CRM in SFBay

Although the majority of archaeology conducted in the States is Cultural Resource Management, it’s not the largest topic within the academic sector. As such, I was interested by the “Archaeology of a San Francisco Neighborhood” website, run by Sonoma State University. The site describes the methods and results of CRM work done in the Bay Area during construction and remodel of the SF-80 highway and the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge. Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, funded the development of the website to share information about and results of the excavations.

Although at first glance the website seems a bit underwhelming and slightly outdated (the use of comic sans as the heading font does not help), I found it overall to be very informative and easy to navigate. Whether you’re interested in artefacts, the site map, or methods of excavation, the site is well laid out to help you figure it out. They have a cute page about artifacts with pictures of different objects found in historic archaeological sites with hyperlinks to more information. Although I was expecting to see examples of artefacts found in the SF-80 or Bay Bridge sites, the general info of “these are the lighting fixtures we often find!” was still educational.

Overall, the focus of the website seems less on the specific excavations and more on methods and general information about archaeology. Even so, I’m not sure if I think that’s a large detracting feature of the website. The positionality of Caltrans is not to get people siked on the people of the past, it’s to educate the public about how aware they are of potential history destruction and give them the resources they need to understand the mechanics of how archaeology is applied to these large projects.

Queen Anne’s Revenge!



In 1996, the underwater shipwreck of the infamous pirate Blackbeard’s flagship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found off the coast of North Carolina.  The site is being operated as both an archaeological one as well as a tourist attraction in a part of the country that already has a thriving marine tourist activity.

The website for this project is associated with the North Carolina Department of Cultural resources and, by all appearances, is a pretty legit archaeological dig.  Their site emphasizes the things that can be learned from the Queen Anne’s Revenge that will “shed light on the wider political, economic and social systems of the colonial period in North Carolina and beyond.”  They can’t quite shake the commercialized and tourist feeling of the whole venture, however.  Clearly advertised on the main page of the website are two of their primary donors, Grady-White (a boat-building company) and the Boat House at Front Street Village (boat storage and community area with gift shop), as well as a handy link to donate toward the cause.  On the other hand, the site is also quite transparent about these elements, they are quite clear these are sponsors and that a part of their mission is to have a positive economic impact on the immediate region.

The website for the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck is well-organized and smooth running, but it feels more like an advertisement to visit North Carolina than it is an educational site about archaeology.

Another Look at Laborers in Five Points, NY

To revisit our discussion on labor and identity in archaeology, and in light of my choice of the industrial era as the setting for my final project, I decided to take a look at The Five Points Site. Maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), this exhibit was originally a collaboration between several individuals and organizations. Dr. Rebecca Yamin is given credit for the exhibit’s text. The exhibit itself is comprised of text and images tied together with hyperlinks. A typical entry, if you will, features items such as maps and photographs of cataloged artifacts accompanied by descriptions of the activities that took place at Five Points. Interestingly, the site provides a significant amount of detail about the excavation process; it also features a section dedicated to some of the ways that archaeology may be used to challenge existing narratives.

The style of this exhibit is much more closely aligned with McManamon’s (1994) ideas of how public archaeology should be presented. That is, the exhibit is intended to convey specific information, as well as a particular narrative, to an audience. However, this interaction does not constitute a dialogue. Largely absent from the exhibit are outside interpretations; for example, views of contemporary New York residents, or even descendants of the Five Points community are not included in the information presented by the exhibit. This may be, in part, attributed to the nature of the project itself. In a statement attached to a page featuring their contact information, the GSA acknowledges that the virtual exhibit is an extension of a physical exhibit in New York City, presumably intended to interest locals and tourists alike in the area’s history. Additionally, several organizations are credited for their support of the exhibit; whether or not these organizations have interest in engaging the public in a more open conversation as per Little’s (2007) suggestions may also play a role in the exhibit’s capacity to do so.


Little, Barbara J.
2007 Archaeology and Civic Engagement. In Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement, edited by B. J. Little and P.A. Shackel, pp. 1-22. AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD.

McManamon, Francis P.
1994 Presenting Archaeology to the Public. In The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums, and Education, edited by P.G Stone and B.L Molyneaux, pp. 61-81, Routledge, London.

If you’d like to take a look at The Five Points Site yourself, follow this link!

