Archaeology of Immigration Project Overview

Our goal of this project is to address how have migrant journeys have greatly impacted contemporary archeology. We expanded our research to further include the dating techniques that were used on the bodies found of immigrants who have passed during their journeys. We were interested in this specific aspect of archeology because we wanted to strive for a greater understanding of immigration across borders since it is extremely relevant currently. Also, Alycia and I both studied this topic for our panel presentation so we wanted to dig even deeper into this current issue. It is crucial that we strive to humanize immigrants and shed light on the reality of the border because it is so often overlooked. We want to emphasize that the migrant stories and belongings hold great information regarding their journeys along with the rest of their archeological artifacts. In De Leon’s research, he “shines light on the inhumane and hypocritical way that we police our borders and show the devastating impact that our boundary enforcement system has on people’s lives” (Epilogue De Leon) which we strived to do as well.

Through our research, we found that one of the main concerns regarding current migrant issues is the governmental policies that were enacted in the past. For instance, the first significant law restricting immigration in the United States was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Here, the Chinese workers were blamed for declining wages and economic failures on the West Coast. This inevitably caused great discrimination aginst all Chinese migrants which makes their journey to immigrating to the United States much more difficult. With this knowledge, this undoubtedly impacted the research surrounding the rest of our project because we were able to put into perspective how much that impact has lasted until the modern-day. With Mexican migrants today, the prevention through deterrence policy continues to deter migrants to cross the border into the United States. 

At the beginning of developing our project, we came together to discuss what we thought were the most important impacts of migrant journeys on archeology. From our prior study of migrant journeys, integrating our research findings into our final Unessay project was fairly simple. Overall, we decided to create a main page covering the crucial overview of our research and having links of that to our research. By approaching it in this manner, we are able to utilize eye-catching photos, fonts, and colors to draw in the attention of an audience. We wanted to approach a sensitive topic in this format to hopefully keep our audience more engaged and intrigued in learning about an issue that affects so many lives today. 

There are so many essential takeaways from our project. However, one that will continue to make a lasting impact on me personally is how our government continues to approve policies to deter migrants from entering the “land of the free”. Also after viewing a high volume of photographs of migrant belongings from the trail through Jason De Leon’s study, I will never take for granted what I have now. Migrants are often wearing shoes that are not meant for a treacherous journey such as heeled boots and those migrants are often children.

Important Links

Final Unessay Project | Collective Journey by Jonathan Madison | Minnesota Immigrants | Extra Photos

Bibliography Staff. “Chinese Exclusion Act.” A&E Television Networks, August 24, 2018.

Leon, Jason De. “The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.” Oakland: University of California Press, October 23, 2015.

UMP (2014). “Skeletonized human remains and worn-out shoes in Nogales–Sasabe corridor”. Photograph for Research Gate. Retrieved from

Dating Techniques

In Jason De Leon’s research, he focused on a variety of topics such as migrant typology sites, use wear, and dating techniques. The typology of sites which De Leon focused on included, campsites, rest sites, pick up sites, religious shrines, and border staging areas. Campsites and rest sites were very similar as migrants can take a much-needed break from traveling at these sites. However, the campsites provide an area where migrants can meet up and rest overnight whereas the rest sites the migrants typically only stay briefly. Here, migrants are also able to consume some food to refuel their bodies for the treacherous hike. The religious shrines were the most interesting to study as migrants visit this space to leave offerings to wish for a safe journey from a higher power. While camp and rest sites provide physical refueling for the migrants, the religious shrines provide a mental refueling for migrants. These sites typically bring peace and hope for better travel. Pick up sites allow migrants to be picked up by smugglers and dump their belongings. Here, De Leon elaborates on how typical drug mules don’t leave much behind as they try to be as cautious as possible. Border staging areas provide migrants sleeping areas, more religious shrines, and clothes for migrants as they anticipate for the right time to cross the border. The journey for migrants is often difficult so this is a crucial stage for migrants as it often fills of reflection of their journey as well as prayer for a positive new start.

