Elise McIlhaney

Week 9

This Tuesday was one of our last lab days. It was also Community Archaeology Day, which the group focusing on community outreach set up. They showed visitors the PHV location and the areas that we had surveyed and excavated. They also came through the Arb Office, where I was working with the rest of the class. We spent most of the lab period preparing and outlining our final projects. With my partner, I sorted through the survey artifacts and chose which things we wanted to focus on as well as how we should set up and display our information and on what we wanted to go into more detail.

This may be my last time writing. If so, signing off for good. It’s been fun.

Week 8

This week was a little different than our usual Tuesday lab classes. We didn’t go outside at all. The fieldwork portion of our class is pretty much done, so now it’s time to start going through the things we’ve found and analyzing them. We broke into groups that would analyze the findings from the field survey, the grid survey, the excavation trenches, or the STPs. I was put on the group analyzing the finds from the grid survey of the Pine Hill Village site, which suited me fine because that was what I had spent the most time on during the fieldwork phase.

We began by sorting the finds by collection unit so that everything that was found in the same place would be cataloged together. We then began to systematically go through each item and record basic information about it. This included size, description, quantity, identifying marks, and similar things that we could gather from the object itself. We then categorized the objects into lot, which are groups of object within a collection unit that may be part of the same thing.

A lot of this work entailed close examinations of the object as well as cleaning them off and speculating about what may or may not be important. The information we gathered will help us when we later go and try to date and analyze the objects next week. Until then.

Week 7

This week, we began our Tuesday as we usually do: making a plan in the Arb Office and assigning everyone their jobs. Alex told us that we would be working more on our two established excavation trenches, opening up a new trench where someone had found something in a STP, digging more STPs, and doing more mapping. I was assigned to dig more STPs. We gathered our gear and the necessary paperwork and headed out to the Pine Hill Village site.

The first time our shovel struck the ground, we hit a large piece of asphalt. After digging around a little bit in that same depth, we found a few smaller pieces of asphalt, but nothing more that would indicate that we’d found the old road. The dirt as we dug into it in our first pit was very rocky and we had to keep stopping to trowel rocks (which might have been artifacts! but still turned out to be just rocks…) out of our way. It took a long time because of the sheer amount of rocks in our way, but we eventually hit the red clay layer about a foot and a half down, which made for easier digging because there were fewer rocks. In that first pit, we also found a shard of glass and a shard of ceramic.

Our second test pit was much easier to dig. We moved to a completely new area and there were virtually no rocks blocking our way, so we could just keep digging without interruption. The lack of rocks was welcome, but we also didn’t find any artifacts there, either. We only found the clay layer, which Alex believes might be sterile. All the same, our second test pit took much less time than our first.

We’re now wrapping up our excavations, if we’re not completely done already, and it’s time to start moving on the analysis of what we’ve found and figuring out what it tells us about Pine Hill Village. Until then, signing off.

Week 6

On Tuesday of this week, we continued our archaeological examination of the Pine Hill Village site in the Arb. This week had much better weather, which improved morale and helped the entire process move more quickly and smoothly. We began the day with a short debrief in the Arb Office and headed out. I began the day with surveying the remaining survey units that had to be done. We found a variety of trash and sports equipment, like golf balls, and some odd things, like an old chopped-up bone. There was also a variety of glass and other odd bits of junk. While we did that, other groups worked more on the excavation trenches we had begun last week. Though I didn’t see them for myself, I heard that one of the groups excavating around the upended fire hydrant found some interesting glass.

After we finished surveying the remaining grids, our groups went on to digging Shovel Test Pits, or STPs. These are narrow, deep holes that we dug with a shovel into the ground in interesting areas just to test the spot and see if we came across anything that might lead us to open up an excavation trench there. We are literally testing the spot for archaeological susceptibility. In the spots that I worked on, we dug the holes about three feet deep, but didn’t find anything. We had dug in the space where a courtyard would have been outside of a house in Pine Hill Village. I do believe another group digging at the spot of a sidewalk found something interesting and I heard mention that we may want to open up another excavation trench there.

More next week. Until then.

Week 5

This week, we all gathered for class on Tuesday with the knowledge that excavations were to start this week. We met and Alex briefly led us through a discussion about excavation and the next steps that we will take as class on our ongoing project. We decided that a good approach is to continue our survey of the Pine Hill Village site, but also to excavate a few of the more interesting locations, such as the site of rubbish pile and an old upset fire hydrant. We broke into teams based on jobs and hiked out to the site.

I was chosen for the team continuing the field survey of the site, which includes walking in the gridded survey units and searching for artifacts on the surface of the ground. This was difficult, not only because many of the survey units were covered in dense brush and forest, but because it started to rain just as we were heading out and continued to rain all through the work period. This added a new dynamic to archaeology that forced us to be a little more creative, since we needed to fill out paper forms and collect our finds, and everything got really wet really fast. It gave us a new view of archaeology as a discipline that has a nature of taking place outside, and things like weather need to be taken into account but at the same time cannot impede the work that needs to be done.

We searched a few survey units and found a lot of trash, some of which could have been from the time of Pine Hill Village. This included bottles, caps, glass bits, plastic thing like combs and lighters, and a large number of abandoned golf balls. There was also more modern trash that probably came from more recent times, like wrappers and bits of plastic flagging.

I expect this to continue into next week. Signing off.

Week 4

This week began on Monday for a change, when many of us attended a presentation given by Jeremy Sabloff, and archaeologist who came to take about modern applications of archaeology and why it matters to today’s society. He gave many logical examples of how archaeology is relevant to us today, including helping to shape ethnic identity and forensic anthropology.

