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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).

Excavation

How do archaeologists learn about the Past? Think about how many objects you touch in a day. How many different types of things do you use; clothes, foods, dishes, books? Did you make them, or did you buy them? Are they things you enjoy using, or are they just convenient? The objects we use all have something to say about us, and how we live: what we like, how much money we have, what we think is important. Archaeologists study the objects of everyday life to learn about the lives of people who lived in the past.

How do archaeologists learn about people in the Past from objects? What are the special challenges for archaeologists excavating in a modern city? Join us in the excavation and analysis of objects found in a nineteenth-century San Francisco privy to understand how archaeologists learn about the Past.

 

Planning the Excavation

There are a lot of questions to sort out in planning an excavation: when will the dig happen, what crew and equipment will be required, what methods of excavation and analysis will be used? more...

 

 

 

Sanborn map Researching the History

One of the foremost questions is ‘Where to dig?' Historical documents provide the key to which areas in the city might still contain archaeological deposits that are worth excavating. more...

 

 

 

 

Getting Started

Many city blocks now look totally different to how they would have looked 100 years ago. The archaeologist strips back the modern layers of asphalt or gravel to reveal the historic ground surface and the archaeological features it contains. more...

 

 

 

 

Excavating the Feature

In nineteenth-century cities there was often no rubbish collection. People discarded their rubbish in backyards, disused privies and wells. Archaeologists carefully excavate these archaeological features to recover the objects, also called artifacts, and understand how and why people discarded them. more...

 

 

 

 

 

Recording the Feature

In archaeology, the artifacts are only half the story. The other half is how they were discarded. Were the artifacts in a privy all thrown in together or over time? Were those at the bottom different to those at the top? Were they found in layers of ash or sand? Recording the excavation of the privy in plans, notes and photographs helps tell the story of how people used the artifacts. more...

 

 

 

Washing & Sorting

Artifacts recovered from the privy are washed and labeled. From the hundreds of shards and fragments found in the privy, each bottle, plate or artifact is reconstructed. more...



 

 

Cataloging & Photography

Each artifact has information to contribute to the story of the privy. Information about the artifact's shape, size, decoration and markings is entered into a database, and photographs are taken. more...

 

 

 

Archiving

The questions archaeologists ask about artifacts and the people who used them can change. Archaeological collections are carefully stored so that they can be reanalyzed by future archaeologists. more...

 

 

 

Telling the Story

Historical research, artifact information and excavation notes are pulled together to develop the story about the people who once lived in the excavation area. Telling the story of an excavation through reports, books, websites and articles is an important part of archaeology. more...

 

 

 

 

 

 


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