For this week’s lab, our group looked at the archival photographs of the Women’s League Cabin in the library. Nat Wilson talked with us about the variety of archival sources- including documents, photographs, and other records, from which we can learn about some of the individuals at Carleton who visited the cabin. He also talked about the many resources in the Carleton archives. Just the sheer fact that we have an archive staff, many rooms that are temperature controlled to hold documents, and a neat organizational system for those documents is significant- as many other institutions- museums, libraries, etc., do not have such extensive resources.
In studying the many pictures from the Women’s League Cabin I was particularly struck by the many activities that the photos captured- including cooking, chopping wood, gathering around campfires, sledding, etc. I am interested in how the cabin was used both as a place for leisure and fun, and also an active place that required work and upkeep- so women would be able to enjoy the cabin and its resources for the future.
I am interested, now, in learning more about how often photographs from the 1940s/1950s are found and added to the archives. Does the college ever reach out to the family remembers of deceased alumni who may have archival photographs that would contribute to the Carleton collection?
Rain, cold and wet, our lab day was memorable and fun. I was a bit hesitant to go digging in wet conditions, but the rain brought out a sense of adventure in all of the archeologists in our lab section.
I lined up along with classmates to conduct a survey of a plot of land in the upper arb to find stone, ceramic, rock, arrowheads, lithic, and other materials in the field. I was on the far end of the line- in the muddiest section of the plot we were surveying, so I had likely the least number of rocks and other materials in my path, although I did find a few rocks with rich textures, probably evidence of formation processes of the landscape over the years.
Although damp, my spirits after the lab were high from discovering the beauty in little rocks in our own arb. I look forward to seeing how these rocks look after they dry out and comparing the rocks I found with the materials my classmates found in different paths in the same field. It will be interesting to see how much plastic material classmates find in their paths of surveying, and to see if we can sense any trends in the kinds of things arb-goers dispose of in the fields.
The weather was beautiful for this week’s lab. I was excited to set the foundation for our archeological mapping project at the mill. At the site we divided 3 teams: a clearing team, a mapping team, and a grid laying team. I worked with Emily on the mapping team. We used the gridded sections that the Tuesday lab group mapped out in documenting features and surveying sections.
Alex taught us that features cannot be portable- so the brick we found, for instance, with intriguing lettering, is not a feature. After spending some time sketching the general layout of the wall around the mill, Emily and I started walking around the grids. We had to make sure we spent an even time on each grid- about 10 minutes on each plot. We found 2 beautiful clam shells, and we were surprised to discover that there are clams in the cannon. We also found a few rusted tin cans, and a CO2 canister from a paintball gun. We found a curved metal wire device, maybe a car part, in one of the grids.
I wonder how many of the materials we found end up on the site from people physically depositing things on the landscape, and how many things are carried by the wind, rain, and other natural processes. I look forward to learning how to to map the landscape, and lay the grid in future lab sessions. I also want to continue working on and honing my skills in surveying the grid comprehensively amidst some leaves, dirt, and other obstacles to finding small treasures hidden on the ground.
Again, we had beautiful breezy weather to continue mapping, surveying, and excavating our site. I worked in a survey group with Lena and Emily. Emily sketched and outlined the product features, which was easiest in H11 , and more difficult in G13. G13 was filled with lots of branches and brush which was difficult to clear. Emily and I found a few pieces of blue material that we not classify (we labeled it as ‘other’).
I think we probably found fewer artifacts in G13 because people might be more likely to clean up trash that is closer to the road. Despite the lack of many materials, we learned how to clear some branches off the ground to look carefully at the dirt to make sure we were not missing any important objects. With many sticks on the ground, it is easy to overlook little objects that can tell sometimes big, or little, stories, so we wanted to make sure we did not and could not miss this.
Some of our finds include an old can, ceramic shards, and pieces of plastic. I wonder what we can infer about the people who discarded these objects. Did these people throw the objects away knowingly? How many of these objects drifted from cars on the road? How many drifted from trash cans? We will never know these things exactly, but once we clean up these objects, how can we determine the social use and history of the artifacts, as we have read about in Renfrew and Bahn?
