urban archaeology

Archeologia e ceramiche: non solo storie dalla terra ma anche storie “di terra”


Ceramica ingobbiata e graffita prodotta a Pisa nel XVI secolo (Cinquecento) con al centro un decoro con viso femminile e capelli raccolti in una rete.

Il lavoro di un’archeologa può essere vario e complesso e chi come me è anche specializzata nello studio delle ceramiche del passato (che di terra sono fatte!) si troverà spesso a pover riscoprire e


Le ceramiche appena ritrovate vengono lavate con acqua e spazzolino.

ricostruire le storie racchiuse nella terra o di terra composte.

Ecco, questo è il mio mestiere, raccontare le storie delle ceramiche e di coloro che le avevano create e utilizzare, capire le persone e le società del passato, i cambiamenti delle mode e delle tecnologie, i modi di produrre gli oggetti e quelli di utilizzarli o, una volta rotti, gettarli via.

Come ogni giorno, quindi, anche questo Day of Archaeology 2016 (svolto in un cantiere in corso di scavo nel centro storico di Pisa) si è composto di vari passaggi preliminari agli studi più approfonditi e alle ricostruzioni: gesti semplici che,


Si osservano le ceramiche in ogni particolare con l’aiuto di lentini d’ingrandimento: in laboratorio l’osservazione potrà essere fatta con microscopi ad ingrandimenti molto più alti.

partendo dalla scoperta delle ceramiche, permettessero di riconoscerle e comprenderne il potenziale informativo.

E allora la ceramica è stata lavata con un po’ di acqua fresca e uno spazzolino, e poi pazientemente fatta asciugare. Successivamente i diversi tipi di ceramiche sono stati divisi e contati, cercando di capire se le forme potranno essere ricostruite, e iniziando a descriverne i decori, le forme, le cronologie. Queste ultime saranno utili ai colleghi che scavano per datare gli strati e capire le epoche di ciò che si trova durante lo scavo (muri, pavimenti, ambienti ecc…).

Ogni ceramica viene fotografata, in modo che resti un

al lavoro

Si conteggiano i frammenti, si riconoscono le ceramiche e si trascrivono sui database informatici le informazioni ricavate.

archivio fotografico digitale di tutto, e poi imbustata con la sigla dello strato di provenienza e conservata in magazzini ordinati di cui viene stilato un elenco, per sapere sempre dove poterla ritrovare.

Si usano database elettronici per conservare le informazioni e osservazioni fatte sul cantiere, che potranno essere affinate con studi successivi con restauri delle forme e analisi di laboratorio e, una volta rielaborate per le mostre e/o le pubblicazioni, permetteranno non solo di conoscere il momento in cui, ad esempio, una casa fu creata o distrutta, ma ci porteranno a comprendere la vita nel medioevo


Le ceramiche vengono fotografate e archiviate.


Le ceramiche sanno raccontare storie bellissime, se solo si ha l’amore e la pazienza di ascoltarle!

Marcella Giorgio

Archeologa professionista, specializzata nello studio della ceramica medievale e postmedievale



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All of the Factory Chimneys are Gone. What’s in your Neighbourhood?

The small English town of Kidderminster is internationally renowned as a 19th century powerhouse of carpet manufacture. Sir Roland Hill, a son of the town, published his 1837 work, Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability, which ultimately led to the World’s first self-adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black. Other boasts include 17th century Christian rebellion and Led Zeppelin…well, one member specifically.

Kidderminster is now representative of what is commonly described as a ‘post-industrial town’. It is a town that has traced a bumpy road of decline since, at least, the 1970s and has yet to recover. Some years ago a ‘new’ town centre was built on the site of Brinton’s carpet factory. The former site of one of the great engines of carpet production is now redbrick, herringbone and chain stores gathered into an awkward ‘anytown’ and devoid of community focus. The ‘old’ town centre is now a place of many empty shop buildings punctuated by the odd chain store or thrift shop. Remnants of 1980s modernisation now look worn. The colours of post-70s optimism bled dry and lichen covered. Even graffiti art is absent; so often a symbol of gritty urban spaces devoid of Gentrification. Where is Banksy in this time of need? Could not one of his signature apparitions lift a dark corner of this once cultural hub? Would a local artist paint Vulcan ears and comedy spectacles onto the subject, should it be a figure? Perhaps.

