Cheney House Excavations

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Digging at the Cheney House is most interesting because of the obvious connection between past and present. The historical situation proves unique with the site being an integrated part of the contemporary UC Berkeley campus yet also existing as an area with a rich archeological record. Seeing the transformation that the house has made from a residence to a campus office building seems odd looking at the archaeological record. I would not go so far as to compare it to finding Roman ruins underneath a modern Italian office building, but the scenario shares something in common at a basic level. The same stairs that were used one hundred years ago, by someone current students and staff are entirely unfamiliar with, still provide a firm place to sit for lunch. And, all around that modern existing place is the archaeology of some place very different, but obviously the same… if that makes any sense.
The Cheney House provides a connection between past and present that doesn’t exist in most places on campus. While one can look around and see the old buildings and the pictures of South Hall when it was first built, that doesn’t compare to the rediscovery of the material culture that existed here one hundred years ago. One can literally touch Berkeley’s past at the Cheney House. That might, of course, go for all archaeology, but in local respects, on a campus that is constantly modifying itself to keep up with the modern world and changing identities, the direct connection to Berkeley’s century old legacy is vital.


What happens at the Cheney House? Frankly, we dig. Wheelbarrowing out a big pile of buckets, masons trowels, picks, and an assortment of other random tools that comprise an archaeologists tool kit, we set up camp on Tuesdays in front of the current office building called the Cheney House. Hidden behind Wurster, most people never really come into contact with the site. Who would? There is a giant concrete monster concealing it from most of campus. But there we are, digging away. Most people have been involved in two types of work this semester: shovel test pits and excavation units.
The shovel test pits are survey pits, designed to probe locales around the site for material remains. You can see them mostly in the ivy covered area. The pits are 50X50cm and most go down 30-60cm. All sorts of goodies pop up in these pits. We find glass, metal, nails, brick, mortar, and coal. All of this, great stuff to find thrown away into the bushes.
The other types of dig units are excavation units. These squares, 100X100cm, are dug down much more slowly to carefully reveal the archaeological record. In the case of the units this semester, they were right next to each other and exposed three fun filled features. First, a metal post, possibly a pipe or fence post was found in the SE of the three units. Second, a much more modern pipe was found going through the SW and N unit, revealing a modern trench that has basically obliterated the archaeological record there. Finally, a brick lining, likely of a path or garden was found running through the two south units. The bricks give us an idea of the orientation of the front yard from the house to the old street. Of course, any person could probably go take a look at these units while they are still being dug. At the end of the day, we cover them up with plywood and plastic, and there the evidence sits until next week when we can expose more.

Slightly Comical Lab Talk

I wash coal. It’s fun. It’s like when you had those hot wheel cars as a kid that would change color when you added water. Just add water and a tooth brush and hey, you go from brown to black in no time. Once the coal is black, you just add it to the five pound pile of coal you’re accumulating. This, of course, describes the slightly less glamorous side of archaeology. I mean, you can still show off your ass crack by bending over in lab just as you can leaning over your unit in the field, but you run into less boulders chasing you down a cave as angry natives hurl spears.
Lab work is an integral part of archaeology. It’s when we find out what we got. And, honestly, sometimes it’s just a rock. However, some times you strike gold. Well, not real gold, but really cool metal things. In my time in lab this semester, I’ve bagged or been in the presence of the bagging of a bone toothbrush, weird metal objects that have no obvious use, interesting buttons, and a dime. It wasn’t a special dime. I believe it was from the 60s. But it was bagged, FDR head and all. It’s the people who put in the long hours in the lab, bagging rusty nails, risking tetanus and legs falling asleep at their station who are the unsung heroes of archaeology. Without people cataloging all these artifacts that are dug up in the field, we would never really have evidence. All we would have are plastic bags of dirt covered junk. And the world doesn’t need any more plastic bags of dirt covered junk.

