It has been a busy week at the site. We just finished our fourth week of excavations. With only a week and a half left out in the field, we are counting down each moment. What has been happening? Here is a quick update:
In the front of the site, our test units around the rear of the house went surprisingly deep. A concrete pad we encountered would have been situated in the small yard between the house and the adjoining alleyway. It also would have served to provide an impermeable surface to drain the area. Based upon stories and photographs of other houses, perhaps the miners would wash themselves in this private area at the end of each workday. We seem to have a propensity for finding drain pipes! Five feet below the surface of the concrete pad we encountered a cast iron pipe placed in a hand-excavated trench. Clearly, great effort was put in to remove liquid waste from the house.
In the middle of the site, we closed up a unit which contained, about three feet below the surface, a 6-inch ceramic pipe. According to locals it was a “wildcat sewer”, used to drain the waste from homes into the mines. According to our informants it was placed here by the community in the 1970s, possibly replacing another similar system of drainage. Apparently township sewer didn’t reach the community until the 1980s.
Bev Hendricks has been excavating in the rear yard of the house. She has been finding bits of broken artifacts from all periods of the houses occupation. This includes items of plastic, glass, ceramic, metal. The decorated smoking pipe fragment dates to the first 20 to 30 years of the site’s occupation. (1880-1910)
The rear of the yard is turning up a mix of rubble and refuse ranging from between the 1890s and the 1960s. Teresa Robbins and James Kuzma have been working through it trying to make sense of it. The porcelain doll leg we found last week came from this area. We wll need to examine it closer in the lab, but seems to be an early 20th century toy. But, we also found a tin-enameled chamber pot with a pair of rubber gloves fused to it. There must be a story connected to that!
In all seriousness, one story emerging from our findings so far are the efforts by the occupants of Church/ Scamper Street to make what started as a temporary landing spot into a safe, clean, permanent homestead. (see this previous post) In 1898 this was said about the neighborhood:
There is no sewage system, and the alley is the dumping-ground for all offal. At every few steps of this winding, reeking way are little openings leading into other passageways, not much wider than will permit a man to walk through.
This landscape changed quickly through the efforts of the homeowners, both individually and as a community. The drainpipes and “wildcat sewer” may seem like unlikely subjects for archaeological research (where are the tombs and pyramids!?), but for us they illustrate the facts of everyday life in Pardeesville across time. That is what we are here to do.