Tuesday, March 20, 2018

19th Century Glass Bottles for The "Vice" Exhibit

The next activity that I have been a part of at Strawbery Banke is helping with the organization and cleaning a collection of historic glass bottles. The Collections Department is currently in the process of setting up a brothel room interpretive display in this season’s new exhibit, “Vice.” The glass bottles are from the late 19th century time-period. Brothels historically had beauty products and medicinal products for the girls that worked at them. So, it makes sense that there would be quite a few different products within each  room. I have cataloged bottle types that range from hand lotion to multi-purpose cough medicine. It has been my job to put the information about the bottles we could use in the exhibit into a spreadsheet. The information I’ve recorded includes the bottle text/description, the location of text, color, size, height (cm), width (cm), date, if there is a stopper or label, bottle origin and the bottle’s original purpose. Finding this information has been very helpful in deciding if each bottle should be in the exhibit or not.

              I have really enjoyed doing this because the bottles are all different styles. There have been a few intricate perfume bottles that I have cleaned that will be going in the exhibit. The intricate bottles are my favorite because they are showing the artistic talent that existed with very little advanced technology. My second favorite bottles to work with were the ones that had a brand name or product name in the glass. I was able to search the company or product and find out what the bottle used to contain and what it was used for. I really enjoyed this part of the process because I was able to hold a bottle that used to be a daily product, just as today when ChapStick is a daily product. I am excited to find more interesting bottles through this process and to assist in creating a historically accurate exhibit with objects that could have been used at the time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

UNH Anthropology Internship Spring 2018

My name is Jaye. I am a senior Anthropology major at the University of New Hampshire. I am the first in a line of hopefully many anthropology majors participating in a formal internship program between Strawbery Banke and the Anthropology Department at UNH. This will mark my first blog post of many more to come throughout the course of the semester. 

I am participating in this internship because I believe in learning from history. The famous phrase that says, “those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it” is an important phrase for all cultures to learn from. When people, as a civilization, do not learn about who they are, how they got here, and what obstacles their predecessors faced, how are they to live properly? I firmly believe that you need to learn from your own past mistakes and the past mistakes of your ancestors and others’ ancestors in order for our civilization to continue. Establishing a survival without hurting themselves, others or the environment. To do this we need to study archaeological sites and other cultures. I was fortunate enough to be able to do this over this past summer through the IFR and the Balkan Heritage Foundation in the form of a field school.

During the field school, I participated in a three-week conservation program of Roman ceramics and glass in Macedonia at the Stobi archaeological site. Directly after that I also completed a two-week conservation program on the conservation of Greek ceramics in Sozopol, Bulgaria. Being able to learn in a hands-on environment in two different countries was the most amazing experience of my life. By analyzing the ceramics, we could tell what kinds of people used these vessels, when they were used and how they were used. We also learned how to tell where the clay was taken from in that area and by doing this we could theorize what was going on in the region at that time.

I am interested in taking everything that I enjoyed doing in my field school and bring it back home. In doing this I would be contributing to the overall understanding of what was going on at Strawbery Banke over time and possibly at other locations within the region. By helping in any way to continue the archaeological process in my home state as well as in other countries I am helping recover past people’s stories that haven’t been told for a few hundred years. This is why I became interested in archaeology in the first place. You are reviving an action that someone did in the past. Such as, making a piece of pottery and reliving the action by rubbing your fingers along the indentations left behind by the potter’s hands. Or walking along an ancient road once used by an entire village. Or standing in a house where a family once lived together. Reviving history keeps people’s personal and cultural significance alive. This is why I love archaeology and this is why I wanted to participate in this internship at Strawbery Banke.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer 2017 Wrap-Up

This past week marked the end of my internship at Strawbery Banke as well as the summer excavation at Penhallow House. I've been here for 11 weeks and enjoyed every moment with all the collection resources, educational experiences, field work, and summer opportunities in Portsmouth.
I also stayed at Hough House on the museum grounds, which enabled me to explore the city and neighboring towns like New Castle and Kittery, Maine.
Hough House
I tried to take advantage of my time here to learn about Portsmouth's ever-changing, dynamic history. This included the historic house tours, haunted tours given by New England Curiosities, and various
archaeology lectures in the area. Along with my internship experience, these extra activities provided me with a richer sense of the area we were excavating in.
Waterfront view of the Piscataqua River.
Mary Poppins in Prescott Park.

