Historical Archaeology Blog

Historic Milk Bottles

Historical archaeology connects places, things, and issues from the past or present using not only what is found during an excavation, but also written records and oral traditions that then help inform and contextualize cultural materials.

During the spring of 2021, Palomar College students in Professor Betsy Pain’s Anthropology 225 class created videos that can be used as comparative or reference collection guide, which are useful for educational and research purposes. This video series highlights different types of historic artifacts for which students compiled research. If you have any questions about these artifacts or topics, please email collections@sandiegoarchaeology.org.

History of Milk and Identification of Historic Milk Bottles
By Harrison Chea, Palomar College student
Summary compiled by Collections Manager Jessica McPheters

Origins of Milk Consumption

Genetic evidence points to humans beginning to consume milk in Central Europe and the Western Balkans approximately 7,500 years ago. During an examination of human remains uncovered at the Tollense Valley Battlefield in Northern Germany, it was revealed that humans had evolved to process lactose at some point over just a few thousand years. Sumerian cultures began to cultivate milk for cheese and butter production as early as 3000 BCE.

Origins of Glass Milk Bottles

Urbanization during the Industrial Revolution pushed dairy farms outside of cities so farmers began to rely on distributors to sell their dairy products. Dr. Henry Thatcher developed the first US patent for a milk bottle in 1884, and by 1889, using glass bottles to distribute milk was standard. Glass milk bottles were much more sanitary. They were delivered and distributed daily, as refrigeration was not yet standard.

The original glass bottles were hand blown and tooled. Once glass manufacturing machines were invented around 1905, Thatcher’s company moved to machine manufactured glass.

Common Characteristics of Milk Bottles

Some common characteristics of milk bottles that distinguish them from other types of bottles:

  • Flared finish on the lip of the bottle with evidence of tool markings
  • Clear glass to display the purity of the milk
  • Thick and heavy glass
  • Wide neck
  • 1 pint measurement was the standard unit sold

Identification of Historic Milk Bottles

Enjoy this informative video to learn more about milk bottles and their history. Come back next month to learn about early twentieth century hardbody dolls!

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With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will use photogrammetry to prepare one or more archaeological collections for digital preservation, as well as create a virtual museum exhibit for our Public Archaeology department. Per approval, special projects of the intern’s choosing are also available. During the research and planning, the intern will receive guidance as appropriate to their selected project. Prospective interns should already be familiar with photogrammetric procedures, and Agisoft Metashape.

Collections Management

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will prepare one or more archaeological collections for curation. During the course of the internship, the intern will learn to identify artifacts and ecofacts common to the San Diego region, including lithics, ceramics, historical objects, and faunal, botanical, and mineral specimens. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological laboratory procedures such as basic artifact analysis, manual and computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and preventative conservation. In addition, the intern will become familiar with historical trends in archaeological practice in the San Diego area and will be introduced to current legal and ethical issues in archaeological curation as well as the concerns and rights of culturally affiliated groups with regard to archaeological materials.

Development and Marketing

Under the direction of Center staff, the intern will support the department in various activities, including, but not limited to, fundraising and grant research; e-newsletter development; social media marketing; and website maintenance. This internship will give the intern valuable, real-world experience in non-profit fundraising and marketing.

Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology

Prospective Interns must have completed three courses: Introduction to GIS, GIS Database Management, and Intermediate/Advanced Methods in GIS. The intern will be assigned a project where they will create shapefiles and maps for curated archaeological collections, museum exhibits, and/or public outreach using ArcGIS 10.6. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological GIS laboratory procedures such as computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and database management.

Library Science

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will arrange and catalog materials in the Center’s library. During the course of the internship, the intern will take a leading role in the cataloging, sorting and storing of research files and creating user guides for these collections. Center staff will instruct the intern on archival procedures, computer cataloging, storage requirements, and preventative conservation.

Public Archaeology

Harness your passion for Public Archaeology and gain hands-on experience with K-12 museum field trips, lectures, and public outreach. Additional projects may include creating virtual museum exhibits and activities, assisting in the development and implementation of K-12 curricula programs, planning and presenting public facing content, or educational field trip content of your own design. Must be able to pass a Live Scan.