Hugh O’Connor

Week 9:

Amidst the rain and cold, we managed to still have a successful community Archaeology Day. I was especially involved in the day since I am part of the group that organized it for our final project, and we were very happy the kind of media coverage that it received and based on the weather we thought it was incredibly successful. I spent the first part of the class outside as part of the group outside welcoming visitors to the site itself and though the visitors were few, those that came were incredibly interested to learn about the site itself and eager to hear about everything that we had done. We had visitors including a professor from the Classics Department, the director of the Arboretum, and the Dean of the College. Though the project was complicated by the weather we managed to erect a tarp, set up a table with photographs, and engage on the deepest level with all of these visitors. They truly walked away with a strong knowledge of the site, and will help to spread information about the site across campus, helping our goal of community outreach.

For the second part of the class I was inside, working first on some final artifact analysis, then on the design of several signs that we recently received permission to place in the Arb as part of a temporary exhibit during the summer. I’m sure we could have had a much more successful Community Archaeology Day, but with the weather I am extremely pleased with the turnout. This was a great way to help cap off our experience in this class, and will certainly make an impact in the community including the Arb exhibit and potential Library exhibit! It was a truly interesting and productive day.


Week 8:

This week the excavation in the field was all done, and we were on to the final phase of artifact analysis. This is what the class had been building up to, and finally amongst the tables of the Arb Office layed out was everything that we had found, from the tiny bits of plastic, brick, and tile all the way to the large pieces of a glass tray and huge chunks of concrete. For this phase we began to catalog each of the items in teams systematically, recording each item that was found after having cleaned it off. We began to identify what we could, from material to date range and possible use, and what we could not we used the different tools shown to us by Alex and at our disposal to make the most informed guess that we could.


Each of the bags that we cataloged told a little bit of the Pine Hill Village story, and no doubt with all of the hundreds of artifacts that we collectively gathered as a class we should be able to paint an interesting picture of what life was like at this site so close to us on the Carleton campus. Finally, at the end of the period we were given some time to work with our final project groups, working to plan the community archaeology day for the next week, and having received approval from the director of the Arb on signage, began to formulate plans to create these signs for display in the next few months as part of a temporary exhibit. It was truly a productive and exciting day as the term comes to a close as we begin to see the fruits of our labor over the past two months.


Week 7:

This Tuesday was another excavation day, and just a fantastic day to be outside. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and the temperature hovered around 70 degrees. Today was my first day of real excavation after having been part of the mapping team during the first day, and being sick on the second day, so it was an exciting learning experience. Eric and I were paired up as part of the larger team that was doing shovel test pits.

These shovel test pits are an important archaeological tool in determining the presence of features just under the earth, and greater information about the soil composition of the site as a whole. Together with Eric we dug four separate holes in four grid squares about three feet deep and about one and a half feet wide. These holes were strategically placed either in the middle of the grid square to determine if there may be anything of interest in the grid square at all, or in a specific spot based on geo-referencing data with maps of Pine Hill Village in the hopes of digging on the corner of a building or finding another archaeological feature. It was hard work, but we were truly doing what archaeologists do.

We were not as lucky as some of the other groups, as we did not find any archaeological features from the village, but still finding nothing is important data. We found several pieces of glass and building material however, which we suspect were from the site itself, and contributing to our overall knowledge about the site as a whole. We saw the different strata of the soil in the holes that we dug, and had an important archaeological experience.


Week 6:

This week I was out sick.


Week 5:

Rain, rain, rain, was the story of the day as we trudged through the Pine Hill Village site. Cold, wind, and rain hindered our efforts as we continued to explore the site, with various groups plotting out new sections of the grid, mapping, excavating, and continuing the survey. I was part of the group that continued with the survey, completing six new units on the grid wedged between the lacrosse field and Goodhue. We had decided to extend our grids width towards Goodhue and length towards the Rec Center due to some new data we had from geo-referencing plans of the site onto satellite imagery and this proved fruitful in todays survey.

Survey was clearly affected by the adverse conditions that we faced from the thick underbrush to weather situation but it still managed to be a meaningful survey day. For me it was a useful learning experience in survey as the two previous field days I had been mapping the grid and on the GPS crew respectively, so this was my first day truly in the squares doing survey.We found a variety of objects, including many that could be from the Pine Hill Village period. These included personally finding a piece of construction material along with the glass bottles. I am looking forward to returning to the site next week for further exploration!


