As this was our last week, there was not much for us to really do during lab. We finished cataloging one last bunch of artifacts, and then we went through some of the work we did last week and made sure it was cataloged correctly and the lots and artifacts were accounted for. It was nice to go through and see all the work we’d done cataloged and finished. It was a good way to wrap up our last lab and the end of the term, and it certainly made it easier to really conceptualize how many different kinds of artifacts we found. Finishing the full sequence, from surveying and planning to excavation and analysis, was really rewarding and it will help create a very rich collection of interesting artifacts from a wide range of dates.
This week we were able to begin cataloging and analyzing the artifacts we cleaned last week. This meant separating artifacts from different trenches, contexts, or surveys into different lots, based on whether they seemed to be pieces of one whole object, or related in some other way. We then input all the information, like material type, number, purpose, etc., into a Google spreadsheet. I worked with Jaylin, and she input the information into the spreadsheet while I sorted and counted. Some of the artifacts were relatively easy to sort and count, while others required more estimation. For instance, there were shards from some kind of decorated glass vase that were obviously from the same place. It was much easier to fill out the sheet for this lot than for a lot of the metal lots. There were some that were doable, like a single metal bottle cap that was its own lot, but there was a large collection of metal pieces that most likely came from metal cans, but there was no way of telling which ones went together. There were no identifying features and it was too daunting to try counting them all, so we put them in one lot and settled for an estimated count. As it was unlikely that we would be able to conduct any type of analysis, it wasn’t worth expending energy on them while there were other, more identifiable artifacts waiting.
Getting to go through the various artifacts and try to connect them to each other and look at different patterns on ceramic or buttons was really interesting. It also put into perspective just how many artifacts we collected that are unlikely to really help us do analysis, and will just take up space. While it was important to collect them in order to make sure that the record is complete and we aren’t ignoring a large portion of the finds, having 250+ small pieces of rusted metal won’t tell us too much about what time period we are looking at or what they contained. However, there were some that were much more immediately informative, like the pearl button or the pen that we found. For most of these, it will be difficult if not impossible for us to determine when they were made or where they came from, but we may be able to approximately date them and determine what they might have been used for. It’s been rewarding to see what has come out of the last several weeks.
This week for lab, we stayed indoors and focused on cleaning the artifacts we had found. We sorted the different bags into their various trenches, contexts, and grids and began to clean them. For metal, this meant just brushing off the dirt that we could, as immersing the artifacts in water would not have cleaned them, but would have worsened the rust. The same was applicable for the leather artifacts we found, as they would have taken too long to dry and it could have possibly affected their integrity negatively. The types other artifacts, however, like glass and ceramic, we washed and scrubbed with water. This yielded some interesting patterns and finds. There were several pieces that looked like they either were all part of the same plate, or there had been a set of plates with the same pattern. Some of the glass pieces yielded interesting results, as they look to be something other than simple glasses or bottles. Hopefully they will yield informative results after our analysis.
Getting a chance to look over our finds in greater detail and scrape away the dirt that had been obscuring many of the designs and patterns gave a much clearer picture of the wide variety of finds and site uses we could be looking at. For me, the most striking artifact that I handled today was a small button with a design that looked like a bunch of grapes on it. It was from the first excavation trench, which I believe to be the trash pit, and the third context, so below the surface. It was very different from any other artifact that I had seen, and it is a great example of what Deetz’s In Small Things Forgotten focused on. It made me wonder why the owner chose that design, what it was for, and when it was made. It provided a much different perspective of the site than the many rusty cans that I had previously cleaned, and I enjoyed getting a chance to consider the artifacts as a whole. While this was a fairly basic lab, it was still interesting to see what we will be able to analyze more closely next week.
During lab on Tuesday, we divided into similar groups as last week, with two excavation groups, one person helping Elise with the GPS survey, and one group clearing and surveying the second building. I was part of the group working on the second building, so we collected the necessary forms, gloves, shovels, and clippers and headed up the hill. We began by trying to follow the walls and clear the area around those, so that we could get an idea of where they began and ended. This area was harder to follow, as it looks like what remains of much of the structure has been torn down or grown over. There were also signs that water from the recent rains had pulled down more trash from the road, and so the artifacts on the surface were quite varied in age and material. We completed a survey unit, which was a circle with a radius of 2 meters, to pick up some of the more interesting and emblematic artifacts. We collected several pieces of metal, most of which were part of tin cans at some point. There were a couple of pieces of ceramic, as well as some patterned glass that was once a glass or vase covered in etched flowers. We also found the remains of a sole of a leather shoe, which was interesting because you could still see the nails in the sole and would probably be able to approximate the size of the original shoe. We all agreed that this was the most interesting thing we have found thus far, and hopefully will be able to approximately date it.
