Mysterious Owl Bottle

The past couple of weeks our class has been working on identifying glass bottles found at archaeological sites by examining an assemblage recovered from the former tidelands off of the former 6th Ave South viaduct in Seattle. Most of the bottles are exactly what you’d expect: beer bottles, medicine, condiments, that kind of thing. But a couple of the bottles present more of a mystery.

One such bottle is the one I’ve just been calling the “owl bottle.” For the most part it’s not a very exciting bottle, it’s tall, clear, and cylindrical with a wide opening and some light patination, but on the base of the bottle is an owl perched on a crescent moon and the word “trademark” is embossed within the moon. When I first saw this mark I got excited, partly because it’s pretty, but mostly because I figured it would make the bottle really easy to identify. I was very wrong.

The closest I came to identifying this mark was a reference to the logo for Gillet’s High Grade Extract, a company that does indeed use an owl on a crescent moon for its logo. Unfortunately the owl is slightly different, the word trademark is not present within the moon (at least not on any pictures I could find), and the owl is shown on the side of the Gillet bottles rather than the base. I thought maybe that it was a one-off that they had manufactured beforing changing their minds about which direction to go with the logo but there are so many differences that there’s just no way for me to be sure. One thing I do know is I’m going to be looking oddly closely at any bottles with owls I see in the future and maybe someday I’ll know the answer!

Interpreting Historic Glasswares

This week I was faced with the challenge of interpreting historic glasswares for my Historical Archaeology course. At first I thought this project would be quick, simple and easy. But I quickly discovered this task was in fact challenging and required close observation. Who knew there were so many different manufacture methods and container shapes? The finish, which includes the bore and lip of a bottle, quickly became my greatest challenge. Thankfully the Society for Historical Archaeology has a bottle identification website that is very helpful when you are stumped.

For example, I was examining a bottle that was aqua in color and cylindrical in shape. The base was shallow and concave with a pontil mark. A pontil mark is a type of scar that is left when the iron rod is removed from the bottle. The seam along the base indicates a 2-piece cup bottom manufacture method. Which involves a mold with a separate base plate. Based on my observations I concluded the bottle was used for soda or mineral water. But the finish threw me for a loop because it was a crown shape. Which is typically seen on beer or ale bottles. Thanks to the Society for Historical Archaeology website I was able to confirm the bottle was used for soda. Next I researched the makers mark to confirm the period of use. The bottle was marked with “Fox Trademark J.G. Fox & Co. Seattle, WA”. J.G. Fox & Co. was a beer and soda bottler in Seattle, WA from 1850-1910. I was unable to find any information about marketing and their demographic. But it is clear they were popular for the area where this assemblage was collected. There were several similar bottles in this collection with the same color, shape, and makers mark. Perhaps the site where they were collected was a dump for retailers. Or maybe it was the drink of choice for the nearby population. This will require further research that goes beyond my glassware knowledge and interpretations.

The Average Joe Bottle

For this week, our class analyzed glass bottles from a dump, and see how they were manufactured, and what they could have possibly been used for. I never realized the differences between bottles and how their shapes and finishes could reveal how they were used. It’s clear a champagne bottle is used for champagne, and a soda bottle for soda, but I never realized why.

Then we characterized the age of all the bottles from the class data, and find the average age of each type of bottle. For example, the median age of beer and ale bottles was 1896 out of 12 dateable bottles. The median age of food containers was around 1900, but out of the nine bottles, only six were dateable. From these ages, we determined the lag by subtracting the average from the year the dump was sealed off, which was in 1929. So the lag between the year it closed and the age of the beer bottles is 33 years.

Then, we were to choose a bottle ourselves and describe what it was used for. As seen below, the bottle seems to be a soda/mineral bottle. It has a crown finish, and possibly had a paper label. However, when and where the item was manufactured remains a mystery as there is no manufacturer’s date or label. Being a soda bottle, it was probably used by an average Joe who decided to drink some soda on a hot day (or a mild day, it’s Seattle).

We are All Equal in Death

This past week, we did a survey of a section of Calvary Cemetery in Seattle. The section I surveyed had graves from the early 20th century to now, and there was a very diverse variety of grave shapes in that section. My section also had many family plots from the early to mid 20th century, and only a few from the last 30 years, which seemed to be the overall trend in the graveyard itself. It was interesting to see how gravestone styles change over time – something you definitely don’t think about. For example in the early parts of the last century, monument shaped graves were pretty common, now, there are very few which are recent. I expected to see more differences in how the graves of women and men; there were differences, but they were much more subtle.

