The campus archeologists need your help!

September 17th, 2013
mosaic

This mosaic is one of the still-unidentified items recovered from the site of the old men’s gymnasium, which was damaged in the 1906 Earthquake. Do you know what it is? (Photo: Kate Chesley)

After finishing a dig at the site of the old men’s gymnasium—where the new Bing Concert Hall now stands—campus archeologists, led by LAURA JONES, university archeologist, found themselves with a bit of a mystery on their hands in the form of unidentified artifacts.

Many of those mysterious items are now on display in the lobby of the Arrillaga Alumni Center. Members of the campus community are invited to come by and offer their insights. Earthquake-era artifacts—some identified, some not—are featured in glass cases and include a Prince Albert metal tobacco can, a 1900 dime and glass medicine bottles. The artifacts may say as much about the unskilled laborers who cleaned the campus after the devastating earthquake as they do about life on the Stanford campus in the early 1900s.

artifacts

Artifacts from the 1906 Earthquake are on display in the Arrillaga Alumni Center.

During the 1906 Earthquake, the mammoth, still-under-construction men’s gymnasium was severely damaged, just months before it was due to open. Although the building never saw fruition, its defunct swimming tank proved to be a useful place to deposit tons of debris from four buildings: the gymnasium itself, the museum, Old Chemistry and the library.

In 2008, before construction began on the Bing Concert Hall, archeologists began digging at the old gymnasium site with the hope of combining archeological observation with period documents to create a more complete picture of the era, the building and the temblor that killed thousands of people throughout the Bay Area. Using modern structural analysis, the archeologists also hoped to learn the reasons for the building’s catastrophic collapse.

Among the items from the dig that are still unidentified is a mosaic fragment that appears to be the top of someone’s head. Whose head is it, and where was the mosaic located on campus? Also on display are pointed sandstone blocks that do not match the style in any of the four buildings whose debris filled the swimming tank.

Anyone who can solve the mysteries is invited to email KOJI OZAWA, identified as senior archeological mystery technician, at khozawa2@stanford.edu. The display will be up until winter quarter. Jones is optimistic that alums returning for Reunion Homecoming Weekend in October may have some useful clues.

To learn more about the dig, visit the Gymnasium Dig website.

—KATE CHESLEY