For our lab, we began by looking at some of the tools and forms we will use in the field and going over a brief description of what we will be doing. We then loaded up into the vans and went to our first field. However, the Arb crew was conducting a prescribed burn on that field, so we headed to our second location, further down the road. We then split up into two groups. My group took the flatter prairie area, and after getting an idea of how long 10 meters is and divvying up tasks, we began to survey our units. We managed to finish surveying three units with the help of Neil, our guest from the DNR, although we found no material culture. It was interesting to get an idea of how to set up rows, keep parallel to the rest of the group, and take bearings. Once we finished our three units, we went to rejoin the other group, who had gone down the other side of the road. While they had only surveyed one unit, they had found so many artifacts that they couldn’t bag them all. Looking at the different artifacts found was interesting as it had once been a trash dump, so there were several cans and random pieces of metal and old bricks. We then reviewed our findings, discussed briefly how to bag and label artifacts, and then hiked back out to the vans. It was good to get a practice run at surveying a field, and even though my group didn’t find anything, it was still a valuable experience. Since Neil was there, he provided hints and gave us context for how his teams us surveying. Overall, it was a great introduction to surveying and field work.
This week, we visited the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault and Sue Garwood gave us a tour and some historical context for their various exhibits and artifacts. She started by explaining some of the history of the area, looking at a large topographical map for geographical context. She talked about the known history of Native Americans in the area, including some of the artifacts found, like arrow points and knives, and about some of their oldest artifacts, like the mammoth bones and bison bones. The bison bones introduced an interesting topic, as it was revealed that the ecology of the area may have been different than previously thought. She then went on to discuss the impact of white colonizers on the area, and how fur traders and trade-posts began to pop up in the area. From the first homestead to Alexander Faribault’s arrival and activity, Sue was able to provide both oral information and various material artifacts to illustrate the history. As we examined various artifacts, she also brought up another aspect of archaeology that is important to recognize: that of finder’s and interpreter’s bias. One of the local citizens who donated several artifacts did not include pottery shards because he didn’t like them as much. If we did not have this information, and only had the artifacts provided, we might erroneously conclude that there was no pottery in the area, but this would not be correct. It’s important to think critically about what we find and what could be missing. Overall, it was a trip full of local history and valuable context as we contemplate the site for our excavation site.