Back to Class!

Everybody hard at work during Friday lab.

In January we began the third iteration of Prof. Barbara Voss’s Laboratory Methods in Archaeology course, in which students learn laboratory analysis techniques by cataloging and studying archaeological material from the Market Street Chinatown in San Jose, California. My name is Josh Samuels, and I’m privileged to be the course’s Teaching Assistant this year. I’m a graduate student in the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford. The bulk of my archaeological experience comes from excavations at the Iron Age site of Monte Polizzo in western Sicily, in addition to Cultural Resource Management work in Arizona and California. My current research interests center on land reform in Sicily, with a focus on the agricultural villages built by the Fascist government in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Josh, this year's course TA, examining a box of artifacts.

Prof. Voss began this year’s Laboratory Methods course on January 9, 2007, with an introductory lecture about the role of laboratory analysis in the archaeological process, and an introduction to the San Jose Market Street Chinatown Archaeological Project. In the weeks that followed, we reconvened for lectures on ceramic analysis, including the physical attributes of ceramics, common waretypes and vessel forms, and the different ways that archaeologists “count” ceramics. The class has been practicing its ceramic identification skills during the Thursday lab sessions, and on Fridays Bryn Williams, the project Research Assistant, has been guiding everyone through the cataloguing system and getting us all started on cataloging and analyzing ceramic sherds. This year we’re focusing on cataloging material from Lot 86-36, which consists of artifacts from the northern portion of the Market Street Chinatown site.


Featured Artifacts and Lab Update

Our first featured artifact, a porcelaneous stoneware bowl with a green-tinted glaze.

From the first day of laboratory work, we encountered ceramic vessels that we had never seen before in the Market Street Chinatown collection. We are featuring two of them here. The first is a porcelaneous stoneware bowl with a green-tinted glaze. The exterior rim is decorated with a green pattern applied with a stencil or rouletting wheel. On the interior, the base of the bowl is only partially glazed, and this seems to have been intentional as the glaze is absent from a circle that encloses a diamond shape.

Our second featured artifact, a porcelain bowl decorated with underglaze blue hand-painted designs.

The second featured artifact is a porcelain bowl decorated with underglaze blue hand-painted designs, possibly some kind of plant motif. Do any of you recognize these unusual decorative patterns? We’ve not been able to find any examples of them in our reference library. Please leave a comment here or email me at if you have any suggestions.

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