About 100 years ago, Detroit's Corktown neighborhood was under siege. After building the massive central train station, the city was waiting on a few holdout homes to clear the area in front to make way for Roosevelt Park. Now, the train station is in ruins and archeologist Krysta Ryzewski of Wayne State University is digging up Roosevelt Park in search of artifacts from the displaced people of Corktown.
Urban archeology can be incredibly challenging—digging through complicated and sometimes mixed layers with people still living on top. But there’s much to learn. In this case, the archeology of Detroit can tell current residents and policymakers much about the rise and fall and rise again of Detroit, and how it’s history fits in with the history of urbanization across America and around the world.
Why dig when we have records?
People keep things important to them like keepsakes and heirlooms, but archaeologists are also interested in the everyday lives of people. The objects and evidence surrounding daily activities are less likely to have been passed down to the next generation. The activities of denizens of Corktown weren’t necessarily written down. Instead we have to dig them up.