The Foods of Grande Ronde: Digital Documentation of Unidentified Seeds

sample seed – Unidentified spieces of wheat

Identifying seeds recovered from archaeology sites give us better understandings of the type of food that was available during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The seeds in my project are from a late nineteenth and early twentieth century settlement site on the Grand Ronde Reservation, which was the first habitation site on the reservation since removal. My project focuses on photographing unidentified seeds that were collected at the Grand Ronde reservation. I am using a Scalar digital microscope to capture photographs at 50x-100x magnification. The samples are placed into a petri dish filled with sugar. The sugar not only keeps the sample still but it also creates a white background. Tweezers and a paintbrush allow me to gently move the sample into different positions.

Several photographs are required because the microscopes cannot capture depth of field easily. Once the photos are taken they go through a stacking process in Adobe Photoshop to create a clear image with depth. Depth of field as described by Gray (2018) is, “…the closest and farthest objects in a photo that appears acceptably sharp.” There is a gradual change in sharpness as adjustments are made to the lens of the microscope. This can be seen in the photographs below. Different parts of the seed are clearer than others because the lens of the microscope has been moved closer or farther away from the object.


Unidentified Species of Wheat: Creating an Archive 

When I started this project, I thought the photography process would be the most interesting aspect of my research. But instead I found myself excited to see the unique differences between the seeds and their varying characteristics. For example, the wheat sample you see pictured in this post. It has a wrinkled texture with small indentations filled with silt and a small dark bump towards the right tip. I would have never thought these physical attributes existed had I not used the Scalar microscope to photograph several angles of the sample. These varied characteristics are very important for the identification process. Experts will examine these characteristics to properly identify the family, genus, and species of that sample. There are so many options when it comes to plant identification that it is very important to capture clear images that accurately display these physical attributes. Identifying these samples will give us a better understanding of reservation diets and locally available resources. As well as identify plants that may have been indigenous or imported to the area.

Works Cited
Gray, Elizabeth
2018 Understanding Depth of Field – A Beginner’s Guide. Photography Life. Electronic document,, accessed March 2018.


By: Paloma Sanchez

Be Our Guest: A Contemplation on a Piece from a Child’s Tea Set

Since beginning my learning experiences in this lab, my interest in specific types of artifacts has grown stronger and more focused. Although I was and still am fascinated by everything recovered from the Grande Ronde schoolhouse, I was always drawn to the ceramics that were found, the most compelling of which is a small, hand painted tea set creamer.

I felt attached to this creamer, despite the fact that it had no part in my life before a few months ago. This led me to wonder what caused people to be interested in specific artifacts, as well as why people form attachments to objects  from generations before them. In the context of this artifact, there is a certain familiarity of it, as it is a recognizable object which is almost complete. When juxtaposed with other smaller, less identifiable pieces, this piece stands out and becomes memorable and exciting.

Based on the size of this piece, it appears to be from a child’s tea set. This direct association with children and childhood sparks a feeling of nostalgia for tea sets in my own past, despite the fact that I had never interacted with or even seen this particular creamer prior to working with it in the lab. In archaeology and more generally in everyday life, people tend to be drawn to things that remind them of objects that are familiar to them, such as specific toys that they played with as children or certain scents that are reminiscent of family members or places. My own childhood tea set had a lot of positive memories linked to it, which resurfaced when looking at this one. I expect the same can occur for many other people as well.

While I had an imagined connection to this object, there were likely people in the past who had a connection to it when it was new. A large part of archaeology is evaluating the bonds that people made with their surroundings and belongings to discover what their lives were like. In the lab, the context was changed for how people viewed and interacted with the creamer, but the response remained the same. This showed me an important lesson about the nature of humans, both in the present and in the past, and how we view the objects we encounter throughout our lives. This lesson has taught me to view other artifacts in the same way I viewed this one, as vibrant pieces of a life from long ago. As corny as it sounds, I feel that it was a valuable part of my experience in learning about archaeology.

By: Bay Loovis

Conserving the Paper Remains of Pop Culture from the Grand Ronde school

We have been working as a group with a portion of a comic book recovered at the Grand Ronde schoolhouse site.  The comic book is in several pieces and is in need of a conservation plan to learn more about the comic. The content of the comic book is currently difficult to determine. It is worn, torn, disintegrating around all edges, covered in dried mud, and several pages are bonded together from years of being compressed by dirt and moisture. To answer our research questions cleaning and separating the pages is a must. Over the Winter quarter we have been investigating the kind of pop culture that the children of Grand Ronde school may have been exposed to.

We have carefully pulled back some of the edges and have observed a face (perhaps a superhero?), a pair of hands, other bits of undetermined illustration, and various fonts of typing throughout the pages. These aspects have led us to believe this could be from a newspaper, but there is still much to learn about the object.

In the early stages of this project we had full intent to learn and apply methods of cleaning and preservation to the object ourselves—this would have been done through video observation, written resources, and websites devoted to such. We even tried one test, a process of humidification which reintroduces some moisture into the fibers on a small test sample of the comic. We found that this elementary test caused the color of the ink to fade, and the amount of moisture was not sufficient to separate the pages.

However, we did find that the UW campus library has a conservation lab! Since then we have had a few meetings with conservation specialist Claire Kenny. Her knowledge, advice and involvement in the conservation of this piece has been a crucial element. She has provided us with many insights, and is currently working with the object. This project is still underway. Please stay tuned for more updates and reviews in the future!

Photos of comic book taken with a digital microscope camera


By: Danielle Sakowski