Week 2 lab, 4/9/19
During our lab period this week we visited the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault, MN, where we were given a brief tour of the society’s museum area. The focus of our visit was largely on the prehistoric past of Rice County, including the geological history of the region (related to us partially by a three-dimensional map) and the history of the Indigenous groups native to this area of the Great Plains. The historical society’s artifact collection included stone tools from the ancient Archaic periods and the later Woodland period, as well as more complex objects produced by the Mississippian culture, which despite largely being local to its eponymous river did extend down the Cannon enough for its artifacts to be present in Rice County.
I was extremely interested in the recent prehistory of the Rice County area which was revealed by the various stone objects, bison bones, burial mounds etc. which I both saw and/or heard about during our tour of the Historical Society. Cahokia and its associated Mississippian culture has long fascinated me, but I’ve never lived in a region which actually fell within the city’s reach. Even though (or perhaps because!) the Cannon River area was boondocks-upon-boondocks to Cahokia, the notion that there exists in the place where I currently live the material history of a people/group of peoples about whom far too little is known is really exciting to me.
Week 3 lab, 4/16/19
This week, we went into the Lower Arb to survey an area via field walking so as to both uncover aspects of the Arb’s material culture and gain experience in the sort of surveying we’ll be doing later this term. Our group split into two sections of equal size supervised by, in addition to Alex and Elise, one member charged with mapping the areas each group was to walk and recording a list of all finds discovered. Each member of a group stood five meters apart along a line and walked for about thirty meters towards a bearing chosen beforehand, cataloging all artifacts visible within six feet of them on either side. Our half of the group, charged with walking a sloping, forested area on the side of a path, found a large amount of material in the small gullies which wound down from the trail. I personally counted 59 broken, rusted cans, two pieces of a house’s gutter system, and the top of a large, broken glass bottle.
I really enjoyed the experience of field walking. It’s satisfying to have a simple and clearly-defined task which nonetheless allows one to, in a sense, discover for the first time a series of artifacts which likely haven’t been thought of since they were dumped (it was also nice to meet my beautiful spider friend, Little Dude). Perhaps the most useful result of this lab, besides the experience I gained and the small but real amount of knowledge which could be provided by our finds, was that it gave me access to a new lens through which I could look at my surroundings, one that considers the vast amount of evidence for my life and the lives of everyone around me that’s present both in the spaces that I frequent and the oft-forgotten places at the margins of my life, places like forested slopes near roads.