The Cowichan Style

If you’ve paying attention to me the past few weeks you’ve noticed I’ve been clicking away at my needles at some sort of project. Today I’m going to discuss my final project for my Ethnoarchaeology class which is to knit some baby booties in the Cowichan style. This archaeology discipline places an emphasis similar to Historical Archaeology that text-based accounts should go hand in hand with material goods to create a narrative that might be obscured otherwise. However ethnoarchaeology places a heavy emphasis on active observation with communities that still exist and can offer insight to how their culture functions and the implications archaeologists can therefor place on former cultures.

The Cowichan

The Cowichan style is an interesting case of how a native people subjected to the advent of colonialism use and adapt new technologies by combining old ones into a new and inspired product. In this case the Cowichan name comes from the Cowichan valley on Vancouver Island. However it didn’t only occur in the areas and the Coast Salish were known to have knitted in the style throughout the area. Coming from missionaries coming into the Vancouver area in the mid 1850’s the Cowichan quickly adapted the new knitting technologies into their new style using an already rich history of basketry and weaving.

The Cowichan brand soon became well known across the US and there are known accounts of sweaters being taken over seas for WWII which soon became popular due to their durable nature and ability to retain heat and keep out moisture. Patterns on the sweater were often inspired by past history or even designs that were fancied. One known example is a sweater knitted with a Chinese dragon motif, inspired by an imported tea box. Sweaters in general have a heavily knitted collar and made seamless through knitting techniques.


However not all is well with the knitting style, in the process of becoming famous there are many “copy cat” styles that although Cowichan “inspired” are not true items in the Cowichan style. This comes by different seam lines, non-native design and various other little tid-bits such as dyed wool and a different treatment process. This has resulting in native knitters taking shortcuts such as bigger yarn and needles and smaller projects in order to keep up with national demand. Judging by the vast number of knock offs the style itself is in trouble of not retaining it’s native origins.

(Note: the booties above are not Cowichan in origin)

For my own personal project I’ve decided to knit baby booties in (hopefully) a similar style. This mostly means yarn types and colors, wool treatment and design. Although baby booties lack the amount of space to make the elaborate patterns the sweaters have become world famous over. They’re not quite done yet, still needing some last minute duplicate stitching to finalize the pattern but I’ll be totting them around class. (I’ll upload a pic on the blog when they are 100% finished)

For a more in-depth posting on the Cowichan sweater and where I got some of the pictures from I suggest looking at: for more information!




AAM Conference Dispatch

Recently, the Burke opened a new exhibit, “Imagine That”( It shows off the collections and turns a public eye into the deepest recesses of the Museum. It’s not just the Burke Museum that’s doing this, though—American museums as a whole are starting to turn themselves “inside out”, for a number of reasons, including:

– to increase relevance of collections process for visitors and supporters,

– to help museumgoers learn about how science works,

– in some cases, to engage the public in a dialogue about the museum itself.

This past week, I had the good fortune to attend the American Alliance of Museums conference in our fair city, and there’s been a definite shift in how professionals approach the museum.The current view of many museum professionals is summed up by Kathleen McLean, who argues that museums should be good neighbors in the communities in which they operate. Museums have to find out what their community wants: they should ride the bus, hold potlucks at the museum, coordinate with groups in the surrounding area. “Why can’t a museum be like a coffee shop?” McLean asks, and why can’t a museum offer up its spaces as community gathering points?

Not only is this topic relevant to museum-marauding archaeologists, I think it’s interesting how analogous this discussion is to the one that is currently happening in archaeology. How do we open  archaeology up to a variety of ways of knowing? How do we crack open these hallowed spaces? How do we fight against (or work with) those academics and museum professionals who would prefer to maintain their distance from a world full of different ways to know?

I’m interested in hearing about what people think caused this sea change in the way we think about museums and social sciences.

[I may not be able to participate in the discussion for a while, but I’d still like to know!]

Archaeologists on the Internet

Being most of the way through this course, you might not be be surprised at how much peer-reviewed ink (print or otherwise) is spilled about the presence of archaeologists on the Internet. We’re talking blogs, outreach websites, hinky little geocities pages that are somehow still up—all these are contact points between archaeologists and “the public”. This boundary is porous, of course, but still very real.

This body of literature also asks: how have the Internet and the World Wide Web have changed how archaeologist communicate amongst each other? The answer is, a lot.


The front page. It’s kinda like Facebook, but exclusively dead animal lovers.