On this Day of Archaeology, 2016, I am working on guidance for Neighbourhood Planning, the current vehicle for empowering local communities with a degree of control over how development will be integrated into their town, village or parish, and protect what is special. In its application, there is a perception of what constitutes archaeology and the historic environment. For many it is about historic buildings or areas designated with a high level of protection. Views, vistas and streetscapes are valued as too the mature trees and hedgerows that frame the skyline or sinuous country lane. However, in conversation with residents, talk will often turn towards the comparatively mundane yet magical places of a long passed childhood: the ancient stone cobbled alleyway used as a short-cut home; the ruinous Victorian shed with its ghosts lurking within the Ivy covered walls or the pasture field where a searchlight once swept the night sky in search of Heinkel HE111 bombers. These are the un-Designated and easily lost monuments of experience that define the spirit of place. Planning policy requires quantification, constraint and values defined by methods that will stand up to scrutiny. Nonetheless, value built from experience often thrives at the places in between grand designs and manicured landscapes. Perhaps however, it is an inevitable consequence of change that such places are conserved only in memories and the stories told. The short-cuts and dark corners are erased; the derelict buildings, all swept aside by the ‘masterplan’.

Kidderminster, February 2016 © A. Mindykowski

Ghost sign, Kidderminster, February 2016 © A. Mindykowski

Back in Kidderminster, in February, under a featureless winter sky, a window briefly opened back to a time when family run shops occupied almost every corner of every street. A modern advertisement hoarding had been removed after years of disuse revealing part of a painted advertisement from the golden age of residential streets as urban markets. With shaking hands, the modern urban explorer Tweeted about a ‘ghost sign’ #UrbanEphemera #CarryOnFlaneur. By contrast, for long-time residents – a now dwindling number in population – eyes became bright with memories of the old corner shop, Penny Chews sold by the genial shopkeeper who always had a smile on winter days. For this neighbourhood, at least, archaeology suddenly became tangible in a few faded letters.

Ancient Monument Inspectors on Tour

Today I’m on what I loosely refer to as my “Summer Progress”. It’s the time of year when I try to visit some of London’s Ancient Monuments that haven’t been checked for a while. London has 157 Ancient Monuments, which are sites that have been identified as of outstanding importance, and are a mixed bunch, from the Tower of London, through to Prehistoric earthworks, like Boudicaas Mound on Hampstead Heath. I have the utterly fabulous job of helping to protect them, on behalf of Historic England and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. One of the aspects of the job is working with owners to make sure they are in a good state of preservation. The Monuments that is, not the owners!

Inside the Sutton Dovecote

Inside the Sutton Dovecote

A great many of London’s monuments are right in the urban zone, under busy streets, inside basements of office blocks or in pub cellars. But a lot of the monuments are actually out in the rural areas of Greater London and don’t tend to face the same pressures of development, tourism or damage. But they can get overgrown, too desiccated (not today though!), or if they are structural, can suffer from crumbling mortar or other problems, including graffitti. And if there is no active fieldwork or conservation, these sites can get overlooked for regular visits as I spend most of my time on in meeting rooms or on sites which have live projects where I battle to protect the archaeology and get good schemes of interpretation. This is where the summer progress comes in – summer isn’t really a less busy time of year, but the weather normally makes these sites easier to visit and monitor than in winter. So every Friday morning for a couple of months, my colleague Iain Bright, the Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments for London, and I, are going out to visit a range of our monuments (I’m very protective and not a little possessive!).

This morning we went out to Elmers End in Croydon, to visit a medieval moated site located in the South Norwood Country Park. It is a thirteenth century manor house with a double moat surrounding a house platform. It survived like this for a few centuries, once owned by Sir Robert de Retford, but has had a chequered history since then, the greatest indignity being its submersion below a Victorian sewage farm. Nothing survives above ground now, but it’s clearly visible as a crop mark and a few little humps and bumps. As we found, the vegetation clearly distinguishes the inner and outer moats, with much lusher vegetation on the lines of the moats, and small hints of the earthworks. The house platform can also be read in the landscape as it is a little elevated above the area. We met agents for the local authority who own the site and discussed management of the site, the vegetation and providing interpretation, all of which needs to be combined with management of the park which is a nature reserve. But it was a positive visit (apart from the rain) and the site is in good heart.

