Carrie Johnson

Week 10

This was the last class of the term, so we spent time working on our final projects. Each group got to Skype with Alex to discuss their progress and any improvements that should be made, which was helpful. My group is close to being done, but we still have some work to do regarding citations and putting together the conclusion. Also, we had to round up all the artifacts that had been collected from the Women’s League Cabin and make sure that they were returned to their proper bags so that they could be stored. Altogether, this class has been an interesting introduction to the field of archaeology, and I look forward to seeing what other groups’ final projects look like.

Week 9

Excavation is done, so the class spent the period working on their projects. I’m part of the group that is putting together the analysis for Trench 2. I spent most of the time counting up the artifacts from the different contexts, assembling the artifact catalogue, and deciding which items would be most interesting to do object biographies on. Some notable objects from the trench included a yellow bottle cap from Reed’s Original Ginger Brew, several bullet casings, a plastic spoon handle with ‘Sutherland’ printed in raised letters on the back, a shard of light blue glass, and a couple of pieces of ceramics. It’s interesting to try and figure out what these objects were and where they came from. I look forward to continuing my exploration of this material in class.

Week 8

It was Community Archaeology Day, and during class we had a number of people from the community and the campus come out to the Women’s League Cabin site in order to see what we were doing and learn more about the process of archaeology. People seemed interested in our activities, and it was nice to answer their questions about the site and excavation. It didn’t seem like any of the people that my group talked to had visited the cabin when it was still standing, so it was cool to be able to share the history of the site with them.

At my site, Trench 2, our finds had begun to taper off. I managed to find a couple of tiny pieces of glass, as well as a bit of charcoal. Other finds from the site included another bullet casing, a piece of pencil lead, some more charcoal, a piece of metal that was not immediately recognizable, and more pieces of glass. We hypothesized that our excavation had continued so far down that we were getting into soil that hadn’t been disturbed for a very long time, and that any items from the Women’s League Cabin were in higher layers of soil. In my side of the trench, on the east side of the line of paving stones, we finally hit a new context. The soil changed into more densely packed clay, and it was interesting to see the difference between this soil and the previous layers.

Week 7

Because my final project is focusing on Trench 2, I was assigned there to work. The trench was 2-by-1.5 meters and featured a line of pavers running through the middle. Though the site doesn’t match up exactly with the plans that the class has for the Women’s League Cabin, it’s possible that this line of stones could have been the top step leading into the entrance of the cabin. Previous work had cleared off the first context, and for the subsequent layer we decided to divide up the area into two different contexts. Because the pavers split the area of the trench, the soil to the west of the pavers was labeled context two, and the soil to the east was context three.

I was part of the group working in context three. We used trowels to uncover the artifacts, scraping loose dirt into dust pans so that the dirt could be put in buckets in order to be sifted later. This trench had more roots than the trench I had previously been working at, and there was one large root from a tree that posed a particular problem to our excavation. Though we didn’t get to use the shovel shaving method, we still made good progress. Altogether, we found a variety of pieces of glass—some of which were so thin that they could have come from a wine glass—a piece of concrete, some nails, a large amount of charcoal, some bits of plastic, a piece of ceramic, and several small caliber bullet casings. I’m excited to see if we can find out anything more about the casings in the lab.

Week 6

For class, we ventured back out to the site of the Women’s League Cabin in order to begin excavation. My group constructed a one-by-one meter square in the A3 unit, near the far west side of the site. Previous surveying had found what appeared to be a broken window pane, as well as some fence posts and other debris, so the area seemed like it would be a good place to start our excavation. On the preliminary surface survey of the area, we found some pieces of glass as well as the upper portion of a bottle, which still had its cap on. Even though it was broken, we could still see how the sides of the bottle were shaped like a polygon rather than smooth. We tentatively thought this could have been a soft drink or a ketchup bottle, and it will be interesting to see if we can identify what it was used for.

Though I wasn’t one of the people who got to learn about the total station, I did learn different methods for excavation, both with the trowel and the shovel. The trowels were used to scrape away the top part of the soil in order to uncover potential items, and after the troweling, we switched to using a shovel. This was much quicker, but we did have to keep the dirt and sift it in order to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything. Sifting was my favorite part, and we found a couple of small shards of glass, some charcoal, and two nails that we otherwise would have missed. Altogether, we found various pieces of glass, both clear and amber colored, charcoal, a cream colored chunk of what could be chalk, a shard of ceramic, a piece of metal that resembled a hinge, and the aforementioned nails. It was cool to see the edges of the survey unit become more defined as our progress continued, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else we might uncover.

Week 5

This week, the class went to the Women’s League Cabin to start getting the site ready for excavation. We were split into different teams, with some people using a blueprint of the cabin to try and determine the location of certain aspects of the house, and others clearing off the ground in order to look for any objects. My group went back to the field in order to finish up the last bit of pedestrian surveying. We discovered that farmers had started tilling the field, but because they were zone-tilling instead of tilling the full field, visibility was only improved by about 15%. I found several pieces of plastic and a styrofoam cup, and after the surveying was done we returned to the Women’s League Cabin to help out the other groups.

I joined JordiKai and Shirley, who were surveying some of the ten-by-ten meter grids. I was in charge of using a rake to clear off the leaves in order to improve visibility of the D2, D3, and D4 grids. During this, we found several pieces of glass, some metal springs, a metal rod that appeared to have been a part of one of the bunk beds, and a clear piece of film. I was surprised that we had found so much, especially considering the large amount of leaves still obscuring the site. I’m especially excited to see what else we can uncover.

