Friday, September 30, 2011

Dig Day 15. Finding numerous late 19th and early 20th century medical devices and bottles today.

Ken came out and volunteered several days this week. Today he was excited to find three or four medicine bottles in an outhouse pit.


Several were from a local Tucson pharmacist.

Prescription medicine bottle.

Also found, a glass syringe. OUCH!


It was appropriate, for reasons I can't discuss in detail, that we found several enema or douche bags today. It is strange to have someone saying out loud that "archaeology is a waste of money." Well, geez, I guess I have wasted the last 25 years.

Enema Bag.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dig site aerial photo. This morning Henry flew over the site in a helicopter, taking pictures. If you click on the picture you will see things in better detail.

Thursday at 6:45 AM.

South is at the top. On the right side you can see the concrete block foundations of the former Greyhound Bus Terminal. The black holes are the eight outhouses and the one well. The various white lines are foundations, utility lines, planting pits, and postholes.

Dig Day 14. Dan stripped the last portion of the site and found a few pits but nothing really remarkable. As he was doing that I had the crew explore various pits. I pointed one out to Adam and told him I wondered if it was a pet burial. A few minutes later he found the skull of a medium-sized dog.

Dog Burial.

It was so well preserved that you could see the stain from the fabric they had wrapped the dog in.

Close up.

Dan cut out around the well but it was a bust. The upper portion was filled with rocks and broken bricks. Below that was sand with a small number of 1930s bottles. That leaves four outhouse pits to complete and the dig will be completed.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dig Day 13. Today we finished our big maps, showing the location of everything found so far. Dan stripped out the asphalt and concrete floor of the last section of the old bus terminal that we are exploring. Tomorrow he will strip the area to see what features are hidden in the dirt below.

One of the primary research tools I use are old fire insurance maps. These were created so that insurance adjusters in far off places like New York City could determine whether they wanted to insure a property in Tucson. The original maps are color coded by building material (adobe is pink) and contain notations about what sort of use the building has, the location of chimneys, and the placement of fire hydrants.

The 1883 map shows the two duplex houses, two wells, and three outhouses (unfortunately, the copy I had available today is blurry). The 1886 map is similar, but they stopped showing locations of the outhouses and wells.

1886 fire insurance map.

Between 1904 and 1909, another pair of houses, a set of commercial buildings (restaurant, saloon, and a grocery store), and a planing mill were built on the block. We have found the saw pit for the planing mill, which made crown molding, doors, and windows (the pit contained huge amounts of broken window glass). The mill was in operation from 1908 to 1914.

1909 fire insurance map, the planing mill is along the top right side of the block.

The commercial buildings were rebuilt and expanded, with a basement dug beneath them, destroying some of the archaeology of the site.

1949 fire insurance map.

Almost everything was torn down in November 1957, when most of the block was converted into a parking lot.

Chris, George, and Ken excavated in an outhouse pit, probably associated with the restaurant on the 1909 map. It is down to the five foot level and I stuck the probe in and it is about two feet deeper. We will have to strip the surrounding area down to get the bottom fill.

Restaurant outhouse pit.

The pit contains a very thick layer of white ash, apparently the restaurant had wood cook stoves. There were relatively few artifacts, mostly thick, durable whiteware restaurant dishes, broken goblets and water glasses, and only one whole bottle- a lovely green olive or pickle bottle that George found.

Chris sorting artifacts.

I demonstrated my superior shovel skills on the last level, I am pleased that at 48 I can still basically drop a shovel full of dirt into the screen with ease from the bottom of a deep pit. As I was clearing out the level (we are digging the outhouse pits in eight-inch-deep [20-cm] arbitrary levels), I found a pressed or engraved glass flower vase.

Flower vase.

Tomorrow we are having aerial photographs taken from a helicopter and then Dan starts cutting down around the four outhouse and one well pits that we are excavating further.

And in other news, I learned a lesson about misplacing important pieces of paper. I about had a panic attack until I arrived home and found them on my desk. Note to self- don't do this again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dig Days 11 and 12. We have been spending a lot of time drawing over-sized maps of the pits, foundations, utility lines, and outhouses. Excavation is continuing as well, and interesting artifacts are being find (a pocketwatch, another chamber pot lid, a fireplace poker, padlocks), but I've been too busy to photograph them.

Today Adam was digging a small planting pit and found a bird burial. It is not a chicken or a dove. We are wondering if it is a parrot or a cockatiel, a prized pet that was given a formal burial in the backyard of a house.

Bird burial.