One such converging point is ZooBook ( Not the sweet-ass magazines you pored over in kindergarten that were aggressively marketed to you, but a mega-listserv, an entire site dedicated to zooarchaeologists sharing information, articles, and tips.  Identifying bones, osseous pathologies, and a host of modifications are also covered. Groups and forum posts cover ancient instances of domestication, to the very recent historic period.

I know some of y’all are interested in zooarch, or at least plied your way through that class’ tough waters. These new lines of communication effectively allow you to eavesdrop on (and get into) professional conversation. Get a look at how to collaborate with other specialists over the Internet!

The community requires membership—if you’re interested in obtaining one, you can send me a message or e-mail

On Memory

The words of philosophers, like poets, have the tendency to succinctly and powerfully convey intricate abstract concepts and, in the process, engender new understandings. Conducting researching for my final project, I have often returned to the relationship between cultural identity and continuity, especially of Native American communities whose traditions are often put under the microscope in ways not experienced by non-Native people. Reading a book on tribal approaches to CRM (Stapp and Burney 2002), I encountered an example that highlighted this discrepancy and, with the words of Basque philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, recast my thinking on the evolution of cultural traditions.

Stapp and Burney discuss how non-Native people implicitly accept simultaneous change and continuity in Western traditions without question. To illustrate their position, they forward the example of Catholic monastic life and how despite substantial changes in monks’ traditions and observances over the centuries, few would consider contemporary monks inauthentic or non-traditional. Identity is not the product of rigid continuity, they argue, but an adaptive process whereby traditions change and acquire new meaning with shifting times, places, and social contexts.

Preserved within this adaptation however is a thread of continuity, or perhaps more accurately, memory. At this point, the authors let de Unamuno’s words speak for themselves:

“We live in memory and by memory, and our spiritual life is simply the effort of our memory to persist, to transform itself into hope, the effort of our past to transform itself into our future”

Persistence, of traditions, sacred landmarks and resources, and place, runs through the literature on Native American cultural landscapes, but the importance of memory often receives less attention. De Unamuno eloquently reminds us that while identity is constructed in the present, it is informed by the past and the personal and cultural memories we carry and make manifest.

Freedman towns

Davidson (2008)’s article for Tuesday’s readings touched on a freedman’s town in Dallas. I had never heard of this town-within-a-town situation, so when I came across this article discussing a freedman town in Hampton, Virginia, where some 7000 freed man and women resided during the Civil War before Confederate forces burned the town down, I thought it somewhat serendipitous.,0,

The Grand Contraband Camp in Hampton

Note the style of houses shown in the photograph of the camp. Since the camp was burnt down, there may not be any substantial archaeological record of the house and associated structures for the archaeologists working at the site to find. I think this is a great instance in which historical documents of the camp can assist in archaeological interpretation, and give some context to the daily lives (and suffering) of the people who lived at this camp during a politically unstable and dangerous period.

Washington Court Building

As archaeologists we are expected to know many things.  We are expected to know about the history of people and places, to know about the political influences and social pressures that define a region and its people.  As archaeologists there is an expectation that we place material remains in context; that we provide a narrative.  That we connect.  Historic buildings are an excellent platform for this process, as our structures are reflective of our cultural preferences and practices.  They can serve as a medium by which to examine a multitude of factors.  The Washington court building is no exception to this rule.  Completed in 1890, this building housed one of the most notable brothels in Seattle.  Most Seattleites are familiar with the history of Pioneer Square – how it was destroyed by The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 and then rebuilt from the ashes amidst a massive regarding project.  What many don’t know was that madam Lou Graham was one of the very first to rebuild in Pioneer Square.  Graham was already an accomplished madam by the time the fire destroyed her first brothel, and she used the fire as an opportunity to expand her investments; the Washington Court Building was the realization of a bold move.  The building itself is a beautiful example of a Queen Anne – Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture, with simple arches set into the broad linear form of the building.  The brick and cast iron structure reflects the new city codes that forbade wooden structures in the wake of the fire. It also reflected Lou Graham’s status as a major player in early Seattle politics.

  Washington Court Building

Graham used her fiscal status to fund politicians who were friendly to her motives; her new building was a brothel to serve the members of Seattle’s elite, it catered to government officials and wealthy residents.  This wasn’t just a brothel; it was a place of business.  A 1905 Baist Map refers to the block where the building is located as the Graham Block, and there are numerous reports of Lou Graham investing in local businesses and public infrastructure like sidewalks after the fire.  One testament to her influence in politics was when she was charged with licentious behavior in 1892; she was acquitted after being defended by two prominent Seattle figures, Superior Court Judge J. T. Ronald, and assistant district attorney, and later Senator, Samuel Piles.  In, perhaps, an ironic turn of events, the politically corrupt infrastructure that she contributed to would come to rob her descendants of her considerable wealth.



