Week 1: March 28th and March 30th
Before beginning this course, my preconceived notion of archaeology was that it involved finding prehistoric or classical artifacts. I was pleasantly surprised that the first day of class focused on archaeological methods as applicable to local Northfield history.
We began class with an overview of the field of archaeology. I was expecting our lab on the first day to be entirely lecture based, but instead we went into the arb to visit applicable archaeological sites ourselves. We first saw the remains of the Waterford Mill, consisting of concrete blocks in the river where the mill’s dam used to be located and parts of the stone building on the opposite side of the Cannon river. We next went to the site of the former Women’s League Cabin, demolished in the 1990s after being ruled sufficiently decrepit. Concrete blocks still lay on the ground from where the patio was located, and a fire pit is still constructed. We also saw the general location of the original cabin’s front and back entrance and the general locations of the trenches the 2015 iteration of this class dug. Finally, on our way back to Carleton, we examined the location of mounds dug by farmers to store their trash. All of these sites seem interesting for further archaeological research and eventual excavation.
On Thursday, our lab continued as we went outside again to survey a variety of locations around the Arb Office. I was especially interested to think about the direction of water flow, something important for siting buildings that I had previously not considered. The first week of archaeological methods accordingly exposed me both to the potential for excavation methods and for survey methods. I am excited by the hands-on nature of the course and look forward to further exploration throughout the duration of these 10 weeks.
Week 2: April 4th, 2017
This week, we began our lab by going to the Carleton Archives to look at documentation of the old Woman’s Cabin. We examined relevant pictures of women at the cabin, financial records, and disciplinary reports. I was especially interested by the pictures of women at the cabin, because they showed the surrounding area as one entirely composed of farmland. This seems very different from the Woman’s Cabin’s current situation within the arb, where it is surrounded by dense tree cover.
We next went to the Rice County Historical Society to learn more about archaeological discoveries made in the area surrounding Carleton. We looked specifically at tools, projectile points, and pottery from the Paleoindian, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods. I was especially interested by the Woodland people’s artifacts; they seem almost like the modern day Germans in terms of building things with greater quality than absolutely necessary. Their stone objects, especially hammer heads, were carved in great detail, and their pottery was smoother than that of any other group of people. More generally, I was also amazed by how time-intensive the process of making projectile points seemed. Making a projectile point requires using one rock to flake pieces off of another. It is subject to the possibility of the projectile points easily breaking with too hard of a rock hit. On this visit, we also explored the Historical Society more generally. I was curious to learn about the extent to which local history is preserved by the Historical Society.
Finally, on our way back to Carleton, we stopped at the Dundas Mill. It was interesting to see another mill site and to consider how it was constructed. I find myself interested in the history of mills on the Cannon river, especially considering their abundance.
Week 3: April 11th, 2017
This week, our lab entailed practicing survey techniques in the cornfield near Hill of Three Oaks. After learning about the methods of archaeological survey and the instruments used to ensure accuracy in doing survey work, we went out to a cornfield to practice what we had just learned. We practiced these techniques in a cornfield because it had planted straight rows facing north-south, which made staying on one line easier.
The class divided into three groups, each with seven or eight members. Five or six of these members stood 10 yards apart and walked through the cornfield in straight lines, looking for artifacts and ensuring that they were walking in the correct direction. One member provided GPS coordinates for the corners of the plots we were surveying (which were 50 or 60 yards wide, depending on the size of the group, and 100 yards long), and one member recorded the artifacts found within each plot of land along with details regarding features within the site. In my group, I recorded details about the survey.
My group found some interesting artifacts in the cornfield. Most notably, some group members found an animal skeleton, possibly a raccoon, in relatively in tact form. We also found many golf balls, which was logical considering that our plots in the cornfield were located directly adjacent to a hitting range across the street.
I found it interesting to apply some of the field methodology used for archaeology. It’s exciting to understand that we’re (at least to some extent) doing archaeology as it is done professionally. I am looking forward to continuing practicing these techniques and learning new techniques related to excavation.
Week 4: April 18th, 2017
This week, our fieldwork consisted of further exploring the Pine Hill Village site by creating an initial grid for an intense survey. I specifically helped lay out the grid, and after the first few lines of string were laid, I helped survey some of the segments and record artifacts found in these sites. At the same time, some students used a fancy GPS to record the locations of features and others worked on extending our grid down the hill toward Goodhue.
There were not many artifacts in the grasses near the lacrosse field; it seems likely to me that this area has been well-mowed and accordingly would likely not house many interesting objects. However, many artifacts were located in the wooded areas behind the mowed field. Most excitingly, I found a 40 ounce malt liquor bottle containing a somewhat sketchy yellow substance. My group also found a variety of golf ball remains, plastic cups, tin cans (including one tin can that looked like it could be from the time period of the village given its disintegrated state), and glass bottles. I’m curious to see what else we find at Pine Hill Village in future weeks.
Week 5: Tuesday, April 25th
We continued our ground survey today by expanding the number of mapped out plots and surveying more of the plots we gridded during the last lab. We also began excavation at the sites of the fire hydrant and the rubble pile. I participated in lab by helping excavate the fire hydrant site. This excavation entailed mapping out a two-by-two meter grid parallel to the fire hydrant with the fire hydrant approximately in the middle of the site. We then used rakes, shovels, and trowels to dig down approximately two inches across the whole site. The soil, having been dug out, was collected in a bucket and was sieved to look for artifacts. We only found topsoil in these two inches, although the soil likely changes with deeper digging. However, in this topsoil, we found a few artifacts: the bottle cap from an old can, a few pieces of glass, and a piece of plastic straw.
