Week 10, 30 June
This lab period we focused on the problems of storage and conservation for the artifacts we uncovered over the course of our work on the Pine Hill Village site. We were faced with a dilemma: we could keep all of our finds but take up valuable storage space, or we could return them to the site but create unnecessary work for later students who may wish to continue study of the site. At the end of our discussion, we decided that we would keep all of our finds, realizing that the issues of storage space would be mitigated in the near future by the building of the new science commons and archaeology lab.
After the discussion, most of the final project groups met and worked on putting the finishing edits on their webpages. At the end of the period, a small team of us went down to the site to backfill the trenches. This was done manually with spades and buckets. It is of interest, however, that before we refilled the trenches, we made sure to place a piece of plastic on the lowest context so that any future excavators will know where our initial excavation stopped.
Week 9, 23 May
We continued our documentation and interpretation work today. I spent a great deal of my time going through online databases of glassware designs, toy gun brands, and wiring casing, hoping to identify a brand or style with the artifacts for greater detail in our interpretation. Due to the lack of brand markings or distinctive stylistic elements, however, we were not able to make these connections. Despite this setback, I was able to date the glass tray to either the late 1930s/early 1940s — during the great depression or World War II. This was made apparent by the tray’s plainness and inorganic form, strongly contrasting with the biomorphism that defined 1950s glassware.
During this period, we also brought in outside visitors and talked to them about the fieldwork we’ve done on Pine Hill Village this term. Thanks to the efforts of the efforts of the outreach team, we were able to bring 10-15 community members in to view our site and our now cleaned and catalogued artifact collection.
Week 8, 16 May
We have finished excavation more or less and spent this lab period documenting our various finds. We split the findings from different trenches and the shovel test pits amongst several groups for cleaning, photography, and documentation. My group mostly handled artifacts from trench one today. Washing artifacts has a great effect on photography and eventual interpretation; identification of some artifacts changed completely after washing. For example, we had several fragments of concrete material that would have perhaps been part of the foundations of a housing unit which we initially thought to be asphalt because of the amount of dirt sticking to them. After washing, we photographed the artifacts against a white background (we used a black background for clear glass) with a sketched scale for reference.
No differentiating patterns have emerged between the trenches, but the stratigraphy within trench one has yielded some interesting ideas. One of our most interesting finds is a great number of glass shards that we were able to partially reassemble today to identify a platter-like object. Additionally, after washing off a bottle cap, some rust came loose to reveal a blue pentagon logo that we hope we can use to identify a brand in the future.
Week 7, 9 May
I fell ill and was not present for this lab period.
Week 6, 2 May
For today’s lab period we continued our work in the same vein as the last period, but with the great benefit of sunny weather. The weather didn’t just help to raise our morale and level of comfort though – I believe that it had a notable effect on what artifacts and the number of artifacts we were able to collect, particularly from the excavation trenches. Whereas sifting the soil last week was a long and arduous process of forcing mud through the sieve, many more artifacts were collected from the sieve station purely by virtue of being able to work through the soil faster and artifacts being more apparent. Sunlight also aided the survey teams in collecting more artifacts given greater visibility and the conspicuous glint of metallic and glass objects in the sunlight.
While more artifacts are certainly beneficial to our work, the high number of artifacts that we have collected now presents a problem of organization. Jack and I created a sorting system for the artifact bags in the order of the grid. Some patterns emerged from this activity, namely that the artifacts in survey units U and V 13-16 nearly outnumber the combined total artifacts from the rest of the survey areas – necessitating two separate areas on the table.
Week 5, 25 April
We primarily spent this lab period on initial excavations of the pine hill village site. We outlined two small excavation trenches on the fire hydrant and the rubble pile on the South East side of the site. Excavation began with demarcating the four corners of the trench and marking the boundaries with the same white string used for marking our transects. With the parameters of the trench marked, the excavation teams removed the top layer of soil, gradually working their way down through subsequent soil layers carefully so that we may establish new contexts at each layer. The displaced soil from trench 1 was sieved by a team off to the side, yielding several small pieces of glass and some strange plastic tubing.
I was part of the marking team, using a powerfully accurate GPS system to mark the end points of sections and the excavation trenches. Another part of the class was additionally working on expanding the grid, which we then mapped as well.
A notable feature of today’s work was the cold rain that came down through the entire period. This hampered the clarity of our records of both GPS points and collected artifacts, since our papers became so soggy that pencils would case them to tear. It additionally slowed excavation, since the soil was made heavier and harder to sift through for artifacts.
