Rachael Sutherland

Week 1 Tuesday, March 31 2015

After initial introductions inside, we went outside to the grassy area behind the libe to be introduced to surveying techniques. Using unsystematic reconnaissance survey, we split into groups to canvass the surface for non-organic objects of interest.

I worked with one other student, and we inspected three separate survey units, units 4, 5, and 6. Survey Unit 6 was the sand volleyball pit directly behind the library. We went in parallel lines about 5 meters apart, walking towards the library and frequently stopping to investigate to our sides. I was surprised to only find 1 tiny piece of green glass, which was difficult to locate. Although the volleyball pit is an area of frequent use, there was hardly any evidence of this through non-organic human objects or trash.

The other two survey units consisted of the grassy areas next to the volleyball pit. We repeated the process, and found 11 artifacts in Survey Unit 4, and 2 artifacts in Survey Unit 5. Although we found more objects, I was still surprised that we did not find more near the volleyball pit, as people could easily discard trash or lose small things around the pit. The majority of objects were small, plastic trash that were found as we moved closer to the road and father from the volleyball court. Finding garbage near the road was not surprising, as pieces of non-organic material are easily transferred from a major road with frequent traffic.

Although I was disappointed that my partner and I did not find more objects, the survey exercise was really interesting and fun, and helped me to understand how archaeologists locate possible sites.

Thursday, April 2 2015

The tour of the arb was fascinating, and it was exciting to see the places that we had researched for the first Moodle report. Previously, I never realized that some of the paths near the Waterford Mill Site were part of an old dam, and would never have realized the historical significance of the places that we inspected. I am excited to investigate the areas further.

Week 2 Tuesday, April 7 2015

On Tuesday, our class visited the Goodhue County Historical Society museum, located in Red Wing. The museum was fascinating and very well designed. During the tour of the museum, the exhibition on the archaeological sites located in southern Minnesota, and the history of archaeology in the region, was especially helpful. Although the reading, from Risjord’s A Popular History of Minnesota, about the Upper Mississippian cultures and the prehistory of Minnesota was interesting and helpful, I understood this history so much more after the visit to the museum. Before seeing the timelines, maps, and artifacts at the museum, I could not truly visualize and conceptualize these prehistoric cultures. During the visit, the curator allowed the class to examine some objects and artifacts found at sites dating from the Upper Mississippian period. Handling and physically seeing artifacts, such as the small bone hook or the shards of pottery, truly aided in my understanding of these cultures. In addition to knowledge about prehistoric cultures and archaeological sites gained from the museum, exploring other exhibitions furthered my comprehension of the entire history of Minnesota.

Due to the weather and time constraints, we were not able to visit the Red Wing Archaeological Preserve. Although this was disappointing, it was still helpful and informative to see the burial mound located behind the Goodhue County Historical Society museum.

Week 3 Tuesday, April 15 2015

On Tuesday, we conducted a pedestrian survey of the agricultural fields near the Women’s League Cabin. We were divided into three groups; I was in Group C, and we conducted the ground survey in 4 main survey units over the area that had been burnt in a controlled burn. We were separated by about 15 meters from one another. Because of the burn, many objects were altered and looked different from my expectations. For example, certain round seeds gained a shiny, metallic gleam, and were very misleading, while some broken and burnt branches and pieces of grass looked similar to metal. During the first round of survey, I bagged a small shell and an odd, unidentifiable plant objects that, due to the burn, took the appearance of paper. However, none of these objects were archaeologically significant.  I’m curious to see what objects Groups A and B found, and if the burned area made objects more easily visible, or if the controlled burn eliminated potential finds. As a group, we found a few objects of interest, including a few plastic artifacts and a melted OncCard with the keys attached. I found the OneCard in the 4th Survey Unit, near an area with taller grasses. A few meters away from the OneCard, I found a piece of mangled and melted plastic. I assume both the OneCard and the plastic were dropped by someone from the Arb crew, or someone doing research on the plant life in the area before the controlled burn. However, neither of these hypotheses are necessarily correct. Although, I suppose we could ask the original owner of the OneCard, as the name, year, and picture were still somewhat visible.

Although it was sometimes difficult to keep in a straight line and we did not find many objects, the ground survey was really enjoyable, and it was extremely instructive and helpful to participate in an actual ground survey. I’m excited to conduct more surveys, especially closer to the Women’s League Cabin.

Week 4 Tuesday, April 22 2015

During class on Tuesday, we had a guest lecture from Sarah Murray, a professor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The lecture was about the uses, methods, and techniques of photogrammetry, especially in relation to archaeology. After reading the assigned materials on photogrammetry, I was impressed by the entire process, but I was also having difficulty actually picturing and understanding how the 3D model looked and was created, as the examples in the readings looked strangely 2-dimensional. Thankfully, the lecture really helped me to understand the process of photogrammetry. Although we did not have enough time for the program to process the data from our demonstration on the statue in front of Laird, when we finished our activities in the arb, Sarah showed us the completed 3-D model of the statue on her laptop. I was so surprised at the model’s accuracy; prior to this example, I always doubted how realistic 3D models would appear, and wondered if that would hinder future archaeological study. However, the model appeared relatively accurate, especially considering how quickly and casually we set up the photo-targets and took the photographs.