Week 4 

For class, Sarah Murray, a visiting professor from the University of Nebraska, gave a presentation about photogrammetry and how 3-D modeling is being used in archaeology today. We got to go outside and take pictures of the statue outside of Laird in order to create our own 3-D model. It was interesting to see the procedure done in real life, especially how the special markers were used to help the computer match up specific points. Pictures were taken at various heights and then compiled in the modeling software to make the image. As well, another professor was taking the same sets of pictures on his phone using an app called 123D Catch, which also makes 3-D models. It’s incredible how far technology has advanced, and now I want to download the app and try it out for myself.

The modeling software was taking a while to compile the images, so the class left and went back to the Women’s League Cabin site, dividing up into two groups. One group stayed at the cabin site and cleared off the leaves in order to better see the site, and they also measured off the area in order to create a grid system for when the excavation begins. The other group, of which I was a part, ventured back to the field we visited last week. We were in charge of walking the remaining part of the field. We didn’t find much, but I discovered some bits of plastic. It was also a good lesson in working in different conditions – whereas last week had been hot and sunny, this week it was freezing and snowing, and the strong gusts might have blown away any debris that normally would have been caught in the field.

At the end of class, Professor Murray showed us the final result of the model we’d made, and it was incredible to see the statue in such detail. The only problem was that enough pictures hadn’t been taken of the top piece, so that part looked strange and melted. However, getting to see the difference between the accurate part and the messed up part made the experience even more interesting.

Week 3

For class, we practiced pedestrian walking in several fields near the Women’s League Cabin in the Carleton Arboretum. The class split up into three groups—A, B, and C—each made up of seven or eight people. Within the groups, there was one person in charge of recording the finds and other relevant information, and someone in charge of mapping the survey area. The rest of the group took part in the pedestrian survey. Members stood fifteen meters apart from each other and had a search diameter of two meters. Each group walked multiple transects, each of which was about 150 meters in length. Groups A and B were positioned in the farm field, with group A stationed near an access road. Group C was looking in an area of the Arb that had just undergone a controlled burn.

I was part of team A, and had the role of pedestrian walker. Because the field had not yet been tilled, the ground was extremely difficult to see due to the downed cornstalks. However, I did find a shard of glass along the edge of the field where it was clearer, as well as a couple pieces of trash. Near the end of class, my team walked back up to group B’s site and did a section there. Here, the land was easier to see, and I found a decrepit winter glove someone must have lost, as well as some plastic. Though I’m very familiar with field walking from hunting for arrowheads, it was interesting to see how archaeologists record and label their finds, both according to the type of material—ceramic, tile, lithics, metal, plastic, glass, and other—and which transect they were found in.

Week 2

As a field trip, the class drove to Red Wing, Minnesota and toured the Goodhue County Historical Society. I found the tour to be both informative and interesting, and especially enjoyed learning about how the Native Americans used to work bits of clam shell into their pottery. There were also several arrowheads from various time periods on display, showing how people had worked them differently over time. This was especially interesting to me, because where I’m from (rural Indiana) hunting for arrowheads in the fields is a pretty big pastime.

The historical society’s conservationist also brought out some items from the collection and let us hold the artifacts. There were a couple of shards of pottery, a metal spear point, and a bone awl and some other bone objects that had probably been used as handles. It was really cool to be able to touch the objects instead of just looking at them, and my favorite piece was a little bead that looked like it had been made out of bone. The conservationist said it had probably been used for fishing.

After exploring the historical society, the class went outside and we got to see a burial mound that was on the site. I’ve seen mounds before back home, but this one was especially interesting because of the connection to the landscape. Because we were on a high bluff, past Native Americans build the burial mound up there to give the dead a place of prominence, as well as a nice view. All in all, the trip was both entertaining and informative.

Week 1

The class divided up into different survey units to canvas the area behind the library. Each group made a record of the different materials—glass, plastic, cigarettes, metal, and other—that they found in their respective units. I was survey unit 8, and I walked a path along the side of the road closest to the library. My route began at a light pole standing on the side of the hill, (the fourth one up, if someone was standing in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill and counting up) and ended at the light pole standing on level ground, the second pole up from the parking lot. I completed one pass, walking from higher ground to lower ground, and my search path had a diameter of two meters. The terrain was varied, comprising of a wash of silt and pebbles near the side of the road, then turning into grass farther away from the road.

During the survey, I found four cigarette butts, four scraps of plastic from food wrappers, one patch of red glass shards, one apple core, and one scrap of what appeared to be a tissue. Most of these items were located on the level, lower ground. This could be due to the volleyball court located behind the library. More students might cross the road here to get to the court, and the increased traffic flow would lead to a higher chance of material being left behind. As well, the debris might have been washed down the hillside due to winds or rain, collecting on level ground because it could not go down further.

There were a couple of things that I found especially interesting about the experience. First, the pebbles and silt had little bits other minerals or rocks mixed in with them—small, bright flecks that at first glance resembled tiny shards of glass. This made distinguishing actual pieces of glass trickier. Also, it was interesting to see how the cigarette butts had changed due to their exposure to the elements. The paper was weathered and faded, so I couldn’t just rely on looking for the characteristic orange color of cigarettes, but had to keep my eyes open for objects that had the right size, shape, and texture.