On dual grave markers, the husband and wife are represented as equals, side by side, and both would say about the same thing, “Loving Mother, Loving Father.” If the man had served in the military, he would also be recognized for that – either in the epitaph, or a little metal insignia symbol. Quite a few were from WWII, and women played a huge role on the “home front” during that time, but I didn’t see any recognition on graves here – perhaps as they were not “officially” in the military, had no unit #, or formal type of training. Upon doing some research I learned that women were not fully in the military to train until 1976. Another difference I noticed was how the headstones of women tended to be more emotional than the men’s.


Death & Society

Our lab these past few weeks had us take data at a cemetery. We were sectioned off to record a part of the cemetery and take note of the inscription on the gravestones, whether or not it was part of a family plot, the size, shape, and material of the stone, and their age. It was sad to find some young children’s graves and even graves of those who were recently deceased.

With all of the class’ data compiled, we looked at the frequency of shapes and how this changed over time. I found this difficult since more people in the cemetery had died earlier than the 2000s so the stylistic changes would not be completely accurate.
Next, we were to choose from our seriation and to analyze one of three choices. I chose to analyze the frequency of kinship terms. It was very broad to put into a graph, as not every single gravestone used a term of endearment. What I found was that many of the stones with kinship terms were female. There were almost 200 graves, and out of those 200 were around 50 stones that used terms such as “mother,” “father,” “sister,” etc. Out of these 50 stones, there were 32 with inscriptions “mom,” “aunt,” “wife,” etc. This could mean that maybe female figures were more “cherished” in terms of family and the home.

The next thing I found particularly interesting. Earlier gravestones, from the late 1800s to before the 1930s used “his wife,” or “wife of”. In around the mid-1920s, the gravestones from this cemetery used more “mother,” or “beloved wife and mother,” instead of being a man’s wife. I wonder if we would see this same trend if we looked at other cemeteries in the Seattle area.

There was only one instance where they used “son,” and he was an infant when died. There were three other times where their daughters were referred to as “angels”, also in infancy when they passed. All three of these girls passed away in the 1960s, which raises the question as to what could’ve happened during that time that caused them to pass at such a young age (at zero months to four months old). Could it have been due to the environment around them? Could it have been because they were suffering from fatal birth defects?

Either way, it would be interesting to see if there were different trends in another cemetery or to see if they were the same. I think it would also be fascinating to see comparative studies on cemeteries by region.

Gravestones and Kinship Terminology

Last week our Historical Archaeology class took a field trip to Calvary Cemetery. Calvary Cemetry is a Roman Catholic cemetery established in 1889 (Associated Catholic Cemeteries of Seattle). We surveyed the grounds and collected gravestone information. Our class identified gravestone shapes, materials, inscriptions, and other information that would help us understand the way in which people were memorialized during different time periods. I specifically focused on kinship terminology. 54 out of 229 gravestones had kinship terminology. They were most frequently used in the 1920s and 1940s. There was a significant decline after the 1940s but in 1995 kinship terminology began to increase again. Block shaped gravestones appear to be the most popular shape for kinship terminology. 43% of the kinship terminology gravestones were block shaped.

The most common inscription was “beloved wife” or “beloved husband”. This phrase was inscribed on 14 out of 54 kinship terminology gravestones. The dates for these gravestones ranged from 1925-2017. In the late 1800s to the early 1900s a common inscription for women was “wife of” or “his wife. I think this is an interesting representation of how women were thought of and treated during this period. Based on this information it could be assumed that women were seen as objects. Or that their identities were directly linked to their husbands. Around the 1920s female gravestones became more focused on the individual. Their identity is not described through their husband. But with that being said inscriptions for women mostly described their roles as mothers or wives. Although this information may seem insignificant. It can actually give us a glimpse into culture and the changes within that culture.