Jeff and Olivia found a second cat burial today as well. We never have time to dig every single pit and it makes me wonder how many of the many pits scattered around in the backyard areas are pet burials.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dig Day 10. Nothing really exciting today. Dan finished stripping and we found a couple of outhouses, including one on the 1883 insurance map. Next week, a lot of paperwork and mapping before we cut out around the outhouses and dig down further.

In the afternoon, Allen took overview pictures from the bucket of the backhoe.

Western side of the site.

If you click on the pictures you can see the painted outlines of the pits, foundations, utility lines, and outhouses.

Eastern side of the site.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dig Day 9. It was a day of many things.

Dan stripped the next area, locating numerous pits including an enormous outhouse. So much work to do.

Block 91.

Jim uncovered a dog burial, the poor pooch lying stretched out on its left side.


Chris, Barry, Laura, and Mario worked on another huge outhouse, excavating it to the five foot level. There were many interesting finds.

Toothpaste used to be sold in ceramic containers in a dry paste. We have not found any toothbrushes yet. Prior to 1920, only 20 percent of the population of the United States brushed their teeth.

Oriental Tooth Paste.

Pieces of a blue transferprint wash basin were plucked from the poop. The designs were surprising modern.

An advertising serving dish was broken but complete.

Frank Torrence, Ohio, Largest Exclusive Cigar Brokerage Office in America.

Also found, the largest porcelain doll head I have seen on a dig.

The doll head was marked 1900-3 on its back.

I climbed down in twice to help out and one of the items I found was a footed pressed glass serving bowl.

Who knows what we will find tomorrow?

Chris kept wishing to find things, and then they would show up. I would like a piggy bank full of coins!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dig Day 8. I feel really worn out- it doesn't help that I can't stop waking up at 4:00 AM. Anyways, we continued digging in three different outhouse pits. Allen's reached the five ft level, with many bottles, some dolls, and a number of broken dishes with nice decal printed flowers on them. He stuck a probe down into it- at least three more feet to go. We will have to strip out the area around it before we can go further. Chris's outhouse pit is almost down to the poop layer, I am expecting lots of good artifacts tomorrow.

Tyler's outhouse was completed today and the last level yielded some cow bones, a 1902 coin, and then lying together in a pile, a complete set of silverware. Knives (the iron blade rusted away, forks, tablespoons, teaspoons, and small dessert spoons.


The silverware is actually brass. I wonder what the story for its disposal into an outhouse was. Perhaps an angry housewife who wanted new silverware?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dig Day 7. Sometimes you find too many artifacts. That was today. The outhouse that Allen and Laura were digging was jam-packed full of nails, tin cans, bottles, and large iron objects.

Some of the artifacts- bottles, a wine glass, iron pipe, rubber hose, and so on.

Along the south wall of the outhouse was a piece of decorative ironwork, lying at an angle. It was over four feet long when I finally found the end.

Iron work.

Between screening, a little digging, and filling out bags I wore myself out. Now I am at home, four hours later, and I am still sweating.

Paper label, circa 1900.

Among the other things we found were bottles with fragmentary paper labels, a piece of jewelry shaped like a deer's head, a coin (possibly Canadian or English?), buttons, cloth, window glass, a smashed doll's head, dishes, and a large wheel.

At home I am getting ready to make nectarine chutney, although I think it will probably get canned tomorrow, since I am too pooped from working on the outhouse.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dig Day 6. About 100 years ago, someone buried their pet cat in their backyard. Today Barry found in while excavating in a shallow trash-filled pit.

Cat burial.

The cat lay on its back on its right side, somewhat stretched out.

Cat skull.

When I saw the distal humerus I recognized that it was a domestic cat, there is a distinctive bone buttress in that area. One of my specialties is identifying animal and human bones.

Nearby, Allen started work on an outhouse pit. The upper portion of the pit contained barrel bands, a Chinese bowl, and then pieces of an unusual Native American or Mexican ceramic vessel started appearing.

Unusual pottery sherd (click on image to see close up).

It has brown lines and red designs on a white body. Fingerprint impressions are present along the rim. I'll have our ceramic expert at work look at it and perhaps he can tell me what it is.

Over on JoeMyGod he is wondering whether to ban anonymous commenting. I said anonymous comments were dreadful (go to any newspaper website and read the terrible comments) and someone ripped into me, thinking that Homer was a pseudonym. Lordy, I was very careful not to be snarky.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Out at Sweetwater Wetlands, we saw some birds and amphibians.

This frog was ENORMOUS.

