Shirley Yang

Week 1 Reflection


Honestly, I used to think that archaeological research is more about digging holes in various sites and totally ignored that there must be a theoretical and methodological coherence behind such serious research. On Tuesday, we went through several basic concepts of archaeological research, out of which I found the ethical issues in archaeology to be very interesting. Archaeology is about learning the past. Many of the archaeological sites and objects are made of the fragile, finite, and non-renewable material. It is the archaeologist’s responsibility to conserve the archaeological resource base through responsible approaches to its recovery and preservation. Also, while learning about the people who are already dead, it is also very important to pay attention to the concerns and sensitivities of the ones who present lives are affected by the ongoing archaeological research and by the recovery of information about the past.

Then we learned about the methodological strategies and how to select the best suitable techniques. The primary method for conducting an archaeological survey is field-walking or pedestrian survey. Basically, a team of archaeologists walks through the open field of their study area, recording all superficial archaeological evidence encountered. It is interesting to note that this surface survey is often the first thing that is done on a new site. Archaeologists use sampling techniques in order to find out more about what lies beneath the surface of their study area. Through sampling, archaeologists can verify whether an area contains any archaeological remains and check the stratigraphy. By using these research methods, archaeologists can save time and money, and avoid needless excavation of archaeological sites.

Later that day, we went to the north side of the library and did a pedestrian survey ourselves. We counted the objects we found on the grass and classified them according to different materials (metal, plastic, glass, cigarette butts and others). What I found was that there were more objects near the road than near the library.

Week 2 Reflection


This Tuesday we went to the Goodhue County Historical Society Museum. The artifacts, photographs, and paintings on display present to us the local and regional history which dates back to at least 1000 B.C. The exhibition area was divided into multiple rooms that focus on specific themes such as geology, natural history, archaeology, and immigration, etc. We have learned that the Red Wing area, which is at the confluence of the Cannon and Mississippi rivers, is archaeologically significant because of the intensive interaction of people from many different cultures and the high concentration of large villages in the area.

This museum is a great demonstration of what the role of a local museum is: reflecting the something about the nearby community, past and present. It not only reflects the ancient history and natural history, but also  the everyday lives of its residents.

Week 3 Reflection


This Tuesday we went the Cowling Arboretum and did a pedestrian survey in an area near the Women’s League Cabin. The class was divided into three teams, each responsible for about four to five survey units. My team (team C) surveyed the burnt area, which was divided into six units. Four of them were about 150 meters long and 75 meters wide; the other two were  smaller. One was about 150 meters long and 30 meters wide, the other 150 meters long and 15 meters wide. We got one mapper, one recorder, and six field walkers. The six field walkers walked transect lines within the survey unit, recording and collecting all the artifacts they found. At first I didn’t expect to find anything in this area since it seemed like there was nothing but charcoal. During the three-hour survey, our team found two pen,  small pieces of plastic, several wood sticks, and one OneCard which belongs to a senior Biology major. In the burnt field, we saw several animal holes and mounds and even discovered several deer bones. I found a squashed beer can when I walked my first transect. Through this field survey, we got some information about human activities within this burnt area in the recent past. I am eager to know what the other two teams found. Maybe they got some interesting findings that would make their areas of potential archeological significance.

Week 4 Reflection


This week we had a guest speaker Professor Sarah Murray from University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She talked about photogrammetry, the science of making measurements from photographs. We learned about the old ways and new ways of capturing objects and architectures. It is clear that photogrammetry is really useful and must more effective than the old ways. However, as Sarah had mentioned in class, most projects involving these technologies focus on the communicational aspects of 3D modeling in various media or technological improvements of 3D modeling tools, and much less on their use as a tool for scientific investigation. People consider 3D modeling as a cool toy or nice visualization outputs. The potential of 3D visualization for scientific research is greatly underestimated now. It is reasonable since 3D modeling is still a new technology hasn’t been used a lot. But we can expect to see more archaeological reports or studies coming out in the next few years using 3D as a research tool. It is such a great tool that can help recording and preserving the cultural heritages which may be jeopardized by the surrounding natural or political environment.