Elmers End Moated Site

Elmers End Moated Site


Lush vegetation on the Moat

Lush vegetation on the Moat

Last Friday we went to visit a post-medieval ice well in North London – a great big subterranean brick lined chamber for storing ice on the estate of a country house, and also a Saxon linear earthwork known as the Grims Dyke. The Friday before, the rather mysterious prehistoric earthworks on Riddlesdown Common in South London, which I think are much more extensive and probably form part of an Iron Age enclosure – we’re now looking into antiquarian records to try and get a better idea of this site. We also checked up on the immense 17th century Sutton Dovecote which has had a little graffiti but otherwise is well preserved. Next Friday, another moated site is the subject of our Progress. The survival of numerous medieval moated sites in London came as a surprise to me when I became Inspector, but of course Greater London is about so much more than the Roman city of Londinium and the seat of Royal and political power in Westminster. So many areas have still never been built over, so whilst urbanism in the core is a real issue for conserving archaeology, and takes up most of my time, away from central London, we still have exceptional survival and great potential for future archaeological discoveries that we can add to the Schedule of Monuments.

Me at the Pinner Ice Well

Me at the Pinner Ice Well

The Past Sense Project: Pioneering Approaches to Therapeutic Archaeology


My post for this year’s Day of Archaeology covers work I’m undertaking for a pilot community archaeology project that I co-direct (‘Past Sense’, or ‘PSP’), with the other project co-director, Debra (a psychotherapist). PSP is a voluntary community and public project that adopts archaeological and psychological approaches in examining the material histories of violence in the home, and using such histories within trauma therapy. We explore the significance of material culture within and after situations of domestic and sexual violence and abuse in the past, through archaeological data and artefacts; objects within public archives and private collections; and a range of historical sources (including written evidence, photos, and oral histories). And we’re using this research in developing therapeutic archaeological workshops.

The project works within the fields of Contemporary and Historical Archaeology, analysing postmedieval material (for the purposes of PSP work, 17th – 21st century, focusing on the 19th – 20th century). We primarily examine material from Derbyshire (centring on Derby), but also investigate contexts within other areas in the East Midlands, and other parts of Britain. Though mostly looking at housing, we also consider other buildings, and landscapes. I sometimes investigate sites of recreation and sociability (such as pubs and parks); commerce and industry (such as shops and factories); education and religion (such as schools and meeting halls); law and order (such as courts and prisons); and care and burial (such as hospitals and cemeteries). Where it may be useful to do so, this may include looking at the homes of the family and friends of victims and perpetrators of violence, and of police officers and magistrates.

What I’ve been doing today

Much of my time is spent reading previous work, and thinking how I might develop and apply this research in socially beneficial ways; my day began by re-reading an academic article (and the notes that I made) that provides useful grounding for project work. (I use Archaeological Theories that integrate and develop approaches from other disciplines – such as Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, and Geography – to inform my work, particularly research on archaeologies of emotion and sensory experience.)

I then returned to a presentation that I’m preparing, which briefly explains how Debra and I are developing educational and therapeutic workshops and other resources, and how community participation might enhance knowledge surrounding understandings of material culture in the past. This slideshow outlines the ideas behind the project (which began about five years ago with the recognition of common ground between archaeology and therapy: the direct involvement of material culture in managing trauma within Debra’s psychotherapeutic work provided a starting point from which we might explore other ways to integrate archaeological approaches. But we only began to implement preparations for project work at the very end of 2014). It also introduces some of our work in progress – and today I’ve been working on one slide that will demonstrate this.

This involves putting together artefacts and survey data, with texts and images that relate to domestic and sexual violence in the past. These will provide examples of how we might use archaeological and other historical sources within project workshops and other resources, to consider how the home environment may have affected the ways in which people experienced violence in the past, in comparison to more recent situations of abuse.

‘Tea and Sympathy’

PSP uses data from another community archaeology project that I direct (‘Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project’, or ‘LIP’ / ‘LIPCAP’ – which featured in posts for the 2013 Day of Archaeology, here and here). Today I went through the collection of ‘finds’ photos so far obtained during building and garden surveys, to see what might be used in workshops, and the presentation. I’m creating a MS Powerpoint slide entitled ‘Tea and Sympathy’, and have found a photo that may be suitable for this topic: of a 19th century ceramic sherd found in the garden of a terraced house in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (which is described and illustrated briefly here and here). The artefact depicted is made of refined white earthenware, decorated with a floral blue transfer print, and is probably part of a teacup. The photo’s not great quality, and I’d prefer a slightly older sherd than this, but it’s acceptable for present purposes. So I’m preparing the image in Adobe Photoshop, removing the ‘noise’ from the white background on which the sherd was placed when it was photographed.

