Guest Speaker and Field Trip

The class in front of the reconstructed Ng Shing Gung altar.

Hi, my name is Stephanie Cruz. As a junior majoring in Anthropological sciences, I thought that taking CASA 103 the Laboratory Methods class would be beneficial in helping me learn skills applicable to the field and lab, but I had no idea that this class would also teach me so much about local history. Through CASA 103 I’ve grown better acquainted with the area in the short span of four weeks than I had in almost two and a half years. Much of this is due to our background reading assigned to us each week on some aspect of Chinatown life, as well as guest speakers and a field trip to modern day Market Street.

Some of the collection’s pieces on display at History San Jose.

Most recently we were graciously visited by Connie Young Yu, the author of Chinatown, San Jose, USA. Ms. Young Yu recounted stories from her book and also from her own childhood and background. She described the Chinese immigrant experience using examples which her own grandparents struggled through, like finding jobs and very explicit threats. Ms Young Yu also mentioned the imbedded prejudices in place against Asians as late as the 1930s, when her father was ostracized from finding a job, even with a Stanford engineering degree. Later on in the week, the class ventured into San Jose. We visited History Park San Jose and the Ng Shing Gung, which means “Temple of Five Gods”, a historic recreation of the Heinlenville cultural and religious center built in 1888. Here we met Monica Tucker, who gave us the tour across the temple and explained how the various artifacts of the collection were incorporated into exhibit. We saw what people previous to us had cleaned, sorted, and catalogued presented to us in neat glass cases, which gave me a real sense as to how we were contributing to Chinese History commemoration.


Featured Artifact

Marbles from the Market Street site.

The artifact of the week or artifacts of the week as the case may be, are three marbles (artifacts 85-32-24-111, 85-31-24-108, and 85-31-24-107). I chose these because I thought they represented a part of community life that is often overlooked: children at play. While I may not be 100% sure that these marbles belonged to children, they do suggest it. In particular I thought these marbles exemplified the cautious care and attention to detail that many artifacts in the collection exhibit. In particular artifact 85-32-24-111 which has small leaf decorations is especially appealing, not just as a toy but as an example of careful craftsmanship.

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.