Then we took some photos of the statue in front of Laird Hall and tried to build a 3D model of it. Sarah showed us how to use the software and it’s very straight forward and easy to get. I am thinking of installing one on my laptop. It would fun if I can make some 3D models myself.

Later we went to the Women’s League Cabin site. The whole class was divided into three teams. I was responsible for cleaning the leaves in the area with several other people. it was quite energy-consuming but fun too. We found many pieces of glass on the ground. Some of them were bottle fragments. We raked leaves for an hour and a half. It kind of remind me of the Zen monks in Japanese temple who consider repetitive labor an important meditation practice.

Week 5 Reflection


Today we went to the Women’s League Cabin site. The class was divided into three groups. Eight of us conducted intensive pedestrian surveys within the area. During our last lab, one team gridded the entire site and marked out the corners of each unit. The size of each grid unit is 10 meter by 10 meter. Me and Jordikai surveyed unit D1, D2, D3 and D4 which were closest to the road. Because the area was covered by three inches of leaves, the visibility was bad. It took us some time to clear the area before conducting the survey. We collected several small pieces of glass, some metal objects which look like mattress coils, and one small piece of blank film. We also found a big metal bar which might be part of the structural supports of a bunk bed.

Week 6 Reflection


Today we began our actual excavation of the WLC site. We were divided into four groups. One group conducted a total station survey of the site while others opening three excavation trenches. One of them was located on the western slope of the cabin, another one near the front entrance, and the last one near the back entrance. I was part of the team working on Trench 1, which was a 2×2 meter square oriented north-south. After recording the major features of the surface, we started to excavate the trench. The soil near the east side of the trench appeared to be dark, wet and soft while near the west side the soil was rather lighter colored and sandier. At the end of the day, we found several small piece of glass and one nail.

Week 7 Reflection


This week we continued our excavation of the WLC trench1. We worked in two contexts. In context 2, as the trench got deeper, we uncovered a layer consisting of a mixture of  two or more soil types. They were both light brown, sandy oil. One was even lighter in color than the other. Context 4 was a darker and wetter soil closer to the eastern edge of the trench. We found more pieces of glass, several nails, one small piece of pottery and one rusted bottle cap.

Week 8 Reflection


Today was the final day of excavation of Women’s League Cabin site. I was still part of the team excavating Trench 1. Our goal for the final day was clearing up the pit and possibly finding the clear boundary between the two contexts in order to better understand the relationship between the yellow sandier context 2 and the black clay context 4 and the new clay context underneath context 2. Today was also the Community Archaeology Day. The outreach team had sent out an invitation email last Tuesday and since then we’ve heard a lot of positive feedbacks. We were so glad that people were excited about what we were doing and actually showed up at the WLC site today. During our last excavation, we uncovered two small piece of ceramics, some nails and glass. In the end, we found a clear boundary between the two contexts and reached the yellow clay context beneath context 2. It was bittersweet finishing the excavations. But I am excited that we are going to analyze the artifacts we found and hopefully piece together a more complete picture of what is going on in our three trenches.

Week 9 Reflection


During class time today, we met with our groups to work on the final projects. First of all, we cleaned and organized all the artifacts found in the field during the pedestrian survey and excavation. I worked with my outreach team together to design the poster. Hopefully, we will receive more information from other teams by the end of week9 to put on our poster.

Week 10 Reflection


Today was our last day of class. During the class period, we worked with out teams on various projects. Each team skyped with Alex to check in on the progress and hear feedbacks. It was great that we had this opportunity to talk to Alex to make sure we’re on track to produce a successful final product. Outreach group worked on our poster and webpage, altering and adding text and image according to Alex’s suggestions. We tried various text/image layout arrangement, looking for the best way to convey the information.

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