Death and Society

Calvary Cemetery is a rather old one in Seattle and possibly has been here since its very inception. As I had imagined, the most common epitaphs and messages were things like Beloved Mother and Beloved Father and here and there a quote from the Bible, after all this cemetery used to be a Catholic exclusive one. Many were former veterans usually from World War II some of I. One individual was what I believe to be some sort of nurse or doctor based on the caduceus symbol on her marker.
The seriation in my data was primarily focused on the type of grave marker used and looking at what kind of markers were most popular in each period of time over 5 year increments. There were particularly many deaths between 1935-1945 in particular which coincided with the end of the Great Depression and American entry into World War II. This conclusion came from the fact there were so many small block markers, which were the vast majority of what I saw at the cemetery. Monument markers bearing multiple family members were at their peak in this moment as well. Based on the economy at the time, I figured that these were the most affordable options at the time based on the small size of the markers and sheer frequency. Monuments would have an economic advantage of being shareable by many members. Some of which I saw had no death date meaning that person was still alive and would be added later. There were relatively few veterans from what I expected but it is possibly they were mainly in veteran cemeteries instead. It should also be noted that most of these vets survived the war. A larger portion occurred the depression and were possibly because of illness and age.

So what can you learn from a graveyard?

Cemeteries. Typically seen as dark, depressing places continuously shrouded in rain, not really the place you’d want to do a study at. However, that is exactly what we did. Through the examination of the features of headstones, such as epitaphs, shape, size, material etc. cultural norms from various eras can be inferred upon. One aspect of this that intrigued me was the use of kinship terms. Through my initial observations it seemed more often than not terms such as wife or mother were being used on female gravestones, while terms such as father were almost absent. To create a clearer image of this I created a seriation based on the use of kinship terms overtime:The seriation demonstrates a clear disparity between the use of ‘wife’ and the use of ‘husband’.The term wife is most commonly used at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. During this same time period the term husband is rarely seen. This could be a result of societal norms which placed  greater importance on the marital status of women than it did for men;women who were not married were seen as societal outcasts, while men were seen as bachelors. This would explain why it was thought necessary to define a woman by her husband.

We encounter a similar trend when we look at the use of mother and father. Between 1890 and now mother is almost continuously used on head stones. In contrast, father is not used until the 1930s and even then we do not witness a continued use of the term to the present. This indicates that it was and still is thought that the relationships in a woman’s life, particularly that of a mother and child, are of great importance to their identity, while the identity of men are better represented by their name.

The terms daughter and son were uncommon. I cannot see any discernable trends in the use of the two terms over time. The few headstones that did have daughter and son on them were child graves. From this I am assuming that the only time these kinship terms were used was when a child died before their parent.

Well that’s all for now. If you’re interested in learning more about this particular topic I encourage to pop down to your local graveyard and make note of the kinship terms used over time.

Survey of Calvary Cemetery: Trends in Death and Gravestones Over Time

Analysis of cemetery gravestones can yield interesting information about ongoing world events and general trends in religious behavior and burial practices. Charting the frequency of burials that our class surveyed reveals two peaks in death (Figure 1). One of the peaks around 1918 corresponds with the Spanish flu, a worldwide epidemic that caused millions of deaths, including many in the US. Another peak in the late 1930s, early 40s is likely associated with World War II; some of the gravestones from this period list the military affiliations of the people buried. Most of the gravestones placed during these peaks were the block style (Figure 2). Due to the large number of burials during these time periods, the cemetery was probably rapidly expanding and thus the number of very large monumental gravestones and plots decreased. The block style gravestone takes up less space than some of the other stone types and more people could be buried in a smaller area. Though our sample size was small, it was still revealing of world events and trends in gravestone styles. I imagine that an even larger survey size would reveal a more refined view.

Figure 1: Number of People Buried Per Point of Time

Figure 2: Changes in Gravestone Shape Over Time

Garbology 101

Looking at trash is nothing new for archaeologists, the human past is littered with refuse and archaeologists use those leavings to determine a variety of things about past societies. However, it wasn’t until recently that archaeologists began looking at modern garbage for our research. Looking at the detritus of current societies offers a number of insights that we are unable to gather when looking at trash heaps or middens that are as much as a hundred years old, much less thousands. This is because there is so much of it to look at. Partly because humans have started making more waste than ever before and partly because types of waste like plant matter have not yet decomposed beyond the point of recognition. Packaging labels are still legible, not yet faded with time, meaning we don’t have to speculate as to where people are shopping and what they’re buying and eating. Which in our consumer driven society is a huge part of our culture.
For our Historical Archaeology class this past week we were asked to collect and record our own garbage over a seven day period. Stinky, but super interesting! Even just looking at my own garbage was illuminating and I was shocked by how much waste my family generated over the course of a week. Looking at such a small sample as compared to much larger garbology studies like the one at the University of Arizona might not seem worthwhile since there isn’t as much we can glean from this limited amount of trash, but there are still a number of conclusions that can be made. And even if it only has the outcome of making one or two students think twice before they throw something away that doesn’t sound too bad.