Brady Blasco

This semester is coming to an end and I am glad to have participated in this URAP project. It introduced me to new methodologies in anthropology that I had not encountered previously in my courses (mostly because they were more sociocultural than archaeological). I was also able to meet other fellow anthropology majors and learn about their areas of interests in relation to mine. Although I did enjoy my experience working on both the Cheney and Gage House projects, I really wished that we could have gotten more work done on the Cheney site, but of course we were occasionally restricted by weather conditions of which we have no control over. As for lab, even though we had guidelines for how to wash, label, and bag the materials, I noticed that there was a lack of uniformity. With labeling for instance, I noticed that sometimes objects were not completely dried and clear polish would be applied that smeared the labels making them hard to read. I think this is probably because so many different people were on one bag of artifacts that perhaps people lose neglect to pay attention to the steps of the process.
A suggestion that I think might be useful to employ and help speed up the task of bagging is if a binder was compiled with various pictures and descriptions of different types of common material that tend to show up in the finds. In this way when uncertainty occurs regarding the type of material found, one can just refer to the binder before asking Kim for help. This will save on time and if Kim is not around it will be useful. Of course I understand that there are limitations to this method, but I think generally it would be beneficial.

Lin WU

This week I spent all my time in the lab cleaning and bagging the remaining bags from the Gage House project. I remember early on in the semester when we were unloading the boxes brought back from the Gage site, there were so many bags to be washed and sorted. We have definitely worked through a good amount of it and now the problem is finding storage space. I remember my first day in lab, I was bagging some of the artifacts that were previously washed and had dried, I did not know that we did not have to count the number of pieces of coal. Thus, my lab partner, Brady, and I wasted a good amount of minutes that could have been better spent doing something more productive. Now I can see how silly and unpractical that was considering the vast amounts of coal that show up in almost every unit/STP bag.

Lin Wu

This week we opened up a new unit next to the two (unit 16 and 18) that I had been working on over the past few weeks. Kim said that she wanted to see whether the brick path continues off and also to check for further possible findings near the pipe trench. I started by helping lay out the grid dimensions then we proceeded to dig. I find working on the units much easier than the shovel test pits (STPs). The main reason is that the units are bigger than the STPs so there is more space to maneuver around and hence easier to dig through within a shorter period of time. There were three of us working on the new unit and so we were able to take it down relatively quick. As I expected from the findings of units 16 and 18, the new unit turned up similar artifacts like glass fragments and brick pieces. Due to rain from earlier in the week, the soil was softer than normal so that was another reason why we were able to work through this faster.
I have noticed that students passing by the site on their way to class occasionally take interest in what we are doing in the middle of campus digging at a seemingly insignificant place. However, most of the people just walk by without any concern. I think that the Cheney House project should be better publicized on campus so that students can be more aware of the history at Cal. It will also help to rally more support in maintaining and restoring the site if the need arises. I am also sure that much of the people walking by would like to know more of what we are currently doing and it would be a great way to better inform them. I am really looking forward when the project is more complete so that we can give tours and integrate the historical information with the physically tangible remains.

Lin Wu

I came into this field project feeling pretty confident about my digging. Even though I did not have much experience in the field, my summer field school left me feeling like I knew all I needed to know about digging. Therefore, I expected no surprises from the Cheney house. What I wasn’t so confident about was working in the lab. As far as I was concerned, it was one thing to dig up an artifact and it was another thing to preserve it. While I understood that both processes required a skilled hand, I was not sure that I could work as efficiently in the lab.
To my surprise, it was my work at the Cheney house that gave me a run for my money. Before the Cheney house I had no idea how good a deal I had at the Gage house. Looking back it felt like the soil was so much easier to work with at the Gage house. Of course this made sense since it rained a lot in Syracuse while we were digging. At the Gage house the need to use a shovel or a pick was rare. However, at the Cheney house they became our favored tools as we dug sample test pits or units of rocky/ compacted soil. While sifting at the Gage house could become tedious after a down pour, it seemed easier to sift through mud that it seemed to sift clumps of highly compacted soil. I feel like I grew a little from both experiences.
Digging in different soil types definitely allowed me to see how much more I have to learn about field work. Luckily, this is a task that I am eager to pursue as we close off this semester and get ready for an even better Spring semester.