After her death in 1903 she attempted to leave her estate to relatives in Germany.  A court ruling actually determined that the German born Graham had never completed the last steps of her application for citizenship and that as her heirs were not citizens of the United States, they had no legal claim to her wealth.  The ensuing scramble for her cash left the Seattle School system considerably richer. A plaque on the side of the building, hilariously, pays tribute to this windfall but makes no mention of the fact that it was never her intention.

Lou Graham Memorial Plaque


Here are some great resources to check out!  The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods is an awesome resource for building info, and so is the public library’s digitized 1905 Baist Map – There are also some great resources on Lou Graham in here as well, what a fascinating character!

1. – Department of Neighborhoods

2. National Park Service – National Register of Historic Places (PDF – pages 256-257)    

3. Lou Graham Gravesite Info –  

4. Lou Graham & Girls sitting inside the Building

Images of America, Seattle’s Pioneer Square – Book, p.40-41

By Joy Keniston-Longrie, Arcadia Publishing, Chicago, IL 2009

5. Lawyers Reports Annotated 1907 – Lou Graham Estate p. 188              id=JcUKAAAAYAAJ&dq=Lou+Graham+Building+in+Seattle&source=gbs_navlinks_s                   

6. Map of Pioneer Square – Courtesy of Seattle Dept of Neighborhoods (saved)

6. Seattle Public Library – Baist’s 1905 Seattle Map; Pioneer Square

7. Travel Through History – W. Ruth Kozak Blog  Lou Graham and Girls       



let’s talk(,) buildings

Reading over Deetz’s work again, I was struck by how similar their suppositions are to the likes of this fascinating little tome, written in 1977: A Pattern Language. 

The Beer Hall, #90 of 93 patterns enumerated of a Town. (Image credit:

A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander, et al. is an effort to catalog the architecture of Western human lives. It Identifies 253 patterns which can be combined in a variety of ways to create pleasing homes, towns, and worlds.

The book is divided into three sections; a pattern is appropriate for either Town, Building or Construction. The patterns are grouped into as conceptual nodes. The patterns in these nodes interrelate and are interdependent.

Here is an example from the introduction, which lists several pattern clusters appropriate for a Building:


From A Pattern Language p. xxvii

Strung together, the implementation of these patterns form a spatial sentence. The space is afforded a coherence–a way to communicate welcome.

A Pattern Language is more than woo-woo 1970’s social engineering through Western architectural rulebook; using these classifications as scaffolding, the book bestows grammar and syntax onto something as abstract as space. While Deetz uses architectural patterns to draw conclusions about how people lived in the past, Christopher Alexander and co. lists these patterns to suggest ways for individuals and groups to live in the future.

Interestingly, the authors assert that these patterns are “timeless” (the first book in the series is actually called A Timeless Way of Building). While these patterns are definitely not universal (there’s a little too much talk about chairs and parking for that to be true), it’s worth interrogating whether all of these patterns necessarily result in pleasing public and private spaces, even when we limit our vantage to a Western context.

The entirety of the book is available here:

It’s worth at least a skim; it’s also good for decorating tips–because who doesn’t admire pattern #204, A Secret Space, or pattern #247, Paving With Cracks Between the Stones?

Fort Worden: Life in a Modern Ancient Ruin

Growing up in Port Townsend, I was lucky to live fairly close to three fascinating state parks: Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, and Fort Casey. These were coast artillery bases, positioned to form a “deadly triangle” at the entrance to Puget Sound, to protect the naval bases further into the Sound. They were constructed at the turn of the 20th century–from around 1897 to 1903. Each fort had a series of concrete bunkers and artillery pieces facing out to the straits, and barracks and houses for the enlisted men and officers, respectively.

Plan for the power house, Fort Worden.

Fort Worden barracks, looking South from Artillery Hill.

The forts became obsolete fairly quickly, as the technologies developed during the First World War meant that aircraft could put the stationary artillery pieces out of action without much trouble. Even during the war, some of the artillery pieces were removed from these forts, shipped to Europe, and converted to railway guns. However, the forts remained under the control of the military until the ’60s or so. At some point thereafter, Fort Worden was turned into a sort of reform school for a while, with its barracks housing delinquent youth. After that, it and the other two forts became state parks, with most of the bunkers open to the public.
Firing one of the guns, Fort Worden.
Firing a mortar, Fort Worden.