Tuesday began with another visit from Jeremy Sabloff, who told us more specifically about his projects he had worked on. He’d worked mostly in Central America on a site called Sayil. He talked about new technological developments in archaeology and how they can be used.

After that, Alex led us through a short discussion about specific excavations we had researched individually, and picked out some themes that we could apply to our own archaeological survey. Then, we headed outside to the wooded area between Goodhue and the lacrosse fields and began to set up our fieldwalking survey grid. While some people trudged through the woods with tape measures and string, flagging the boundaries of each survey unit, others trudged through the woods seeking artifacts lying on the ground that could have been left over from the late Pine Hill Village. As a collective, we didn’t get very far and only managed to set up and survey a small portion of our survey universe. This showed us just how tedious and difficult archaeology can be, but also how rewarding. I suspect that next week, we may either continue the survey or move onto excavation.

Until then.

Week 3

On Tuesday this week, we spent class discussing our weekly schedule, then discussed a few of the readings we’d done for the day. We went through the talked about archaeological surveys and how they are designed, what to take into account when surveying, and what kinds of survey are available. Alex then broke us into groups and showed us some of the equipment used in a standard pedestrian fieldwalking survey of an area. This included compasses, click-counters, and mobile GPSs. He walked us through the form to fill out after each survey unit is searched and how to deal with anything we find.

After that, we walked out to a cornfield where we would attempt our first ever practice survey. After breaking into teams, Alex showed us how to break the area up into units, how to mark those units, how to divide the unit up between people in each team, and finally how to collect anything we find. He then let us go in our groups to practice fieldwalking. We found mostly trash, rocks, and sports equipment, but there were also a few ceramics and even some bits of bone.

Tuesday was simply a practice day to help us familiarize ourselves with a specific type of archaeological survey so that, when the time comes for us to actually conduct a true survey in the near future, we’ll have an idea how to approach it. There will be more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Week 2

On Tuesday, we met as a class in the Carleton archives in the basement of the library. There, Nat Wilson talked to us about what is included in the college archives and how we can go about utilizing them as a resource for our research. He talked to us about the Women’s League Cabin, which we’d already discussed as a class before, and showed us some of the archives–pictures, letters, and records–housed there that related to the cabin.

After that, we all rode over to Faribault, a town about 20 minutes from Northfield, and visited the Rice County Historical Society that resides there. Inside, we met a retired archaeologist who showed us the museum’s collection of Native American artifacts, which included arrowheads, axe heads, tools, and potsherds dating from the paleoindian period to far more recent. He gave detailed information about how the artifacts were made, who made them, and how old they were. His professional insight was a good indicator of what the field of archaeology entails, and the people there stressed that one of the most important parts of being an archaeologist isn’t just knowing things, but knowing who to ask and where to look in order to find things out.

After a brief tour of the museum gallery, we all climbed back into the vans and rode to Dundas, where we stopped at the site of the Archibald Mill ruins, left over from the days when this area was one of the most prosperous milling sites in the country. We studied a map that showed the locations of the numerous mills between Faribault and Red Wing along the Cannon River and its tributaries. We then had the chance to walk amongst the ruins themselves. They consisted of crumbling stone walls beside the bank of the river, and Alex pointed out the ruins of another mill on just the other side of the river. He also pointed out the spots in the walls where the masonry changed, indicating places that had been rebuilt when the mill was functional but plagued by constant fires that destroyed parts of the building.

On Thursday, we began class with a lecture from Adrienne Falcone, who is Carleton’s expert on Academic Civic Engagement. She stressed the three main points of ACE, which are academic rigor, working beyond the classroom, and having a reciprocal relationship with a partner. She spent a lot of time talking about ethics when doing things outside of class, and what it means to be a representative of Carleton College as we do it.

After that, we had a class group discussion about the readings we’d done the past few weeks, then broke into smaller groups to discuss the personal projects we’d done during the week in which we each researched a building o site of archaeological/historical significance on or around the college campus. We discussed the common themes that we’d seen as significant in our own personal projects, then came together again as a class and discussed these common themes with each other.

I believe next week will bring more field work in the Arb. Until then, signing off.

Week 1

On Tuesday, March 27th, also the first day of class, we began in the Arb Office with an introduction of the course, our professor (Alex), and each other. The lecture took about an hour and covered the broad basics of archaeology and what we will be expected to do in the class. It wasn’t much of surprise to me that we will be focusing a lot on archaeology in the area of Northfield, since the historic town around us is a place rich with history and a great archaeological resource.

After our introductory lecture, we struck out into the Arb itself on the hiking trails to check out some of the prime archaeological sites. The first we saw was the Waterford Mill, which we accessed from a long, straight earthwork build into the land a long time ago, and which we spotted from across the Cannon River. Some walls were still in tact, as well as some cement structures in the water itself where the mill used to be. The next site we saw was where the Carleton Women’s League Cabin once stood in a copse of trees. All that remains there now to indicate that there was ever anything there is a gathering of boulders leading to a stone patio, complete with a ruined fire pit. Alex pointed out where his students had dug there when he’d taught this course a few years ago.

On Thursday, our class was led by Professor Savine of the geology department. We began by comparing a contrasting the landscapes of our own home areas and picked out some of the common themes that seemed important when reading a landscape. Once again, we struck out into the wilds of campus and took notes about the lay of the land and the vegetation of certain areas. This solidified something we’d talked about in class before; archaeology benefits from being cross-disciplinary. Learning to read the landscape is vital to an archaeologist’s work, and I, personally, want to gain proficiency in this skill.

That’s all for now. Signing off until next week.