After the lecture, we went into the arb to continue our investigation of the area near the Women’s League Cabin. A group finished the survey of the accompanying agricultural fields, while two other groups divided the site into a grid and cleared brush and debris, respectively. I was part of the group clearing debris on the site, and we cleared leaves, branches, and brush from the site of the former patio, and the area next to it. Initially, the cold temperature and the wind were unpleasant, but the raking helped keep us active. We did not completely finish clearing the area, but we made considerable progress. Aside from a few pieces of glass bottles, we did not see any artifacts as we cleared the site.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The visit to the Northfield Historical Society was very informative and interesting. The resources that the center offers will definitely be helpful for our final projects, and the museum itself was entertaining and educational. I only vaguely knew the story of the Defeat of Jesse James, and it was very cool to finally understand this celebrated story of Northfield.

Week 5 April 28, 2015

This Tuesday, the class continued the survey and laying out of the grid on the Women’s League Cabin Site, in addition to investigating potential trench locations and establishing a clearer understanding of where exactly the cabin was located. We were divided into groups, and I was in the group that attempted to glean the accuracy of previous blueprints and architectural designs of the cabin and its affiliated structures. We established that the measurements of the old documents were inaccurate in some cases, as with the measurements relating to the front patio. However, we were slightly confused as to where the front door of the cabin was actually located; in photos, the large trees appear to be directly next to the front door and the edge of the cabin, but if the measurements are followed correctly, the large trees fall within the line of where the cabin would be. While some in the group continued this work, a few of us used trowels, shovels, and rakes to clear some of the brush and leaves located where the cabin stood. This is tiring work, especially in the areas with dense trees and bushes that easily caught in hair and clothing. I never realized how much physical work was involved in archaeological surveys and excavations, and that in order to reach the desired site for excavation, you have to clear away a lot of organic material, while simultaneously taking care to note any objects of interest that lie on the surface area.

During the raking and shoveling, we found a bit of brick and glass, and near the edge of the unit, we found the remains of the back patio. It was under a shallow layer of dirt, and to investigate the nature of the artifact, we continued digging. Unfortunately, we may have gotten a little carried away and excavated too much of the back patio before official excavation has begun. However, we did locate the premises of the back patio, and now have a better understanding of the probably width of the cabin.  After the troweling of the back patio, we continued to rake and shovel leaves and branches until the end of the class period.

Week 6 May 5, 2015

We continued the excavation of the WLC site. We were divided into about four groups, with one group working with the total station, while the others set up the trenches and began excavating. I was assigned to Trench 1, which was a 2 x 2 meter trench overlapping parts of the patio and where the front entrance to the cabin probably was located. The other trenches were 1 x 1 meter, and located down near the area by the drain, and the other at the back entrance to the cabin overlapping the back patio. I often forget how systematic one must be during excavation, and the setting up of the trench was more complicated than I had assumed.

Once we recorded the major features of the surface, the four of us began to slowly excavate the trench. We started on the side closer to the entrance to the cabin because it was slightly higher than the other part of the trench. We first started leveling about half of the trench, in order to make the entire trench the same level. My group worked in long columns, but we had to carefully work around the large concrete blocks  and eliminate obnoxious plant roots and weeds. For the upper area of the trench, much of Context 1 appeared to be a dark, soft soil, while the area in the middle near the largest concrete block is a sandier, lighter colored soil, and the bottom third of the trench is a more clay-like, lighter soil. Although I enjoyed excavating this trench, finding a comfortable position that did not obstruct anyone else was sometimes difficult. We also found that generally the trowel was more useful in eliminating the plant roots and that the shovel, while helpful in removing large amounts of top soil, often became tangled in plant roots. After we brushed off the trench and stopped excavating for the day, the different soil levels were very visible. Context 1 did not have as many objects as I would have assumed; we only found a few pieces of clear glass and one rusty nail.  However, I’m looking forward to further excavation and searching for more artifacts in deeper Context levels.

Week 7 May 12, 2015

During out lab time on Tuesday, we continued the excavation of the Women’s League Cabin site. We were divided into three groups, with each group focusing on a certain trench. I continued my work on Trench 1, which is located near what we assume to be the front entrance of the cabin. At the end of last week’s lab, we established three separate contexts in Trench 1, with Context 2 as a sandier, drier, and lighter soil, Context 4 a dark, moist, topsoil, and Context 3 as the soil gradient in between the two.