Decorated 19th century ceramic sherd (transfer printed refined white earthenware), found in the topsoil of a terraced house garden in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (LIPCAP)

Decorated 19th century ceramic sherd (transfer printed refined white earthenware), found in the topsoil of a terraced house garden in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (LIPCAP)

Workshops will integrate a broad range of historical sources, including literature – in this instance, I’ve decided to use this artefact alongside material from Charles DickensOld Curiosity Shop. I selected an extract from an appropriate scene in the book, in which the character Betsy Quilp (whose husband, Daniel, treats her with cruelty) and her mother take tea in their home with female neighbours:

 “…it was extremely natural that the discourse should turn upon the propensity of mankind to tyrannise over the weaker sex, and the duty that devolved upon the weaker sex to resist that tyranny and assert their rights and dignity.”

Workshop handouts may present further extracts, and other historical information, to provide the ‘bigger picture’, and related artefacts provided for participants to ‘handle’, to stimulate discussion regarding material culture and female support networks.

Betsy Quilp, mother and neighbours at tea: Old Curiosity Shop, Charles Dickens, 1841 (Source: www.gutenberg.org/files/700/700-h/700-h.htm)

Betsy Quilp, mother and neighbours at tea: Old Curiosity Shop, Charles Dickens, 1841 (Source: Project Gutenberg)

‘Home, sweet home?’

I’m also preparing illustrations for a slide titled ‘Home, sweet home?’, which will show how we’re using studies of housing and neighbourhood landscapes to consider the environments (and potential causes and effects) of the abuse that appears to have taken place. Workshops will involve a case study of a family, the wife and mother of which summonsed her husband to the magistrates court in 1883, complaining of his violence towards her (information on this case can be found on the project website, here).

I’ve been carrying out research into the background of family members, and into what happened to them after the court case. This has involved going through various archives to examine newspaper reports and magazine articles; trade directories and maps; census and civic records; parish and poor law records; and photographic and art archives and collections; oral histories and other recollections of local people. I’ve looked at local and other historical sources in order to consider the context in which this family lived, and examined archaeological reports (the area of the family home was excavated a few years ago) and historic environment records, to find out more about their domestic and community surroundings. I still have some sources to consult before I’m able to complete the picture of home life for this and other families in the area at the time, but what I’ve found out so far has proved useful.

1921 aerial view, showing location of the family home (circled) at the time of the court case (Source of image: Britain from Above: http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw005814)

1921 aerial view, showing location of the family home (circled) at the time of the court case (Source of image: Britain from Above)

The photos, maps, and descriptions of this housing within newspapers, and in the recollections of local people; and archaeological excavations and standing building surveys of similar housing; suggest how the arrangement of domestic and neighbourhood architecture and space may have affected movement (limiting opportunities to escape from violent incidents), and access to possible support networks – for both victim and perpetrator. It is also clear from this evidence that the children in the family, and neighbours, would have likely heard, and perhaps seen, violence (and yet from the newspaper reports, no witnesses appeared in court to support the claimant). This analysis suggests how surroundings may have enabled or prevented particular acts of violence, and resistance to abuse, and how such behaviour might have affected the lives of others, as well as those directly involved.

My workday shall end with continued reading of a study on domestic abuse and violence in 18th and 19th century Britain. Not, it might be thought, uplifting bedtime reading. But research on violence between the 17th and 20th centuries demonstrates that, despite those in authority not always supporting those terrorised and abused in their homes by spouse, family member, supposed friend, or neighbour, and contrary to popular belief today, many in the past saw such behaviour as unacceptable. Not only friends and family, but communities and members of wider society, often expressed disapproval at domestic and sexual violence.

So I’ll end this post with a short video (this is not of my making: thanks instead go to the ‘Marchers’ – a ‘LARP troupe’, I think – for putting this on Youtube). This demonstrates ‘rough music’ – one way that communities (most often women) in the past used material culture to demonstrate condemnation of domestic and sexual violence, when those in power could not (or would not) punish the offender.