The early history is fascinating in its own right, but its role as a source of inspiration for me comes more from the forts’ “afterlives.” Although the guns and equipment have been removed from almost all the bunkers (with only a few examples left at Fort Casey), the concrete buildings are mostly intact.

Some had traces of their old fixtures, and occasionally some stenciled lettering on the walls. There was a low-level but constant application of graffiti.  In fact, early on, some of the bunkers in fort Worden were in a remarkable state of benign neglect, perhaps because they weren’t easy to find. I remember in particular one set of underground rooms, with an entrance hidden away in the woods, that the park staff had somehow neglected to lock up. For an adventurous kid, it was a really exciting experience to gingerly descend the old staircase into a pitch-black, asbestos-smelling room with old rusty machinery in it, my flashlight revealing graffiti of a much higher quality than one fond in other parts of the bunkers. There were old burnt-out candles and bottles scattered around–from either a pseudo-Wiccan ritual or a D & D match, I guessed. I will never understand why the park left that room open, but I’m really glad they did. It was a rare bit of excitement and perceived danger in otherwise far-too-safe Port Townsend. It was also a place I could proudly show my friends, something weird that I had discovered. For a while, I walked there almost every day during the summer.

Of course, now they have locked those rooms off, and started “restoring” them to the way they looked in the Second World War, when they controlled radar and magnetic apparatus for the Navy. A nice old volunteer from the Coast Artillery Museum showed me around one day when they were open, and taught me a lot about the purpose behind the building. Indeed, when I was very young, I had always wished that some of the bunkers were kept in the same state they were in during their early days.

However, I was very sad to see that they’d chosen this bunker to “restore.” All the graffiti was painted over, and all the signs of vaguely illicit youth activities had been scrubbed from the floor. The smell of old asbestos insulation was replaced by the smell of fresh paint, and forty or fifty years of activity had been essentially erased from the room, in the interest of showing people the history that the Coast Artillery Museum considered important, which is to say the military history. I’ve always been a military history buff, and so really I should be grateful that the museum has gotten serious about exposing more people to it, but at the same time, the more recent significance of that room–as an example of the bunkers’ significance to the generations that grew up playing around in them–has been subsumed under the desire to express an official history.


Horseradish Came First at Heinz

This bottle is embossed with H.J. Heinz Co. on one side and Pittsbough, PA. on the other. Although Henry John Heinz had started marketing bottled horseradish as early as 1869 it was not until 1888 that his business assumed the name H.J. Heinz Company. The object that is in the collection has a rectangular base with chamfered (cut off) corners. This is a machine made bottle exhibiting a distinct value mark on the base. Within the use category of “food” “horseradish style” forms a sub category of bottle referred to as “bottle type” in the Parks Canada nomenclature. This style bottle may show a variety of base shapes. A patent finish is often present as on object 45K1765/M-42.

M-42_1_whole_compr                        M-42_2_embossing_compr

The dating on this particular example of the bottle type can be concisely bracketed between 1888 and 1909. It was in 1909 that the Heinz Co. began using square based bottles for its products. In the case of this horseradish style bottle the embossing makes all the difference when it comes to dating. Given that the bottle is embossed with the company name H.J Heinz we know that it was produced after 1888. As can be seen from old catalogs of Illinois Glass Company, bottles of this type continued to be manufactured beyond 1926.

Heinz-evaporated relish       Heinz 57 horseradish

On the left is an early bottle of Heinz’s horseradish. The bottle on the right is from sometime after 1892, when the H.J. Heinz Co. inaugurated its “57 Varieties” slogan.

 Illinois Glass horseradish bottles-page132

Page from the Illinois Glass Company’s 1926 catalog.

Travel items– Dandy flask

P1100715 拷貝 (1)

Dandy flask has vertical/parallel sides, and the short base pedestal which is almost as wide as the body. The stopper finish and body shape indicate that it might contain liquor, such as whiskey or bitters. This type of bottle was primarily produced from 1890 to 1920 according to its straight finish. Because after 1920, the external screw threads finish is the dominant style. Similar bottle had been appeared on the catalog of Illinois Glass Company in 1906, which also indicates the possible production.

The shape of this kind of bottles originates in the need for traveling. Because of the relative small and flat shape, it is easy to carry or place in one’s pocket. Most flasks has a capacity of about 16oz. or less. Although flasks have wide variety of shapes, they have similar “portable” size, and laterally compressed on two sides.

Due to the characteristic of flask bottles, travelers might be the major customers, and they might usually consume it outside when they are traveling. However, it is also possible to consume it at home, even uncommon. The portable characteristic also indicates its practical function and the possibility of reuse. Flasks