Maya Kassahun

Week 1

On Tuesday, Alex introduced both himself and what archaeology entails to our class. He first posed the question of what we believe archaeology is or is related to. As a So/An major, I tend to apply what I know about the fields of sociology and anthropology to any and all of my classes. I answered that archaeology and anthropology go hand in hand which reifies the idea that archaeology is a multi-disciplanary field of study. I look forward to dispelling the myth about archaeology and anthropology being fields in which old men with beards dig for and examine old artifacts.

After our class time, we took a tour of the Arb with Nancy Braker, the Arboretum Director. We hiked to the Waterford Mill Site and the Women’s League Cabin and saw farm dumps along the way. Although it was quite the walk, it was refreshing and extremely interesting to learn the history of the Arb and its reconstruction. I’m also interested in the history of the Women’s League Cabin and would love to know more about the what’s, why’s, and how’s of its beginning.

On Thursday, Mary Savina who is a Geology professor guest lectured about geoarchaeology, her work in Grevena, and even took us outside to examine the geography of different places on campus. Those places included: Hill of Three Oaks, behind the Rec looking over the Lyman Lakes, looking onward toward Upper Arb, looking onward toward the baseball fields, and across the street from the Arb Office. It was pretty cold and windy outside, but it was still interesting to come back together as a class and exchange what we reviewed in the geography of the five places. One can understand and contextualize a place much better even through its topography.

Week 2

I really enjoyed this week’s lab. We first went to the Rice County Historical Society Museum followed by an old flour mill in Dundas. At the historical society, we met with Merv, a retired archaeologist, who is volunteering his time to go through a collection of artifacts and decipher what’s what. It was really interesting to see Indigenous artifacts found here in Rice County; it was also super cool to see a mammoth’s tooth and bone that was found in Rice County as well. Our trip to the mill was accompanied with Mary Savina telling us about her work on the mills along the Cannon River. All the artifacts we saw on Tuesday reminded me to be cognizant of where I stand in history, both literally and figuratively.

Week 3

Today we began class in the Arb Office classroom and discussed what surveying entails. Our discussion prefaced the surveying we actually did during lab. Before Alex took us out to the corn fields between the Hill of Three Oaks and the baseball fields, he gave us supplies that would help us in our field-walking survey. We were also designated roles; I was the recorder for my group meaning I would record what was found during the surveying along while situating the survey unit sites in relation to each other. Alex and Claman showed us how to do the field-walking and then kind of gave us the freedom to do it on our own. Some of the objects my group found included: a bone, a shoe sole, glass of a bottle, golf balls, and more. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time after finishing surveying, so the class wasn’t able to share what we collected with one another.

Week 4

On Monday, we were able to attend a talk given by Jeremy Sabloff, an archaeologist who has done extensive research and work on Mayan civilizations. In his talk, titled “Archaeology Matters: The Relevance of Archaeology in the Modern World,” Sabloff explained the power in using archaeology to better understand the past; he then explained how this learned past inevitably influences how we shape the future. An interesting thing he also mentioned was “indigenous archaeology” which is something I would want to look more into, seeing that it responds to the concerns many people have concerning archaeology, specifically about the exploitation and inequities experienced by indigenous people.

Sabloff then came to our class on Tuesday and lectured about his research in Sayil, located in Northern Yucatan. He explained the methodology and excavation processes he and his team used; he also talked about this 100 room rain structure that was found which initially was inferred to be a palace but in fact may have been a city hall of sorts. Then, we went out to the Pine Hill Village site and began our archaeological work. We broke off into different groups, mine being the group that laid out the grids. Our work consisted of measuring 100 meter distances, then placing string as a marker of that distance. After, we placed tape every 10 meters to indicate the end of a survey unit. As we laid those out, other groups began to actually survey by field-walking. From what I’ve heard, there were some glass bottles, cans, and more found. Although the area we are looking at is quite shrubby and thorny, I’m excited to see if we can find more there.

Week 5

Starting off in the Arb Office, our class briefly discussed what our next steps would be in terms of surveying/excavating Pine Hill Village. We decided to grid more survey units and continue our field walking survey. Additionally, we decided to begin excavating around the established features (fire hydrant and rubbish pile.) Five separate groups were formed to ensure efficiency; these five groups were based on what we would be doing: excavation of the fire hydrant, excavation of the rubbish pile, GPS mapping, survey unit gridding, and field walking.

I was a part of the group of field walkers. Because it was pretty rainy, it was difficult to keep up the morale if I’m being honest. While trying to walk through some pretty dense and thorny brush, we were also being soaked. But, I do think today was pretty successful! My field walking partner, Hugh, found a brick/construction item in one of the survey units which was cool. We also found a few other glass, metal, trash-type objects which may have come from the Pine Hill Village era. I’m particularly looking forward to what the excavators will find in the next week.

Week 6

Tuesday was a pretty rewarding lab day. I know the excavators were able to uncover some items, such as the pathway (?) surrounding the fire hydrant. As for me, I started off finishing the grid squares. Working with Noah and Joey, we initially had to fix some points made in the past weeks. Then, at the most southwest end of our survey universe, we began placing string down for 100m with markers every 10m — the normal routine for creating the grid squares. It was difficult to walk straight through the shrubbery and trees on an uneven landscape (we were on the hill behind Goodhue) and I would often lose sight of Joey and Noah causing me to go astray; however, it was all okay in the end. And the weather was amazing to top it off!

After we finished that, Elise and I dug two test pits in the centers of grid squares. We dug for about 3 feet, carefully looking for any artifacts and examining the stratigraphy. Although we didn’t find anything, meaning we aren’t going to further excavate in those areas, I do know another pair of diggers found some cool stuff. I’m looking forward to next week.

Week 7

On our last full day out in the field, I was assigned to create a trench around a shovel test pit from last week. Last week, Marly and Melannie had hit what seemed to be some concrete in this test shovel pit; thus, we decided to create a trench around it and unearth more. Luckily, Marly had placed a marker where the concrete was so it wasn’t too hard to find.

Clarissa, Marly, and I placed a 1×1 meter square around the marker, then began taking out the roots of plants in the square. Then the digging began! For the first context, we had sifted the dirt but after realizing that there were still a lot of roots and plants, we held of the sifting for deeper.

We ended the day with about 1.5 feet dug, and we had found a marble, a small piece of chalk, a nail, and a few other things. We also realized that our trench square was slightly off since the cement piece was located on the edge. But, from what we exposed, it seems that the cement was a support for a pole of some sort. The weather, although very beautiful, was also warm and definitely wore Clarissa and me down. Regardless, it was a fun excavation that revealed more than I expected.