Melannie Wurm

Week 1

During the first week of Archaeological Methods we received a general overview of what this class would cover as well as of archaeology itself, we also went outside to become more familiar with the landscape. On the first day and first lab, we spent two hours touring the Lower Carleton Arboretum. We walked along the western limit of the Arb to the Waterford Mill Pond Wing Dam, then walked East to see the site of the Women’s League Cabin where the class conducted its fieldwork in 2015. This tour provided us with a better understanding of the geography of the Arb, its physical features and it’s historical locations.

On the second day of class, we divided into groups to examine five specific areas in the upper and lower arboretum. At each location we listed the natural features that we observed, including plant life, soil texture, water features, and topography. Returning to class and comparing our descriptions of each spot, we were able to see that, though some locations were within feet of each other, they were each unique and easily differentiable. We noticed different types of trees and densities of plan life, earth of a variety of textures, and a significant difference between the hilly and flat sections. This exercise showed us that a survey of one area of the campus may not be representative of another, even if it is very close by.

Week 2

This week our class and lab time were combined to allow three different stops. First, we met in the library archives to see materials related to the Women’s League Cabin. We looked through old newspaper clippings, letters, official documents, and floor plans. We were able to examine original documents from the ’40’s and ’50’s and to see pictures of Carleton students using the cabin long before we were born.

We then drove to the Rice County Historical Society. There, we saw old arrowheads and other stone tools recovered in the area. We learned about the techniques used to make each arrowhead. We also saw sherds of pottery, some decorated and others left plain. I was surprised by the quantity of artifacts discovered here and the many time periods represented.

Finally, we stopped by the ruins of an old mill along the Cannon River. It’s outer structure was largely intact and allowed us to see the marks of multiple efforts to rebuild. This was interesting in light of our readings about the many mills that once lined the Cannon. We were able to see something from the text come to life, making local history all the more tangible.

Week 3

This week we practiced pedestrian surveying. First, we defined the site. We chose to survey the agricultural area behind the college intramural fields where corn is sometimes grown. This would provide us with practice for later surveys of other land in the area such as the site of the Pine Hill Village. To perform our survey, we practiced the technique of field walking. This involved  scanning the ground evenly and recording the artifacts we encountered.

We began by splitting into three groups of seven or eight people. One person was designated to record all of our findings and another to mark the GPS location of each section of land surveyed. Using an approximation based on our strides, we spaced ourselves 10 meters apart facing due North (as determined by compasses). Also using our strides as an approximation, we defined each section as 70 meters wide by 150 meters long.  We walked down each section while scanning the ground for artifacts. At the end of each 150 meters, defined as one section of our group’s surveyed area, we collected and recorded our findings. We placed artifacts in plastic bags and labeled the bags with the date, our initials, the survey location, and the section where the artifact was found.

When we had completed five 150 meter sections of the field, we combined our findings and compared them with the recorder’s information. The goal  was to ensure that she had recorded the correct number of bags. At the end of the survey, we had found golf balls, shoes, plastic wrappers, tin cans, and an assortment of broken ceramic shards.

Week 4

In this week’s lab we began our survey of the Pine Hill Village site. Professor Knodell had prepared a grid over the site using Google Maps ahead of time. When we arrived at the site, we used a tree visible on the grid as a landmark. This point marked a corner of the grid. We planted a marker there and used it as a base to form the remainder of the grid. We used a compass along with the grid to define the direction of one side of our perimeter and then measured 90 degrees in the other direction to create a right angle. We then measured out 50 meters of string, using the compass to ensure it followed a straight line. We attached our string to the earth with spikes and marked every ten meters of string with red tape. It was often difficult to drag the string in a straight line through bushes and undergrowth but with persistence, teamwork, and the help  of the compass, we were successful.

When our initial two sides of the grid had been established, we began marking off sections along its length. Every ten meters, we brought the string in to make another line on the grid. During class were were able to mark off two full transects, each 10 meters wide and 50 meters long.

We were also able to do a brief survey of the defined grid squares. We broke into teams of two and walked side by side across our section, scanning the ground for artifacts. My group found surprisingly little. We found only a Sprite can and a golf ball. Both seemed to be recent deposits. Most of our work, however, has so far been conducted on the edge of the lacrosse fields, on land that has recently been cleared and overturned. We decided that we were more likely to find genuine artifacts in the uncleared forest sections of our survey.

Week 5

This week we continued our work with Pine Hill Village. After a brief discussion in the classroom, we planned our approach. We needed to continue setting up our grid, to begin excavating around areas of particular interest (the fire hydrant and pipeline), and to continue our walking survey of the gridded ares. We divided into five groups to work in these three areas as well as to continue GPS mapping the site.

I was a part of the ground surveying group. Like before, two people comprised one team and we worked together to cover each block of the grid. My partner and I  used printed maps to find which grid squares had not yet been surveyed. We continued our strategy of walking, side-by-side, up and down our grid square while searching the ground for artifacts. When we found materials, we recorded them in survey sheets, and placed them in bags along with like materials. My group surveyed areas both in thick brush and along the arboretum running path. We were unsurprised to find very few artifacts around the running path and significantly more in the denser areas.

