This week, the Tuesday lab section finished its excavation at the Waterford Mill site and started cleaning and sorting the artifacts that were unearthed. The members of the lab section were enthusiastic to start cleaning and sorting the artifacts, as many wanted to learn more about the history of the artifacts, as well as the contexts in which they were produced or used.
A few people in the lab section focused on sorting artifacts, but most people started cleaning bagged artifacts that were found during survey and excavation in previous weeks. Common types of artifacts that people came across when cleaning included ceramic, glass, and rusty metal. There were also some shells and leather. Many of the artifacts could be cleaned with the help of water, which helped to wash the dirt off of the artifacts. The leather and rusted metal, however, could be damaged by contact with water and had to be cleaned without it. These artifacts were cleaned by scrubbing the dirt off of them with toothbrushes.
Many members of our lab section enjoyed the cleaning process and the fact that it allowed us to learn more about the artifacts that our classmates had found. Some notable artifacts that were cleaned included a shoe, a glass insulator for an old power line, a button with a design on it that looked like a bunch of grapes, and a tube of old Colgate’s Ribbon Dental Cream toothpaste. While they might seem banal or ordinary, these artifacts demonstrate the artifactual diversity of the Waterford Mill site. Since the artifacts that were cleaned served multiple functions and had decorations of varying complexity, they show us that the Waterford Mill, at one time, was an important place of human habitation and existence.
Fig. 1: A vintage, 1953 advertisement for Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream. The tube of toothpaste that was cleaned on Tuesday closely resembled the tube featured in the advertisement.
In addition to cleaning, we sorted the artifacts. There were a few artifacts that were initially placed in the wrong bag (for example, glass accidentally placed in a bag of metal), so as we cleaned we relocated such artifacts to the bags that they were supposed to be in. A few members of our lab group also worked on organizing the bags themselves. This meant creating separate bins for the artifacts that were found at Waterford Mill and the ones that were found during fieldwalking in the arb in Week 3. Subsequently, these bags were sorted according to where the artifacts inside them were found.