In lab last Tuesday we visited the Rice County Historical Society to meet with their executive director, Susan Garwood. During the visit, I felt an overwhelming appreciation for how local community’s are able to document and record their own history of place. I felt that this was an important framework to situate myself within as I continue to pursue archaeological fieldwork, especially in our specifically local-historical context of Carleton. As I watched Susan gloss over a topographic map of the county I was astounded by how big it seemed, how full of possibility this rural piece of Minnesota was in regard to its capacity for human habitation. Everywhere becomes a marvel of human development, pre-history to present, when thought of in the longview. I appreciated how immediately situated the layers of Rice County civilization lay on top of one another, condensing the exhibit into a curatorial representation of the actual topsoil from which archaeologists work– dioramas representing temporal progression from hunting and gathering to World War II, layered one next to the other in a beautiful and immersive palimpsest of culture.
The visit made me wonder how archaeologists select sites when the entire globe has potential for information, and how some prehistoric narratives might be harder to reconstruct based off of how condensed a region’s modern civilization may have developed on top of its older ones. Why isn’t Rice County rich in Petra-like marvels? Did the peoples living here not have the capacity to build such sites, or did they simply engage in an alternative material culture that doesn’t conduce as easily to archaeological examination? I felt really, really passionate to continue exploring the adventure of prehistory that remains undiscovered in our own backyards– this trip scaled back my Indiana Jones ambition in a positive way.