Thursday 31 May 2012

May 30th: Lab Lab and More Lab

The whole crew was in the lab for the first full day of work on campus. Bob had us divide up the tasks of sorting through artifacts from previous Field School years, along with continuing to clean and label the finds from this season. Jasmin and Willow went over reports from past years regarding information on gardens and horticultural practices. The rest of us unpacked several of the boxes containing cataloged artifacts (mostly bottles and tin cans) to organize them as you can see in the picture below:

Kitty was having a look through these items in search of any artifacts containing Japanese writing. Her project is to take a closer look at and document the finds that are personal Japanese pieces in hopes of creating a better understanding of what life was like for them during the early 1900's at these camps.

This is the main part of a leather boot that Evan recovered from the "industrial cabin" zone at the McKenzie Creek site earlier this week. It's in remarkably good condition and still has some of the spikes attached to the bottom. This was found in the same area as this wood planer:

The planer is also in great condition. This is one of a few tools that we have found in this area, leading us to think it was possibly an industrial zone rather than a cabin. 

This is a photo of a task that Mark took on today: piecing together a broken medicine bottle found in the "cabin" area of the site. We can see so far by the writing on it that it's from Toronto, Ontario.
Below is a video clip of Mark talking about this artifact:

This week we hope to find more clues as to what the "industrial cabin" area might have been used for. We had found a piece of butchered animal bone in the same spot where the boot and wood planer were buried which was interesting. Was that spot a garbage hole for broken and used items or just a matter of scattered refuse coincidentally clumped together before the structure was burned down? We hope to solve that mystery before the Field School is complete this season.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

May 29th: Industrial Area or Cabin Site?

Today we continued excavations on an area just west of the early 1900's cedar plank road that runs through the McKenzie Creek site. A few weeks ago, Spencer K. got some response with a metal detector in this zone so we set up a series of  5 units to see what artifacts we could find, perhaps giving us a better clue of what that zone was designated for by the Japanese loggers. Over the past week, these digs recovered several items that seemed to indicate that it was once a cabin site, but we're not sure just yet. There are nine students working on this area and some of the significant items are a tobacco pipe (the stem portion only) in Rebecca's unit as well as some finds that appear industrial. Evan recovered what looks like the remains of a wood planer and I found a bolt that appears to have been an apparatus for holding a saw blade in place during sharpening. In this same area we found nails, broken and melted glass pieces, and portions of leather work boots. 
Mark was able to film some short video clips of Rebecca and Nathan describing what they have found so far in these excavations units:

In addition to the excavations, the remaining six students ventured out to survey the surrounding areas. Spencer M. and Jasmin covered the wooded slopes and several creeks west of the site, Lindsay and Ryan on the south end, Andrew and Alexis took the North. We have a few objectives we hope to achieve by doing these surveys including:
- For the students to gain experience in professional archaeological survey methods
- Help us to be certain where the exact boundaries of the site are
- Document the locations and numbers of routes into and out of the site itself
- Provide a more detailed mapping and perspective of the site and any features that might be of interest or relevance to our project.

There will be some time to work in the lab soon to take a closer look at artifacts from past years and organize our finds for this season. 

Monday 28 May 2012

May 28th: Community Meets Archaeology

Back to work in the field today! Most of the crew was continuing excavations while a few of us (Ryan, Spencer M. and Andrew) and ventured into the surrounding wild woods to survey (look for any evidence of culture). These surveys are important for mapping the site areas and looking for any clues as to where more areas might be located that are worth investigating in future Field Schools.

This past Sunday, Dini set up a booth at the Lynn Headwaters Park event "Wilderness at Your Doorstep" with artifacts from this year's and previous years' Capilano Archaeology Field School digs. It was a great way for the public to get a first hand look at the heritage of the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve as many people don't know that the Japanese inhabited that area in the early 1900's. 

I showed up to help Dini later in the we are at the booth with a selection of artifacts. A lot of people were very interested in the different kinds of bottles found at the site. Most of them are either medicine/perfume or beer bottles.

