We had two important finds today. The first, pictured above, is a miner’s check tag. It is marked “977” and marked with what appears to be an “L” (for “Lattimer”?) It was the first item we have found like this. A check tag would have been a number assigned to a particular miner. They would place this number, impressed on a token, on a board before entering the mines to indicate they were below ground in the case of an accident. They also would have been used to identify particular cars of coal that they would have filled. This would ensure that those weighing the load of coal would attribute it to the particular miner, and pay them accordingly.
Our friend Joe Michel, who came to visit today shortly after Lucas and Sam pulled the check tag out of a unit, said that this tag really connects this site to the coal region and its strong connection to the work of mining. In previous posts we have discussed how our artifacts and landscapes at the site often reflect the activities, both work and play, of women and children on the site. But finding the check-tag really brought home the connections between this site and the dangerous work of coal mining that occurred merely hundreds of feet adjacent, and perhaps below, the home site we were examining. For Katie Chen and Katie Nyulassy, who have been working on the employee record database over the last year, it really connected the archaeological site to the names, occupations and work-related injuries they have been carefully transcribing. The other common artifact on the site we can relate to the men’s work include a huge amount of boot leather fragments we find at all depths of the site.
The other exciting artifacts we found today were a collection of bone fragments representing food remains. They included both large mammals, probably cow, and medium sized animals, perhaps sheep or goat. Bones, or faunal remains as referred to by archaeologists, are very important indicators of diet and nutrition. There have been very few faunal remains found at the site so far, so these were greeted with excitement!