My dog even got to visit the dig site and Hough House!
The excavation near the Penhallow House yielded some interesting results and speculations by Alix and me. The cobblestone feature that was uncovered last year along Penhallow's northern foundation was found to extend to the east, made up of larger stones closer to the Red Shed. There is also a notable brick feature in the eastern units of our excavation block that we believe to be either a path to a former outbuilding, or perhaps the foundation for said outbuilding. Based on an 1878 Sanborn map and the number of agricultural artifacts found in the northern units, we believe the outbuilding was built as a shed that straddled the property line between Penhallow House and the neighboring house. As for the cobblestones themselves, we theorize that they may still be the fill for when part of Puddle Dock was filled in the late 1700s. After inviting the Portsmouth Public Works Department and consulting with other archaeologists, this assumption is the strongest- especially since the feature continues from the site excavated in 2016. Once further research is done, artifacts are catalogued, and maps are reviewed, a final analysis can be performed. 

Here is a "before and after" view of our site this year. Last week, David Murray of Clear Eye Photo visited with his drone and took overhead shots of the site, which provide a perfect view of the cobblestone and brick feature.
Penhallow House and the Red Shed. (Can you spot Alix, David and me?)
After the field school ended, Alix and I continued to excavate in the northern units and found various bottles, agricultural equipment, buttons, leather, doll fragments, rusted metal, marbles, ceramic and English flint. During my last week we chose to dig under the cobblestones in order to find the sterile layer or marine clay layer that signified the beginning of human activity at Puddle Dock. Although we didn't have enough time to reach a sterile layer, we dug until a grey marine clay layer was uncovered - almost 4 feet under the ground! By the end of the week, we were crouched down in the small hole where it was very difficult to see our heads from the top.

Excavated 1m x 50cm unit; 18th Century layer with English flint. 
This year's dig was a great learning experience for everyone involved, and I was lucky to have such a great city and team along the way.

Highlighted Artifacts:
Over 13 boxes with thousands of artifacts were uncovered from the site, but I chose to highlight these select few because they were uncovered in the past couple of weeks.
Porcelain doll hand from the 19th Century.

Chesebrough c.1887 Vaseline jar: Mouth-blown with a tooled lip. Trademarked in 1878 by New Jersey native Robert Chesebrough. 
Drawer pull from the 19th Century layer. 

Pharmaceutical bottle from the late 1800's. Lettering reads "Bristol Drug Co. Prescription Druggists. XXX and Donahue Apothecary." Only online source noted a Bristol Drug Company in Connecticut closing in 1922. Could be related to the Connecticut-based Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceutical company that merged in the 1930's.

Bones found in the 19th Century layer belong to mammals. Top - rib bone. Middle (from left to right)-  Lumbar vertebrae, scapula, thoracic vertebrae, and illium (below). Bottom- cranium fragment, unidentified bone, mandible.

Indian Head penny from 1889. 

Small doll torso found in the 18th Century layer. 

Blade found in 19th Century layer. We believe this is an agricultural blade based on surrounding agricultural artifacts and the lack of a hilt.

Shovel head found in the 19th Century layer.

Monday, July 17, 2017

So You Think You Can be an Archaeologist? (Camp Edition!)

 Archaeology Camp at Strawbery Banke
The museum hosted an archaeology camp this past week for ages 10-13 that taught the young students the importance and methodology processes involved in the discipline. After learning the meaning of culture and what kind of archaeology happens here (historical archaeology!), they simulated the archaeological process involved with interpreting a historic house or family. Using the Rider-Wood House as a model, they did preliminary research, a mock excavation, washing, and mending of artifacts. After this was completed, they were able to set up a mini exhibit with their artifacts to highlight the history of Mary Rider and her relatives.
Looking at the SBM collection documents about Mary Rider

Mock excavation behind the Rider-Wood House
Washing real artifacts from the Penhallow House excavation

Learning about burial typology at the Point of Graves

Aside from archaeological techniques, the campers learned the importance of group collaboration and artifact preservation that is essential for museums like Strawbery Banke.

