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MailTribune.com
  • Jacksonville archaeology dig uncovers burned-out home

    The remains of a burned-out Jacksonville home from 1888 spark archaeologists's curiosity
  • Jacksonville Fire Department Chief Devin Hull didn't respond with fire engines roaring and sirens wailing when he was called to investigate a fire on Wednesday.
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  • Jacksonville Fire Department Chief Devin Hull didn't respond with fire engines roaring and sirens wailing when he was called to investigate a fire on Wednesday.
    After all, the fire had been dead out for about 125 years. But his expertise was needed.
    Chelsea Rose, staff archaeologist at Southern Oregon University's Laboratory of Anthropology, had asked Hull to explain how some artifacts they found could have been spared in an 1888 house fire in the city's Chinese Quarter.
    Rose is leading a dig that began Oct. 9 into the site just off Main Street immediately uphill from the La Fiesta Restaurant, 150 S. Oregon St.
    The archaeologist contacted the fire department after discovering an area chock full of artifacts that are believed to be on the floor of the burned home. At least one wooden beam has survived, Rose said.
    "I told her how the layering event could have taken place," Hull said of ash and other materials sandwiching together to form layers, which can shut off oxygen. "When that happens, it can preserve part of the wood structure and other materials."
    It was certainly the oldest fire he has investigated, he said, adding, "It was very interesting."
    The archaeological team is searching for evidence left from the historic town's Chinese section, which was established in the mid-1850s, making it the oldest urban Chinese quarter in the state, Rose said.
    "We are literally looking inside the house of a Chinese individual or individuals from 1888," she said as she stood over the archaeological dig into the home.
    "This is an important time in Jacksonville history," she added. "It is a poorly understood population in history, not only in Jacksonville but in the West. This is such a rare opportunity. ... We are bringing this house back to life."
    Indeed, in the roughly meter-deep dig they have unearthed numerous items, including an opium can, a porcelain rice bowl, the jawbone of what appears to have been a cow, the bottom of what may be a liquor bottle, a button, Chinese coins, a mini-musket ball, a necklace chain and two bone dice. All of the objects will later be studied in SOU's laboratory.
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