Isabel Hernandez

Monday, December 03, 2007

What lies beneath

I may be paraphrasing, but I think it was Indiana Jones who said, “To dig, or not to dig, that is the question.” To answer that question we dig shovel test pits (STP). This is where all the fun begins. A STP is a hole, 50 centimeters square, placed at regular intervals all around the dig site. They tell us where to open up a unit and perform a more precise excavation. That’s what a STP is for, but that’s not why I enjoy working on them so much. They are the barbarian cousins of the delicate units. A day in a shovel test pit leaves your hands pitted and bloody, which I much prefer to the squeaky clean feeling you have after an afternoon spent carefully scraping one millimeter of dust off of the top of a full blown unit.
I believe it was Calvin and Hobbs who said, “Shovel test pits are nasty, brutish, and short.” I concur. If I may, fair reader, I will walk you through the steps involved in the production of a STP and explain why I like them so much.
Step 1—Intense deliberation. There are about 52 thousand flags all over the Cheney’s former property. Each one of these marks the site of a future STP. Before any digging can begin there must be at least 6 separate rounds of discussion as to what corner of the STP these flags are demarcating. Should the flag be in the southeast corner or the northwest—who knows?
Step 2—Edging a.k.a. the last fun part. After I have used the most rudimentary tools in my possession to properly calculate the angle of the sun on the Campanile so that I might outline a perfect square on the ground with my flag in the corner, I begin to edge around the borders. It feels great to plunge the shovel into such forgiving soil. Once the topsoil has been cleared away and the trash has been bagged for analysis in the lab the real work begins.
Step 3—Pickaxe. This step entails hours of banging away at rocks and clay (which is just as hard as rocks) with a pickaxe until your arms can’t take it anymore. Luckily, I learned my technique from Yukon Cornelius so I can actually last quite a while.
Step 4—Tending to your wounds. The problem with STPs is that they aren’t quite as wide as the units. After you get down in past your elbows the shards of rocks sticking out of the sides start to wear on you—literally. But that’s what’s so great about the STP. When the day is done and everyone has left the dig site, your blood remains, smattered on the walls of the holes. To serve as a last reminder that good men stood against dirt, in the face of intense hardship and clay, and they emerged from battle victorious.

Mike McCarron

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A day in the life...

Tuesday morning I leave Mayapan and its last Mayan inhabitants and head for a more recent history in Berkeley. I leave Kroeber contemplating the disappearance of this noble civilization. In the short time it takes me to get to the Cheney house I switch gears pushing aside the visuals of Mayan civilization in Mayapan and making way for the last image I have of the two units we have opened thus far at the site. At the Cheney house I am greeted by Kim, our graduate student advisor, and a couple other familiar faces that join me in this excavation project.
This semester the site has been open for weeks now. Once a week the site is open for Anthropology students to come and dig for a few hours between classes and other responsibilities. A sign at the site explains the history of the site and the work that has been done by Anthropology students and staff in the last couple years. I get a pick and some gloves out of the community tool bucket and get to work on one of the two units.
“We’re done with the shovel test pit units at the front of the house,” Kim exclaims excited at the progress that has been made thus far. Three students get to work on the two units that are open at this time. In the deeper unit the students meet another set back as they unearth another pipe. In my unit I work through the rocky first level before I reach the clay layer that lets me know that we are now in level two. I pick through the rocky earth hoping not to get too much dirt in my colleague’s eyes. At times I contemplate switching tools for something less hazardous but I know that a trowel will not help me get through the compacted dirt. The few artifacts I find in this layer I hand pick and save in the designated artifact bag. Screening the dirt yields a few more artifacts. At the end of our digging day, Kim rewards us with a much needed sugar boost.

Isabel Hernandez

As an Anthropology major I have lived my last two years in Kroeber. I have learned the locations of key classrooms. I have shopped around in the museum store during the ten minutes I have to walk to my next lecture or discussion section. Classes in the department have sent me to the Phoebe Hearst Museum countless times. During the last couple years I have even sat in on final review sessions in the lounge on the second floor. I have spent hours upon hours in the library. I have visited my professors. Like other Anthropology majors, I have made it part of my routine to visit Mary if only so that she can reassure me that I am on track.
But until this semester I had never had the need to go down to the basement of Kroeber. Now that I have spent so many hours in the laboratory, it amuses me to think back to those days when I thought that they were inhabited by artifact specialists. Now I regret not investigating these laboratories further. It has definitely been an experience to go in to the laboratory and handle the remains of the past. My experience has taught me that artifacts are treated with tremendous care. They are washed with care, dried naturally, identified, labeled, and bagged meticulously. With all the care that goes into the recovery and care of artifacts, you would think that specialized tools would be used. But that is not the case; we use worker gloves, picks, shovels, and trowels like various other manual workers. In the laboratory we use wash basins, trays, toothbrushes, nail polish, sharpies, scissors, and Ziploc bags. So it seems that in order to find the tools one needs to recover and maintain artifacts one only needs to know where to look.

Isabel Hernandez

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

So, you think you want to be an archaeologist?