We removed the tarp that had covered and protected our trench, but we accidentally dumped some of the water where we would be kneeling to excavate the trench, which led to initially damp knees. The recent rainfall, and I suspect the tarp, contributed to an increase in worms and other bugs in our trench. We decided to leave Context 3 untouched for a while, and to continue excavating in Contexts 2 and 4. I worked in Context 2. Because we were excavating at a deeper level, we used a soil sifter to sift the removed dirt to locate easily missed objects. While we found pieces of charcoal and one nail as a result of the soil sifter, the majority of our artifacts were found while troweling the soil. Thankfully, we found a much greater number of artifacts during this dig; we found many pieces of glass, two nails, a piece of ceramics, a great number of charcoal, and a very rusted and fragile metal bottle cap.

We continued digging in Context 2 until we reached a very clay-like soil that may become Context 5. On the other side of the trench, my group continued digging Context 4 but the soil continued to be the same dark, moist soil with occasional clay pockets. I’m quite surprised that this soil type has continued for so long, as the dirt seems similar to topsoil. Towards the end of the day, we decided to begin excavating Context 3 again. After removing the dirt, the soil type did not seem to be totally different from Contexts 2 and 4, and appeared as a mixed boundary between the two other contexts. Because of this, we decided to eliminate it as its own context, and simply divide the trench into Context 2 and 4, until we reach Context 5.

Additionally, it is important to note that the number of artifacts in Trench 1 may be lower than expected, as Nancy Braker mentioned during her interview with my final project group that students did not use the door closest to the patio to initially enter the cabin; students could only enter the cabin from the back door because the patio door could not be unlocked from the outside. This changes our conception of how the WLC site was used, and our expectations of finding artifacts should be appropriately alter to adapt to this information.

Week 8 May 19 2015

During the final day of excavation of the Women’s League Cabin site, I continued work with my group on Trench 1. We also hosted Community Archaeology Day, which allowed people to visit the site and view the ongoing excavation work. I was surprised by the number and variety of the visitors- there were professors, community members, students, and even children. It was interesting to see how each person responded differently to the site the asked different questions, and it was fun to show off our work.

Regarding Trench 1, my group continued to excavate and eventually established a Context 5 below the former Context 2. We also discovered the clear border between Context 4 and the Context 5, which were separated by a discernible  line running diagonally across the trench. Compared the second day of excavation, we did not find nearly as many artifacts. However, in my opinion, we found the most interesting artifacts. We found only a few pieces of glass and a nail, but Megan found another pot sherd and a rib bone, probably the remnants of a meal by the cabin’s users who cooked and ate out on the front patio. In addition, I found a piece of ceramic, which was white decorated with a light green or blue pattern. It is relatively curved, so I would assume it is a piece from a plate, bowl, or cup. Most of the artifacts, including the rib bone and the ceramics, were found in Context 2. It is interesting that Context 4 did not produce as many artifacts. This could either be due to the location of the context, which is further away from the front patio and thus less likely to the be the source of garbage or forgotten objects, or due to the type of soil, which is much darker, moister, and more clay-like. The excavation seemed to go by very quickly, but I am looking forward to the analysis of the objects and artifacts.

Week 9 May 26 2015

During the lab period for this week and on Thursday, we worked in separate groups on our final projects. Since we are finished with excavation, we worked in the classroom. My group, focused on Oral and Documentary History of the Women’s League Cabin, continued working on creating and designing the layout of our page on the website. Although it was difficult to decide how to present such a large amount of information, we decided to include the oral histories, with some photos, videos and audios relating to the interviews, on our main page. To better organize the documentary history, we decided to create timelines that feature scanned copies of the documents, photos, or quotes from the yearbooks, and embed them onto the website. The timelines are very time consuming to create, but it presents the information in such a clean, informative manner, it is worth the time and effort. While some of the group worked on timelines, others finished transcribing interviews and worked on transferring the oral histories (both the text and audio) onto the website.

On Thursday, we continued this work. However, on Tuesday, we realized that we had failed to scan all of the necessary documents from the archives, so Elizabeth and I went to the archives to quickly finish scanning the rest of the documents. For the rest of class, we worked on the timelines and the oral history section of the page. Although I believe the website is coming along nicely, I am worried that we will receive some replies about cabin memories from alums via email after we have finished most of the website. We should be able to integrate their stories into the current layout, but it would be nice to have all of the information sooner rather than later. As the other groups continue their projects, I am excited to see the finished project of our investigation of the site.

Week 10 June 2 2015

During the final day of class, each group met to Skype with Alex about final changes and improvements to their projects. Although my group had finished nearly all of the formatting and information for our page, we still managed to find little things to add and alter, and to re-read the text and correct typos. After our discussion with Alex, we agreed to make further changes to the page, including an introduction to the “histories” page, a conclusion, and a few other helpful additions.

Overall, I am very proud of my group’s page, and of the entire website in general. Each group’s work is extremely impressive and communicates a large amount of information about our research, survey, excavation, and analysis of the Women’s League Cabin site.

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