Elizabeth O’Connor

Week 1

On the first day of class, after an introductory discussion on archaeological survey methods, we went to the area behind the library to practice a survey. We decided to break up the area into different sections, differentiating different areas strategically and based on natural divisions. For example, the volleyball court was a single survey unit, the area on the other side of the road was one, the slope by the CMC was one, etc. We counted for how many objects that were plastic, glass, metal, cigarettes, or other.

I, along with three other students, were accountable for survey unit 12, the area on the opposite side of the road than the library. This area was constrained by a road/pathway on either side. We did not find many objects in this unit, and hypothesized that this was because not many people  utilize this area of land. Most of the objects we found were more concentrated by the pathway, which makes sense, because this is the area that gets the most human use out of the whole survey unit.

Week 2

This week instead of doing our own fieldwork, we went to the Goodhue County Historical Society. I thought it was very interesting to learn more about the archaeological work that has been done in such a close by area. Previous to taking this class, I did not know anything about the archaeology of Minnesota, or what tribes have inhibited the land in the past and present. I thought that the exhibit we saw and learned about was very informative. We learned about some Mississippian traditions, such as adding shells into their pottery, which is visible in the fragments and restorations of pottery that the historical society had on display. I really enjoyed being able to look more closely at artifacts that the museum had in their collection, such as the copper spear and fish hook and pottery fragments, all of which were from the Mississippian time.

We also learned about the many sites in the Red Wing locality, many of which are marked by mounds that the Native Americans have built for different reasons, including for different cultural and spiritual purposes. We tried to visit Energy Park Site, also known as the Red Wing Archaeological Preserve, but were not sure if we found the site.

Another important thing I learned from this visit, was the importance of working with local communities, especially the native community in the area, to work towards sharing their history in a respectful way. It is important that people are in charge of their own history. Also, because archaeology is a destructive practice it is very important to go about the work respectfully.

Week 3

This week we got to go out and do our own field work, which I really enjoyed. We started practicing surveying methods on prairie fields close to the Women’s League Cabin. We were divided into three groups, and my group (group C) was responsible for surveying 6 survey units (four of equal size and two smaller ones) on the area that had been burnt in a controlled burn. Each survey walker was spaced about 15 meters from each other, and were surveying on area of about 2 meters (1 on either side). Each survey walker walked about 150 meters either north or south (depending on the survey unit).

I did not find a lot of objects in any of the survey units, nor did anyone else in my group. We found a couple of burnt plastic pens, which were mainly found around a fenced-off area. We also found a few other pieces of plastic, like a wrapper. One group member found a burnt, but fairly intact one-card and keys. Someone also found some wooden stakes. We bagged each of the artifacts that we found (that could be significant), and divided each bag by type, ie. plastic.

Week 4

This week, we spent the first half of the lab period hearing from a guest lecturer on photogrammetry and 3D modeling, which was very interesting. We learned about the benefits of photogrammetry and how it is aided the archaeological process. After the lecture, we went outside to try to make our own model of the statue outside Laird. We did this by placing targets on the statue, and Sarah took photos from different vantage points all around the statue. Unfortunately, it took too long to get this model made, so she showed us an example of a model of a wall behind her apartment. It was really cool to see how exact this was, and how clear the texture and color of the wall was in the model.

After this, we went into the field to continue our work on the Women’s League Cabin. The majority of the class went to the actual site of the Women’s League Cabin, but I along with group A from last week went to finish the surveying of prairie fields. It was very cold and windy, but we got another 3 survey units done. We didn’t find much though.

Week 5

This week we finished surveying the agricultural field that we had been working on, as well as the Women’s League Cabin. My group first went to finish the survey of the agricultural field. However, our survey units of field had been tilled before we conducted the surveys, and we did not find a lot of artifacts.

After completing this survey, we rejoined the rest of the class at the Women’s League Cabin site. My task was to clear leaves, sticks, and other natural ground objects away from the site so that it will be easier to start excavation in this location next week.

Week 6

This week we started excavation at three different trench sites. I worked on excavating trench 2, which was by the location of the back patio of the cabin. During last week’s lab period, students found stone tiles on the ground that look like some sort of small back patio, so we focused on this area. Before we got to excavating, we cleared the area with the stones and made them all visible. We then discussed where we wanted our trench to be, and how big it should be. We decided on a 2 x 1.5 meter trench that encompasses part of the stones, as well as a chunk of the area behind it (behind the cabin), and a small chunk of what we think would be inside the cabin, so long as the patio was directly adjacent to the cabin walls. Claire and I measured out the trench and marked it with pink string. We then started excavating the first context, which we decided was the entirety soil from the current ground level down to the level of the stones. We found a lot of charcoal, some glass, bottle caps, a plastic spoon, and other pieces of plastic.

I really enjoyed being able to start the excavation process, and I look forward to continue the excavation next week.

Week 7

This week we continued the work that we began last week, by excavating the three trenches we had laid out (trench 1, trench 2, and trench 3). Last week, I was working on trench 2 but I moved and worked on trench 1 this week. The group working on trench 1 last week had gotten to three context layers before the lab period was over, consisted of context 2 (which was the lower level of soil), context 3 in the middle, and context 4 (which was darker topsoil with a lot of clay deposits). We decided to start the lab period focuses on context 2 and context 4 because we had trouble distinguishing where exactly context 3 was.  I began by working on context 4, which was very dark soil. It had rained over the past week, so some of the topsoil was also damp. As we continued to work on context 4 and got deeper into the ground, the type of soil did not seem to be changing. Our group decided to start working on context 3 to try to keep the contexts fairly level. While working on context 3, we realized that a large part of it was actually part of context 4, and some of it was part of context 2.

Over the course of this excavation period, we did not find a huge amount of artifacts. We found some glass fragments, two nails, a bottle cap, and some charcoal. Some of this was also found from soil sifting.

Week 8

Our lab on Tuesday was our last day of excavation on the Women’s League Cabin for this term. It was also Community Archaeological Day, and we invited members of Carleton’s community and the larger Northfield community to come and learn about the work we were doing on excavation as well as final projects. This was very successful, and I think around 20 people came to the site.

I continued working on trench 1 this week, as I had been the week before. When we stopped excavation for the day last week, we left with context 2 and context 4 of the trench open. During this lab period, we closed context 2 and opened context 5 under it. We found less artifacts today than we have in past weeks, which makes sense because we were getting deeper. However, we did find part of a bone (that appeared to be from food, like ribs), and a piece of ceramic. Both of these finds were in context 2. We also found glass and some nails. Context 4 had a fairly large concentration of thick, black clay, which we tried to excavate around, although it became difficult as the concentration of clay became larger. We also uncovered another part of a paver in context 4.

Week 9

We concluded our excavation last week, so this week we spent our lab period inside organizing and cleaning artifacts from survey units and excavation trenches, and working on final group projects. Rachael, Elaine, Alice and I spent some time working on how to organize and design the website to most effectively showcase our work on oral and documentary histories. We decided to break up our website page into different sections, including timelines of documentary histories, personal quotes from ALGOL yearbooks, and oral histories based on interviews we have conducted in the past several weeks.

Week 10

This week we had our last day of archaeology for the term, and worked on making some final touches to our group project. My group had already put up almost everything on the website, but we all worked individually before meeting with Alex to edit different sections and make sure that all the information we wanted to add was added and that it was edited properly. During our skype session, Alex gave us a couple of pieces of advice and things to add to the website. Our project is almost complete, and I am very impressed but all of the projects that are on the website. It has been a great experience to learn more about the history of the Women’s League Cabin, and to see what other groups have found.

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