We were most surprised by the number of golf balls we found during our survey. Many of the other items were very logical, such as soda cans, beer bottles, and food wrappers. However the five golf balls we found during our survey could not be explained by a nearby driving range or history of golf-related activity in this section of the arboretum (as far as we know). Perhaps further surveys will lead to more answers.


Week 6

This week we continued our survey and excavation of the Pine Hill Village site. Again, we divided into groups with different tasks. One group continued to GPS map features in the region. One finished extending our grid. One continued their work of excavating around the pipe and fire hydrant, and one finished the remaining field-walking survey work. I helped to complete the surveying. My partner Marly and I finished surveying the last several grid squares. Using a map for guidance, we identified the grids that had not been covered and surveyed them. As in past weeks, we walked side by side across each grid square, examining the ground for artifacts. We found very little. The only item of note was a very old baseball that had decayed into two leather halves.

When we finished surveying, Marly and I moved on to digging shovel test pits. At Alex’s instruction, we dog holes in the center of who grid squares, looking for remains buried beneath the surface. Our holes were about the width of a shovel head and as deep as the shovel itself. We found nothing in the first test pit. When we determined it was empty, we refilled it and moved on. In the second test pit, however, we found a concrete slab about a foot below the surface. We enlarged the whole around the slab and used trowels and dusters to improve visibility. Unfortunately, as soon as we had uncovered the slab, it was time to go. We placed plastic over the concrete and refilled our pit with dirt. When we return next week we will likely continue our excavation in this area to learn more about the concrete and what its purpose may once have been.

Week 7

This week I was a part of the mapping group. After a short period of time in the classroom, we went outside and Alex gave us an introduction to the GPS system. We leavened how to record points and how to handle the machine so that it gathered accurate and sufficient data. Because most of the site had already been mapped, we didn’t have a large amount of work to do. We mapped three points along the edges and one point inside of each shovel test pit that our classmates dug. As this was an ongoing process, we also took part in digging STPs of our own.

In our first shovel test pit, located in U14,  we found a shard of glass and, slightly deeper, a large section of concrete. We assumed this was likely building material of some kind and enlarged our hole to uncover it. We went on to use trowels and brushes to clear the section of concrete. In the same area we also found pieces of plastic and rusted nails. We dug these out and bagged them for later inspection. We then took pictures of our pit and recorded everything we had found before filling it back in.

We dug a second shovel test pit in U13, farther into the woods. This pit was harder to dig due to large roots and undergrowth. Unfortunately, we found nothing. At this point it was time to begin heading back to class. We refilled our hole, recorded our findings and returned to the classroom.

Week 8

This week during our lab, we began sorting through our findings from the past eight weeks. We broke up into groups to examine materials from our trenches, our shovel test pits, our grid survey, and our field survey. I was a part of the grid surveying team. We began by organizing all of our findings by grid square. We then created a google doc to record material, lot, quantity, and description. Breaking off into teams, we recorded this information for each and every item in our google document. I worked with Noah and we covered S-X.

After we had recored all of our items, we began the process of photographing them. We made a sheet of paper with a measuring tool for scale and then began taking individual photographs of each artifact. We were not able to finish this process as there were many objects to photograph. Next week we will begin researching the histories and dating our objects. We had an opportunity to examine the artifacts more closely on Tuesday and have already determined that several objects are not from recent years and will be very interesting to research further. We look forward to continuing this work.

Week 9

Today was Community Archaeology Day, for which my final project group has been preparing for some time. This meant there was a lot of preparation to do.  Before class, I printed out large posers of the grid area and the original plan for Pine Hill Village. Other students purchased food and set it up in the classroom. When the time arrived, we headed outside to set up for our visitors. With Alex’s help (Alex did most of the work) we erected a tarp to protect one of our trenches. Then we waited for visitors to arrive. In total, we had about 10 visitors including a few students and the Dean. They visited both our outside location and the arb office. Students were able to explain what kinds of artifacts they had found and give details about the excavation process.

Afterward, we cleaned up our area, took down the tarp, and recovered the trenches. My group felt that , given the rainy weather, our day had been a success. More people came than we had anticipated and many seemed excited and interested to learn about Pine Hill Village.

Week 10

This week was primarily about finishing up and the curation of our materials. We spent the regular class period working on our final projects. My group designed our last sign and made one final round of edits on the website. When this work was done we began cleaning up after our term of archaeology. We divided into groups, each with a specific task. One group went outside to back-fill the holes and trenches we had dug and to bring in our tarps. Another group cleaned up the information recorded in our Google Doc. My group cleaned and organized the tools we had used throughout the term. We washed off trowels, shovels, and brushes, dried them, and put them into our boxes in a more organized fashion. All of this work went quickly and we had finished within an hour. Afterward, Alex bought us pizza to celebrate a successful term.