Monday, November 28, 2011

At work I am analyzing the ceramics from my last excavation. We dug eight outhouse pits in 8-inch-thick levels, bagging the artifacts from each level separately. The artifacts were then washed, dried, labeled, and rebagged, boxed by material type and feature.

I start by laying all of the ceramics for each level on their bag. I fit all the conjoining pieces together and masking tape them. I label the masking tape with the bag number, and then check for matches between the levels. As noted in an earlier post, items can be found up to two feet apart because things sink in the soupy outhouse fill.

Feature 170 reconstructible vessels (click picture for closer view).

I am able to reconstruct many vessels, and this helps me understand the socio-economic status of the household (the more highly decorated, the more expensive) and the date when the outhouse was filled, using the maker's marks on the back and various collector's guides.

Green transferprinted chamber pot and blue transferprinted wash basin.

This particular outhouse contains about half inexpensive whiteware dishes, including a few thick "restaurant" type dishes. The rest are decorated in a variety of patterns.

Unusual Chinese teapot.

There are six dishes from a matching blue transferprint pattern of flowers and foliage, and another three dishes from a separate pattern, with red flowers overpainted in blue, yellow, and green.

Matching pattern.

I enter the data into a computer database and I am making a table listing all of the reconstructible vessels and maker's marks. I then remove the masking tape and put the pieces back in the bags. A few of the more interesting pieces will be photographed for the report.

An unidentified family, photographed at J. P. Rhodes studio in Phoenix.

The father is really handsome (click on photo for a closer view).

On the 1900 census, James P. Rhodes was the 17-year-old son of Albert Rhodes. James was born in May 1883 in New York, and worked as a laborer. He probably took over his father's business, and this suggests the photo was taken after 1900.

I'm donating it to the Arizona Historical Society. When I go, I'll check the Photographers in Arizona, 1850-1920 book to see what else I can find out about the studio.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

We drove south to Bisbee. I made the wrong left turn and we did not stop at the San Pedro House on the way there, and I wished I hadn't had that Diet Coke because I felt as if I was going to explode. My mother helpfully told me that they make Depends for men now.

After eating picnic lunch in the car instead of at the delightful San Pedro House, we wandered up the Main Street in Bisbee, stopping at various antique stores.

I told Evan to pray that my mother didn't break anything.

I purchased a photograph taken in Phoenix about 100 years ago. A handsome man, his wife, and two children. I am going to give it to the historical society.

I should have bought these.

I abstained from other purchases because I had to pay annoying bills and that means no play money for a couple of weeks. I whined to Evan about how expensive gluten-free products are. He comforted me.

Mummy and Evan at Bisbee.

When we got home I discovered a strangely super high water bill and then the washing machine is acting broken on the "Easy" cycle. Again, Evan comforted me. He is a very good boyfriend.

Friday, November 25, 2011

We celebrated Thanksgiving today, on Friday, instead of yesterday. But first we went on a walk at Sweetwater Wetlands.

Evan, Mummy, and I.

There were lots of mallards and Northern shovelers, as well as widgeons and buffleheads.


Mummy is already walking better after being here for a couple of weeks.

Evan and Mummy.

As we were leaving we saw an enormous hawk land on the top of a power pole. It was HUGE.

Big hawk. Or as Mel pointed out, it is actually a Golden Eagle.

At home it was time to cook. For Thanksgiving lunch I made:

- mashed parsnips-potatoes
- gluten free cornbread stuffing (with onion, apple, fresh sage and rosemary)
- cranberry-mango-walnut relish
- spicy green beans (Evan and I canned these)
- gluten-free Bisquick biscuits

Mummy and Evan at the table.

I put on the Thanksgiving tablecloth and the 1909 wedding china.

It was very pretty.

Everything was really good, and I did not over-eat and I am not feeling gross afterward.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So Maggie Gallagher, one of the con artists behind the National Organization for Marriage, made a video in which she shakes her jowls while blathering on about how you tell your friends and family members that homo marriage is evil, rudely making Thanksgiving dinner a hellish event. You can watch it on YouTube, especially useful as an appetite suppressant before the big holiday meal.

