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1/13/13 11:56 AM
The Nate Harrison Historical Archaeology Project
Palomar Mountain - San Diego, California
The Official Site of the SDSU Historical Archaeology Field School
Archaeological Laboratory Methods At the conclusion of the field season all excavated artifacts were moved to San Diego State University’s North American Archaeology Laboratory located in the Dede Alpert Center for Community Engagement in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. At this facility, lab workers washed, labeled, and cataloged every artifact. Students washed the artifacts in plain tap water with soft and medium bristled toothbrushes. The washing took place using dish-drainers and colanders in order to prevent any artifacts from inadvertently going down the drain. Each individual bag of artifacts was washed separately to prevent the mixing of contexts. Artifacts made out of specific materials such as leather or wood were not washed in water, but cleaned with a dry brush. All cleaning endeavored to protect the integrity of the artifact. The bag tag from the artifact bag was kept with the artifacts on the drying screen to prevent context information from being lost. Once dry, each artifact was labeled. Only the following types of artifacts were labeled: Glass, Ceramic, and Fauna. Artifacts made out of leather, stone and metal were not labeled as the chemical consistency of the labels could damage porous artifact types. The labels consisted of a layer of nail polish, a very small hand-written description denoting the Nate Harrison site (NH), the ER number, and the specific level--for example NH2A--and then another layer of nail polish to seal the label. The nail polish was either clear or opaque white depending on the color of individual artifact. All of the sealing layers were clear. The nail polish used in the lab for this purpose was New York Color Long-Wearing Nail Enamel 138B (clear) and Wet ‘n’ Wild Nail Color 449B, French White Crème. The labels were written using Pigma Micron 005 #1 archival ink pens. To ensure that the labels adhered properly, it was important that the first coat of nail polish was completely dry and untouched before using the pens to write the label. If not, the label tended to bubble and had to be reapplied. After each artifact was labeled and the label was thoroughly dry, it was then bagged. Archival quality, zip-lock bags were used to ensure long-term storage. Each artifact type within a unit layer was bagged together, with the ER number written on the exterior of the bag. All of the artifact types were then combined in one large bag labeled using a black Sharpie marker, with the ER number and layer, the description of the layer, the date of excavation, and the names of the excavators. If all of the artifacts did not fit into one large bag, they were put into multiple bags and labeled accordingly, e.g., Bag 1 of 3. An example of a label was as follows: NH1A, Rootmat, 6-11-2004, Eischen, Sweeney, Werle, Bag 1 of 3. A new paper label was placed in the main bag with the exact same information found on the exterior. Each artifact was then cataloged in terms of the following: Site Name, North Coordinates, East Coordinates, ER Unit, Layer, Layer Description, Excavator(s), Date Excavated, Material Category, Material Type, Object, Object Description, Attributes, Maker’s Mark, Date Range, Color, Height, Length, Width, Weight in Grams, Diameter, Quantity, Mends to:, Removed for Electrolysis, and Notes/Interpretations. In the end, only the artifact type categories from the paperwork were used in the actual database, but taxonomic classifications were evident in the designations “Objects, Object Descriptions, and Notes/Interpretations” (see Appendix B). Once each bag of artifacts was cataloged, the exterior of the bag was marked with a circled “C.” At this point, all artifact types were examined for mends, beginning with individually bagged and cataloged units. Mends were secured using blue painter’s tape, as it does not leave a residue on the artifacts. In future excavations, mends will be secured using artifact-safe glue. Once mends within each bag were completed, cross-mends were identified between units. All mends were noted in the artifact catalog. Close this window to return to Archaeological Field Methods
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