This week we shifted from directly cataloging our artifacts towards research and the creation of object biographies. Working from observable characteristics, such as shape, decorative pattern, or material, and context clues, we were able to build an understanding of several notable artifacts from our excavations. The two pull tabs we collected, for instance, can be quite precisely dated from the 1960’s and 70’s, given overall manufacturing patterns. The glass tray we reconstructed can be dated by the style, which suggests it is older than Pine Hill Village, and then understood in the context of young families taking their possessions with them to Carleton college.
Moving away from active field work, this week we began a thorough analysis of the various artifacts collected from all our surveys, pit tests, and excavations. I worked on the items collected during excavations of trenches one, two, and three. Our most basic task was cleaning off the items so they could be more carefully inspected and sorted; given that the vast majority of these were dug up, this was a very necessary step. We then sorted the items into lots based on material, color, size, and apparent use. For instance, glass shards were separated into groups based on color, thickness, whether or not they were rounded (and thus likely to be part of a bottle), and if they had any additional information available (as one piece with lettering in the side did). All lots were photographed, and then recorded with as detailed a description as possible. Some particular items and lots were noted for further research.
In all, we found a variety of interesting and potentially informative building materials in trench 2, as well as a bone shard, several pull tabs from non-modern cans, a variety of glass bottle shards, and a condom wrapper, the latter pair indicate current usage of the area as they were mostly found at ground level. In trench 1, we began cleaning the large, thick pieces of glass, which we were able to reassemble into what seems to be a dish or serving platter.
I am looking forward to further exploring the items we have collected over the past several weeks!
This week, my group and I finished our work on trench 1. Continuing our practices of shovel shaving and troweling, we deepened both our contexts by several inches. While some of the soil in context 2 contained sandier patches, which seemed to indicate that the area contained the remains of an asphalt or concrete road, we did not find any stratification. We collected and discovered less than we did last week, but we still found several pieces of thick glass, similar to what we discovered during our last dig, and a great deal of thin glass shards which seem to be primarily from alcohol bottles. Additionally, we collected an old-fashioned bottle opener, and we uncovered another flagstone of the pathway in the northern half of the trench. Finally, we leveled out our trenches, and declared the dig complete; we reached a depth of about 7 inches, and discovered a great deal of interesting artifacts. over the course of four weeks
Continuing on the same excavation trench I worked on last week, my group and I made significant discoveries in the area around the fire hydrant. The weather was very pleasant and clear, making the work of digging and sifting much more pleasant and efficient than it was during week 5.
Our work was also made much more pleasant by the fact that we found several artifacts which seem to date from the time of Pine Hill Village. After removing a few inches of dirt by shovel shaving, we shifted to using spades which helped in closer, more detailed work, as well as in keeping the depths of discovery consistent. Our first find was an area of the trench, about 2 inches deep, which was very dense with chunks of asphalt of varying sizes. This find supports previous ideas our class postulated about the presence of a pathway in the area of the village. Soon after this find, on the opposite side of the trench, we found the first of several large, thick, decorated glass shards. We will need to spend some time looking more closely at the artifacts we collected, but the glass is mostly of the same thickness and pattern, indicating that they come from either a single object or a matched set of some kind. Finally, we discovered what appear to be concrete flagstones of a pathway leading from some of the Village’s houses to where we think the main road was at the time. This last find is particularly exciting, as it helps us place the plans and layouts of the village that we have from the archives in a much more direct way.
Overall, it was a great day out at the site, and I am hoping to continue to work on trench 1 as we see what else we can learn from this excavation.
Despite the unfortunate weather, which mostly consisted of cold rain and overcast skies. my group started an excavation of the area directly surrounding Pine Hill Village’s fire hydrant.
Our group of four first established the exact extent of the dig, measuring out a 2m x 2m square with the hydrant bisecting the area. Rather than digging in keeping with the survey squares, we decided to align the dig with the pipe itself on assumption that other pipes, if there are any remaining connected to those we can see above ground, are likely to have the same orientation. The first step was to remove the topsoil, including the various plants and debris which were over the area. This accomplished, we started removing layers of earth gradually, using our shovels to skim along the surface of the exposed surface, picking up a few inches at a time. The dirt we removed is kept in buckets and carefully sifted to ensure nothing had been overlooked. This latter task was what I spent the majority of my time on, meaning I ended up rather covered in mud by the end of the day’s dig.
