Aaron Forman

June 5 (Week 10)

For the last week of the term, the group conducted a thorough check of all bags containing artifacts from the mill site and the field survey activity. I used the label on the bag to ensure that there was a corresponding row on the class artifact notes spreadsheet, which almost always existed. Next, I checked the Metadata spreadsheet, for which I frequently had to add a row so that the bag would be recorded in this newer spreadsheet. I repeated this process several times until we had collectively checked all the bags. One obstacle we sometimes encountered were bags being labeled as “1/1” when in reality there were more bags of the same material from the same context layer, grid square, spot collection, or field survey group. This made it difficult to determine the correspondence between a spreadsheet row and a particular physical bag. Additionally, some bags did not include initials, so we could not ask questions of the individual who bagged and labeled the objects as we did for bags with initials on the label. At the end of the lab session, we made sure all bags were sorted into their proper bins based on excavation, gridded survey, field survey, and spot collection, and we carried the bins upstairs to Alex’s office where they await their new home in the new science building. I can’t wait to bring all the archaeology skills I have learned this year to Greece with me this summer!

May 29 (Week 9)

I worked on a few different projects during the Wednesday lab of week 9. First, I counted the number of lots and artifacts that the Tuesday lab recorded in the class spreadsheet on May 28. Since my final project is based on coloring a map by the number of finds associated with that feature, square, or trench, this information will go directly into our map. I used the data from the Tuesday group to create a table in my own group’s Google Doc listing each context with the number of lots and artifacts for each one. As we have learned, a lot is a way of measuring artifacts that go together or are associated with one another based on material or appearance as well as context layer and location of the find. Next, I worked on adding uncounted artifacts to the spreadsheet. Hank and I worked with the spot collection finds from feature 5, recording material, description, quantity, and lot number for each bag. We looked through some of the online dating information sheets, but were unable to find useful date markers for most of the items in the feature 5 collection. One development was the recognition of similarity between one of our finds, a green glass piece, and a find from the field survey, which may have been different pieces of a similar type of item based on their color and appearances. I took pictures of these two pieces together along with a penny and uploaded them to the Google folder for artifact analysis images.

May 22 (Week 8)

Today was our last day of fieldwork at the Waterford Mill site. During Tuesday’s class, my mapping/GIS final project group discussed what we would need from this last day of fieldwork, which included some final GPS points and further information on the site’s features. Since Sam and I are in the Wednesday lab group, Sam worked with Clarissa on GIS points and I worked with MJ and Holland on features 5 and 7. Using my phone camera, I took pictures of the places where the stones that comprised the wall at feature 7 were visible on the surface. I also sketched the stone formation on a blank sheet, and labeled it “Feature 7.” Many artifacts remained on the surface at feature 5. After Sam and Clarissa took a GPS point there, MJ, Holland, and I conducted a point collection: a small sample of the different artifacts located there. Some items we placed in labeled bags were cans, ceramics, a shell, and a modern-looking metal object whose function we did not know. After this, we began helping to clean up the site by removing pink flagging tape from the branches and stakes from the ground. Before leaving, we were sure to take a group picture to capture (part of) the team that conducted this exciting archaeological project. Finally, we headed back to Carleton for the final time after a grueling and productive archaeological season.

May 15 (Week 7)

For today’s lab, we divided into groups to tackle various projects at the Waterford Mill site. I initially joined the drone photography team, hoping to capture images of the site to use for my final project: creating a digital and interactive map of our fieldwork. Arya and I headed to the top of the hill with Andrew and Dan, the drone experts, who realized that drone photography would be essentially impossible because power lines run directly parallel to the site and the law requires that drones fly 100 yards away from power lines. Following this realization, I joined excavation trench 2, at the bottom of the main site near the river. I had not picked up a trowel since my time at Tell Keisan last summer, so it was extremely pleasant to exercise the skills that I learned there once again. I tried to teach some of the things I learned to of my fellow excavators. Some techniques included working on our sectioning to create balks that were flat and perpendicular to the bottom of the trench, leveling the context layer of the trench before proceeding to excavate further, and brushing the dirt quickly and removing it to clean the trench and reveal artifacts without disturbing the context. In fact, through these methods, we found a piece of glass, a bottle cap, and a metal object that we left in situ because it was not ready to come out yet. After the excavation, Sam and I took a bucket full of dirt from our trench to the soil sifter, dumped the contexts onto the sifter, and filtered out the loose soil. Then, we sorted through the remains collecting charcoal, nails, glass, and other objects of interest. I also helped Maanya with her sifting and came across a bullet casing, which was really interesting to see and indicates that there may have once been a violent encounter at the Waterford Mill site. Overall, today was an extremely productive day of archaeological work, although it was disappointing to learn that we would not be able to use the drone for aerial image data.