Because this site is in a slightly different area than the excavation trench I worked on the last couple of weeks, and in different condition, seeing the contrast between the two areas was very interesting. It was difficult to try to figure out the layout of the building, and we had to do some guesswork on where corners were and walls ended. In addition, some of the artifacts we found there were unlike any found at the other site, and so it would be interesting to know the different functions of the two sites. As ew have been talking about object biographies in class, it put a different possible perspective on the shoe we found. Shoes aren’t something that generally have a second life after they are worn out. Once they break down, or get holes, or are outgrown by the owner, they are generally thrown away instead of being repurposed. There are very particular designs to shoes as well, and different designs relate to different functions. As people, we generally all rely on shoes of some kind to walk around in different types of weather or to complete different tasks. They are an ubiquitous article of clothing in most cultures, but they are also relatively easy to replace today. They can be markers of class or status, and we have different expectations of them in different working environments. As an object generally, it is interesting to think about how we engage with them, and more specifically about the life of the shoe we found.
During lab on Tuesday, we packed up the vans and headed back to the Waterford Mill site to continue excavation. I worked on the same trench as last week, on the south wall in the main area. The Wednesday lab last week had continued where we left off, but it only extended a couple of inches below the surface. I was in charge of the forms, so I had to look back at the past forms to find out what context they finished, the types of artifacts they were finding, and where we were beginning. I also had to talk to Elise to get the coordinate points for the corners of our trench for the form. During the course of our excavation, we went down a further couple of inches. This involved the use of trowels and dustpans to move dirt into a bucket. Once the bucket was reasonably full, we took it in turns to take it up to the sifter. Sifting it out brought to light some larger artifacts to be bagged. These included several pieces of metal, and smaller amounts of ceramic, glass, and one strip of leather. All of these went into bags separated by material and appropriately labeled for future analysis, and were recorded on the corresponding excavation sheet. While we haven’t found anything whole or particularly telling, it will be interesting to see if we can date some of the artifacts, or find something that we can match them to deeper in the trench.
I also sketched the trench at the end of the lab period, and it looks as though the large stones we are uncovering were once a part of a floor that led up to the wall. The pieces that remain seem to fit well together and are relatively level. It is possible that once we dig below them, we will find a new context and some older artifacts. It has been interesting working on this site while also considering the readings we have been doing. I have been reading about Marxist archaeology, and it is possible to consider the Waterford Mill in the context of that line of reasoning. It turned Northfield into a milling and flour hub in the region, and certainly bolstered the economy in the area. It would be interesting to look at how resulting structures were built around it, and it would be also interesting to look at how it affected local farms and merchants. It may be given the working class, farming population in the area more power or sway than they had previously held, and this influence could have changed some of the customs or planning in the area.
During lab on Tuesday, we loaded up various boxes of equipment, shovels, tarps, and buckets into the vans and headed over to the Waterford Mill site. Having finished gridding and clearing, we decided to divide into different teams, some beginning excavation and others doing surface grid surveys, while one team focused on mapping. My group of three began a new excavation trench, and after visiting the other excavation site to get an introduction on how to begin excavating, and checking out the trash pit, we headed back to the main area to pick our site. There were many possibilities in the area, including checking out structures or larger artifacts that are already uncovered but whose purpose we are unsure of. However, we ultimately decided to excavate along the lower wall that runs along the muddy area next to the river.
Our 1×1 meter trench will allow us to uncover more of the wall, and we will hopefully find some artifacts that gathered at the bottom of the site area but were kept from washing into the river by the wall. We had to set up the corners of the trench and do some triangulation to make it as regular as possible, and then we could begin clearing the surface of leaves, sticks, and rocks. We also had to sketch out the surface of the trench and fill out an excavation form, bagging the different artifacts we found. Since we only did the surface layer, we only found a few air-gun pellets, but hopefully once we start peeling back the layers, we will find some more interesting finds. Despite the rain and the cold, we made decent progress on the site, and will be able to get much further in the next lab now that we have set up the trench.
On Tuesday, we started by heading out to the site of the Waterford Mill to do some site clearing, gridding, and sketching. Getting to the site itself is a bit tricky, as we crossed the highway, slid down a short hill, crossed the railroad tracks, and then made our way through brambles and bushes to reach the site. Comprised of several low walls that lead right up to the water, ranging in hight from less than a foot to over six feet, the site was overgrown and covered in debris. We split into different teams in order to start preparing the site. Some people moved slash and began to clear the site, while others began to record different features and sketch the site itself. My team of four focused on beginning to lay out grids. This meant using a compass to get our bearings and make sure our grids were true squares, and then deciding on an anchor point from which to start. Once we had this, we began snaking our tape measure between trees and through bushes, marking with a flag every five meters and working on an x and y axis. We managed to get 20 meters marked along the water and 15 meters moving perpendicular towards the highway, and finished marking 5 meter increments going perpendicularly up to 15 meters of the 20 meter stretch. It took us a while to figure out what we were doing, but once we had settled into a rhythm, it became much faster.
This was a very interesting experience because it showed how much work may be necessary just to prepare a site before doing any kind of survey or excavation work is possible. It also required a lot of coordination and teamwork to work the tape measure through the bushes and up walls, and we also had to make sure we were being careful of where the clearing team was and what they were doing. We didn’t want to get in their way, and we also didn’t want to accidentally get hit. We were also faced with the issue of trying to get nice grids when you have steep slopes or walls that fall in your grid, and how to try to measure even grids accommodating them. Overall, it was a very productive day, and very informative as well.
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.