Thursday, May 31, 2018

2018 Summer Field School

Hi all! My name is Alex, not to be confused with Alix, who is Strawbery Banke's wonderful archaeologist! I study Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, right outside of Philadelphia. I grew up about an hour south of Portsmouth, in Andover, Massachusetts, and I worked at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology in Andover. With the Peabody I participated in small-scale digs of the so-called Mansion House, which was a historic house in Andover. I am very interested in making archaeology understandable and interesting to the public and what role archaeology can play in the classroom. This interest was sparked through my work with the Peabody's educator and collections manager and through my internship last summer at Old Sturbridge Village, where I was a costumed interpreter, very similar to the roleplayers at Strawbery Banke. Because the field school site is actually on museum grounds, at Penhallow House, I am really excited to be able to interact with the public on site and hopefully be able to engage visitors in the archaeology as it happens!

As to recent events, on Tuesday, May 29th, Strawbery Banke hosted Jade Luiz, who gave a lecture titled, "A Very Quiet House: The Archaeology of a 19th-Century Boston Brothel." The lecture connected very well with the topic of the Collection Department's newest exhibit, Vice, which is opening on Friday, June 1st. The exhibit explores changing tastes and taboos from the 17th century to the present.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Sorting Piles vs. The Intern

Recently I have been diving into a few different projects here at Strawbery Banke. I took a little break from the glass bottles to allow for more of them soak and dry off. In the meantime, I was able to work with a box full of mostly broken glass and ceramics. This was a very interesting activity for me because I worked with ancient Roman and Greek ceramics and glass in my field school that took place in Macedonia and Bulgaria. Working with ceramics again was a bit of a flash back. I started sorting through the box one bag at a time. I separated the ceramic pieces like I would separate other pieces from excavations. This means separating them into sections of ceramics, glass, metal and interesting/identifiable pieces. The box had already been cleaned at one point so it made the separating process much easier, being that there was no dirt to clean off. As I went along I started to find very different kinds of ceramic types. I found some pieces that had very intricate and delicate designs while others were plain. Along with the designs, I found high quality ceramics such as porcelain, coarse ware ceramics and everything in between. Based on these features I kept finding more and more categories to divide the ceramics in to. I ended up with a large coarse ware pile with no glaze, a coarse ware pile with glaze, a small pile of a broken pipe, a very large pile of plain white fine pottery, a small pile of identifiable objects such as marbles, many piles of different colored glass, separate piles of ceramic pieces based on the color of the design, and a few smaller piles of metal objects.

            It was interesting to find that most of the patterns on the ceramic pieces were of only a select number of colors. This made putting piles together that could possibly be reconstructed in the future if needed much easier. The patterns were also interesting because they reflected the shared trade and events of the era. There were nature scenes, Asian motifs and other battle scenes. From my limited archaeological experience in the area; I wasn’t expecting to see Asian motifs on some of the pieces, so that was an interesting surprise to dig out. After separating all of these piles and finding very unique patterns and pieces, I learned that a lot of the patterns were stamps and only a small amount were hand panted. I was also told that the stamped patterns that had a faded or bleeding look were of poor quality compared to the nicer patterns that had clean and solid lines. This was very fun for me to work with pottery that was mostly high quality porcelain compared to ancient Roman or Greek coarse ware. It was a unique learning experience to see how many different colors and patterns were used on ceramics that were either made or brought to Strawbery Banke. Ceramics have always been one of the most interesting artifacts that I have worked with so far and I hope to be able to work with similar pieces in the future.

Four Roses Whiskey Bottle

         When researching the collection of glass bottles and their uses for the "Vice" exhibit, I came across this interesting large bottle. Upon further research, I found out that this bottle is part of the Four Roses Whiskey brand. The brand was originally based in Louisville, Kentucky and then became a large international brand within European and Asian Markets. It was brought back to the American market around 2002. However, the only photo with information that I could find looked almost exactly like this bottle except for the spaces for labels. I was unable to find any information about a four roses whiskey bottle that has the diamond shape space for a label instead of a square along with the small imprinted label that says, "AGED IN WOOD".  It may be a related to the prohibition era or post prohibition era 'medicinal whiskey pint' that was produced with the diamond label shape because they have the same intricate rose pattern on the bottle body, are the same amber brown color and are the same size of roughly 20cm in height and 9.5 cm in width. If anyone has any further information about this Four Roses Whiskey style of bottle or ideas as to where we can look for more information, we would greatly appreciate the input. 

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.