Sunday, June 24, 2012

Week Two Recap

Our second week was hot but productive. We have continued work on the excavation units behind 124 Elfreth’s Alley and started digging a unit in the pathway between 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley. With the help of some really awesome archaeologists and volunteers, we were also able to remove a portion of the modern brick patio behind 126 (which had been laid with cement). Now that we can access the ground surface, we will open excavation units behind 126 Elfreth’s Alley in the coming weeks.

Over the last two weeks we have uncovered many artifacts and two new features, as well as unearthed sections of past foundation walls behind 124 and 126 which had been identified in prior archaeological testing. Previous blog posts have described some of these finds so far. As we continue to recover artifacts, it is important to reflect on the power and meaning of these items. Artifacts are not simply physical objects; they are markers of the past and they represent the material items that people used and encountered on a daily basis. Objects such as the Acme glass bottle as well as the small fragments of ceramics we have found are everyday artifacts. Such artifacts tell us about the practices of the residents of the Alley such as what they purchased and consumed and how they served their food. The bone button highlighted in the last post speaks to practices of dress and personal adornment.

In addition to reconstructing the daily lives of the residents through artifacts, we can also understand how the inhabitants of the Alley interacted with their architectural domestic space through features such as the foundation walls. Throughout history several different structures were been built behind the original houses at 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley, most notably kitchen additions and tenements. Over time the spatial organization of the back lots changed greatly as these structures were built then torn down and new buildings were constructed in their place. The walls we have unearthed so far are not just foundations; they are representative of the spaces the residents navigated daily. The artifacts and features we have identified through archaeology are essential tools for giving a voice to individuals who lived on the Alley.

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