Gather ‘Round and Grab a S’more

…and I’ll tell you a short tale about friends, family, and not so far off places.

Unfortunately, the file is too large to upload directly, and Google Drive has disabled the audio. So if you would like the full experience, I would recommend downloading a copy.

Following that note, I should add: the song playing in the background is the official instrumental version of “Dog Days are Over,” by Florence and the Machine.

It May Not Be Diagnostic But It’s a Rad Design: The Crescent Moon Owl Bottle Story

I have never spent as long thinking about a single glass bottle as I did while attempting to pry any ounce of information out of the internet about this guy. Now, to be fair, I can’t say I normally spend that much time thinking about single glass bottles, but even if I was a renowned glass bottologist, I’m sure this one would still take the cake.

Here are the facts:

This bottle is handmade, cylindrical, and has a patent finish. Basic, visual comparison with the SHA catalogue suggests it is some sort of medicinal, druggists bottle. The base is a molded 2-piece cup bottom, with two seams that extend up the sides of the body to a bit into the finish. The only decoration is an embossed makers mark on the base of an owl sitting on a crescent moon.

That’s it.

What really gets my goat about this bottle is not the fact that I was unable to find any solid information on it, but more that its makers mark is so unique, and I was STILL unable to identify this particular vessel. What I was able to identify, however, was the mark.

The guilty party

The embossed owl perched upon a crescent moon that reads “TRADEMARK.” Now that’s a way to let people know that a logo is restricted. The mark is one that decorates the body of Gillett’s HIGH GRADE Extract bottles, manufactured in the mid-1800’s by the Gillett-Sherer company in Chicago. However, the bottle in question is undoubtedly not high-grade extract, or the same as any of the Gillett bottles I was able to find. Not only is its shape not one used for any Gillett (or Sherer) products the internet has to offer, but it’s basal makers mark is also anomalous!

Each moon here reads "TRADEMARK"

Each moon here reads “TRADEMARK.” I think.


This is clearly the same mark as on the base of the mystery bottle

This is clearly the same mark as on the base of the mystery bottle

There's a lot of information about the Owl Drug Company, whose logo is disturbingly similar... and yet..... unhelpful

There’s a lot of information about the Owl Drug Company, whose logo is disturbingly similar… and yet….. unhelpful


After circling around these same photos (and pinterest posts and ebay listings and the seventh circle of antique hell), I turned to the manufacturer for guidance. Which was not given. While I was able to find the street address of the men who started the company, this function of this bottle evaded me. Eventually, I had to give up.

My only explanation for this bottle is that it was some sort of test run, proof, or spoof of a Gillett bottle. I can think of no other way for this vessel to be so historically invisible– as a product of the digital age, where all information is available to me at the click of a button, this was particularly frustrating. Still, in some ways I appreciate this mystery. If anything, it is a great example of how, in archaeology, so much time and energy can be poured into artefacts that never give away their secrets. In some ways it is also an exercise in reading between the lines of history: there is a reason we are unable to place this bottle. While this reason may be nothing more than circumstantial, I feel it is still meaningful– which is, to me, the essence of understanding archaeological interpretation.


Lee’s Pharmacy Seattle, WA

This particular bottle was fun to research. The bottle is artifact 45KI765/M-55 and is a medicinal bottle with a prescription lip and stands about 6 inches tall.  The bottle itself is not colored. However, it is embossed on the front and says “Lee’s Pharmacy Alaska Building Seattle, Wash.” The base of the bottle is embossed as well with “W. T. CO U. S. A.”


Upon further research the W.T. CO U.S.A is a maker’s mark from Whitall Tatum & Co. which was located in Millville, NJ. So it appears this bottle was manufactured there and then utilized by Lee’s Pharmacy.  This particular bottle was manufactured sometime between 1901- 1914. Lee’s Pharmacy was located in the historic Alaska Building located in Seattle, WA and stayed in business from 1889-1914.

The bottle obviously contained some sort of medicine although it is difficult to say exactly what was inside of it. It is unique to have the building where Lee’s Pharmacy was located embossed right on the bottle as well. The Alaska Building was the tallest building in Seattle at the time it was constructed in the early 1900’s! Needless to say, it’s pretty cool to think about what was going on during this time in Seattle and how Lee’s Pharmacy eventually relocated to the Alaska Building after it was constructed.

Alaska Building Seattle, WA Photo provided by