Britt Gardens archaeological dig

SOU Laboratory of Anthropology receives grant for Britt analysis

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology has received a grant of about $16,000 from a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to complete a “faunal analysis” of artifacts unearthed during 2010-11 digs at Jacksonville’s Peter Britt Gardens.

The excavations by SOULA were conducted as the city of Jacksonville prepared for a restoration project on the 4.5-acre Britt Gardens site. But due to changes in the project plans and a loss of funding the archeological findings were not immediately studied to develop a detailed picture of life at the 1800s homestead.

A later grant in 2019 from the state parks’ Oregon Heritage division, for about $15,000, enabled SOULA archaeologists to analyze, interpret and catalog thousands of artifacts from the Britt homestead. The current grant of about $16,000 will fund a faunal analysis, which will study the inhabitants’ food sources by identifying animal remains such as bones and shells.

Katie Johnson, who will lead the Britt faunal analysis“This type of funding is so important for the research that we conduct here at SOULA,” said SOU research archaeologist Katie Johnson, who will lead the project. “Specialized analysis like this is very time-consuming and there are relatively few people in our field with this type of expertise, which often results in these studies not being conducted.

“The ability to obtain funding to help offset the cost allows for these studies to not only be conducted, but also to provide opportunities for students and volunteers to be a part of research that is significant on a national level.”

The grant is one of 18 “Preserving Oregon Grants,” totaling $277,681, that were awarded this summer by the state parks’ Oregon Heritage division for historic and archeological projects throughout the state. Each was approved by the Oregon Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation.

About 30,000 artifacts were recovered during the 2010-11 excavations at the Britt homestead. Peter Britt – an early Rogue Valley settler – was a painter, photographer and horticulturist whose photos of Crater Lake were instrumental in creation of the national park in 1902. The 2010-11 SOULA excavations included the site where Britt built a log cabin upon reaching Jacksonville in 1852 and the later home that his family lived in until the 1950s.

The study of faunal materials found at the site will enable the archaeological team to further explore the Britts’ daily life as immigrants and how it changed over time. The findings can then be compared to those from excavations at Jacksonville’s nearby Chinese Quarter, which burned in 1888. The Britts interacted with the Chinese gold-mining community of Jacksonville and the surrounding region in various ways, and it is believed that a comparison of archaeological findings may offer insights into political and social climates during the late 19th century.

faunal material at Britt Gardens dig siteFindings from the excavation of the Chinese Quarter were analyzed with the help of a 2016 Oregon Heritage Grant. The data has been used in numerous studies of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora and is the subject of Johnson’s master’s thesis.

The current project will be a collaborative effort by SOU, the city of Jacksonville, the Southern Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project and community volunteers.

Johnson, the project leader, is a specialist in faunal analysis and has completed work on two previous Oregon Heritage Grant projects during more than a decade of work in the state. She recently completed her master’s degree in applied anthropology and environmental studies at SOU.