Web site title: Stanford University research at the Presidio of San Francisco Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archeological Project




After The Dig
June 20 –June 23, 2005

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Después de la Excavación

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Proyecto Arqueológico
de Tennessee Hollow Watershed

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Hollow Watershed Archeology Project! more...

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Come See the Artifacts and Laboratory Research!
Monday, June 20 – Thursday June 23, 1:00 – 4:00pm
The Presidio Archaeology Lab
230 Gorgas ( click for map )
To book a group tour or if you have questions about this program contact:
Barbara Voss at bvoss@stanford.edu or call 650/725-6884

Please join us for “After the Dig” this summer's laboratory research program. Visitors will have a rare opportunity to see the “next step” in the archaeological process. W e will be analyzing artifacts from our Summer 2003 and 2004 excavations at El Polín Springs to answer questions about the history of El Polín Springs and the Briones family. Very often when people think of archaeology, they think about digging. But in truth this is just the tip of the iceberg. The lab is where we undertake positioning the various pieces of the puzzle together to begin to understand what life may have been like for the Briones family during the Spanish-colonial and Mexican era of the Presidio of San Francisco (ca. 1779-1847).

Previous Research at El Polín Springs

Historians have been interested in El Polín Springs since the early 1900s, and in 1992 NPS archaeologist Leo Barker identified El Polín Springs as a location where archaeological remains might be found. In 1997, Barbara Voss, then a graduate student at UC Berkeley, discovered archaeological deposits at El Polín Springs during a survey of the Tennessee Hollow Watershed. In Summer 2003 and Summer 2004, Voss and her research team used hand auger-coring and hand excavation to better understand the deposits at the site. Our field research resulted in several discoveries:

  • We learned that in the past, El Polín Springs was a very different place than it is today. Before it was modified by the U.S. Army in the 1890s, the area was a patchwork of different ecological zones: streambeds, marshes, and seasonal wetlands; shifting sand dunes; and clay hill slopes.

  • We located the stone foundation of an adobe house. This house may have been one of the Briones family homes. We excavated this house in Summer 2004 and found that it rests on top of an older adobe building that had been partially destroyed in some kind of fire.

  • We discovered buried trash deposits that contain fragments of broken dishes, bottles, animal bone, and stone debitage. These trash deposits date to the early and mid-1800s.

  • We recovered at least 200,000 artifacts from the site. Now its is time to study what we have found and learn as much as we can about the people who lived and worked there.

Questions We Hope to Answer

1. What can we learn about the historic fire that burned the earliest adobe building at El Polín Springs?

2. Did other people live at El Polín Springs before the Briones family?

3. What economic and trade networks were the people who lived at El Polín Springs involved in?

Current Research Strategies

  • We will be using geoarchaeological techniques to analyze building materials (adobe brick fragments and clay tile fragments) that were recovered from the adobe house that once stood at El Polín Springs.

  • We will systematically analyze ceramic, glass, and metal artifacts to determine when and where the objects were made and to learn as much as we can about the daily lives of the people who lived at El Polín.

  • Because the Briones family was important to the early development of San Francisco 's economy, trade networks will be a particular focus. Artifacts found at the site were manufactured throughout the world – China , England , Mexico – as well as local goods produced in California.