Ultimately, our initial foray into excavation has not turned up much more than several pieces of glass, but I will be very interested to see what else we may find as we dig further.
This week we heard a great lecture about archaeological survey before heading out into the field to do some survey work of our own.
Jerry Sabloff spoke to us about his work in Sayil. I was particularly interested in his team’s discoveries about the placement and organization of the buildings; the sites of lower class thatch houses were determined by topography which avoided flooding and aided the construction of chultuns (underground water cisterns). After some further discussion with the class about survey work and its many applications, we moved out to the site of Pine Hill Village. There we began to establish our survey universe by measuring out ten meter square units for intensive survey. Using measuring tapes and a compass, we established the corner of our universe, which begins just below the lacrosse fields behind Goodhue. After the boundaries of several units were established, I, along with several others, began the process of field walking. Because the units were so small, we were able to very carefully cover the area; working in pairs we walked along the units either approximately North to South or East to West in order to be sure not to miss anything. Personally, I did not observe or collect anything at the first unit, which was quite open and close to the sports fields. When we moved further towards the trees in the area, however, we collected several artifacts, including clearly modern items such as golf balls and shoe soles, as well as older items such as a tile fragment.
Finally, some real survey work!
Today we spent some time discussing the various methods of archaeological survey, with particular focus on pedestrian field-walking. After this conversation, we learned about the various pieces of basic equipment useful to such a survey and then heading out to the upper Arb to put our knowledge into practice. In teams of three, we began to explore various divisions of the corn field beyond the baseball diamonds. My group, group 3, was furthest to the road and was therefore quite close to a golf driving range – fact evidenced by the dozen golf-balls we collected overall. Personally, I quite enjoyed taking a shot at genuine field-walking; while the process was somewhat repetitive, it was very rewarding to find something of real interest. I, for instance, found what seems to be a plastic gauge or wheel part of some variety. A team mate found an entire animal skeleton.
I’m looking forward to more pedestrian survey work as the term progresses!
This week we explored a variety of the different sources of archaeological information. Starting class in the silent halls of 1st Libe, we met with Nat Wilson who told us all about the resources of the Carleton Archives. While the documents are not available for general perusal, the depth and variety of items, which range from films, to floor plans, to interpersonal letters is really incredible. I’m very much looking forward to exploring the archives for this class!
After this visit, we headed off to Fairbault’s Rice County Historical Society. While there we met with a retired archaeologist who was volunteering some of his to time sorting the society’s collection of Native American stone artifacts. He took us through his classification of the various items including hammers, knives, and projectile points in a variety of stages of creation and destruction and from a wide variety of time periods and cultures. The director of the Society then took us through some of the documentary archives they have about Rice County and the surrounding areas.
Finally, we stopped off at the site of Archbald Mill, where we were lucky enough to meet up with a gentleman who allowed us to enter the area and get a close look at the remains of the building. It was very interesting to look at the various styles and technologies used in construction and repair of the mill, still apparent even as the building itself is reclaimed by nature.
As this was the first week of an introductory course, I was anticipating a lot of discussion of what we would eventually do, along with a few ‘getting to know you’ gimmicks. I was quite happy to discover this to be false, and that we would be taking a walk into the Arb on the very pleasant 1st day of class. My hopeful impression of this course as one which would force me outdoors was reinforced when a large contingent of the class stood around outside even before the first class started. Once we were finally corralled inside, we went over the basics of the scope and practices of the field of Archaeology before being released back into the warm weather for a long walk around several points of interest in the Arb. We walked up towards the Waterford Mill, making note of several features of the landscape, such as flood marks and the makeup of the path we walked on. From the mill we cut across to the site of the former Women’s League Cottage. Having only recently learned that there had ever been such a cottage, I really enjoyed exploring the area just enough to begin making a few conjectures about the area and its various uses. After this we walked back to campus by way of a farm’s trash heap and several fields which still contained artifacts pointing to the former existence of a building on the site.
On Thursday we looked more closely at geoarcheology and explored several areas around campus, trying to get a feel for reading the various landscapes we observed. One thing I find particularly interesting is the use of trees, their shape and species, to identify the recent geological history of an area. I’m really looking forward to more outdoor labs and to learning more about the history of Carleton College and the Arb!