Archaeology isn’t just digging up dinosaurs. In Detroit, it’s rock and roll, Pewabic Pottery and finding lost neighborhoods.

On Oct. 5, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dr. Krysta Ryzewski led a team of Wayne State graduate students studying archaeology to begin documenting the viability of different buildings throughout Detroit. This endeavor has is called the “Unearthing Project.”

Together, they have delved in to the infamous local rock music relic known as the Grande Ballroom located on Grand River Avenue to help document the significance of the once great venue.

“Our jobs as archaeologists is to document the space, its change over time,” she said.

Ryzewski said documenting these historical Detroit buildings is not only a way to assess artifacts, but it also succeeds in “telling the diverse histories of Detroiters, and strengthening the city’s legacy for future generations to enjoy.”

Contrary to the unsolicited nature of “urban exploring,” Ryzewski said she and her team are often invited by property owners to various locations throughout southeast Michigan and Detroit to come see the buildings.

“As an archaeologist, I use methods like systematic survey, excavation and archival research to locate, document and interpret material traces of the past,” she said.

While fine-toothed brushes and shovels are still used as tools, archaeologists now have the ability to use technology to help document and share findings.

Beau Kromberg, a grad student focusing on archaeology, is using photogrammetry to document items that are found in archaeological excavations.

He said photogrammetry is effective and valuable because the price point is low when all that is needed is a camera.

“One of my current projects at Wayne State is the development of a virtual museum,” Kromberg said. “The goal is to produce a first person application, where people can freely explore a museum that houses artifacts within WSU’s collection.”

An example of Kromberg’s photogrammetry is a bird pipe that was found in Roosevelt park. It can now be seen by anyone with a computer or smart phone here.

Other sites that the team is assessing includes Roosevelt Park, located in front of the old Michigan Central Station in Southwest Detroit. There is also archaeological work going on at modern landmarks like the Renaissance Center and Brush Park.

Archaeological Ph.D. student and Unearthing Detroit team member Samantha Ellens said, “I’ve worked extensively with the 17th-19th century neighborhood that was once located underneath where the Renaissance Center stands today.”

Ellens said her work with Unearthing Detroit documents the neighborhoods that once stood where the Renaissance Center and Roosevelt Park are now located and are important in showing where Detroit has come from.

Ryzewski said buildings like the Grande Ballroom are at risk of being lost due to being worn down by the elements over time. She said her team is working to understand and preserve the legacy of Detroit before historical sites are disappear and new buildings are built.

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