Personally, I didn't bother to watch because I can't stand her voice. I did run through it with the sound off, mainly because I was transfixed by her hairdont.

What. The. Fuck. Happened.

Did her hair stylist kill themselves halfway through the hair cut? The asymetrical look is just ugly with a capital U.G.L.Y. I guess that sorta matches her soul.

Here's another screen shot from a video in which she whines that Herman Cain isn't a good man because he doesn't hate gay people enough.

Not a MILF.

Maybe she cut off her ear and is covering it up? Maybe a horn is pushing out the left side of her skull? Or maybe she doesn't dare go to a gay stylist because you never know what they would do with a pair of scissors. If I cared enough about this former slut I might send her an email telling her to drag her diabetic butt to a different stylist, but then, their is only so much you do with what her god gave her.

Anyhows, I won't be lecturing my friends and families about gay marriage at Thanksgiving. Mainly because I will be too busy eating mashed taters.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Back in late September we found a mysterious feature out at the dig site. An almost complete circle of bricks with a brickedopening. There was evidence for intense heat. I thought it might have been a small bread oven. Dan thought it had been used to melt lead to make bullets.

Mystery feature.

Last week I laid out all of the ceramics from one of the two oldest outhouse pits, one that was depicted on the 1883 fire insurance map. I put the pieces out by level, use masking tape to put together the broken pieces from the level, label these pieces, and then make mends across the levels. Because outhouse waste is pretty liquified, it is common to find matching pieces up to two feet apart.

As I was mending the pieces of a small, hand-painted dish, I noticed that it had a date, 1883, on its back. I realized that it also had the initials NG (or GN) on it. And then I realized that the next small dish had the same thing, as did several others, some with the year 1884.

Signed piece.

Eureka, this explained the presence of a piece of kiln furniture in another outhouse. The little brick feature was being used to fire these hand-painted dishes.

Back in the Victorian era, especially between 1875 and 1900, there was a china painting craze in the United States and Europe. Women could purchase blank pieces of ceramics and paint flowers, scenes, people, basically whatever they wanted.

Illustration from China Painting book, 1880s.

Middle and upper class women had more leisure time in the late 19th century. Servants did a lot of the hard work and labor saving devices, such as cook stoves, freed up time for women to do other things. China painting was touted as an educational, artistic, time-consuming, and potentially money making pursuit.

The dishes.

NG (or GN) painted at least six dishes in 1883 and 1884, and somehow they broke and ended up in the outhouse. Whoever she was (china painting was a mostly female hobby), was a pretty good painter, able to handle a number of different subjects.

White flowers on red background.

It is rare to find artifacts that you can conclusively say were made by the same person. Occasionally, workshops of artisans are excavated (usually out east at Colonial sites). This may be the first example in Arizona.

Reeds and flying birds.

I like finding artifacts that tell a story, and these dishes do just that.

Blue flowers on white background.

Sometimes I think I am the luckiest person in the world, digging up interesting things, learning about them, and then sharing the information with the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Flagstaff, Evan took me twice to go see elk.

Evan as a 1970s cop.

We looked everywhere.

I even looked inside a tree.

And of course, we didn't find any.

I did see some elk poop.

We came across a few prehistoric sites in the middle of nowheres.

We carefully put the sherds back after looking at them.

It was a very lovely weekend, even though I didn't see a single elk.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My father's stepfather, who died in 1971, made this bolo tie, using a Petoskey stone that he shaped and polished.

All dressed up an off to work I go.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Every artifact, prehistoric or historic, has the potential to tell a story. One of my duties as an archaeologist is to identify and interpret the artifacts discarded or lost on the sites that I work at.

During my last dig, Allen and I were finishing digging out the dirt at the base of an outhouse pit. Down at the very bottom, hidden in the poopy green dirt, was a weird hard rubber item. It was roughly a rectangle with rounded corners, and in cross-section it was S-shaped. We puzzled over what it was, guessing that maybe it had something to do with undertaker who lived at the house.

