Category Archives: Archaeology

What is it?: Day 2

In honor of Archaeology Month, and the 50th anniversary of archaeological excavations at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, we present Day 2 of our “What is it?” challenge.  Can you guess the identity of the object below?  Take our poll, and compare your guess with others!

Answers will be revealed during a lecture by Bob Hover and Mike Imwalle on the history of Archaeological excavations at the Presidio this Thursday at 7:00 pm in the Chapel.

See you there!

We are Celebrating 50 Years of Archaeology at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park!

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the first archaeological excavations at the Santa Barbara Presidio.  This Thursday at 7:00pm in the Presidio Chapel, Bob Hoover and Mike Imwalle, two archaeologists with decades of combined experience in the field, will be presenting an illustrated lecture on excavations at the Presidio.  To help gear up for what promises to be an informative lecture by our favorite experts, we are doing a special series on the blog.  For the next three days we will be presenting mystery objects excavated on the Presidio site.  Can you guess what they are?  All will be revealed when Mike Imwalle announces the answers at the end of the lecture on Thursday.

Here’s your first mystery object(s):  have fun!

Once You Dig It Up, What Happens to It?

By Tacy Kennedy

Tacy Kennedy with her mosaic vase, a parting gift from the 2011 Field School students.

This is a great question, and after serving as 2011 Archaeology Field School Lab Director I can give you the answer!

I have had the good fortune to be a part of the Presidio Archaeological Field School for the past two years, first as a student and then this year as the Archaeology Lab Director. After my field school I volunteered at the Presidio and learned the system used for cataloging artifacts. This later led to the opportunity to serve as lab director this summer.

Field school students excavating near the Presidio's outer defense wall. Photo by Tacy Kennedy.

During the field school, students split their time between learning excavation techniques and processing finds in the lab. The first thing that the students do in the lab is sort the artifacts by size (> or < 1/2”) and by type.

The artifacts are then counted and weighed and those measurements are recorded on inventory sheets. Most of the items fall into general categories that have been previously observed by archaeologists at the Presidio. Common artifacts are roof and floor tiles, nails, bottle glass, and various types of pottery known to have been used at this site during both the Spanish period and during later occupation.

A sampling of the objects excavated by the 2011 field school. Photo by Tacy Kennedy.

Once the sorting and recording of the artifacts has been completed, the artifacts are bagged and given to me, the lab director, along with the inventory sheets, to be entered into the official catalog on the computer. It is my job to look at each artifact or group of artifacts and evaluate whether the finds have been correctly identified. As this is a learning environment and many of the students have not come into contact with items commonly found in this area, particularly those students from other parts of the country or world, artifacts are occasionally mistakenly identified as something else. If I find that an item has been incorrectly identified, I fix the entry on the inventory sheet and notify the students of the mistake and explain to them what the item is so that they will recognize it in the future.

Field school students sorting and recording artifacts in the lab. Photo by Tacy Kennedy.

Once I decide that the artifacts have been correctly identified, I enter them into the catalog. Up to this point the artifacts have simply been categorized by type, but in the catalog each item is assigned a category (personal, military, etc.) and then within that category a general material type is chosen (masonry, ceramic, etc.). The material type is then further refined to specific material type (copper, plaster, etc) and finally the object itself is specifically identified (marble, bead, etc.). To further describe the artifact there are places to describe what portion of an artifact was found (whole, rim, etc.), the color of the artifact, and the count and weight that were recorded on the inventory sheets. Once all of the information for the artifact has been input into the computer, tags are printed and placed in the bags with the artifacts so that any future observers will know exactly what they are looking at and where it came from.

During a moment of lightness, the field school students recreate Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" while visiting La Purísima Mission State Historic Park.

Tacy Kennedy is the winner of SBTHP’s 2011 Higman Internship. She is currently working on a Masters Degree in Human Osteoarchaeology at the University College Cork.

The Button Hole, Part 1: 1862

This summer, students in SBTHP’s archaeological field school excavated a Civil War-era button at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park.  Below is Wayne Sherman’s account of how that button might have found its way into the earth behind the Presidio Chapel.

Four-button sack coat, part of a Cavalry-style uniform of the type worn by Company C, California Native Cavalry Battalion from Santa Barbara, during the Civil War. Photo courtesy of Wayne Sherman.

There’s no telling when he lost it exactly. Most likely, somewhere between 1862 and 1867. That’s when that style was worn in Santa Barbara. Dashing young gentlemen with sky blue pants would parade through town, footwear polished bright and gilt buttons gleaming. They wore their hats rakishly and quickened the pulse of many a local senorita when they smartly marched past glancing, a quick and furtive “Eyes right!”

They enjoyed fandangos when allowed and performed their newly learned skills in front of the local citizenry, bringing a sense of security to the town. That’s why they were sent; Santa Barbara was rumored to be in trouble.  California was in trouble as was the whole United States. The Enemy was in the foothills and gaining strength every minute. Santa Barbara could use some protection or, at the very least, someone to visit and spend some Yankee dollars.

The first arrived in town on January 2 of 1862 to what must have been a real spectacle for the citizens of quiet Santa Barbara. In those days it would have been very hard to miss noticing when two hundred new souls show up in town all at once. Many of these men were from the San Francisco area with many of the others from Placerville and the gold country.  But, as it was the town’s request that these men should come, they were welcomed with open arms and warm tortillas. However, it did not take long to realize there was no enemy in the hills and none along the coast for that matter and, four months after arrival, they left town. One of these fine fellows could have lost the button.

In January of 1864 another hundred men arrived in town. This group was from Auburn and Marysville and performed the same duty as the first, wearing the same eye catching dress. But, unlike the first two hundred, these men stayed almost a whole year before leaving, quickly as the others, in November of 1864. So, I would guess, there is an even better chance that one of these boys left town with an unsecured button hole.

Then again, the local boys saw the flush in the senoritas cheeks as these out of town fops paraded about in their fancy dress. So, before the last group left town, one hundred Santa Barbara men took the sacred oath to wear the blue coat with gilded buttons.  This group, after having performed similar service on the Arizona border, returned home in 1866 to a grand fiesta at Casa de la Guerra. Maybe one of these native sons visited the Presidio that festive night to assure himself he was home. The next morning he awoke to fold his coat of gilded buttons and put it away to return to the life he once knew, never noticing the vacant hole.

To be continued soon in The Button Hole, Part II: 2011

Wayne Sherman is SBTHP’s Santa Inés Mission Mills Steward and a Civil War re-enactor with the Fort Tejon Historical Association’s Civil War program. He portrays a Cavalry Trooper with Company a 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry aka “The California Hundred.”

Sometimes you find archaeologists in surprising places!

Mike Imwalle monitoring the well excavation. Photo by Anne Petersen

On September 7th and 8th SBTHP archaeologist Mike Imwalle (in the blue hat) monitored excavation for a water quality monitoring well for the Chevron gas station site at the corner of Anacapa and Canon Perdido Streets in Santa Barbara.  Contractors for environmental consultants Holguin, Faha, & Associates will drill down thirty-five feet below ground level to install the well. The work, which has been ongoing since 2006, is required by the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District in order to ensure that environmental pollutants do not enter the ground water.

Now a parking lot, and part of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, the gas station site lies near the Presidio northwest corner defense wall. Mike’s archaeological monitoring is required as a condition of the California State Parks’ environmental review in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to ensure that archaeological resources within the site of the Santa Barbara Presidio are not adversely affected by the testing.