Archive for June, 2009

On Wednesday of last week I finally finished cleaning all of the Brody bottles.  I’ve spent time in the past cleaning dirty old bottles, but never like this.  I must admit that when I looked at the boxes of mud crusted bottles I thought to myself, “This will be done in no time.”  Okay, maybe not those words exactly, but I did underestimate the resilience of rust and clay.  Completely cleaning a dug bottle is a time consuming and detailed endeavor.  This is the life of an archaeology intern.

In the lab I’m set up with several wash bins and brushes of all types and sizes.  The bottle brushes are really the only way to clean the inside, a saving grace if you really want to get a bottle clean.  There was, however, a secret weapon in my arsenal of cleaning tools.  It was a pick….two sided, like the one a dentist uses on your teeth to punish you for not flossing.  The pick is perfect for flicking off those little specks of rust that just won’t give.  It works so well that I had to get a few more when I went to the dentist recently.  The process of getting a bottle clean is a tedious one, but it is great to see the transition happen.  The mud and rust wash away and uncover hidden marks or labels.  A seemingly unremarkable bottle can deliver a great surprise once cleaned.         


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Several of the bottles that were collected at Brody Hall are embossed with the title of this post, “Federal Law Prohibits Sale or Reuse of this Bottle.”  This label originated in the wake of the fiasco that was alcohol prohibition in the United States.  Any bottle that is embossed with this phrase can be dated in a range from 1932 to 1964.  Prohibition ended when the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed on December 5, 1933 by the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment.  After the repeal of Prohibition, legislation was passed to protect government liquor revenues.  The law required the above phrase to be printed on all liquor bottles excluding beer and wine.  Manufacturers were also required to include license numbers on the bottom of each bottle.  Not only did the law protect tax revenues, but it also inhibited the sale and transport of liquor illegally.  Bootleggers and moonshine runners made extravagant amounts of money during the Prohibition years, but the lifting of Prohibition most likely did as much to deter bootlegging as the new bottle restrictions.  Check this out to see the specifics of each amendment to the constitution.

Below are a few of the bottles that fall into the date range from 1932-1964.  I haven’t attempted to date any of them specifically yet……in due time.

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Yesterday I attended a planning meeting for stage IV of the Old College Field renovations.  Both Terry and Dr. Goldstein were unable to attend, so I became the representative for campus archaeology.  I’ve never been to a project planning meeting before, so it proved to be very interesting.  I have to say that I felt a bit out of place as a student among the twelve or so professional architects and planners.  Also, I had to run over from work and was not really dressed for the occasion (oops).

All that aside, it was really interesting to sit in on a meeting like that and see how it works.  It was a fairly short meeting, about twenty minutes or so talking about the planned addition of concessions/restrooms on the site.  The restrooms will be added on to an electrical building that was completed in phase III of the construction.  The addition will be on the south-west side of the present structure, and six feet wide paving will be added around the building.  I asked about the condition of the soils in the area, and it seems that the most of the site shows signs of previous disturbance.  From what I have seen, I suspect that the project will not turn up very much that will be of interest to CAP, but we won’t know for sure until the time comes.  The project is slated to begin somewhere between the tenth and fifteenth of July, completed the second week of September.  The future building of softball bandstands was also mentioned.  

For those of you who do not realize how small a large university really is, here is a tidbit.  At the meeting there were two other undergrads that were most likely interning with the firms involved.  One of them is named Dan, but I run into other Dans all the time so the name is of little consequence I guess.  The real coincidence is that Dan and I used to sit across from each other in our landscape architecture studios.  The moral of the story is:  I can’t even go to a planning meeting at the Physical Plant without running into someone that I know.  Six degrees of separation is the popular understanding, but at MSU it is closer to three.

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You may or may not recognize the title of this post as one of the Coca~Cola Company’s many successful marketing slogans.  In 1922, “Thirst Knew No Season,” but I’m tempted to think that this has always been the case.  Many people love Coca-Cola.  In fact, the shape of the Coke bottle and it’s unique script lettering makes it one of the most easily recognizable brands in the world.  The blue-green glass bottles are a popular collectible, but I’d prefer to drink it myself.

So, why all this talk about Coke bottles?  Well, I thought this might be a good way to introduce the special project that I will be working on.  A few weeks ago I was on my first day of field work on campus.  It was a day of survey work, shovel test pits.  Towards the end of the day, Terry received a call from a construction site at Brody Hall.  It seems that a back-hoe unearthed a thick trash layer composed primarily of glass bottles.  This site will be the subject of my presentation in the Spring.  Terry was able to make a quick sketch and take a few photos of the stratigraphy before the trench was filled in.  Also, he collected fifty or so bottles that I have been cleaning and catolouging in the lab.  This is how we get back to the good stuff, “Always Coca-Cola.”

One of the recovered bottles is an old Coke bottle, so it quickly caught my eye.  Made to hold six ounces, it is of very thick blue-green glass and is fairly heavy for a bottle of its size.  The bottom is embossed “FLINT MICH,” making it a regional bottle like many others in the collection.  Also, the bottle is marked with a patent date of November 16, 1915.  I did some quick internet surfing to find that the November 1915 patent date places this bottle as being made sometime between 1917 and 1928.  The design, known as hobble-skirt is still used today.  Look here for more on how to date Coke bottles.  

I did a quick look-up on Flint’s Coke bottling history.  This bottle most likely came from one of the following locations:  Flint Coca-Cola Bottling Co., 3016-20 N. Saginaw St. – – – or,—  Flint Consolidated Bottling Co, 513 Brush Alley.  If you’d like to know more, here is the article by Gary Flinn of the Flint Journal.

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As an intern for the Campus Archaeology Program, I have certain responsibilities to meet in order to receive credit from the College of Social Sciences.  These requirements include two papers, due at the middle point and end of the semester.  My final paper will be in the form of a journal, based on handwritten field notes and this blog.  I will also be working on a special project in tandem with my duties as a CAP intern.  I will be presenting the project at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Spring.  This is an exciting prospect.  Many upcoming posts will track my progress on the project, but I will also be posting anything interesting that pops up during my research.  

“So, what is the project about?” you ask……

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