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