Research Designs and Glass

Bear extrapolates from a rim sherd.

Hi! My name is Jocelyn Brabyn, and I’m a third-year undergraduate majoring in Cultural and Social Anthropology here at Stanford University. I enrolled in Professor Voss’ class on archaeological laboratory methods on a whim, but I am finding myself increasingly enthralled by the subject, and have felt inspired by my time in the lab to spend my summer working on a dig in the field. This class is my first encounter with archaeology, and coming from a family of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, I can’t help but compare it to sleuthing. When I enter the lab, I cease to be a mere frazzled undergraduate, and I become a private investigator, inspecting, deducing, categorizing, and extrapolating. Needless to say, I find it fascinating!

Jessica sleuthing through census records.

This week we transitioned from ceramics to glass. On Tuesday, Professor Voss explained to us exactly how to formulate our research questions for the projects we will be completing individually. On Thursday we each turned in our preliminary research proposals, and it’s already evident from the brainstorm we had with Professer Voss on Tuesday that my classmates’ projects promise to be very exciting indeed! Following the workshop was Professor Voss’ lecture on glass, where we touched on everything from “black” glass to “milk” glass, kick-ups to collars, dip-molds to the automatic bottle machine. On Thursday we put our new knowledge to practical use in the lab, where we did various exercises identifying manufacturing methods on glass artifacts. I even learned the difference between an embossed manufacturer’s mark and a pontil scar—turns out they’re pretty different!


Featured Artifact

Rim sherd of a large globular storage jar with lugs.

The artifact of the week comes from Friday’s lab section, which marked our transition into glass as we finished up the ceramic remains we had been cataloging. It comes from the Asian stoneware I had been working on last week, rather than the new glasses we are just breaking into (not literally!). It’s a fragment from a very large globular storage jar probably used for shipping or transport, because it has lugs on the shoulder to secure a lid. I had never seen lugs before, and Professor Voss said it was unusual to find them intact like that. This is an exceptionally thick rim sherd, weighing in at over half a kilogram, indicating that the complete vessel must have been very large indeed, housing contents on a fairly massive scale.

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