More information on PSP is available through our website and social media, through which anyone interested can follow the project:

Website: https://pastsenseproject.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PastSenseProject

Twitter: @P_S_Project

Urban Gardening in Medieval Cities. In a Modern Library.

This year, Day of Archaeology finds me in London in the British Library, sifting through the latest phases of late Roman townhouses. As I wrote in 2013, I am working on the phenomenon of urban gardening in the cities of early medieval Italy, and this summer I’m trying to finish finishing the manuscript of a small book on the subject. The majority of the evidence for where people got their vegetables in Rome, Naples, Brescia and Verona and other cities comes from property documents, which identify houses with gardens in them. This week I have been looking again at how Italian townhouses went from very dense buildings, perhaps with a central courtyard planted with ornamental trees and flowers, to individual houses that had food producing gardens inside or adjacent to the property, such as this one described in a letter from Pope Gregory the Great:

Reg Ep. II, 46 (Sept. 591-Aug 592). To Sub-deacon Sabinus.

We are compelled by our duty of piety to make a decision for the monasteries, with prudent consideration, so that those who are known to have allotted themselves to the service of God, may not endure any need. And for that reason we order you Experience with this authority to hand over quickly and without uncertainty the garden of the dead priest Felicianus. It lies in the first region before the steps of Saint Sabina. Leaving aside any excuse, give it to the convent of Euprepia, in which a community of nuns are known to live, for them to possess with a proprietary right, so that aided by the benefit of our generosity, they may persevere in serving God, with his support also, with secure minds. [Trans J. Martyn]

Pope Gregory here writes as a bishop with concern for the spiritual lives and economic concerns of the professional religious people under his care. He was no longer the Urban Prefect, with oversight of the urban fabric of Rome, an administrative office he held in 573 before he became a monk. What he learned about dealing with abandoned houses in Rome nonetheless surely informed his decision on behalf of the religious women. He endowed a new community of professional religious women with a house and garden in order to help them in their devotion to God, providing for them in a city that was increasingly unreliable. We don’t know exactly when urban markets ceased to function in Rome, but it must have been at some point in the sixth or seventh centuries, as the annona ceased to bring grain and wine to the citizens, and as the monetized economy of the city dwindled to barter and credit systems, rather than coins. The provision of a garden for these women, and for three other religious communities in Rome who received houses with gardens from Gregory, seems to be an effort to provide self-sufficiency for the community.


Domus of the Piazza dei Cinquecento, Rome, after Roberto Meneghini and Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani, ‘Fasi tarde dell’ isolato,’ Rita Paris, ed. Antiche Stanze (Milan, 1996), fig. 5 p. 176. The areas marked in brown were filled with earth, leaving the rooms in red as a smaller-scale house. The small house comprised former service rooms and part of the private bath, as well as the latrine.

It has long been recognised that the complex political, social and economic changes of the later fourth and fifth centuries meant that fewer people lived in Italian cities, and had fewer resources (monetary and material) to spend upon their city and the upkeep of their townhouses. Things changed, so people reused, or made good with what they had. When houses were abandoned, they were sometimes reallocated to new people, as Gregory arranged in the letter above. Sometimes it appears that houses in ruined states were converted to ‘horti’ – gardens, when they were irredeemable and unclaimed by owners. Legal precepts, in place from the third century, made this possible with the permission of local magistrates. (See the Codex Iustianiani VIII, 10, 3 eg)

As I am sorting through publications of urban archaeology looking for examples of this process, I am confronted by a very consistent pattern of partial abandonment in the fifth century and the deliberate backfilling of parts of houses, or entire houses, with earth in the later fifth and sixth centuries. I have seen examples of this documented at Brescia, at Naples, and at Rome. At Rome, the house I’m looking at today, a domus from the Piazza dei Cinquecento, excavated in 1940s to build Stazione Termini, was partially filled with earth in the late fifth century, reducing a large townhouse into a small suit of rooms surrounded by earth. No archeobotanical studies were carried out in the 1940s excavation, so it is impossible to know whether the earth surrounding the house was used for intensive cultivation, either of ornamental species or of food-producing species, but this kind of complex may very well be what Gregory was providing the nuns with in the same years that this house was abandoned.

I am charting this phenomenon in the second chapter of this book. In subsequent chapters I survey the charter evidence for who grew vegetables where in Italian cities and then review the analysis of Dark Earth as open fields for intensive agriculture within the city. There were fields for onions, cabbages and greens, fruit trees and vineyards in early medieval cities and major households – and institutions – controlled supplies of fresh food for urban residents.