This was probably the most peaceful lab session I have experienced. Because it was raining, we stayed inside to clean and further organize the artifacts. There were different procedures for cleaning different kinds of artifacts. For example- we had to be careful of washing metal, in case the metal would rust, and that would change the material of the artifact.
I ended up washing a few old metal cans which has some spots of rust on them. Washing these cans did not rust them further, but instead cleared some of the dirt from off the can so we could see the spots of rust and the other parts of the can more clearly. I was surprised and impressed by the impact of the toothbrush- a seeming small tool which does wonders to get the dirt off of the can and other materials our classmates discovered.
One puzzle we had to solve was the unknown discovery location of a few shards of a blue unidentifiable material and a long and curved metal stick like material. I found these materials and placed in an unlabeled bag. To determine where these pieces belonged in this lab session, I looked at the excavation form and the drawing of the grids on the form. By studying the drawing of the grid, I figured out which grid I found the glass in.
After cleaning and trying all of the artifacts, we sorted the many artifacts from each survey unit by material into smaller bags. We then relabelled the bags to make our finds more organized and more easily identifiable, especially for the group presenting our finds at the end of the term.
I am excited to see how the group working on the final presentation of our lab finds will sort and organize these materials and their narrative. How will they determine which materials to talk about and highlight in sharing our finds with the public? What will go in to this selection process?
We lucked out with beautiful weather for our lab this week, and my excavation group started to get nostalgic about our many lab adventures this term, as the term is coming to a close. I worked in a group with Emily, Clara, Sam, and Hank. With Sam, and Hank, and we crouched like bugs on our hands and knees to excavate the trench pit. We were not sure at first if we should remove a few large boulders/rocks in the pit, but Alex told us to leave them in since they were sizable.
I am learning how to use to brush to delicately remove dirt off of rocks in the trench, and to gently uncover the layers of earth. Originally I dug too deep too fast, and thus lost sight of some of the layers of earth and pebbles. In the trench we found two red ants, a tick, and a worm. I learned to be gentle even in clipping the roots in the pit. I tried to yank my first root out too quickly, and pulled a lot of dirt out with it, and some tiny pebbles were flung out of the trench in the process. Speed, I learned, is not the objective.
We found a shard of glass, a little piece of metal, and many little rocks, so overall we focused on simply cleaning up the trench. I was amazed by how much more neat and visible the trench became as we cleaned it. At first, I thought cleaning a dirt pit would be futile, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
In the future, I would love to do some of the sifting of artifacts which we dumped with the dirt into the bucket while excavating the trench. I wonder- in thinking about In Small Things Forgotten by Deetz, how can we take something as small as the piece of glass we found in this trench and tell its story– both how it arrived in the trench, and how we found it? What details are necessary to include in weaving its narrative based on the limited information we can uncover and assume about it?
Sadly, today was our last day out in the field. We had beautiful weather for digging. I worked in an excavation group with Clara, Emily, Sam, and Loren, for the first time digging in Trench 1. It escaped my mind that I would be digging that day, so I rocked the skirted-archeologist look, also sporting a thick lamb sweater in the 75 degree heat. The outfit made for a stylish digging adventure.
In the trench, I uncovered a rusted pot which looked almost like a mini cauldron. I look forward to seeing what people who are analyzing the artifacts will have to say about the pot. This pit felt deeper than the other pit, and the squatting and digging was more difficult, but worth it for the find of the cauldron.
I got to sift through the artifacts with Emily for the first time, and sifting through the objects was a lot of fun, and also required a lot of dumping of objects we did not want to keep. At the end of our lab session, we brushed up the pit to prepare it for pictures. I will miss our pit, and these lab adventures. We have found some neat items, ranging from shards of glass, broken pottery, and perhaps a mini goblin’s pot. I can’t wait for the class to weave the artifacts we found into a larger narrative focusing on the Mill and its surrounding area– its use after its known and intended use in the industrial era. I will miss Wednesday labs, but I will cherish the memories, and the digging strategies.