Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Snowdon and Sons Vulcan Iron and Machine Works: Day 9

Hello Everyone,

        Today we had a reporter from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review out on the site today. He asked me an interesting question, one that I hadn't given much thought. "Out of all the places you've worked, in the forests [Allegheny National Forest], the plains, and in urban environments, which one do I like the most? I was taken aback by this question. Usually I would say that I love working in the woods, excavating sites hidden by nature and in areas that are far less traveled than most places. However, urban archaeology has really caught my eye. The urban environment. Here the sites aren't obscured by trees or shrubs (not always!), but here they are hidden in plain sight. Often times we walk past them everyday, an old building, an empty lot, a field by the river. What was there? Our limited ability to measure time in our own life cycle leaves enormous gaps in our historical record. Take the Snowdon and Sons foundry. Many have said, "I thought this was just an empty field!" or "Wasn't this only used by the railroad? I remember the railroad ran through here." The urban environment allows the archaeologist to peal away like an onion the many layers of time and present an ever present population with their own history. Everyday I get to shock someone into thinking about the past in a novel way, not a static past, but one that gets evolve and incorporate their memory. In urban archaeology I get to demystify my field and bring it out of the esoteric and into the tangible world. There is nothing like seeing a retired steel worker holding a tool from the foundry and perhaps wondering if their experience was similar to that of their 19th-century counterpart. How cool is that?      

Juls, Sean, and Liz. Looks like a Penndot road crew!

Pattern Shop Wall extending 6.5 feet below ground surface. The original ground surface was at the bottom of the unit.

Same unit as above, notice the brick debris from the Pattern Shop wall.

Hopefully this is where the foundation turns a corner eastward.

Same unit as above from a different angle looking east.

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