This week we spent the Tuesday class and lab touring the Carleton Arboretum, pointing out archaeological features as we passed by them. Beginning to look at landscape through an archaeological perspective really changed how I started to see the arboretum. We observed former farm fields in varying stages of conversion back to nature and were able to estimate when they were abandoned based on the size, distribution, and type of plants that had grown in them. In addition, we found the remnants of a shed that had been buried by a local farmer and toured the former site of Carleton’s Women’s League cabin. It was fascinating to see how nature had reclaimed the site, to try to piece together where the cabin would have been, and to imagine how, not long ago, students would have stood on the same spot as we did that day with a completely different sense of the space, a cabin behind them and a patio under their feet.
This week’s lab took us to various local historical sites, serving to demonstrate both the breadth of local history and avenues through which to research it further. As the director of the Rice County Historical Society, phrased it, her job as a local historian was about learning how to find out more and who to talk to, not knowing every single fact. Along the same lines, the vast amount of resources available to us for our archaeological projects became clear; the key to using all that effectively is learning how to use them and talking to the people in charge of them. From lab this week I began to get a sense of the research involved in corroborating archaeological finds with historical documentation to complete a picture of a site.
In today’s lab, we began by reviewing the structure of the course followed by a discussion on the recent readings on survey design. Having established the main components and questions associated with archaeological surveys, we began to plan a survey of a cornfield in the arboretum. I split from the class into one of three groups (group A). My group began surveying one portion of the cornfield, progressing through 5 sections we outlined and delineate with the help of Alex Claman. I took charge of the bagging and surveyed, while other members of the group also surveyed, recorded information, and mapped out the segments with a GPS. We found a surprising diversity of material types, form paper to plastic to rubber to glass to metal, and carefully bagged and labelled them. I was surprised to learn about and then experience the teamwork and complex orchestration required to ensure the surveying group covered an area accurately and efficiently.
Archaeologist and former president of the Santa Fe Institute, Jeremy Sabloff, spoke to the class following lunch with a few students and a campus-wide talk the previous day. Professor Sabloff began by talking about archaeological surveying in general, then walked the class through his own survey of the Mayan site of Sayil. Following his talk, the class discussed our own research of archaeological survey projects and compared what we found to his experience. Putting our discussion of surveying into practice, the class headed outside to begin a survey of the area where Pine Hill Village used to be while I and two others left separately with Alex Clamen to use the DGPS. With the DGPS, we mapped several landmarks in the survey area like the fire hydrant, a block of concrete, a heap of bricks and rocks, and a staircase, and then I helped map the points of the survey grid laid down by the rest of the class for future reference.
A fieldwork-heavy day, the class prioritized time to work outside on our project on a section of the Pine Hill Site. After a brief tutorial on some GIS software, we split into teams. Some of the class continued to survey, some learned to map points with a DGIS, some began excavations on both the fire hydrant and the rubble heap, while I and three others worked on extending our survey grid to help guide the surveyors. thus proved a more challenging endeavor than I expected, as correctly aligning 50 meter long lengths of string around obstacles and communicating with people on the other end of the line required a lot of planning. Tuesday was also a good exercise in morale, as it was cold and raining outside. I felt it was helpful to get a realistic sense of the physical difficulties sometimes involved in archaeological work.
Today’s lab, like last week, was spent on fieldwork. While different groups continued surveying or working on excavation sites, I jumped between several components of our exploration of the Pine Hill Village site. I began, like last week, laying down another two 50-meter lengths of grid string. Working on the forested hill this time, I faced the new challenges of working between trees and in brush. Finishing that, I dug several shovel test pits in the middle of grid squares. Although this didn’t turn up any artifacts of features, we observed clear soil stratification about a foot down, where the rich black loam turned to more tan, grainy, and clayey dirt. Finally, I worked with Joey to expose more of the edge of the asphalt road near the fire hydrant.
A more specific fieldwork day, I spent the lab paired with Emily working on digging shovel test pits at the Pine Hill Village Site. We had time to dig two, pit number 6 and 11, taking shifts digging and taking photos. We encountered several artifacts as we dug, including pieces of concrete, asphalt chunks, and a chunk of air brick with a logo on it. We also noticed the same clear stratification layers as the previous lab: dark brown topsoil, followed by a band of tan, clayey earth.
Today’s lab was wide-reaching and highly varied. We spent approximately the first hour and a half discussing the readings and going over how to begin analysing the artifacts we had collected over our time working on Pine Hill Village. Following the discussion, the class split into groups to address different groupings of artifacts (those collected in excavation, gridded survey, shovel test pits, and in the corn field fieldwalk). I chose to look at artifacts collected in the gridded survey of Pine Hill Village. This group faced the challenge of having a lot of material to efficiently organize and catalogue. With the rest of my group, I devised a strategy of arranging the artifact bags alphabetically by survey row letter, with the number of the survey unit descending in a column. With this system, different pairs of people could take different rows to catalogue. With Melanie, my partner, we recorded basic info about the rows S, T, R, and V (among others), divided them into lots, and began taking photos. Finally, as the class reconvened to discuss with final project groups, I met with mine to plan next steps and to share the data we had collected over the last week (Natalie and Hugh had made a poster, Melanie contacted Nancy, and I tested sign ideas and emailed print services).
After about a week and a half of planning the community archaeology day, my final project group and I spent much of today’s class and lab hosting the event. We set up for about an hour; some group members arranged snacks, while others, like me, helped carry materials then printed and posted guide signs to help people find their way to the site. The first people began to trickle in around 2, as the event was advertised to last from 2 to 4. We were unsure how many people to expect. Among other publicity efforts, we had hung posters across campus and across town, publicized our event in the Northfield News, and gotten Adrienne Falcon, head of academic civic engagement, to email the event a list of local teachers, historians, and community members. However, beyond word from Adrienne that someone had stopped her in the supermarket to ask about the event, we were unsure what kind of buzz the event had. Despite the rainy day, we were pleasantly surprised when at least 10 community members and Carleton affiliated showed up. Between my shifts indoors at the artifact cataloguing and outside, I was pleasantly surprised by how curious the visitors seemed. One visitor, standing over one of the excavation pits, brought up his own experience digging up old glass bottles in midden behind his house while renovating, relating to the excitement of touching the past through archaeology. Overall, it felt very rewarding to share our exploration of Pine Hill Village with the community, especially as the site has largely faded from the cultural memory.
Today’s lab focused on both wrapping up the class and making final check ins on our final projects. We began by going around the class to review where everyone was with their projects, then began to discuss how to conclude our archaeological project on Pine Hill Village in conjunction with the “Storage Wars” article. Moving on, we split into our groups and spent over an hour coordinating, editing, and shaping our final projects. My group, working on community outreach, divided up the work. I edited the website, focusing on reshaping the general introduction to Pine Hill Village, while others formatted our outreach section. Meanwhile, Hugh edited the signage we were making on Photoshop. Finally, the class came together to assign clean up tasks for the last hour. I worked outside backfilling excavation pits and folding tarps, then the class came together for celebratory pizza!