250 Years of History: Images from St. Louis

250 Years of History: Excavating Colonial St. Louis

In 1763, a small group of French traders made their way up the Mississippi River and established a settlement that would become Saint Louis. This colonial village, unfortunately, has been lost to time and urban development, as the city of Saint Louis has grown around and over it. However, just in time for the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city, archaeologists with the Missouri Department of Transportation have found the first evidence of these earlier settlers. Now, let me welcome you to a day of archaeology at the Poplar Street Bridge project in the heart of Saint Louis, Missouri.

French ceramics

Eighteenth-century artifacts recovered from under the Poplar Street Bridge.

Since February 2012, we have been conducting archaeological investigations around the downtown area, preparing for a variety of road and highway construction project. Today (July 10, 2014), marks the end of the 27th week of fieldwork (including remote sensing, testing, and full data recovery) on what has quickly become two of the most significant archaeological sites we have ever identified.

Excavation of the Madam Haycraft Site.

Excavation of the Madam Haycraft Site.

Despite widely held belief, archaeological field work is showing that a surprisingly large amount of colonial Saint Louis remains buried and intact in the downtown area. Working in less-than-ideal conditions, we find that each new area that is exposed by our excavation is better than the last. As we carefully work by hand, with shovel and trowel, our work is juxtaposed with the heavy construction (and demolition) going on just a few meters away.


Unearthing Detroit: Revisiting Collections in Current Contexts

I am Kaitlin Scharra, the Senior Student leader of Digital Media and Public Outreach with the Unearthing Detroit  project at Wayne State University under the direction of Dr. Krysta Ryzewski. We are a collections-based research unit working with artifacts from mid-20th century salvage excavations during the construction of some of Detroit’s most prominent features.  Many of these collections, due to time and budget restraints, have remained under-analyzed since they were unearthed.  Our focus is to discover the cultural narrative of these areas through reanalysis of the artifacts and archival research.  In turn, we bring the knowledge forth to the community in the form of public days, classroom archaeology, and social media.  We can be found at http://unearthdetroit.wordpress.com/, as well as, on twitter @UnearthDetroit and facebook

Unearthing Detroit

The GM Ren Cen is located at Jefferson and Randolph Street along the Riverfront in downtown Detroit, MI.

Here is a look at how the Unearthing Detroit project links Detroit’s present with its past using our most explored collection- the Renaissance Center.  By compiling map data over the past weeks, our team has determined where sectors from the 1970s salvage excavation were located in respect to the current Renaissance Center buildings.  Each of the following sets (representing individual sectors) will show a current photo of the sector location alongside a sample of the area’s artifacts.  We included with each an explanation of what we have discovered about each sector and where we hope to go.  We reference both a faunal analysis completed by Karen Mudar (1978), and an investigation into the ceramics completed as a master’s thesis by Stephen Demeter (1990).


Sector F

The westernmost sector of the excavation spanned the historic block northeast of the intersection of Randolph and Atwater.  Notably, this was downtown Detroit’s eastern border during the 19th century.  It is currently the area in front of the Marriott Detroit Downtown’s main entrance.

Unearthing Detroit

Sector F (Clockwise from left): (1) Downtown Detroit Marriott entrance view of Renaissance drive leading to Randolph. (2) Whiteware (3) German Printed Ironware (4) Oyster Shell

Historic research shows that this area belonged to the Berthelot family.  Senior student leader and archival researcher, Kate E. Korth, postulates that the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which coincided with mass immigration, altered the economic landscape of this property.  Artifacts, likewise, show evidence of the transition to a bustling marketplace and hub for incoming populations.  Trade interaction between French and Native Americans is also indicated. This sector as well as the following are our oldest dated collections (ca 1790-1890).


Sector J

Sector J was at the historic intersection of Franklin and Brush streets. Currently it is located to your left as you head onto the bridge to the main tower.

Unearthing Detroit

Sector J (clockwise from top): (1) View of 100 tower from central bridge over GM Showroom (2) Leather Buttons (3) Sewing Kit (4) Transfer-Print Whiteware

Sector J artifacts have not been widely reanalyzed yet.  We do know that according faunal and ceramic analysis that this area was economically wealthy.  We hope to look into who these artifacts belonged to and complete a reanalysis of dates.


