In an archaeology lab at Historic Sandusky, Eric Taylor ’19 sifts through a brown paper bag filled with relics from the past. He brushes them gently with a toothbrush to remove the caked dirt and reveal the artifact under the grime.
“My favorite thing to do is wash the artifacts so they become recognizable,” he said. “Although it’s tedious, I enjoy the work. Especially, if some items all fit together to form a bigger artifact or make a beautiful design.”
Not all artifacts are the same, either. Depending on the material, Taylor must take care of each artifact in a specific way. Ceramics and glass are washed under water, while metal and delicate artifacts are just brushed off to prevent damage.
This is just the beginning of preserving artifacts. Once all the dirt is cleaned off, Taylor works to piece the artifacts together like a puzzle. “By piecing the artifacts together, I can better understand how they were originally made and date them more accurately, increasing my historical knowledge,” he said.
After cleaning the artifacts, they are put out to dry and labeled with a number that indicates in which order they were found. The artifacts that are brought into the lab come from the land on Historic Sandusky as well construction sites where Hurt and Proffitt, an engineering firm that collaborates with the University and Historic Sandusky, conducts pre-construction archeological surveys.
Finally, the items are put into the database and stored properly. Taylor groups ceramic fragments, glass, metal, and coal that he has identified and cleaned and puts them together based on likeness. “The purpose of bagging artifacts is to sort the small artifacts found at Historic Sandusky that were all found in the same layer in the ground and are alike in structure and material,” he said.
Over the past couple of months, he has made almost 500 entries into Sandusky’s artifacts database. Each entry requires recording the material, weight, and colors.
Artifacts that come through the lab vary every week, so there are always new things to see and curate.
Greg Starbuck, director of Historic Sandusky, hired Taylor because he thought it would be a good fit. “Historic Sandusky holds thousands of artifacts, many of which have not been processed,” Starbuck said. “Lately, Eric has been learning how to do conservation work on iron artifacts, which is done through a variety of means including electrolysis and mechanical cleaning.”
From spending time in the archaeology lab, Taylor has learned an immense amount of information that pertains to archaeology and the history of it, which has helped advance him in his environmental science major and biology and environmental studies minors.
Taylor is increasing his skills in ceramic identification and his understanding of applied chemistry and historical researching. All of this will be useful after graduation.
“Historic Sandusky is meant to provide hands-on experiential learning for students in a variety of fields,” Starbuck said. “The goal is to provide students with opportunities to extend their knowledge and experience outside of the classroom to better prepare them for entering the workforce after graduation.”
“Because of Eric’s work, we are getting many of Sandusky’s artifacts, which are owned by the University, researched, catalogued, and curated,” Starbuck said. “In the future, when we want to create an archaeology display or exhibit, whether it’s temporary or permanent, the artifacts are identified and ready for contextualization.”
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Lynchburg senior works with hundreds of artifacts in Historic Sandusky lab
In an archaeology lab at Historic Sandusky, Eric Taylor ’19 sifts through a brown paper bag filled with relics from the past. He brushes them gently with a toothbrush to […]