There's Dini chatting (it's what she does best) with a guest, explaining the background research we have done on the artifacts. It seemed that our booth was a big hit, folks of all ages took a shine to Dini and couldn't help but ask about the history of the LSCR...success! It's so rewarding to take part in community events like this.

Today I tagged along with Spencer M. on the Northwest hillside from the McKenzie Creek site to survey for any cultural remains. We scoured the slope for hours....and didn't really find much. Here's a little video clip of Spencer giving me the run down on what our forest adventure would entail:

This log is old growth (about a hundred years old) Spencer M. and I saw during the survey. You can see it has been cut with a saw, probably to use as shingle bolts by the Japanese loggers.

Spencer M. standing at the edge of where we began our was raining today in the forest so we had to be extra careful not to slip on or fall through rotting logs and vegetation.

This Japanese rice bowl was found today in one of the excavation units at the "kitchen refuse" area of the site. It's amazing just how much of it still remains in one piece! When we find an artifact (any evidence of culture that contains information that we can use to analyse or interpret it) we use one of these sheets to document it:

We do a simple sketch of the artifact and record it's statistics (size and material) as well as record where on the site and how far under the sediment the piece was found. It's crucial to keep detailed notes and documentation on the artifacts so that we can make better interpretations on how, when, and by whom the items may have been used.

This photo does a good job of demonstrating just how much work removing the first layer of material (called the "litter mat") is when beginning an excavation. Every measurement of soil after the litter mat is then sifted in a mesh contraption to ensure that we didn't miss any small artifacts. 

Tomorrow we're back out in the rain...but our spirits will not be dampened by the weather.

Saturday 26 May 2012

May 25th: Friday Wrap-Up

Today was our third Friday in the lab at Capilano University for a summary of the week and a chance to catch up on each crew members' project progress. Jasmin and Willow will be working on their garden feature assignments in the coming week, hopefully able to learn some more about the horticultural practices of the Japanese at the McKenzie Creek site in the early 1900's. Ryan, Nathan, and Spencer will be starting their field surveys next week...we aim to make details notes on any evidence of culture or surface artifacts in the surrounding areas so that Rebecca can add the data to her maps. The information compiled in the maps will help us gain a broad perspective on how the camp was organized during it's occupation by the Japanese.

Fridays are a great chance for us to get updates on how the artifacts are being interpreted and organized by Evan and Alexis. Bob took a few minutes to talk about some of the significant finds during the last 2 weeks and explain what some of them might have been used for by the Japanese. We were able to essentially confirm that the area we found most of the personal items in was once a cabin and that the "kitchen refuse" area was indeed a food/drink waste dump.

So Spencer K. took these cans that we found in the kitchen refuse area and apply this chemical method (known as metal extraction via electrolysis)...the process of which looks like this:

That's a piece of steel rebar in a bath of chemical solution (baking soda and water, if I'm not mistaken). The can and the rebar are then connected to an electric current and somehow the iron is restored to the can, thus strengthening it:

As can be seen in this photo, the rust can then be scraped away to reveal some of the original can. Hopefully we will be able to make some interpretations from the cans and get a better idea of what might have been in them at one point a hundred years ago. the way, a lot of people mistake archaeologists for paleontologists. So just to ensure that visitors to the site don't get the wrong idea of just what kind of digging we are doing, we have this handy (and somewhat humorous) poster:

Thursday 24 May 2012

May 24th: Laboratory + Archaeology + Science = Awesome

Today Evan, Alexis, Spencer K. and myself are in the Capilano University lab working on our individual projects while the rest of the crew is working in the field. Spencer is continuing to tinker away with the tin cans recovered from the site by using electricity and a chemical bath to restore the iron into the cans, thus improving their structural integrity. Even after Spencer tried to explain it to me, I still don't quite understand how this chemistry/magic works, but it does. Alexis is plugging away at her level bag catalog, which she will continue to work on over the next few weeks until the excavations are complete. Evan is cataloging the artifacts, one by one...this includes tagging each piece with a number and documenting it thoroughly according to what it is and where on the site it was found.