This camp runs every 3 years, so it was a pleasure for the collections department to teach children about archaeology's role in preserving the past by providing alternative or extra information to historic documents.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Field School Session 2

We have just finished our third week of field school here at Strawbery Banke! Three new students joined us as some of the other students left.  As we dig deeper we have begun to encounter layers from the 19th century. Pennies from 1879 and 1889, along with jars from various 19th dates indicate the time period we have been working in.
Our most notable finds include a cobblestone feature and unidentified brick feature. Several theories about the cobblestone feature include:
  • It was used to fill the tidal inlet that was once the center of the Puddle Dock neighborhood.
  • It was a spillway - a passage for water to travel. This would have been important when the inlet was filled and extra water needed to be drained.
We don’t think it was a cobblestone road because of how uneven and large the stones are, which would make it very difficult for foot traffic or carriages. As for the brick feature - we hope to uncover more features and artifacts that indicate its use in the past.

Mapping the brick feature

Meet our New Field School students!
Kristen: This is Kristen’s second time to Strawbery Banke for the Penhallow House dig. She is incredibly passionate about archaeology and  has been since she was a girl. She recently graduated with an MA in history, and she will be starting UCONN's PhD program in history this fall. Archaeology is important to her because she  loves incorporating archaeological research into historical research, and finding the mysteries of the past in material form!

Jessica: Jess’ interest in the Strawbery Banke Archaeological Field School stems from her curiosity in art history, and the process of an archaeological dig itself. “As a high school student I feel that I haven't been exposed to archaeology as much as I'd like to be. I am involved with this program so that I can get a better idea of what path I'd like to take as I ready myself for college. My favorite part of the field school so far is the digging, it's so entertaining to see what we'll uncover- whether it be animal bone fragments or small glass medicine bottles. The field school has taught me so much that I didn't know before, and immensely developed my interest in archaeology. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in this program and am already planning my return for next year.”

Caroline: Caroline  is a rising junior at the University of New Hampshire majoring in anthropology and will be starting a  minor in forensics this coming fall. She is originally from Massachusetts, close to Boston. Caroline has  always loved watching documentaries on ancient cultures ever since childhood and has always loved the way that cultures evolved. She participated in the Belize January term program at UNH this past year where she learned how to excavate, survey, and map sites of Maya mounds. “Being a part of the SBM summer field school is allowing me to get experience and to hone my skills for the future, and provides me with the great opportunity to learn more about the local history right by my school.”

Jess and a glass bottle found last week

Kristen and the 1879 penny

Caroline and a glass bottle from last week
Stay tuned this week for special blog posts from field students and updates from our last week!

Monday, June 12, 2017

What Are These Artifacts, and Why Are They Here?

Week 2: As we continue to dig through layers, the students have come across peculiar artifacts that wouldn’t normally be identified by any passerby. For example, slag or bone fragments that oftentimes look like rocks or wood. They are actually very important artifacts for archaeologists because they can give insights into past behaviour or even the previous purpose of the site.

Bone Fragments

But- why are they here?! The bone fragments can be identified as culinary animals such as a chicken, cow, pig or sheep/goat. These indicate the diets of previous Strawbery Banke residents and where they could be discarding their food. As food acquisition and diet changes with different cultures, these fragments can produce more information than you would think! Slag indicates iron metallurgy, but we wanted to know more details about the process behind it and why it could have ended up here.
Slag is defined as the glass-like product left over after the desired metal has been melted by smelting from its raw ore. Slag contains many different elemental metals, as the initial metal product is rarely ever in a pure form. They are often connected to iron forges, and have a deeper history that goes back to 900 BC in Turkey! Initially funded by England, the colonies used iron forges to produce many products such as pots, pans, musket barrels, and other households products. Since slag is a by-product of these smelting forges, its disposal location wouldn’t be too far from the forge sites.
So what does this indicate for our site near the Penhallow house? Since Puddle Dock was once a junkyard, it could be indiscernible trash. As it is often used for construction purposes, the slag could also be left over from various projects.

Whatever our artifact's purposes were, knowing the process and history behind them can prove to be very important information for both research and the public!

Source: http://www.revolutionarywarjournal.com/iron-forge-in-colonial-america/