Three Weeks In: Some of Our Finds

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A blog post written by Justin Uehlein, a Ph.D student studying labor and foodways:

We have a little less than three weeks remaining in the field season and there is still much to explore. So far we have begun to excavate the buried history of a company owned mining double house and we have learned a lot doing it! Strategically placing test units across the center yard space we have uncovered former garden beds, which helped working families sustain themselves through times of hardship. Excavations in the yard have also begun to unveil the old living surface. Oral history and archaeology have demonstrated that the garden was terraced at some point in the past. This may have been done to increase garden productivity during labor strikes and company layoffs. We have also discovered something quite unexpected.

While excavating the interior of a former structure, perhaps a privy, something new was added to the picture. As we peeled the soil back we began to piece together the lives of two women who had previously occupied the home we are now excavating. We carefully IMG_3180troweled and shoveled through the first few layers,finding cosmetics containers, stockings, and other feminine products indicative of their lives in Pardeesville. While all of this material is fascinating, the stockings seem to pose the biggest question: Why so many? Perhaps these were reused to stuff pillows, stuffed animals for the children, or other cushions? While these questions remain unanswered, they provide yet another interesting glimpse into the archaeological record of Pardeesville, PA. Lab analysis will tell us something about their condition and usage.

Along with feminine products, we also uncovered the plant remains of peaches and pumpkins, as well as animal bones from chickens, ducks, cows, pigs and perhaps rabbit. These finds, alongside the memories of our friends and current residents regarding past gardens filled with peppers, tomatoes, vine beans, a variety of spices and herbs, as well as berries and other fruits and much more provides us insight into the diet of those who lived in Pardeesville and this former company home specifically. The animal remains are minimal and perhaps hint at the sparing use of meats while the gardens may suggest a heavy reliance on plant life for sustenance. While these are early thoughts, the relative absence of such gardens in much of Pardeesville today as well as the lack of grazing animals provides a stark contrast to the yard spaces of the past, filled with vegetables, spice, and fruit trees,  and space for chicken coops and grazing animals.20140621_145703

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About LM Project

The LMP is a collaborative endeavor which aims to recognize the events surrounding the Lattimer Massacre, an incident that changed the labor movement and impacted the world by bringing to light economic disparities and ethnic tensions in the anthracite region of PA.
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