Artifacts from SERC fieldwork

We’ve started our third and final week of excavation on the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) campus. We’ve opened three five-foot by five-foot units around the remnants of a late 19th century building.

Since we are trying to use material culture to answer questions about what the structure was used for and by whom, our units were strategically laid out in three places: what we believe could be a front yard, in between two brick piers of the foundation straddling the interior and exterior of the structure, and in back of the building.

My partner, Joe, and I are excavating the unit in the front of the building. We think this might be a “front yard” because the building was likely positioned toward the dirt road that connects with the main Homestead (Woodlawn).

Indian Head Penny dated 1893 similar to the one found at SERC. Photo from ebay.

Indian Head Penny dated 1893 similar to the one found at SERC. Photo from ebay.

While ceramics, glass and even nails can be good for dating a site or a specific layer within a unit, these diagnostic artifacts usually only narrow the timeline to a smaller date range. However, we found an Indian Head penny with 1893 on the front which gives us a very specific year to work with. While this may not be the earliest artifact from our unit, we will know more once the artifacts have been cleaned and cataloged in the lab.

In addition to the penny, we have screened bags full of nails and other hardware which might indicate that our unit is in an area where someone might have had a discard pile for used building materials. The presence of fence staples might indicate there was a fence implying that there was, in fact, a yard to fence off.

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