Sector G

Taking up the western half of the block Southwest of the historic Brush and Franklin intersection is Sector G.  The central tower stands over this area today.

Unearthing Detroit

Sector G (Clockwise from left): (1) View of central tower from GM Showroom (2) Plate from which newspaper article was taken- dates to April, 3 1833 (3) Leather Shoe

Faunal analysis and ceramic analysis led to disagreement as to the economic standing of this area. While we know this area was apart of the brush family farm, we are encouraged to reanalyze the socioeconomic status of this area.  The large amount of shoes recovered from this area inspire further questions about the craft and trade in this area.


Sector I

The shopping area between the 200 and 300 towers was constructed atop what was Sector I and the historic second half of the block shared by sector G.

Unearthing Detroit

Sector I (Clockwise from upper left) (1) Shopping area located between the two western towers (2) A Pepsin Bottle (3) Industrial Stoneware (4) Pocketknife (?)

A minimum vessel count, done by Samantha Malette and Kate E. Korth, concluded that the artifacts in this assemblage were from a boarding house.  Historical records indicate that this area was highly influenced by traffic of working class population due to it proximity to the shoreline and Grand Trunk Railroad.  This neighborhood, dating later than other sectors, had artifacts consisting  largely of everyday objects.  We believe this means the area was well traveling point for visitors as opposed to static households.


Sector K

Sector K was a survey to the east of the main buildings across Beaubien street.  It was where the 500 and 600 buildings stands today. Historically, it is known that this was an area of the Brush Family Farm located Northeast of Beaubien and Franklin.

Unearthing Detroit

Sector K (clockwise from left): (1) Port Atwater Parking Structure in the shadow of 500 and 600 Towers (2) Stoneware Rim (3) Whiteware Teacup (3) Sherd of Rockinghamware Spittoon


Ceramics made up the vast majority of this collection.  There was a mix of rockinghamware and large amount of plainware.  While this indicates a lower economic standing and much later date than the other sectors, there was also  a large amount of transfer prints.  The markers marks on such high class goods date them to the early 1800s.  The question being investigated is, “Are these outliers in the collection due to different stratigraphic levels or were they hand me downs used alongside plainware?”.

Our collections-based research of over 2,000 artifacts has a long way to go.  We estimate we have touched only about 3% of the collection in reanalysis. We look forward to learning and outreaching even more as we discover more exciting facts about the changing landscape of this area from the late 1700s to today.

Danny Harrison: Senior Archaeologist on a Former Churchyard Site

Friday was forecast to be an unseasonable bright and mild day as British summertime goes, with rain predicted for only half the day. I went into the office at the comparatively leisurely time of 9am, having been told the previous day that there were no sites I needed to attend. On arriving it seemed that phone calls had been received from a site, kindly but forcibly asking where the archaeologist was.  I then speedily received a Site Written Scheme of Investigation from a project manager, an address, a phone number to call when I got there and a had a brief meeting outlining what was to be done when I got there. I got together some boots and basic kit  and then hared down the road with all my clobber to catch a bus.

Thankfully when I arrived on site it began to rain, and luckily I was locked out for long enough to cool off for a bit. The site was without its foreman for the day, but the onsite contractors were anxious to get started on reducing ground in a churchyard for a building extension; though the building had been designed to have a minimum footprint intrusion, it was likely that some disarticulated bones might be found.

We began the ground reduction and soon found a large quantity of bones- which we carefully retrieved and placed in storage to be reburied. It became quickly evident that these bones had been deliberately placed in the area being excavated, probably by the builders when they disturbed burials during works nearby on site in the 1970’s. Among these bones we were very surprised to find a tiny lead coffin which had been placed with them. We carefully moved this with the bones to a safe place. On examination, we noticed an inscription on the coffin lid. I wrote this down and photographed it.The excavation went on all day, punctuated with refreshing showers.

When I returned to the office, I consulted a website archive with the colleague I had been providing cover for. I was very surprised to find the name on the coffin in the records. It seems that the baby- who had sadly passed away aged only 15 days, had been buried two days later and a couple with the same surname- possibly parents, were recorded as living on the same street as the church. The profession and surname of the man were closely associated with the area and its immigrant population, the man being a weaver of Huguenot descent. On further searching, I was pleased to see that this couple had a child two years after the death of the baby we found, who hopefully survived into adulthood.