May 8 (Week 6)

Due to the heavy rain, the Wednesday lab group was forced to work inside instead of traveling to our usual fieldwork location. Our objective was to work on cleaning and organizing the artifacts we have discovered up to this point from the field survey, the gridded survey at the Waterford Mill site, and excavation trenches 1 and 2. MJ, Holland, and I worked on the materials from “trench 1, context 2.” These artifacts were generally grouped according to material, but several bags included materials that did not correspond with the material labeled on the bag. By removing all contents from the bags, we were able to identify materials that should have been in different bags. We used a toothbrush and sink water to clean the glass, pottery, and “other” remains. For the metal, we only used a toothbrush and a paper clip to not damage the artifacts by exposing them to water. We separated the metal into two bags: one for larger and diagnostic pieces like rims, and a separate bag for small pieces with no diagnostic qualities. We counted the number of non-diagnostic pieces, and I wrote that number on the outside of the bag. We allowed the non-metal artifacts to dry on a tray, and then we placed them in bags according to material which were carefully labeled. We placed all the bags of cleaned products from trench 1, context 2 in a larger bag, which we also labeled. Finally, we helped the other groups clean up their stations and create general organization such as labeling cardboard boxes that held artifacts from different areas, field methods, and contexts.

May 1 (Week 5)

Today was my first lab session with the Wednesday archaeological team. Upon arriving at the site, we divided into groups assigned to grid survey, excavation, and mapping. As part of the mapping group, I was responsible for taking points at the corners of each grid square and excavation trench. I worked with the grid survey team to determine the boundaries of each square and which pink flags marked the actual corners. Once we were situated in the Northeast corner of square H10, we began to take points for each of the H squares. After H10 Northeast and Southeast corners, each of the rest of the corners involved the Western edge of the square since the Eastern edge could be determined from the previous square’s Western edge. In the process, we travelled between points along the upper ridge to the North of the main excavation zone and the Southern points located at lower elevation inside the excavation area. When we reached the Western edges of H12 and H13, we were entirely located on the upper zone above the excavation area. For each square, we marked the names of the points, noted which corners they corresponded to, and drew a map of the square indicating elevation changes in the notebook. Our hope was that we, as future interpreters, would have a better sense of where the points were taken with an image of the square that corresponded to the layout of the archaeological site. Additionally, we used the notebook to keep track of which squares the grid survey teams completed and informed them when, together with the Tuesday team, all the grid squares had been surveyed. Finally, we took the DGPS to the two squares where our team members had been troweling throughout the lab period. One of the squares was on the Western side of the wall at the base of the site, while the other was farther along a path to the South of the main site. At each trench, we used the quick point function to mark the corners of the trench and the center, gaining data on the context that the excavation had reached for the day.

April 23 (Week 4)