After just a few short weeks of excavation here at the Cheney house I feel that I am somewhat of an expert on the subject, and I feel that I should share my findings on the subject. I have learned a great many things in the last few months and I will list my findings as a guide to any curious parties considering this field for a career. Everyone should try archaeology at least once because archaeology is very rewarding, you meet cool people, and the best part—you get to play in the dirt!
Do you like instant gratification? Really? Me too. That’s one of the great things about your first day on an archaeological dig. You feel like you’re getting results. Imagine my rapture upon screening my very first bucket of dirt to discover a big, fat, rusty nail hiding in it. What a find! I feel I should probably have received some sort of award for my contributions to the field, but finding that nail was enough of a reward in itself. I mean, really what are the odds of finding such a priceless artifact anywhere in all of northern California, let alone right here on campus—especially in sub-decimeter deep soil in an area surrounded by perpetual construction projects. Now, imagine my disappointment when I visited the laboratory a week later to discover a mountain of rusty nails awaiting my attention with a bucket of dirty water and an eroded toothbrush. I was devastated, to say the least. But I didn’t allow my spirits to flag, and after several long hours I emerged from the laboratory—my fingers rubbed raw by my hairless toothbrush—triumphant, leaving a heap of slightly-less-dirty, rusty nails in my wake.
The next week I headed out to the dig site with a renewed vigor—determined to make the next great anthropologic discovery of my generation. I was fully prepared to find a human skull within the next few inches of soil in the unit in which I was working. When I communicated this desire to one of my co-diggers (he a very experienced research assistant) I was told that such a find would result in the entire dig being put on hold indefinitely. So I put the dreams of human remains aside and hoped for some nice animal bones instead.

Mike McCarron

Friday, November 02, 2007

During my final year here at Cal, I’ve finally decided to undertake a URAP position and none other than the Cheney House project. Although I study anthropology, my focus is on social/cultural anthropology and archaeology was least appealing to me, although I do love all aspects of anthropology. I’d only taken one course in archaeology and that was the general anthro 2 course. With a yearning to have a broader knowledge of archaeology I figured, what would be better than getting hands on experience in archaeology? Working on the Cheney House project gives me the opportunity to take part in excavations as well as lab work (other anthropology related URAP programs do not include excavations). Of the numerous conversations I’ve had with archaeologists and archaeologists-in-training, the one thing they’ve all mentioned is to take part in fieldwork before deciding that archaeology is not for you!
First day of excavation, I grabbed a pickaxe and started hacking away at the earth, within a square unit of course. A piece of glass, a bit of ceramic, a hunk of brick; each time an artifact was recovered excitement would fill the air. This piece of ceramic, I wonder what it looked like whole? Was it a cup, bowl, or something entirely different? Each artifact was a clue which helps us to understand the lives of those who lived here.
Although strenuous and dirty, excavation is the most exciting part of archaeology as one is exposed to the physical location that once bustled with the life of others in which one can only imagine the many happenings that occurred in this location.
Now I can say, Thank goodness I took the advice. I have a clearer understanding of what archaeology is and the work that it entails and a greater appreciation of archaeology. Working on the Cheney House project, I’ve begun to rethink my future plans, and archaeology just might be where I’m heading.

Nkauj Thao

I have to discuss something that completely awes and slightly frightens me. Sometimes, for silly and completely non-important reasons, archaeologists like to trace and identity artifacts. And while it might be a bit hard for prehistoric archaeologists to find a maker mark on an obsidian flake and reference it in an all-encompassing world encyclopedia of “Flakes and their Makers” (though I know there are plenty of ways to source and use the information for… ok I’m deviating), historical archaeologists have a very unique relationship with people who like to collect the “antiques” that are sometimes the trash that was discarded at a site. These collectors, historians, experts, or archaeologists will publish books to reference marks, style, function and form to trace, date, or even just see what that plate looked like whole. I’m on this tangent because last week Kim showed me a fragment of a plate recovered from the Gage house that she traced to a picture in a book. This was basically the most exciting thing I’d seen in quite some time (ok, yes, I haven’t been to the movies lately), but mostly because this was evidence for the investigatory research that you read about and never quite connect that someone actually did the work to discover it. This is really impressive once you start to think about the number of books available and the various things that come out of the ground and into an archaeologist’s curious hands. This personally made me realize that though Kim is not solving a homicide and there will likely never be a Law and Order: Household Archaeology, the painstaking research and inquiry into the contexts of the objects involves the same skills and talents that are exploited on your television right now. So next time you see an archaeologist, let them know you appreciate the work they do for us.