Top view

Side view

Fast forward to yesterday, when my boss sent me an article about a historic cemetery in Virginia to look at (I am busy collecting information on one of Tucson's abandoned cemeteries). One of the photographs in the article was of a hard rubber artifact found in the burial of a 54-year-old woman. It was identical to the artifact we found, it turns out the item was a pessary.

A pessary is a medical device used by doctors on women who suffer from a prolapsed uterus. Basically, their uterus end up outside their body (I wouldn't advice doing a Google image search on this). This problem was somewhat common in the 19th century due to the large number of children a woman might have, as well as the wearing of corsets, which exerted pressure on the internal organs. The pessary was inserted into a woman’s vagina and manipulated until it was in the correct position, “the object of the pessary is to sustain the uterus in its normal position without fixing [the pessary in a permanent position]…” If used correctly, it prevented the uterus from descending outside of the body.

Smith-Hodge pessary, from a 1903 textbook (see page 198).

The introduction of a foreign item into the human body could cause health problems due to lack of cleanliness and the 1903 gynecological textbook states that the woman using the device should regularly douche. This may explain why we found so many douche kits at the site- there were perhaps 20 or 30 of them. Another item we found, which we thought was a baby pacifier, may very well be an anal pessary.

Isn't archaeology exciting? I learned a new word and briefly explored 19th century gynecology, all in the name of science.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mummy arrived safely from Michigan, and then it rained all day today. She is in the living room knitting. We did the usual, went to the library and the grocery store. I made Spanish Rice for lunch. It will take me a while to figure out the routine again.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Really, my least favorite holiday. Very meat-focused and now that Mummy has celiac disease, no wheat- so no pies, cakes, stuffing. Sigh.

I like turkeys, live ones. Some day I will live someplace in the country with Evan and we will have a pet turkey or two wandering around. Also a couple of goats. Some day. I think we will live in New England or upstate New York, just close enough to civilization, but far enough away.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

So pleased to see that the voters in my hometown, Traverse City, Michigan, voted 2,818 to 1,661 to retain the ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Traverse City commissioners passed the ordinance last year, and a pair of Christian freaks, one of whom (Matthew Schoech) I went to school with, raised enough signatures to put the ordinance up for a vote. And sixty percent of the people who voted basically told this fundamentalist to fuck off.

And in Arizona, racist state Senator Russell Pearce was recalled. I guess the voters in Mesa were tired of his shenanigans.

And in other news, the State Superintendent of Public Education apologized for basically comparing gays to Nazis. I called his office the day after that happened and spent a long time explaining to his staff person why that was inappropriate. I guess enough people called that he was forced to apologize and perhaps do something to combat bullying of LGBT kids.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

All Souls Procession, 2011.

We were deceased Victorian gentlemen. Our guests enjoyed samosas, cheesecake, and gingerbread cookies.

Deceased gentlemen and Puff.

Joey came and climbed onto laps. She and Puff liked the attention.

Joey and Reuben.

Brian came down from Phoenix, but all of the pictures I took had extra eyes and otehr nonsence. Jon brought along his buddy Clint.

Clint and Jon.

At the Procession, we ran into Rich.

Moi and Richard.

Most of my pictures were blurry.


Most attendees had better makeup skills than either Evan or myself.

Better makeup.

I was most impressed by this mask made from a large mammal pelvis. Vert uncomfortable, I imagine.

Pelvis face.

It is 9:50 PM and my feet hurt and I have had a few gin and tonics. Time for bed.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A day of busy business.

We purchased decorations and top hats. We made two batches of gingerbread for Day of the Dead-themed cookies.

Evan rolls dough.

We went to the Presidio Park.

Evan touches a cock.

We then went out to the Sonoran Desert.

Evan imitates a saguaro.

We made an altar for the All Souls Procession cocktail party.

The photo of the left is from Nelson Chatterton's 1890s funeral.

After a supper of mac & cheese and tahini veggies, we decorated cookies.


More cookies.

R.I.P. Sam and Donny.

The Time Machine worked.

Victorian Tucsonans.

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