Wells, Michael (2014). “An alcove shrine near Lake Arivaca”. Photograph for Research Gate. Retrieved from
Wells, Michael (2015, October 23). “Memo and Lucho rest during the crossing. The bottom photos are of migrant campsites documented south of Green Valley, Arizona”. Photo for Land of Open Graves. Retrieved from

As for use wear, identifying physical evidence is difficult for archeologists due to it being biodegradable and difficult to track. For instance, vomit and blood would be absorbed by nature, other animals, or washed away. De Leon identified use wears in hopes of identifying some of the trauma such as pain. Use wear “refers to modifications to objects that occur when people use them in various ways”. This falls into two categories, wear patterns which is from wear and tear from intended tasks such as holes in shoes from walking long distances and extended wear; and modifications which include the changes that were made on an item to improve its functions or repair it such as taking another article of clothing to tie a shoe back together. This can be a difficult matter to study because some instances include finding children’s clothing such as a boot that wasn’t intended for such a treacherous hike with a heel falling off and many holes. Articles like such really put into perspective the pain that some migrant children must endure in search of a better life. 

UMP (2014). “Skeletonized human remains and worn-out shoes in Nogales–Sasabe corridor”. Photograph for Research Gate. Retrieved from

Dating techniques typically give scientists a greater understanding of the timeframe in which migrants are traveling. These techniques include absolute dating and relative dating. Absolute dating is often discovered through time-stamped documents such as bus tickets or expiration dates of food. This also allows the public to learn of the routes and have some clue to some of the other travel methods of migrants. Relative dating relies on the degradation of articles such as plastic bottles, meats, fruit, or other foods. One interesting finding of plastic bottles on the migrant trails is the fact that many of them are covered in black plastic bags in order to camouflage them. This has also resulted in companies manufacturing black water bottles to be more appealing to those desperate to making the journey across the border.

Migrant Projects

San Mateo County History Museum, Land of Opportunity: the Immigrant Experience in San Mateo County exhibit 

San Mateo County Historical Association (2020). “Land of Opportunity”. Retrieved from

These exhibits include migrants from all over the globe. These include Japanese, Italians, Chinese, Irish, Portuguese as well as Mexicans. This is extremely significant as the visitors to these exhibits can experience multiple cultures. It is important to note that this museum is located in Redwood City, California. America has always prided itself on being a melting pot of cultures and this museum highlights that very accurately. Within the exhibit, it highlights various migrant cultures and allows viewers to fully immerse in their culture and get a better understanding of the day to day life of these migrants. By telling the history of these migrants, we are able to keep their voices alive and not allow history books to hide the struggles that they faced after migrating to the US.

Minnesota Immigrants

Minnesota created a database that allows people to learn of the stories of their migrants. Overall, it covers many stories from immigrants from all over their state which allows audio and video histories to be shared and accessed by many. This is a very crucial database considering that migrants are able to post their stories directly, without allowing a third party to edit their stories in order to be published. Moreover, more people are able to learn about their experiences because the site offers video and audio storytelling which allows those who may not be able to read in English to still understand.

Asrat, Mussie (2015). “Mussie Asrat”. Photo for Minnesota Immigrants. Retrieved from

We learned of Mussie Asrat who is an immigrant from Eritrea. She tells us of a special coffee maker called a jebena. It “is made of clay and has a circle base, a long cylindrical neck, and a curved handle”. This differs greatly from the traditional American coffee maker as they aren’t as detailed and made from plastics instead of organic material such as clay. She elaborates on how it takes 2-3hrs to brew Eritrean coffee, which is an art in of itself, unlike an American coffee maker that is finished in 20 minutes. Every Sunday after church her family and friends always pulls out the jebena and enjoys Sunday coffee together. During these coffee dates, her family and friends frequently discuss how much they miss the old times being back in Eritrea with the same coffee maker. However, they can always rely on the jebena to bring them all together to make new memories. Even in the United States after they’ve immigrated.

