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.

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