Week 4:

This week was our first truly in the field, and at Pine Hill Village getting the survey underway of the site to establish a baseline of what exists currently at the site and identify possible locations for further excavation in the weeks to come. I was part of the mapping team, and learned how to use a differential GPS, a cutting edge tool that can mark locations with centimeter accuracy anywhere in the globe. Knodell gave the three of us on the mapping team a tutorial on how to use this device, and then we moved to the task at hand: mapping of features on the site. While one of us used the differential GPS to mark the locations of features, tracing along the perimeter of features like the fire hydrant and the path from Goodhue to the Arb, the two others had separate duties. One person was tasked with taking photographs and documenting each feature, while the other filled out a feature form creating a record of it. We cycled through these responsibilities and in the process learned a great deal about documenting features and archaeological methodology.

It was a fantastic day outside, and we were lucky enough to be joined by visiting speaker and distinguished archaeologist Jerry Sabloff. It was truly a pleasure to hear his lecture in the beginning of class that day, and then have the opportunity to talk to him briefly in a free moment after the lab. I finished the day mapping the boundaries of the survey site onto the Differential GPS so that we could have these points on file to confirm the grid spaces on our survey. Overall it was a very productive day, and fascinating to learn about this new and exciting tool that we have for our archaeological research!

Week 3:

Survey was the theme of this weeks lab, from the theoretical to a real life survey in the Arb itself. Reading and discussing the archeological process are one thing, and that was especially interesting to learn about especially in anticipation of our own class project in the Arb, but getting outside to practice these skills was really exciting! It was a beautiful day outside, though a little bit windy, and along with our team of surveyed a section of one of the cornfields located near the Rec Center. I volunteered to be the GPS person for the survey, learning how to mark the boundaries of the survey units within the survey universe, documenting their positions with flags and on a handheld GPS. Attention to detail was key, and after a mistake at one instance, I proceeded forward even more cautiously and made sure I didn’t make anymore. This was a useful learning experience especially in the context of this practice activity, and will help me be even more prepared for our upcoming project later in the term.

I don’t think anyone in the class expected to find anything but we were pleasantly surprised to find a variety of items, from ceramics to golf balls, shoes, and even a skeleton of a small animal. Though many may consider this just trash, it allows us to peer into the life of people who are using this field, and used it in the past, and though relatively mundane gave context to the kind of work archaeologists are doing across the world in surveys just like this one!

Week 2:

This weeks lab encompassed a wide breath of material, from introducing me to the many resources we could use in pursuing our archaeological research in the context of this class, a fascinating explanation on artifacts found locally from a variety of periods, and finally a visit to a local mill site in Dundas.

In our class time spent at the Carleton College Archives and the Rice County Historical Society, their many documents and resources, along with how to access them and those who could be helpful in our upcoming projects were especially enlightening. The breadth of material that both of these sources had was extensive, from floor plans and photographs to oral history and local experts who could be contacted. One such local expert took us on a journey through history in his thorough survey of a local archaeological collection that had been donated to the Rice County Historical Society. This included discussion of arrowheads, axes, pottery, and the tools used to create them. All of this serves as great background and combined with the other exhibits we saw on display, gave me a better understanding of the history of a place that I was previously unfamiliar with. Finally, stopping at a mill site in Dundas was a great way to see what we had been reading about and discussing, while gathering more information on what kinds of milling activities took place in the area and how they influenced the landscape. This day was really one filled with learning and exploring and helped me especially gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the local Minnesota area that I now call my home at Carleton.

Week 1:

Coming into this class I didn’t know what to expect and I have learned that this class will be unlike anything I have taken at Carleton so far. Tuesday was a wonderful day that we took full advantage of out in the Arb, learning all of the landmarks, and examining some of the sights we may pursue in greater depth in the class. We also began to cultivate important skills including reading the landscape and interpreting what we observe, an interesting way of thinking that makes me excited for the rest of this class. The guest lecture on Thursday and subsequent activity took these skills to the next level and was especially enlightening. We put into practice what we had been discussing and hearing about from the texts and instructors, and it was a wonderful day of hands-on learning. The spring seems like a wonderful time to be out in the Arb, and I’m ready for what the rest of the term brings in learning archaeology and spending time outdoors in a classroom context!