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.

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