Jessica Merizan

This year has definitely been a huge introduction into real archaeology. Don’t get me wrong, reading all the books and taking the intro courses gave me an idea of what was in store, but until I completed a field school and started delving into the research behind all the glory (yeah, I’m a geek), I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This summer I headed to the Atlantic to dig in Matilda Gage’s backyard and recover anything pertinent to an understanding of her household before the planned woodshed was built that would ultimately preserve but hide anything we may have missed. This site is a major aspect of Kim’s dissertation and has similarities to the Cheney House in that they both were strong female activists who mainly worked on a public sphere in their own homes. While Ms. Cheney’s yard hasn’t yielded the amount of artifacts as Ms. Gage’s has, it is upon washing and labeling in the lab that the commonalities in recovered objects begin to exhibit themselves. And though we haven’t been digging on an 8-4 daily schedule like the summer, you can find us every Tuesday from 9-2, coming in and out as class allows, and leaving with enough grime to have to explain ourselves to anyone coming within several feet (I should actually start speaking in metrics just to stay consistent with the field). This is probably the last leg of the excavation work, and my walls are just starting to get really nice and straight. But I definitely recommend anyone with a curiosity in real archaeology to stop by. There’s always something to learn: standardizing soil color, measuring depth with those amazing bubble levels, and though it only makes an occasional appearance, standing incredibly still with my friend the plumb-bob.

Jessica Merizan

It has been around two months since I first started working on the Cheney House project on campus. My first week out on the field digging really took getting use to. I did not expect that it would be as difficult as it turned out because my partner and I were digging on a slight slope so it was hard to maintain my balance when the pit got deeper. In addition, we had to clear the ivy that covered the ground and also trimmed some of the dead branches from nearby trees in order to clear the area for digging. The surface level was relatively easy to dig through because the top soil was fairly soft. However, as we dug deeper, the soil texture changed and it became more difficult to dig through since it was dry and quite hard. The test pit did not yield many findings aside from a few pieces of glass and a small ball that Kim thinks might have been used for making pies.
For the last few weeks I have been working on units 16 and 18, which contain a row of old bricks that might have been a part of a path leading to the property. It is taking longer than expected to level off the bottom of the units because though we seemingly hit sterile soil, the small wall separating the two units kept churning up artifacts as I was taking it down. Artifacts found mainly consist of brick, glass, and nails. A couple of pipes are also situated in the units, which possibly explains the complex stratigraphic finds if we are digging in an old trench. The deeper soil levels were very hard to work with because I had to use a hand pick to slowly plow through the soil while trying not to damage any potential artifacts. Luckily due to the recent rain, the subsurface soil softened so last week it was much easier to take down the small wall and level off the units. Despite some of the routine work that we perform, it is quite exciting to take part in a project dealing with tangible history right here on campus. I cannot wait until we connect research findings with our excavation findings to learn more about the Cheney family and the property.

Lin Wu

This summer I participated in my first field school project. As a student taking Anthropology 134: The Anthropology of Slavery and Abolition, I spent my first three weeks in fieldschool working under Kim Christensen. In Syracuse, New York I had the privilege of digging at the Gage house. Because of the fact that we were digging in a very history/ archaeology conscious area, we were often visited by friends and neighbors of the foundation. Luckily for us (the archaeological staff), we had a great deal to show our visitors. Aside from the pounds and pounds of coal we unearthed, my colleagues and I found numerous examples of ceramics, glass, brick, bones, and other rarities. Before we moved on to the second part of our fieldschool, we took great care to clean as many of our artifacts as we could. However, much work was done after my colleagues and I moved on. I joined this URAP project primarily because I felt that it would be an excellent opportunity to finish the work that we did in Syracuse. Aside from the excitement of digging on campus during an academic semester, I lavished the chance to rediscover all the artifacts I helped to unearth. So far my URAP experience has been everything I hoped it would be. While I have to admit that I felt weary about entering the lab for the first time, the fact that the artifacts were familiar to me really helped. It’s really funny to be working on artifacts and then realize that it’s your name on the artifact bag. Sometimes I don’t recognize things right away because they look so different once they have been cleaned and cataloged away. But above everything I have experienced in lab this semester what I have enjoyed the most is the small reunions with past digging buddies and the chance to make new ones.