I was able to sneak around the lab while they were working and snap this little video...have a look! It'll give you a better idea of what the archaeology lab at the university is like:

So remember the DDD bottle found yesterday at the "cabin" area of the site? Jasmin did some research online last night and came up with some interesting finds. This bottle once contained DeHaven's Dyspepsia Destroyer, an indigestion remedy from the late 1800's/early 1900's.

I'm not entirely sure what this ad's photo has to do with indigestion, but it was one of the original advertisements for the DDD product.

I don't know what "sick headache" is but sounds awful. This ad claims to not only cure stomach ailments but also bring "cheerfulness".

This link shows more info: DDD Medicine (scroll down to page 21)

...and now onto more lab photos from today:

Trays of artifacts found in the field, waiting to be cataloged by Evan. We have LOTS already...about 75 so far. 

 This is me being sneaky and snapping photos of Alexis and Evan while they're working. 

This looks like the top of a tobacco can just barely make out the "CO" in the word tobacco. 

This is a Pond's hand cream jar dating to the early 1900's that we found on Tuesday, fully intact. Even though the lid is still on, Bob says there's probably nothing in it.

 Alexis is going through each and every tiny piece of tin can fragment from the level bags and documenting them.

Evan is using white out to paint a little swatch on each artifact...this is so that she can write the catalog number on it with india ink. Sometimes we even take the time to glue artifacts back together if they are broken.

Spencer K. is scraping the rust off of the tin cans that he has chemically treated. Is amazing to see just how effective this method of restoring the cans is...the metal is shiny and strong underneath instead of falling apart to the touch as they did when first pulled out of the site.

Who knew a hundred year old boot to preserve so well? You would think that leather would break down faster than say, the tin cans but apparently not as you can still clearly see the eyelets on the boot.

 This is a glass lantern that is being glued back together by a jigsaw puzzle, this could take weeks.

ALSO! This weekend there is an event at the Lynn Headwaters: "Wilderness At Your Doorstep", featuring information on nature, history and heritage in the LSCR...a few of our crew members will be attending to present the Capilano University Archaeology Field School program to the public so come on down. 
Sunday, May 27th at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park from 10am-2pm.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

May 23rd: Forest People

It's mid-way through week three and we're getting the hang of this archaeology stuff just in time for the rain to start. We have been appreciating every gleam of sunshine knowing that today was inevitable...the dampness didn't stop us, though. We got right to work on filling in closed excavation units (that means they have been dug as far as we need to go and we have to replace the dirt we dug out). We had the pleasure of hosting 3 visitors today on site: Joel Sykes (Jasmin's husband) as well as Kaylen Riedlinger (a 2009 Capilano University Field School Alumni) and Bev Rapley (a 2008 Capilano University Field School Alumni). They didn't hesitate to get right down into the dirt with us today as you can see in the photos below...

Here is Dini working on the same excavation unit that she started on the first day of digging. Along with Andrew, they have found bottles, cans and ceramic fragments amongst the roots of this tree. 

 Jasmin, Meghan and myself had the task of filling our closed units with dirt. I think this photo proves that Jasmin can pretty much handle any challenge.

See all that red stuff? It's the rotten/dead log that we had to chop to pieces to uncover a midden of tin cans earlier this week. Mark and Meghan are shovelling like champs, here. No better workout, if you ask me. 

Kaylen and Bev (and Joel in background) taking a second to pose for Mark's photo request. Ok so, Joel isn't posing but they all look like they fit right in with our crew. Our two alumni members (Kaylen and Bev) spent the morning touring the site with Bob and then excavating in the "cabin" area. I think they found some nails and bits of glass. Thanks for the help, guys!

Joel again, looking super professional with his outdoorsy jacket and whisk brush in hand. He has the archaeologist squat position down to a T....thumbs up Joel, we think you should switch your major and join us in the field.

Willow and Meghan uncovered this bottle in the "cabin" area. We aren't quite sure what it was originally for as Bob has never seen a bottle quite like this one. It says "D D D" on the side...I think a little research might be in order. 

