi there. I’m the guy who gets to play with a backhoe everyday. Name is Mike Stoyka. I wear many hats. In a lab environment I’m usually looking intently at various bones. Instead I’m out here watching a back hoe dig, and clean up after it with a hoe and shovel. Sounds like hard work you say? ... Yes actually it is, but it is very important work.

First of all there is safety. It is good to have people on staff, who are experienced with this sort of thing. They need to be able to observe the mechanical excavation closely enough to notice changes in soil type, artifact concentrations, or features such as wells, privies or foundations. This responsibility, while desirable (protect the cultural resource, and minimize impact by the machine) must happen without getting your head taken off by the backhoe bucket; or, getting run over by the machine. Or, getting hit by a 2,000 lb. piece of concrete … well, you get the picture. Safety is no accident!

Today we cleared a large area. The rectangle was covered with multiple layers of concrete and asphalt which had already been cut with a saw. The paving materials had to be pulled up and separated into material type for later disposal and ultimately recycling. Below this was a layer 6 to 12 inches thick of imported fill that was bedding for the paving. Immediately below this medium orange/brown fill soil we found the historic-period soils we are interested in, which consist of very compact clay rich soil imbedded with primarily artifacts of Asian origin and rounded gravels. This was a case where sometimes you have to make a decision to make a sacrifice in order to find the features you are interested in. The Historic-period mixed “smear” is not necessarily feature or lot specific. We prefer to find discreet features and deposits so we can be more specific about our studies and conclusions. We went through the upper portion of this soil and fortuitously collected any interesting artifacts that came up.

OK, enough about how. We ended up finding a series of post holes on the 8th street side of the lot. This area would have been the farthest part of the back yard for the residents. We are hoping to figure out whether these posts are from a lot/fence line, or are the footings for a raised structure of some sort. We simply don’t know. I have to work very hard, and diligently direct the back hoe to find interesting features to keep the rest of the crew busy.

Another find was something we were hoping for, and found other examples of last year. The much anticipated redwood sewer lines. Curiously enough we found a little chronology of the sequence for sewage conveyance on the block. We found a ferrous (iron-based) line which is the most recent, a glazed terra cotta (clay) line somewhere in the middle, and the earliest lines which were rectangular and boxed. We were hoping for this because of special studies. This is a sealed richly organic deposit which is literally a direct link to the people who lived and spent time here. We can use flotation to find micro-constituents such as seeds, and we can send samples off to be tested for any parasites the residents may have had in their digestive system. A parasite that can only be found in Asia would be very critical information.

So, I get to make the discoveries, and hopefully save what’s left of the resources. Then I pass them along to my friends and colleagues who will (hopefully) figure them out. We’ll find out more later, and relay the details. For me it’s off to another exposure and more of the same. Who can dig faster, a back hoe or me? I’m not going to say, but I bet I’m a little sorer at the end of the day. Getting to dig the features makes it all worth it though.

Mike Stoyka

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 1 – Archaeologists and students arrive on site

As we arrived at the site Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling both nervous and excited as I did not know what to expect, in terms of excavation and what types of artifacts and features we would be finding. As soon as the entire crew arrived on site, Mike Meyer and Erica Gibson oriented us to the project and to what the goals of the excavation were.

Archaeologists Mike Meyer, Mike Stoyka, and Adrian Praetzellis monitoring the ground surface being exposed by the backhoe.Meyer pointed out that the numbers that were spray painted in red on the cement were actually addresses from the houses and buildings that once made up Heinlenville. It is slightly daunting to know that just beneath the asphalt upon which you are standing, someone’s house or businesses once stood. After the initial orientation, he pointed to the trench that was just beginning to be cleared out by the backhoe and gave us the go ahead to start grabbing shovels, hoes, hard hats and safety vests.

Trench in the neighborhood of old Japantown; view towards Jackson Street.The backhoe was able to clear out the big chunks of fill and it was our job to sort of clean up after the backhoe and to get the rest of the gravel and loose dirt out of the trench and scrape down to the clay to expose any features. This particular trench was actually exposing buildings that were actually the beginnings of Japantown. It’s a little scary to work right across from the backhoe and you learn pretty quickly how to make eye contact with its operator so you don’t get knocked unconscious by getting hit with the bucket. Luckily Mike Stoyka was there to keep an eye on us and to sort of help to run interference between us and the heavy machinery.

Archaeologists cleaning (scraping) the bottom of a shallow trench with shovels.Adrian also had to give myself and a couple of the other newer members of the crew lessons in shoveling. There’s definitely an “art form” to shoveling, and a method that is supposed to help to keep us from getting too tired out so they can get more work out of us.

As we moved down through the trench it was exciting to see some artifacts being uncovered beneath a mass of dirt and gravel. Shoveling and scraping the clay was probably fun for about the first hour, but, by the end of the first day, all of us were pretty tired, and we hadn’t even finished the entire first trench yet.

Annamarie Guerrero
Graduate Student

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Return to Heinlenville

In just over a month, ASC archaeologists will be returning to San José to investigate selected areas of Heinlenville and early Japantown. Fieldwork is scheduled for 14 to 23 April 2009. This work follows up on ASC’s March 2008 test excavations at the site. The blog entries from last year’s work followed our progress and gave the perspective of archaeologists, students, volunteers, and a local historian.

Once work resumes we will update the community on our current activities. Planned excavations include further examination of the Ng Shing Gung Temple site, the Chinese Theater site, and portions of Japantown.

Our blog resumes from the field on the 14th April 2009.

Come visit us in person at our Open House on Saturday 18th April 2009 from 1 to 4:00 p.m. (Follow the link to find out more)