Telling the Story
The archaeologist pulls together many different strands to tell the story of Privy 507 and the people whose household artifacts it contains. Historical research paints a picture of the privy’s surrounds in San Francisco in the 1870s. It also provides valuable details of the Peel family: who they were, how many children they had, what type of house they lived in, perhaps even how well off they were. The archaeologist uses historical research to help understand the patterns in the stratigraphy and artifacts of Privy 507. With an understanding of Privy 507 and the Peel family in the early 1870s, the archaeologist can then compare the artifact collection with archaeological collections associated with other families, tenant buildings, businesses and industries in the neighborhood.
Slowly, a detailed story emerges as to the types of people who lived and worked in the neighborhood, how they made their way through life, and how the neighborhood itself changed over time. From the excavation of individual archaeological features, archaeologists build a detailed understanding of how complex communities functioned in the nineteenth century cities of America.
The mass of information produced by archaeological excavations is presented in various ways. Technical reports detail the project’s methods and illustrate and describe each archaeological feature excavated. These reports allow other archaeologists to assess the value of the research. Articles are published in journals and presentations are given at conferences. Reports, presentations and journal articles however are often written for other archaeologists to read. Archaeologists face the challenge of translating these often dry technical reports and presentations into interesting forms for non-archaeologists. Books, posters, pamphlets, videos and websites are amongst the ways archaeologists convey not only their insights, but also the excitement of discovery and history to non-archaeologists.