Old Dirt – New Thoughts

November 20, 2007

Church Archaeology – The Lab Phase

Filed under: Artifacts,Hamline History @ 10:57 am and

Backfilled trenchProcessing church site

The field phase of our Methodist church excavation is officially done. Yesterday, Hamline’s Grounds Services hauled back all our excavated dirt and filled in our trench. No backfilling by hand for us. My students will never truly appreciate their luck in missing this traditional part of archaeology.

We are now in the lab phase of our project. Our first step is to clean and inventory ourDecorative mortar collections. What to do with mortar? What to do with lumps of oxidized iron and sand? These are the “fire-cracked rock” of modern urban sites.

Stained glass drying on trayThe stained glass shards are still my favorite artifact. The splash of color catches my eye as I move around the lab, especially compared to the earthyFused nails, wood, and stained glass bricks, limestone, and rusty metal that dominate our collections. We are also finding some dramatic evidence of the fire that destroyed the church, especially as captured in the fusion of melted glass, nails, and wood. Once we finish the inventory we will begin the analysis phase. That’s when we make the real discoveries in archaeology.


  1.   JGordon — July 18, 2008 @ 1:43 pm    

    Hmm. I don’t like it that there haven’t been any updates here for 8 months.

    And, Brian, I’ve seen you in the last 8 months, so I know you’re not in a coma or anything. It can be difficult to tell sometimes, sure, but I pride myself in being able to tell the differences between comatose Brian, and thinking Brian (thinking Brian breathes through his mouth).

  2.   Brian — July 18, 2008 @ 4:16 pm    

    I wasn’t in a coma. I wasn’t even thinking that much. I just wanted to see whether you were really paying any attention to my blog. Now I know you read it once every eight months. You’re probably too busy being a big shot at the Science Museum and making some weird, Walter Potter art with your stuffed squirrel collection. http://www.flickr.com/photos/23888182@N00/349234468/

  3.   JGordon — July 20, 2008 @ 3:39 pm    

    So, what,you monitor your blog constantly, but don’t update it? It’s like you’re creating an archaeological (web)site. In five hundred years, e-archaeologists are going to look through this thing and try to piece together the creature that was Brian Hoffman, PhD, based on the random and infrequent bits of information that ended up here.

    I’m afraid I don’t own enough dead animals for that kind of genius, but I fall asleep dreaming about that sort of thing every night. That is to say, a better world.

    And, yes, I am a big shot, and it takes up a lot of my time.

  4.   JGordon — September 9, 2008 @ 1:24 pm    

    Don’t rush into your next post, Brian.

    Also, I wrote a clever response to your last comment a few weeks ago (the gist was that, yes, I am a big shot), but I must have fallen asleep before I could hit submit. Get some ads with dancing babies and crap up here.

  5.   JGordon — September 9, 2008 @ 1:25 pm    

    Oh, my god, there it is.

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