Ben Koppel


We started on Tuesday out at the Arb office with Alex giving us an introduction to the history of archaeology and then going over the multi-disciplinary nature of archaeology, especially focused on the overlap with anthropology and geology, among other disciplines. We also did some class introductions in front of a class that looks like it will be highly interactive and group-oriented.

The fun part of Tuesday’s class, though, was the second half, when we went on a hike through the lower Arb. I had never been that far out, and it was sort of amazing how spread out and varied the environment is. We first went to the Waterford Mill Dam, where you could clearly see the remnants of what must have been a pretty nice mill back in the day. We then went to the Women’s League Cabin, where the 2015 class did their excavation, so Claman, our TA and also in that 2015 class, talked quite a bit about some of the things they did on that excavation. It was an excellent introduction to the class, and I’m looking forward to some more great weather (knock on wood) and archaeology!


This Tuesday, we took the day to go to various non-classroom or Arb sites to see sources for some research and just to get out and see some local history. First, we went to the College Archives to meet one of the archivists. He showed us some documents on the Women’s Cabin and explained how we could use the Archives to help in future research for this class.

We then hit the road and headed to the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault. There, a retired archaeologist showed us how he had organized a donated set of rock tools collected in the area. The collection and organization was impressive, and the presentation was unbelievably detailed and very minutia-based, which dragged it a little, although the work was really impressive. We then just got some time to look around the collection in the Historical Society, which had a bunch of cool maps and artefacts from the area.

Finally, we headed to Dundas to see an old, dilapidated mill. This was the coolest part of the day, as you could see the outline of what was once a happening factory, although it was kind of sad how broken it looked, almost like a Roman aqueduct. Overall, the weather was excellent, and we had an excellent field trip day!

Week 3

This week, we spent the first hour or so talking about all the different ways archaeologists can do surveys. Then we went out in the upper Arb and did a pedestrian survey in three groups across the corn field above the baseball and softball fields. It was a slow process of walking due north and hoping to find anything even sort of interesting. I did eventually find a piece of ceramic and three golf balls, but nothing really big or overly exciting. Someone else in my group found a giant old hubcap, but mostly it was just corn and a little plastic trash. That being said, the weather was excellent and it was an interesting experience in learning how to do a survey in rectangles that you cannot just fully mark with string or tape or something.

Week 4

This week we heard from Jerry Sabloff, who talked about his work with Mayan ruins in the Yucatan and his emphasis on using new technology to better map the dwellings of average citizens. We then talked about our archaeological surveys we had looked up over the weekend, and seeing if we had anything to learn from that for our own survey or to compare with Professor Sabloff’s research.

Then, we went out to the Pine Hill Village site and started to do a survey for real. We divided the site into units of 10 m by 10 m. I was part of the team working to make sure those survey units were actually correctly sized, so then the surveyors could look over the area. It was pretty tough work, especially after the first line of survey units, when we had to work to keep the units straight through pretty thick woods. Luckily, the weather stayed okay, and we got better and better as time went on, and got through 25 survey units, and found a pretty cool variety of stuff. I’m excited to see what more we can find next week!

Week 5

Today, we had a short discussion on what we were going to do to continue our work on the Pine Hill Village site. That discussion was really short, though, because we spent most of the time outside actually doing things at the site. Some people continued to survey an expanded area to the northwest, others set up the grid in that area, and others worked to begin excavation around the hydrant and rubble pile.

However, I got assigned to mapping duty, which was pretty interesting. We used the DGPS to mark all of the outlines of the work others were doing, notably the newly created survey grid, as well as the outlines of the excavation trenches. We also did a little more feature mapping of modern features around the path, like the new fire hydrant. I specifically filled out the feature forms for those, but I did also get a chance to work with the DGPS. On the whole, it was fine, but honestly, it was less fun than previous weeks, because we were out for 3 hours in 47 degrees Fahrenheit and steady rain. But we did get a ton of work done. Well, hopefully we can do a lot more next week in hopefully much nicer weather (fingers crossed).

Week 6

Today, we continued to work on the Pine Hill Village site, mostly with excavation-related work. That being said, I was put on survey duty first. We completed some stray survey units left over from the last couple weeks, then surveyed an extra row of units set up on the side of the hill towards Goodhue. We did not find that much stuff, but we did find some glass and a couple of bricks on the side of the hill.

After that, we went to dig a test hole on the more flat area close to the lacrosse field in survey unit S16 and just dug pretty deep. At almost a foot deep, most of all we found was dirt and rock. That being said, we did find a piece of asphalt as well as a pretty solid piece of tile. I’m not sure we should do a full excavation trench there, but at least our work was not entirely worthless. In other good news, we had nice weather again, which was really helpful. I hope we can take another step forward in the project next week!

Week 7

Today was our last day spent entirely in the field. The weather was nearly perfect, and we took advantage of it with three full hours of work. I was assigned to trench 2, where I helped out with some digging at the beginning of class, and helped uncover a large shard of pottery, among other things.

However, I really spent most of my time treasure hunting through dirt in the sifter. We went through at least 12-15 buckets of dirt from all three trenches (mostly trenches 1 and 2), and within that found a solid number of different things. A couple of nails here, a ton of asphalt there, a solid number of small pieces of glass, and even a pen, among other things. It was literal dirty work, but there was something cathartic to it, and on the whole it was pretty fun. I hope someone is able to use all that artifact data we sifted out on a final project!

Week 8

This week, we stayed inside to start to do the work of figuring out what all the stuff we have found in the class is, when it’s from, what it was used for, etc. First, we discussed all the things we can get out of material culture. Then, we moved to try to understand a little bit of how we can get that information with the relatively limited technology we have for this class.

We spent most of the class actually starting to organize all the things we found into lots on a series of google docs. I worked with the stuff we found on our gridded survey, organizing it into lots, and starting to describe all of the things we were organizing. We got everything from the gridded survey catalogued and most of it with pictures. Hopefully, we can do more on Thursday to actually figure out chronology and purpose for all those objects, as to figure out if we actually did find anything dating to Pine Hill Village.

Week 9

Today, we mostly stayed indoors, with some people working on final projects, others helping to continue to look up artifacts, and others working with some visitors we had for our archaeology field day. I mostly worked on beginning to do my final project, learning about veterans villages around the country, as well as the types of housing units used within them. I also got to interact with some of the visitors who came into the lab during the field day and were exploring our larger project. The dean of the college, Bev Nagel, even came by for a little bit. It was a long class, but we had tasty snacks from the outreach group, so it worked out to a solid working day.

Week 10

Today was our final day of class. We spent the first 45 minutes or so talking about how to curate archaeological materials for future classes and other Carleton students. Then, we spent the next two hours working on our final projects, and specifically implementing edits that Knodell recommended we do to make our pages more consistent and more accessible. Finally, in the last hour or so, we cleaned up all of our stuff from the class this term, including backfilling and better organizing our computer files from the class. I specifically worked to clean the tools we used in the field so they were not dirty and disgusting all summer. The work was not particularly hard, and after 45 minutes of work, Knodell got us some pizza, finishing the term with a little tastiness. Overall, it was an excellent class!