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How Archaeologists Get a Date

How Archaeologists Get a Date
A Valentine’s Day blog post 

Archaeologists like to use several dating methods to find out more about artifacts. It all depends on what the object is, where the archaeologist is located (what resources he/she has access to), and how old the artifact appears to be.

What is eligible for dating?
Not every artifact is eligible for all dating methods; for example, an artifact must be made from a carbon-based material to use radiocarbon dating (stone, for example doesn’t have carbon).  A stone artifact can be dated based on the way it looks and/or the way it was made.  Over many years of research chronologies of stone tools (and pottery) have been built, based on styles (called Seriation).

Archaeologists can also be matchmakers by using the context, which is the where, when and how an artifact is found. In the end, archaeologists often use a few different methods on an group of artifacts found together to come up with a reasonable date.

CarbonDating - How Archaeologists Get a Date

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Photographing Artifacts: FSC project

Photographing Fugitive Slave Chapel Artifacts 

Larry has volunteered to take photograph some of the important artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel site. In the early afternoon, he was taking pictures of important bottles for future research.  We caught him photographing a medicine bottle with the words “pain killer” and “vegetable”. Researchers will find a date and more details about the product.

You can do a quick search for “pain killer vegetable bottle” on Google and see what you find! Who knows, the artifact featured in this video could be Perry Davis’ vegetable pain killer…

Photography and archaeology:

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Archaeology at the Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

About Archaeology on the Fugitive Slave Chapel site

Archaeology was underway in May 2013 at the site of the Fugitive Slave Chapel. Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc. conducted the archaeology assessment with the help of public archaeology volunteers.  TMHC has a passion for, and experience in early black history archaeology in Ontario and were considered a good fit for this local project.
Much of the material found on the site were from the 19th century, ranging from buttons and nails to animal bones, bottles, and ceramics.

Learn more about the initial phases of the Chapel Site project and the working relationships among the archaeologists as they conducted the archaeology assessment and recovered thousands of artifacts in the interview with Darryl Dann, amember of London Advisory Committee and volunteer assistant field director with Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants. Read more

History of Fugitive Slave Chapel site

In 1986, the London Public Library installed a plaque to recognize the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a “priority one” heritage property in the City. It is the site of the first church of the Black community in London.

In the 1800s, Canada abolished slavery and subsequently, it became a refuge for slaves fleeing from the U.S. The 1840s saw a significant gathering of slave refugees in the area. In 1847, land was bought for the African Methodist Episcopal Church (also referred to as the Fugitive Slave Chapel). In 1869, the congregation moved to Beth Emmanuel church at 430 Grey Street which still stands today with a congregation as strong as ever.

Despite its prominence, the site isn’t designated by the government and is therefore not protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. Funding is being raised to move the Fugitive Slave Chapel beside Beth Emmanuel Church and preserve and share its history. In its new location,  the hopes are that “the chapel will be used to preserve its history and facilitate research and education about the underground rail road and related subjects. The centre will also include a Black history library and a small showroom or museum for Black historical artefacts” (FSCPP). Read more

Artifact Washing: FSC Site

Artifact Washing Process:

Small groups of 6-8 people work to help wash artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel site. In the summer, 1 meter square units were excavated on the site and any materials found in that space were documented and kept together in “field bags” with attached provenience information: site number, unit coordinates, level, date, and excavator’s initials. Each bag is given a separate number for the site. Artifacts from the completed units are taken to a lab for processing.

At the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, volunteers are taking items out of the field bags to wash. Read more

Archaeology Volunteers with the Fugitive Slave Chapel project

Darryl Dann is a licensed archaeologist and volunteer with the archaeology at the Fugitive Slave Chapel project in London (275 Thames Street). He is currently helping organize and supervise the washing of artifacts excavated at the site this past summer. Volunteers have been washing the artifacts at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology for the month of January 2014.

Volunteers have been working on two jobs: washing artifacts and documenting the items to help cataloguers enter the artifact information into a database for storage, ease of access, and future research.

An amazing group of over 35 volunteers have taken part in this public archaeology excavation and post-excavation process. It has been a great opportunity to learn about artifacts, history, and the archaeology process.

Watch this video about the Fugitive Slave Chapel project to learn more!