Tuesday 22 May 2012

May 22nd: No Rain, All Gain

Back in the field today and to our surprise/luck: no rain. We kept going on the excavation units that we had started last week to see what more we could find. 
A little video to see first hand what the digging zone is like:
(In this video: Mark, Kitty, Andrew, Meghan, Evan, Jasmin and me filming.)

 This is a view from the path next to these excavation units. After pulling a few of the softest pieces away from this log, we found some intact cans. It took quite a while to carefully remove the rotting log chunks and underneath was a variety of tin cans, a bottle, and a few pieces of Japanese rice bowls. 

 All hands on deck. Spencer K. was so excited to uncover the tin cans that a bunch of us helped out removing the pieces of log (again, carefully). Kitty, Dini, Andrew and myself all got our gloves on and pitched in...I was so nervous to do this task as the cans underneath are so fragile, I didn't want to damage them by accident.

 Voila: all the hard work of log removal paid off. Tin cans galore...see that sliver of rounded ceramic? That's a rice bowl piece. We actually found another portion of that same original bowl in the neighbouring excavation unit.

Most of the time when working in an excavation unit, you are allowed to tell people to stay out of your area (to protect your work)....but often, the work needing to be done (in this case, a log removal that runs through 3 units) required cooperation to complete the task. 

 That green bottle is a really great find as it seems to be a hand blown glass piece, meaning it is most likely a bit older than most of the bottles we have found. Most bottles have seams on the sides (including modern plastic time you buy a bottled water, check for seams. I never noticed them before Bob pointed it out to me). This bottle is just made from one molten piece of blown glass by hand which is much harder to do.

Mark took this lovely close-up shot of the tin can midden can get a better look at the rice bowl fragment here. It's not often we find this many cans in (more or less) one piece. 

This rice bowl came out of the same rotting log area as the tin cans. It's nearly intact, just missing a chunk from one side. Bob says it's the first bowl he's seen with designs like that on it. 

As you can see in this close-up of one of the tin cans we pulled out, it's falling apart really fast. Matter of fact, Spencer K. called Mark over to take a photo of a label on a can he had just uncovered and before the picture was snapped, the label virtually disintegrated.

Evan was excavating up the path (an area we think might have been where the cabins once stood) and found some pieces of an old stove. Maybe it was used for heating the cabin or as a very basic cooking area? There were some chunks of old leather boot mixed in with the stove pieces as well.

Monday 21 May 2012

May 21st: Victoria Day

As today is a holiday in Canada (Victoria Day) we will not be doing any fieldwork. I am anxious to get back on the site and work on the excavation unit I had started with Kitty. I can't believe it's been 2 weeks already.

This might be hard to see, but it is all that remains of a bridge across what was once a creek a hundred years ago in the LSCR. It won't last too much longer as this forest is very damp and wood decomposes quickly.

Back on site again bright and early tomorrow morning...rain or shine.

Saturday 19 May 2012

May 18th: Lab Wrap-Up

Every Friday we meet at Capilano University campus to go over the week's results, discuss project progress and plan the week upcoming. Overall, Bob is pretty pleased with the excavations so far, we're finding a lot of really useful artifacts, giving us a better idea of what the site's layout might have looked like a hundred years ago. We learned about the scholarly do's and do not's of bachelors and masters sum it up, getting a PHD takes sacrifice, dedication and at least a sliver of smarts. Jasmin and Willow are having a look at a PHD dissertation from SFU, courtesty of Bob, that might aid them in their research at possible garden sites at McKenzie Creek. We also discussed the some opportunities members of the crew to do line drawings of the found artifacts as there is some information that is better translated in a drawing than a photo (like lettering or symbols). Next week the weather forecast is rain, rain, and more rain. So the digging continues, but substitute dirt for mud. Bring on the muck, I can't wait to be back on the site Tuesday...not quite sure that I've ever wished for a shorter long weekend.

On Wednesday, Dini was organizing some artifacts to use for public education and she came across this piece of wind-up alarm clock. 

This the the view out of the window of our lab space. Capilano University is on such a beautiful piece of property...out of almost every window you see nothing but nature.