Week 4, 18 April
In today’s lab period, we began applying the survey skills and methods we have been learning about for the past few weeks. Using a grid prepared by Alex, we began marking the parameters of our survey area for the Pine Hill Village site. We started the grid from the South East corner of the site, at the remnants of a fire hydrant. We used a compass to establish the bearing of the first vertical and the line perpendicular to it for the first horizontal. Using tape measures, we extended the principle lines and marked 10 meter increments along a string with flagging tape. Another team marked the corners of the survey area with an ultra-precise GPS to obtain exact coordinates.
Another section of the class began pedestrian survey in the first sections that we marked, finding several glass and plastic alcohol containers as well as a partially full bottle of malt liquor. Many of these bottles are likely from after the demolition of the housing complex, likely left over from athletic events and other Carleton parties in the surrounding survey universe.
Week 3, 11 April
For this lab period, we discussed the elements of surveying and the factors that must be accounted for in proposing a survey project. We applied parts of our class discussion to a lab in which we learned the process of pedestrian survey in the cornfield between the frisbee and rugby fields. From the class session, we bore in mind that careful selection of the survey area was integral to the contextualizing possible future projects in the site of Pine Hill Village. While the field was not part of Pine Hill Village, its proximity to the site necessitates surveying it to establish the present context of the site.
Using GPS mapping software, one member of our surveying team noted the end points of the total area we were surveying, which we then broke into subsections denoted with alphanumeric designations. We then assembled the rest of the team in a straight line with 10 meter intervals between each individual, established by our earlier measured pace sizes. We then walked together due North, keeping care to maintain our spacing and bearing while scanning the ground for artifacts. Once we reached the end of the subsection, we would bag and document all of the artifacts we found.
Our team primarily surveyed the area closest to a driving range at the far end of the property, providing an explanation for the presence of many discarded golf balls. Additionally, we found a shoe sole, a small mammal skeleton, and what looked like a rubber gasket.
Week 2, 4 April
Tuesday’s class started with a session in the Carleton archives. I’ve heard about doing archival research from previous students in this class, but I was never really sure what it entailed. I thought that I had a rough idea of what an archive is, but idea of an archive as an “organic resource” to be interpreted struck me as particularly new and interesting. We applied this idea by leafing through some documents pertaining to the Women’s League Cabin, during which some others and I looked over old floor plans and insurance claims on the cabin.
We then took a trip to the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault, where we were guided through the history of Native American settlement in Rice County and the archaeological remnants of their various cultures. Particular attention was paid to the development of projectiles, helping to tie our chronological knowledge to historical developments in human societies. Before leaving the Society, we were told about all the local resources at our disposal and the best ways in which to conduct local historical research.
Our last outing for the day was to the Archibald Mill in Dundas. This was a particularly interesting sight for me because of the connection to our reading on milling developments in Rice County that I found strangely engrossing. I was amazed by how thick the walls of the building were, and their expensive construction out of several brick layers. Alex explained that milling flour generates a great deal of heat from the friction of the millstone and the flammability of flour, and so I can only imagine that the walls served both to keep out the Minnesota winter and preclude total destruction of the property from the high fire hazard.
Week 1, 28 March
I was happy to find that our first day of class was more than just a syllabus day. Alex guided our class through some of the survey techniques we will employ through the course of our fieldwork, providing examples from his own work in Petra and the Mazi Archaeological Project. We were also able to devote a small amount of time to theories of archaeology, a topic that’s especially appealing to me given my interest in post-colonialism. If we spend more time on theory in the coming weeks, I imagine that I would find even more parallels between the evolution of archaeology in the 20th century and that of international relations, my home discipline.
Our first lab period was spent on an extensive tour of the lower arboretum and some of its archaeological points of interest. Throughout my time at Carleton, my arb-wandering has been almost exclusively in the upper arb, so it was nice, especially as a senior, to see parts of Carleton that I had never seen before. On that note, I had no idea that there was so much history to the lower arb! I knew parts of the arb’s institutional history and some of the conservation efforts going on, as well as about the existence of the Women’s League Cabin site, but I had never heard of the Waterford Mill or the Native American history of the area.
Thursday’s class with Mary Savina on geoarchaeology reinforced another interesting point from Tuesday’s lab on the flow of water on a landscape. Through we talked about other factors that formed a geologic space, I was particularly interested in the water flow and erosion patterns we observed in the arb. I realized that I have never really paid much attention to the dips and rises of the ground under my feet when in fact its form is so consequential. I have begun paying more attention, finding it almost like a game to trace the ways that water would run across the ground. I suppose this is why people enjoy golf, isn’t it?