Last week, the Unearthing Detroit team was lucky enough to have high school students from MichBio join us in the archaeology lab here at Old Main. These students who are excelling in the sciences came from high schools all over eastern Michigan. This Wayne State University-wide event, hosted by the Office of the Vice President of Research , allowed these students to explore the different science departments across campus. Here in Old Main, our team demonstrated the laboratory techniques of archaeology.
We hosted three artifact stations (animal bones, pottery, and medicine bottles) where students and supervisors were invited to investigate different types of biology and health-related research in historical archaeology. Students then attended an Anthropology Q&A session next door at our library hosted by Dr. Yuson Jung and Anthropology Learning Community leaders Athena Zissis and Aaron Okkonen.
At the first station in the lab, Unearthing Detroit team member Sarah Beste guided visitors through faunal analysis. This is the identification of animal bones recovered from excavations. Faunal analysis allows archaeologists to not only determine what types of meat was being consumed in the area, but also to view the cut marks of butchers and their apprentices.
Next, Dr. Krysta Ryzewski and I showed off glass medicinal and storage bottles that are over 100 years old. By comparing bottles recovered from the Renaissance Center, Roosevelt Park and even a few from sites in New England, students were able to research the health concerns of the area and late 19th-century time period. We then discussed the components of many nineteenth-century medicines and how they led to the formation of regulatory systems like the Federal Drug Administration.
At the final station, students were assisted by Samantha Malette and our Grosscup Anthropology Museum partner, Brenna Moloney, in the techniques of pottery analysis. Students used tools such as calipers and rim diameter charts to determine the size of a vessel from just a small sherd. Sam and Brenna also explained the scale drawings archaeologist produce to estimate vessel shapes and forms from small pottery sherds .
We were all very excited to share the awesome things archaeologists can learn from artifacts with such an enthusiastic audience of students. From exploring what people used as medicine to what they ate for dinner, it is always fun to reexamine the everyday lives of those who lived in past cities. We will be opening up these stations again for Noel Night on December 5th, 2014 and look forward to sharing our findings with even more community members then.