Today’s rainy weather posed challenges to our excavation efforts. Rainy conditions meant that artifacts were difficult to record (the bags got wet, making them nearly impossible to write on), excavation forms were difficult to fill out (again, the paper got wet), and the soil essentially turned into mud, meaning that it was heavier to dig and couldn’t be sieved without intensive work on the part of our group. I am hopeful that future excavation labs will fall on days with better weather so that these problems do not come up again. Nonetheless, it was interesting to find artifacts underground that might have come from Pine Hill Village, and I look forward to seeing whether other interesting artifacts are discovered at this site. Most notably, I wonder whether pipes exist underground that would have connected with the fire hydrant.
Week 6: Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
This week, I continued the excavation work I did last week at excavation trench 1 surrounding the fire hydrant. My group found interesting artifacts. Most notably, we found two pieces of what seems to be a toy gun, many large pieces of glass with patterned edging, a few smaller and rounded pieces of glass with lettering and numbering, and two flagstones buried in the trench. We think that these flagstones might have served as a cobblestone path going away from the road running through Pine Hill Village. This hypothesis is corroborated by having found many large chunks of asphalt in the northeast corner of our excavation trench. We have not much explored the extent of this asphalt because the soil type changed around the asphalt, forcing us to open a new context. However, I will be interested to see if more asphalt is found, or perhaps the foundation of a road.
I was also interested to see other groups’ findings and how they supported our evidence. People digging test trenches seemed to find chunks of asphalt where a road might have run, and Marly found the foundations of a building on what we can assume to be the side of the road running through the village. Overall, this week seemed much more fruitful than the last lab in terms of the quantity of discoveries we made. I hope that during the next lab, we will be able to continue to piece together a general outline of Pine Hill Village.
Week 7: Tuesday, May 10th, 2017
This week in lab, I continued to excavate the first trench that I have been working on for the past two weeks. I also did a quick check of all the survey forms to ensure that all of the relevant necessary information was on them. While I was working on this, other students continued the other trench, opened a third trench, and worked on shovel test pits. We made fewer findings this week than we did last week. We found many small pieces of glass, having troweled through, shoveled, and sifted the dirt. Further, we discovered another flagstone that continued the cobblestone path that we previously found two stones of. We finally concluded that the trench we were digging might not yield significantly more results; accordingly, we evened out the trench, took our final pictures of it, and covered it up. I’m interested to focus more on artifact analysis in future lab days; I’m especially intrigued by the pieces of glass we found last week and continued to find to a lesser extent this week. Trying to discover the origins of various artifacts seems like a rewarding process after having found all of them in the ground.
Week 8: Tuesday, May 16th, 2017
We transitioned to a new activity in lab today; focusing on artifact analysis instead of a grid survey and excavation. We divided into different groups to analyze artifacts found from the various forms of artifact collection we utilized at the Pine Hill Village site. One group focused on the analysis of artifacts from the shovel test pits and another focused on artifacts from the field survey. Two groups examined the artifacts found in the gridded survey. My group focused on the artifacts found in the excavation trenches. Our analysis entailed cleaning off artifacts, logging information about them in a Google spreadsheet, and photographing each artifact with a scale. I focused on photographing groupings of like artifacts and uploading them to a common Google folder for access by the whole class.
We primarily examined the artifacts found in the second trench. Notably, we looked at a variety of building materials (bricks, wires, concrete), glass, and metal objects. In the context of glass, we found a piece of green glass that had lettering on it and would be ripe for further analysis. Our metal discoveries included a bottle cap with a blue symbol on the top, something that also might allow us to further identify the artifacts we found. We further found a few can tabs from old can designs, which might serve as a contextual clue as to the age of the other artifacts in the trench. We also began looking at the artifacts from the first trench, although we did not get very far and will continue to work on detailing the finds of the first trench next class. I am excited to spend more time looking at the large glass pieces we found, in particular; it seems like they might be able to be re-assembled into a tray of sorts.
Week 9: Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017
Today we continued analyzing artifacts while showing visitors around for Archaeology Field Day. I specifically focused on analyzing the results from the excavations and the shovel pits. I examined a variety of artifacts, including bottle caps and glass, and attempted to identify their origins. I further worked on setting up the website for my group’s final project by adding descriptions of artifacts to webpages. Finally, I spent the majority of my time in lab photoshopping artifact photos so that they are on a white background with a 10 centimeter scale along the bottom of the photo. I uploaded these photos to a variety of pages on the Archaeology in the Arb website to accompany the descriptions that I had assisted in writing, along with the other members of my group.
Because it was Archaeology Field Day, many visitors from the Carleton community came to see what our class worked on this term. I got to explain the findings from the excavation trenches to a variety of visitors, while answering their questions about the temporal history of specific artifacts and about the origins of Pine Hill Village more generally. It was exciting to get to enthuse about a project that I have been working on all term. I’m looking forward to seeing our final projects come together to provide a parsimonious account of all that we have completed!