Another one of the selections Dini made for her public education inventory. Looks to be a kettle and in pretty decent shape. I will be sure to post the dates of any events that Dini will be setting up artifacts for the community to see and learn about.

...signing off until Tuesday! Time to go shopping for rain pants.

Friday 18 May 2012

May 17th: No Place We Would Rather Be

Day 9...the sun is still shining and we're back in the dirt...where the findings are good! We came across a number of new artifacts including more ceramics, glass beer bottles (a few even in one piece!), medicine bottles, a coin and lots of bits of tin cans. Spencer K. was on scene again with us today, helping us with his expertise on cans and bottles. I learned (the hard way) how not to get excited and just start pulling out an artifact when you find one. Recording artifacts in situ (as they appear in the ground) and removing the entire level of sediment around them is can't learn anything about the artifacts if you aren't thinking about where exactly you found them. I also learned that no one likes the job of sifting dirt and I think a game of rock paper scissors might be in order to determine sift duty next week. 

 Roll call: Kitty, Andrew, Jasmin, Rebecca, Dini, Meghan, Evan and myself. Kitty and I were working on the unit that hadn't been started yet. It's pretty exciting when you actually start to get down to the dirt and expose artifacts.

 Spencer M. found this medicine bottle intact. Bob thinks that the area Spencer found this bottle in is a place where a cabin used to be, hence the personal items found there like this one.

 Rocks get in the way sometimes. Nature can be a challenge when your aim is to uncover evidence of culture. But, we just slowly work around roots, rocks, and logs until we get low enough to remove them out of the way.

 Look what I happened to stumble upon today: it's a piece of a Japanese rice bowl. How do I know? It says 'made in Japan' on the bottom. Bob mentioned that any ceramics that are Japanese in origin but have English writing on them, are most likely to have been made after 1920. Prior to that time, the writing would be in Japanese for the most part.

 We paused to pose for this shot. Mark has been super on top of taking the photos for the Field School. I brought a fancy camera to the site today and took some pictures...but even with a fine piece of equipment (thanks for lending to me, little brother!) I still am less than amateur at photography. Mark is a super star and always manages to capture all of our best angles.

 Evan and Meghan were working on this unit in the "refuse" area today. They found quite a few tin cans intact (very rare to find, cans break down really easily) and some glass bottles. Note how they left the cans in place as they dug down? That's good archaeology. No pot hunting going on here, strictly professional.

 Root clippers = an archaeologist's best tool when working in the LSCR forest. A trowel can only do so much when you're digging in dirt infiltrated by a network of tiny, but strong roots. The bad news for nature is that archaeology is destructive in the sense that you have to force your way through vegetation to find anything. Sorry nature, it's in the name of science and education.

 Oh hi, Mark. What you got there? A tiny intact blue medicine bottle with Japanese (we think) writing on it? Makes you wonder why someone would throw away a nifty little bottle like that a hundred years ago. 

 Alexis, Ryan, Spencer and Lindsay working a little further up the path today where they found a coin. Not quite sure on the details of it, but I'll see if I can snag a photo to post. They later moved some of those giant logs behind them to continue excavating...strong lads, I wonder if they'll find anything underneath them.

 Here's Lindsay working under/around this log. Sometimes, when the log or rock is just too big, you have to do your best to dig with it in the way. Kitty and I were lucky as the log we had to dig around was rotted and fell apart pretty easily. It was actually underneath the standing and fallen trees that we found most of the artifacts today.

Andrew is holding up another piece of ceramic Japanese rice bowl that we found today. Our guess is that the area that we found this piece in was a kind of trash dump for the kitchen refuse of the camp back in the early 1900's. Yes, us archaeologists love digging through peoples' garbage for information.

So the second week of field work comes to an end. I don't know exactly how to describe just how much fun we're having despite working all day in the dirt. I can't wait to see what our findings can tell us about the people living in this area a hundred years ago. Tomorrow is back in the lab for the crew...hopefully we will get to have a closer look at the artifacts we found.