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Archaeology
of a
San Francisco Neighborhood

This Web site was funded by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

It was created by Anthropological Studies Center (ASC).

Cataloging & Photography

Archaeologists work at reconstructing Privy 507’s artifacts until only small piles of unmatched pieces remain. This tells them what type, and how many of each type of artifact were originally discarded in the privy. Additional research on artifacts that have maker’s marks and impressed letters may even provide a year or range of years when the item was manufactured.

The cataloging specialist takes each group of identical, reconstructed artifacts and records information about them in a database.

What type of information is recorded? The height, length and other dimensions of the artifact, its material and color, manufacturing methos, decorative patterns, labels or impressed lettering, information about its manufacturer and if known, the date of manufacture.

Double-click to view larger imageThe range of manufacture dates for the Privy 507 artifacts confirms what was suspected in the field: that they were most probably used by the Peel family, who lived on the parcel from 1856 to 1879. Most manufacture dates, however, cluster in the late 1860s and early 1870s, suggesting that that Privy 507 was used for discarding the Peel family rubbish in the early 1870s. By carefully reconstructing and recording the artifacts, then analyzing the resulting database, the archaeologist forms a picture of the Peel household during this Double-click to view larger imageperiod.

Photography is the final stage in the process of recording the artifacts from Privy 507. The photographic specialist takes one photograph of all the artifacts from the privy, arranging them in groups such as tableware or "social drugs" (e.g. alcohol and tobacco). These layout photographs allow the archaeologist to appreciate the variety and amount of artifacts found in the privy, and develop an impression of the family who once owned and used them. "Vignettes" or detailed photographs are then taken of groups of related artifacts such as inkpots, slate pencils and writing slate fragments, or unusual items such as a matched, hand-painted dinner set.

 

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