Today’s lab was our first time venturing into the archaeological site at Waterford Mill. With many tasks to accomplish, we split into three groups to work on different archaeological techniques we had thus far only studied in class: clearing vegetation from the site for improved visibility, marking off gridded boundaries, and mapping specific archaeological features. I was in the mapping group, which was further divided into three pairs in order to cover the extent of the site. Ali and I headed to the South of the main rectangular walled-off zone to search for archaeological features. Very quickly, we came across a pit in the ground that contained several pieces of rusted metal debris. All around the pit, we observed further artifacts of many different forms including bottles, cans, buckets, pottery, charcoal, metal rings, and a golf ball. We paused to take pictures of the feature and its remains, and we drew a diagram of it on the feature recording sheet. We then delved deeper into the woods, recording several items of material culture on the back of the feature page. However, beyond the initial midden, we did not observe a clear man-made archaeological feature or particular concentration of artifacts in a specific location. Upon returning to the main mill site, we gathered a measurement instrument and pink flagging tape. We used the measuring tape to determine the length, width, and height of what we determined to be the site boundaries, with the height representing the depth of the pit to the ground at the ridge on its edge. We placed pink tape on trees around the space that included the major concentration of artifacts. Finally, we used the GPS equipment to take a point at each of the four corners, the bottom of the pit, and the top of the ridge. These points will be useful as we gather further data on what the area may have initially been used for at the time of the Waterford Mill. Upon leaving the mill, it was clear that the site is farther along in the process of being prepared for excavation than it had been when we got there. Each group made significant progress today, leaving the site in a condition for us to learn about Northfield’s local history over the coming weeks by putting to use the archaeological techniques we have studied.

April 16, 2019 (Week 3)

At the beginning of today’s lab session, Professor Knodell familiarized the group with several pieces of equipment that we would use during our fieldwork session. Examples of some of these items include the item and feature recording sheets, the compass, and flagging tape. Next, we drove to a location to conduct the survey, but a controlled burn fire was taking place in the area at this time and we decided to try our survey at a different location. Upon arriving at the new location near Waterford Mill, our group conducted a survey of two areas divided by a pathway. First, we measured the number of steps it would take us to walk five meters, allowing us to space ourselves out in the field appropriately. We divided into two groups with one group surveying each side of the main path. Since I had the flagging tape, I started my path on one end of the survey team. To begin, I pointed my iPhone compass at a broken tree branch to determine the number of degrees in the direction I was facing. The rest of the group then used their step count to space each surveyor five meters from the previous team member. Following this step, everyone used his or her compass to ensure that we were all ready to move in the same direction. Finally, we began to walk forward carefully, observing the ground two meters to each side of us while maintaining a straight line of travel direction. Once we got to the determined stopping point, I placed flagging tape on the tree and the photography specialist of our group, Jaylin, took a picture of it to mark the location. We repeated this process by shifting the group members around Zobeida, who walked on the opposite side of the survey area as me. Therefore, my next marking and walking line took place on the complete opposite side of the field. After walking back in the direction we originally came from but shifted over in the field, we conducted one final walk heading West. Throughout the three surveys, we did not come across any remains of human material culture. I observed poop from different species, plants, and some people saw a snake, but human evidence was lacking.

However, on the opposite side of the path, the other surveying group came across an area with a significant material culture signature. I observed rusted metal cans, glass bottles, and some items resembling pipes and bricks, although I did not have very much time to study the pieces they discovered. I also saw them placing the items in bags and documenting them in a similar manner to what I did with “small finds” at Tell Keisan, Israel, last Summer, although without the help of a computer database. I am very excited to take a closer look at these objects and determine how they inform our understanding of Northfield’s past!

April 9, 2019 (Week 2)

During today’s lab, we headed to the Rice County Historical Society to learn about the history of the county’s inhabitants from prehistoric times through the present day with Executive Director Susan Garwood. At the museum, Susan provided us with a sense of the geography of Rice County using a large map located near the building’s entrance. Through the map, she explained the difference in geographical features between areas on the map, such as the abundance of lakes in the West but not the East as a result of glaciation patterns, and also pointed out where various important events and archaeological research in the county have taken place. Next, we moved to the portion of the museum dedicated to the collection of artifacts from the Paleo-Indian, archaic, and Mississippian Native American cultures that existed in Rice County. I particularly enjoyed this section of the museum because I was able to compare the tools in it to other types of paleolithic tools I studied in my Archaeology of Mediterranean Prehistory class this past Winter. Other exhibits in the museum documented the county’s history during historic times. Exhibits that stood out to me include one presenting Rice County’s history as a fur trapping territory, a display dedicated to Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith, and the military uniforms worn by veterans from Rice County who served their country in wars throughout American history. I believe that the museum did an excellent job of presenting material culture with a true sense of its diversity by displaying so many different types of artifacts ranging from trophies to tools to clothing. By touring the museum, I feel that I have a better connection to the place in which I am spending my collegiate years and a greater understanding of the efforts that have been made to preserve its history.