Rachel tries out different lighting for her shot.

Hi! My name is Madeleine “Bear” Douglas, and I am a second-year undergraduate student here at Stanford University double majoring in Archaeology and Economics. I decided to take this class because although I am an archaeology major, until now I had no practical experience with analyzing a collection. I thought I could learn a lot from a lab class in preparation for my studies later on and for this summer, when I will be on a dig in Çatalhöyük, Turkey. It has been a privilege to work with the materials from the San José Market Street Collection, and I hope that my project, on oral hygiene and toothbrush technology in the Market Street Chinatown, will be of interest and maybe of use to some of you.

Jocelyn adjusts the scale in her photograph.

Now that the quarter is coming to an end, everyone in the class is logging extra hours in the lab, pulling out and cataloging artifacts relevant to their projects, taking measurements, and checking historical references. As part of our projects, each of us will be making a presentation to the class on our research and our findings. To help us make more effective presentations, and also to teach us an important part of data management in archaeology, this week we learned about archaeological photography. Our guest lecturer, Jason Quinlan, taught us all a great deal about what goes into taking a good artifact photograph. First, you have to choose what aspect of the artifact you want to come through in the photograph: what is interesting or special about it? For example, if you want to emphasize the texture on an object, or some sort of engraving on its surface, using oblique lighting to cast a slight shadow will help that texture come out. If the object is smooth, you may not want to create those shadows. One of the most important things about archaeological photographs is scale. In every photograph, it is important to include a scale (a piece of paper or wood with length markings) in order to show the artifact’s size. Otherwise, it would be easy to think a huge urn could fit in the palm of your hand! We experimented in lab with photographing some of our artifacts, altering the aperture and shutter speed on the cameras to see the different effects of the change in lighting. This week’s artifact of the week served as our guinea pig- you can see the result below.


Featured Artifact

An ivory handled jackknife- buried treasure!

I found this week’s featured artifact bagged up in a box with some other small bone finds while I was searching for toothbrushes to analyze for my project. It is an ivory handled jackknife about 10 cm long with a blade that corroded while partially unfolded. The handle is engraved on both sides with a raised diamond pattern in the center and crosswise marks on the side. I was struck by the quality of the craftsmanship on the handle and by how well preserved it was. A knife like this would have been very expensive, and was probably a prized possession of the person who lost it.

Bones, Seeds, and Shell: Studying Faunal and Floral Remains

Can you tell what materials in this assemblage represent bone?

Hi! My name is Jessica Yuan, and I’m a sophomore who is about to declare a major in Cultural and Social Anthropology. After taking an introductory course to archaeology last quarter, I was itching to put my new theoretical knowledge on archeological concepts and techniques to use. When the opportunity to enroll in Professor Voss’ class on laboratory methodology in archaeology arose, I signed up eagerly, knowing it would be the perfect venue for me to explore my interest in archaeology further and gain substantial hands-on experience in analyzing historical artifacts. I have gotten much more than I bargained for: in addition to acquiring skills in the identification, analysis, and cataloging of a wide array of materials, ranging from ceramics to lithics, I have also learned much on the history of overseas Chinese in the San Jose area. As my own family’s legacy is one of immigration from China to California, I found much of the contextual information of the Market Street Artifact Collection especially relevant to my understanding of my own family heritage.

Bear inspecting botanical specimens through a microscope.

This past week marked the eighth that our class has spent with the Market Street Chinatown Artifact Collection, and we are becoming more and more adept at classifying different archaeological materials. Our focus this week has been on recognizing faunal and floral remains and drawing various analyses and interpretations from them. As a class, we got an opportunity to try our hand at zooarchaeology, learning some of the fundamentals of skeletal anatomy and bone structure, in addition to different methods of collecting descriptive, primary data and interpretive, secondary data. We learned how through studying weathering and abrasion patterns or calculating MNI (Minimum Number of Individuals) values, archaeologists can make inferences about ages, genders, and frequencies of various animals, which allow for interpretations into patterns of culture and activity of the past. Following a lecture on Tuesday, the class spent Thursday in a practicum setting, examining botanical and faunal materials. By studying seeds and various fragments of bone and shell, we were able to gain some insight into the lifeways of people of the past. Friday was open lab day, in which students each worked on the individual research projects they have been developing throughout the quarter, which address topics as diverse as hygiene practices, conceptions of childhood, and household religious activity in the Market Street Chinatown.


Featured Artifact

This Frozen Charlotte doll is less than 4 cm long.

With its delicately painted pink cheeks and black hair, this Frozen Charlotte doll that Rachel discovered when searching through a storage box immediately caught my attention. Measuring only 3.73 cm in length, this porcelain doll was one of many mass-produced in Germany between 1860 and 1900. These tiny dolls, which typically ranged in length from one to four inches, were widely popular throughout the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, perhaps because as “penny dolls,” their low price made them well-suited for children’s toy collections. The doll was named after the title character in the William Lorenzo Carter folk ballad “Fair Charlotte,” which sings the tragic story of a beautiful young bride who freezes to death on a winter sleigh ride with her husband after refusing to warm herself with a blanket. The presence of these Frozen Charlottes in the Market Street Chinatown attests not only to the presence of children within the community, but also to a degree of acculturation to Western practices and adoption of Western commodities.