The birders generally have enormous cameras and binoculars. Still, Evan and I got to see a cormorant- the first time I have seen one there, and the birder who identified it on my camera was surprised.


The lone egret flew overhead and landed in the west pond. I wonder if it is eating the frogs we could see.


I'm taking Evan back up to Phoenix so he can catch the shuttle to Flagstaff (his truck is broken). We are going to have baba ghanoush and watermelon rind pickle sandwiches on the way.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dig Day 5. I ate 3.5 birthday donuts. They were delicious. Allen made me a present.


Evan got to dig a level in the outhouse. Among the things he found was a very rusted iron piggy bank of a man sitting down.

He also found four bottles.

Before people had electricity, they lit their homes with kerosene lamps. These two lamp chimneys were tossed into the outhouse pit, they were unusually thick.

Lamp chimneys.

Dan continued stripping today and found a store foundation, a pit for the planing mill equipment, a very obvious fence line, sheet trash containing pretty brown transferprint dish fragments, and three outhouse pits.

The soil filling this outhouse pit is very clear.

Looks like we will be out digging for at least two more weeks.

Best birthday present.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dig Day 4. Chris, Barry, and Laura started work on the other side of their outhouse pit. The upper fill didn't contain many artifacts, but as they started digging in the green poopy layer, the number of artifacts increased.

Chris found an intact whiteware plate made in England.

Pieces of a headless doll showed up, then a glass cup, several pharmacy bottles, and broken pieces of doll dishes.

Marie Antoinette?

We found many other pits, foundations, and utility trenches when Dan cleared another area to the north. Some are from a planing mill, which operated only from 1908-1914 and burned in 1910. Some of the features are clearly from the 1910 fire, 101 years ago.

A thunderstorm blew in and we had to leave an hour early. I stopped at the Farmer's Market.

- two watermelons for rind pickles
- a red pepper
- a huge eggplant
- a juicy tomato

I am making baba ghanoush as I type.

The Santa Cruz River was raging from the rain water and I stopped and took photos.

I am the shadow on the right.

Upstream from me I could see someone foolishly standing close to the edge of the river on a steep embankment. I went down to photograph the water level gauge, and discovered it was a United States Geological Survey scientist measuring how fast the water was rising and falling using some sort of giant measuring stick.

Over nine feet of water.

He was probably measuring it in the socialistic metric system and he will probably be calculating the amount of water and its speed, which all true Republicans know is a communistic, anti-Christian thing to do, since all science is suspect in America's post-glory period.

Some I will be driving up to Phoenix to pick up my handsome boyfriend, who is coming for the weekend and helping me do some archaeology.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dig Day 3. Barry and Chris started on the second outhouse pit. The upper portion was filled with sand and gravel with only a few artifacts- material dumped in back in the 1890s to fill the shaft after indoor plumbing was installed.

Below that the green poop layer showed up and artifacts increased. These included window glass, a hurricane lamp, a lamp chimney, buttons, nails, tin can fragments, a wine glass, engraved tumblers, and doll dishes. They also found five bottles.

Barry points to an olive green wine bottle.

Bottle hunters routinely dig old outhouse pits looking for treasure. They destroy the scientific value of the artifacts, since they remove the whole bottles and mix up all the artifacts. I really dislike bottle hunters. On a previous project, half of the outhouses and wells were dug by them, and it made it impossible to tell much about the lives of the people who lived there.

Perfume bottle with stopper.

Already I can tell that the family who dumped trash into this outhouse were wealthy. It is uncommon to find fancy engraved glass cups.

Liquor bottle, unknown bottle, and a Vegetable Pain Killer bottle.

Tomorrow we draw the profile, showing the soil layers, and then remove the dirt in the other half of the pit. I wonder how many bottles we will find in there?

The pit in the afternoon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dig Day 2. Allen continued digging down into the outhouse pit, mostly through a layer of ashes from someone's stove. We found fragments of plaster statues, one of which appeared to be a nude woman.

At the base of the last level (we have to stop digging at five feet, and then strip out the surrounding area to meet OSHA standards), he found the soil changing to a very poopy green color. A wine bottle lay between the two layers.

1890s Wine bottle.

An interesting find were a pair of bone lace bobbins, used to create lace by some late 19th century lady.

Lace bobbins.

After drawing maps and filling out paperwork, Allen moved to a new pit and promptly found a tiny Frozen Charlotte doll. My mother has a larger china doll with an apron in which many small dolls this size are tucked.

Frozen Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Dan is busy removing the old bus station floor so that we can locate features below it.

The thick, reinforced floor makes this difficult.

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