Castillo, Kim (2014). “Kim Castillo”. Photo for Minnesota Immigrants. Retrieved from

We also learn of Kim Castillo who tells the story of her father immigrating to the United States from Bien Hoa, Vietnam when he was really young. What is fascinating about Kim’s story was the fact that her father actually built the boat that carried him along with many others to the US by himself. Kim tells of how her and her father would always spend much of their time together bonding in the kitchen. He used to teach Kim how to cook an abundance of Vietnamese food together which is how she has maintained her Vietnamese culture. As a mother now, she continues to carry on cooking traditional Vietnamese dishes with her children too.

Manzanar National Historic Site

National Park Service (2018, January 12). “Manzanar National Historic Site”. Photo for National Park Service. Retrieved from

This historic site is built in Independence, California by the United States government during World War II. Its sole purpose was to provide housing for relocated Japanese Americans. The significance of Manzanar is uncanny in United States history. It encapsulates the freedom of 120,000 people, half of which were not even 18 yet. Much of this history is buried through abandonment and lack of preservation, however, the National Park Service protected this site. Despite most buildings already destroyed, much of the remnants remain today such as the orchards, gardens, ponds, and some of the housing areas. This allows a staggering amount of people to stay educated on the violence and lack of humanity that lines American history.

Garbology of COVID-19

During this unprecedented time that we are living through, I realized that I’ve eaten a lot more junk food since they’re so accessible as well as popcorn because my siblings and I have been doing a lot more movie nights. Moreover, my dad has been doing much more yard work so I also assume that there is an increase in the amount of yard scraps and other compost. Over the past month or so, I’ve noticed that I don’t wear as many jeans or “going out” appropriate clothes since if I were to just go to the store I’d opt for a comfy tee and leggings which I also wear at home. Also, I don’t wear as much make up anymore so my skin has gotten the chance to clear up and breathe!

Photograph by: Boston Public Works, April 1, 2020, source

As for my neighborhood, I would expect to see a lot more Clorox Wipes, empty hand sanitizer bottles, and gloves in other people’s trash in my neighborhood as well as frozen meals or fresh produce scraps. Overall, these changes in consumption very accurately reflect what is happening at a social level in our community because people are definitely taking extra precautions to stay clean and they are more aware of their hygiene. Moreover since people are home more, they would also be cooking more which would lead to a spike in the amount of fresh produce scraps or even the containers of frozen meals because they are able to have meals quicker. If a future archeologist examined our garbage today, they would probably see that there is a great increase in gloves and masks which they could interpret this as a time in our society that we need to protect ourselves.

Table by: Camila Domonoske, March 20, 2020, source

One article that I found very interesting was America’s Shopping List: Here’s What We’re Buying The Most by Camila Domonoske. In this article, she has a table that displays sales of various products over the past few weeks. One that I found particular interest in was that there was a 470% jump in hand sanitizer sales in the week of March 7th, however, there was only a 207.5% increase in the week of March 14th. Initially, I thought that people bought less hand sanitizer, however, from my personal experience of going to the stores shelves were still empty. Therefore, this could be due to the fact that people initially bought masses of hand sanitizer and are now hoarding it and there is less supply to be sold.

GP: Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, empty supermarket shelves from panic buying
Photograph by: Andrew Merry for CNBC, March 23, 2020, source

Works Cited

Boston Public Works (2020, April 1). “PWD crews are working very hard during this difficult time…” Twitter Status. Retrieved from

Domonoske, Camilia (2020, March 20). “America’s Shopping List: Here’s What We’re Buying The Most.” NPR News. Retrieved from

Merry, Andrew (2020, March 23). “Supermarket shortages caused by panic-buying of items such as pasta and rice.” Photograph for CNBC. Retrieved from

About Me: Adriane

Hello all! I’m a sophomore currently studying Public Health-Global Health. I currently am interested in opening my own non-profit someday to help addicts on the road to sobriety! I grew up in a town where these were rampant so I want to be able to help those in my community who want to get help, but not too sure where to start. Although it’s a big goal, I want to be able to change our healthcare systems to value minorities and especially immigrants as well because both of my parents struggled to navigate our broken systems. On my free time, I really enjoy cooking and attending music festivals!