Hank Aldridge

Week 2: This week, we went to the library to look at the Carleton College Archives. These are special resources that are kept by the college, most of them very old. We had to handle everything very carefully, again because of how old everything was. He even had to wear those special blue, stretchy gloves one can’t help but fidget with. I’m pretty sure this was to stop germs from infecting everything or something, but then again, perhaps it was to keep the oil from our fingers off of such artifacts as old newspapers or yearbooks, of which there were surprisingly many and I imagine the oily hands would smear the ink. At least that’s why I think we had to wear them; I did not bother to ask.

Anyway, I was certainly interesting to look at all these old items, some of which were clearer than others about what information they held. Again, since the Archives are mostly records, a lot of the research one would do with these would just be a lot of reading. But whereas the yearbooks, and encyclopedias and such have labels/titles on them, one might be more puzzled by the random scraps of paper with little notes written on them. There’s no date, no name, no nothing. This is a different, but very important as I am to understand, aspect of archaeology that one does not see in the Indiana Jones films for instance, then again, maybe that was the point seeing how separating fact from reality was a major theme in last week’s discussions.

Week 3: It rained again this week, but that did not stop us from setting out to do some actual fieldwork. Despite the rain, we did manage to get some legitimate surveys done, we split everyone up by ten meters and walked in straight lines, while picking up artifacts that fit into the categories of ceramic, glass, plastic, metal and bricks. We also had to record on a little piece of paper the number of items we found in each category, which I sadly do not remember. There was surprisingly a lot of brick. Before I talk about what I found, I do find it worthwhile to bring up that Alex did have us include an Other category. My initial reaction was, “How can we have an other category? With that, couldn’t we just pick up everything we see? ‘A blade of grass! Put one for the Other category!'” Alex explained that a key part of surveying is knowing what’s worth recording and what’s just a waste of time. Basically, only take note of stuff that shouldn’t be there. Now, you may think that this would be child’s play, like I did, but alas, I found a bone, a full bone, and became incredibly excited. I thought it was a remarkable find, which is why I was so shocked to find out that no, it’s actually pretty common and also natural, so it does not interest us. As for what I did collect, again, there was a lot of brick, which leads me to believe that something used to be built here, but also many broken bottles and cans. I wish I could have taken my time a bit more but after a while the rain started coming down even harder and we had to leave because peoples’, or at least my, hands were going numb.

Week 4: This week we had our first trip to the ‘Mill’. I say this because at first glance, or even tenth glance really, one would have no idea this was supposed to be a mill. I understand that it has been destroyed and all but it should really be called the Waterford Rectangle: a ten-foot or so tall wall that traps a pit of mud next to the bank. No matter, I spent this lab period helping to digitally document the landscape with the GPS staff…which in hindsight may have been a bad choice seeing how I am absolutely terrible with technology, but I digress. I must admit, I do not have much to report on, since of the lab periods we have had so far, this one I learned the least from since my focus was mainly centered on pushing the correct sequence of buttons.

Week 5: I was back on GPS duty this week. We went back to the Mill and somehow I got back on GPS duty. Oh well. At the very least, now that I had the rhythm pretty down, I could pay more attention to what was going on around me. Additionally, this week’s lab gave me more of a sense of what it felt like to be in an archaeological team. You see, last week, everyone was kind of off doing their own thing; the only interactions happened within everyone’s group, so it seemed. This week, there was significantly more exchanges going on between the groups, which I started to notice when a member of the mapping crew (whose name escapes me) had to converse with us, the GPS crew, to make sure that everyone was on the same page. I guess this does make a lot of sense; in the real world, people do not just dig, dig and write it down…dig, dig, write it down…there’s a large process of mapping out the area, recording the artifacts, and other jobs that have to be conducted during the excavation so that everything runs smoothly and quickly.

Week 6: This week, it rained yet again. Unfortunately, the rain was to dangerous to spend two hours outside in it, so Alex decided that our time would be better spent sorting/cleaning the materials we have collected. I did mostly cleaning, which at times was really difficult considering how long some of these items had been laying in the dirt before we collected them. We had to be especially careful with the pieces of broken glass and the rusty metal. One object I remember, though I still have no idea what it was, had to be cleaned with a team effort, not because the filth was difficult to get rid of, but because the object itself – whatever it was – was so very thin that the water from the sink could rip through it, and we wanted these artifacts to be as close to their found condition as possible, besides the filth. Some of us also took to draining the bags after putting an artifact back in the bag only to realize that it was now dirty again. When an object had been washed, we would start sorting it into a proper bag. Alex said we were doing a good job, but I still felt like this was just busy work. Hopefully the weather will clear up next week.

Week 7: After last week, I was glad to get back outside on an actually pleasant day. I was also glad that I would not be operating the GPS anymore. Not that there’s anything wrong with the GPS, but it was nice to have a change. This time, I joined the excavation crew and spent the majority of my time digging trench 2, but very meticulously. You see, the whole point of excavation is to find items beneath the surface, and if you only dig straight down, you’re not going to have a wide enough section of ground to actually find anything, you’re just going to make a hole that you can even see or eventually reach down. So we all had to pay close attention to the walls of the trench, making sure that we were not letting them get too slanted. We had to constantly cut along the walls to make sure they stood as straight up as possible. We did not find to much…rocks, mostly. I did get the chance to operate this table-like sifting device, upon which one would place all the dirt we collected into the bucket while someone else (me) shook the surface back and forth until all the soil fell through the gaps in the filtration net leaving behind only the debris that we were actually interested in, as well as a few above average sized pebbles. My big takeaway from this week is that I need to get one of those sifters for myself because it actually provides a pretty decent arm workout.

Week 8: So I’ve excavated, I’ve done the GPS…twice, now I’ve officially done mapping too. I feel so accomplished. Anyway, I helped Miyuki map out the Waterford Mill as well as looking over the feature forms to look for any mistakes. Since I have no artistic ability whatsoever, we agreed that Miyuki would be a better pick to draw the site while I took pictures to document all the important features. Granted, I am not much of a photographer either, but I was not about to just do nothing, so I guess I settled for the slightly better of my two inabilities.

Week 9: As the term is coming to a close, we now have to start sorting everything out, getting everything finished, making sure that everything is in apple pie order. This may prove to be a bit of a challenge because in all the hassle of trying to get things done, it would seem that a lot of people had slightly different conceptions about how to label the bags. Because of this, their was much confusion between us over what goes where and whether something was a repeat or not. By the end, however, we did manage to get a significant amount of work done. Next week should not be so bad.

Week 10: So it took much longer than expected, but we did finally finish up the spreadsheets. For some reason, very few people showed up to lab today, leaving us shorthanded and with similar difficulties as last week. The main problem this time seemed to be that the bag numbers were very much mislabeled. Truth be told, I may have contributed to that; I seem to vaguely remember being confused about that particular aspect when we were labeling the bags several weeks ago, granted I was very tired, but now it seems that everything has been wrapped up nicely with a pretty bow on top. Hank over and out