Isabel Hernandez

I chose to be a part of the archeological excavation of the Cheney House to get hands-on experience of something I have only observed on PBS, about excavating. Excavating has always appealed to me. I never found the time to get involved with excavation, when the opportunity would have been offered at a local museum. This also gives me an opportunity to learn, from the beginning, exactly what an excavation encompasses. Needless to say, there is a lot more to excavating than just digging.

Digging sounds and looks easy to the passersby. I gently tap, with a pick, on the parameter of the designated site, while leveling soil, to make the sides even. This is a vital part of excavating. The dirt is packed as tight as clay and we still have to be careful, in the event a delicate object is located. I have found pieces of blue balloon, mortar, and tiny pieces of bone. Objects are then placed in a paper bag, and labeled with information about the location site and the date. At the end of the day, the bags are taken to the lab, for storage. Once the bag is in the lab, the items are washed, dried, labeled, logged and stored.

I am now experiencing another vital aspect of anthropology, archeology. I enjoy participating in the Cheney House project because the project is ongoing, thus, I can participate each semester. I recommend this project to all anthropology enthusiasts.

Gwen Blair

Lab and Field Work @ Cheney House

Where else can you go dig a small test pit for a few hours and then run off to class?
My first weeks at Berkeley have been full of decisions and acclimation. The URAP program gives undergraduates so many great opportunities to hit the ground running, and with the Cheney House Project we get the chance to get our fingernails dirty at a dig right here on campus. Working on the Cheney House project is a great match for me as I get the dirt under the nails part, with the essential lab experience, as I get settled into Cal. The shovels, pickaxes and Munsell Color Charts get a good amount of use on dig days. The fieldwork has been a ballet of comings and goings at the Cheney house, just when someone has to leave for class another student show up and gets right to business, with an ebb and flow that seems almost orchestrated.
The discussions while we dig are of the past finds at Cheney house and the excitement we share of being in a position to contribute to Berkeley’s historical past. Enough has been written about May and Warren Cheney to lay out a good foundation in which our discoveries can be placed. The information that is brought to light by this project continues to add to the important record of this university’s inception.
In the lab I see information from my ‘Analysis of Archaeological Ceramics’ class spilling over into the lab, funny how that works! The ceramic sherds that I have cleaned, sorted and bagged are beginning to speak to me. To see and understand the basics of ceramic evaluation adds so much to both my lab time and class time.
I worked with Kim Christensen, the lead for the Cheney House project, on some Gage House artifacts that were being sent back East to the Gage House Historical Foundation for display. This was particularly fun as we were “cherry picking” the most interesting items for their yearly fundraising party. Kim reminded me that this is not the way we usually handle artifacts, but to work on an ornate brass doorknob, china with searchable (!) British makers mark, and other unusual items was an exciting introduction for me.
I look forward to the day when the Cheney House is counted as a registered historical landmark, and we can hold fundraisers to fix the ol’ girl, paint her up proper, and return her to her former glory.
If we can dig then we could certainly paint!
Cross your fingers!

Frances Bright

Monday, September 17, 2007

2007 Fall Field Season

We'll be excavating at the Cheney House again this fall, starting on September 18th, with a student field crew. We'll have a good mix of returning and newly-recruited faces this year. Keep on the lookout for a more regular and organized schedule of postings about the fieldwork this semester.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dramatic Archival Research!

Every day is a new learning experience when working on the Cheney house and today though we were not excavating, is no exception. As a part of the research, archival work is important in learning more about May and Warren Cheney.

I was at the library today looking through old issues of The Daily Californian and its predecessor, The Berkeleyan, the campus newspapers for my own research. That wasn’t going so well. After a few hours of desperately looking through the microfilm I decided to search on May Cheney and in the index I noticed one peculiar entry. It simply states “ shot, August 5, 1919”. I don’t think May died of gunshot…this is weird.

I decide to investigate and lo-and-behold, on August 5, 1919 a disgruntled alumnus burst on to the CAL campus and fired his pistol at Mrs. Cheney, who fighting him off - only suffering from a gash on the head as the bullet grazed her head and took a tuff of hair as it implanted itself in her office wall! The man was after May and two other professors who he believed were conspiring against him in his quest to get a permanent job at the University Library.

I couldn’t believe it! After several hours of research without anything to show for it I had before me the sensational headlines that describe the scene. “Narrowly Escaped Death!” “ Friends Rush to Bedside.” I couldn’t help myself; I had to rush over to the lab to share with Kim my findings. I have to say, archaeology isn’t only about the thrill of discovery in the ground, but it is also the thrill in library stacks!

- Krissy, senior