More Artifact Analysis and Checking – June 4th, 2019
Today’s lab was very similar to last week’s. We looked through the last few bags and entered information about those artifacts into the spreadsheet. We then went through the previously catalogued bags, in order to check that they had been entered into the spreadsheet. To our surprise, some of them hadn’t been.We don’t know exactly how this happened, and wondered if there had been some miscommunication between the two different lab sections on what boxes were for finished bags and which ones were for unfinished bags. It is also possible that the bags were catalogued, but we were just unable to find them within the spreadsheet. I was very confused by the spreadsheet today-when I looked at the section for Trench 1, Context 3 (which I worked on last week), instead of starting at lot 1, it started at lot 7. I don’t know how or why this got changed, but after consulting with Elise, I changed it back. I also noticed that the lots for Trench 1, Context 2 started at 7, went to 14, and then started back over at 1 and went to 9. In general, it seems like having 30 people work on one spreadsheet at the same time isn’t working well and is creating issues with the lot numbers. I wonder what other methods are out there that might better suit our situation?
I also have been wondering about what happens to the artifacts now. Do we just throw them in the space in the new science building and forget about them? I know we are creating final projects as a final output of all our work this term, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve actually reached an ending point on the artifacts. Perhaps that means there isn’t ever really an “ending point” when it comes to artifacts, but this does seem like a weird point to be leaving it at.
Artifact Analysis – May 28th, 2019
Today, we worked on artifact analysis and interpretation. Specifically, Anya and I worked together on separating the artifacts from Trench 1, Context 3 into different lots and entering descriptions about them into the class spreadsheet. We recorded a total of 37 different lots, consisting of groups of ceramics, glass, metal, plastic, leather, shells, pearl, bone, rubber, charcoal, and a couple lots labeled as “other” because we were unable to identify the exact material. For some of the larger metal lots, we estimated the total number of pieces instead of counting exactly, since it would have been impractical to count roughly 250 assorted pieces of metal. We were able to identify or make guesses at some of the artifacts; for example, we were able to identify buttons, bottle caps, and bullet casings, as well as being able to guess that some of the artifacts used to be part of objects such as beer bottles, cans, or glasses.
However, there were other artifacts where we had no idea what they were. For all of our artifacts, we were unable to identify a possible chronological range. This might have been possible if some of the pieces had had markings or brands (as I saw in some of the artifacts I learned), but none of these did. It is interesting to think about what type of analysis and dating would be possible if we had access to radiocarbon dating or other dating methods. As it is, it is quite difficult to find chronologies for these artifacts.
Artifact Cleaning and Analysis – May 21st, 2019
In this week’s lab, we stayed inside the classroom and cleaned the artifacts we have found in the field over the past few weeks. Julianne and I started with cleaning off the remnants of the shoe we found last week. We brushed off the shoe with toothbrushes and other brushes, and pulled off the roots that were attached to it. We even found a couple worms on it that somehow managed to survive! We also cleaned off a few pieces of glass, some ceramic pieces, some shells, and pieces of metal, all from different bags. We looked up some of the lettering we found on the bottles, and discovered that we had a root beer bottle and a glass bottle that we believe used to hold mouthwash. We also learned that one of the glass pieces we had used to be an insulator for power cables.
Beyond these facts, we didn’t do any analysis or interpretation of the artifacts. We were also just randomly looking up what things might be, without paying attention to which site they came from. I am interested to see what we will learn once we start examining the artifacts within the context of where they were found, instead of just trying to figure out what they are (which is fun too, but not the point).
Waterford Mill Building 2 Survey and Site Clearance – May 14th, 2019
In today’s lab, I was part of a group that looked at Building 2, a site a bit away from the main gridded area. Along with Anya, Julianne, and Brendan, I helped try to figure out what was going on at this site. We did some site clearance in order to get to what may have been the corner of the building, and then spent some time trying to figure out what exactly was there. Brendan also followed the wall for a while to try to figure out where it ended. We still don’t have a great idea of where exactly the lines of this old building are, but we have a slightly better idea that we did before starting, and the site is also clearer which will make further investigation easier.
Anya and I also performed a survey collection of a small portion of the site. We placed a stake with a flag attached to it down in an area that appeared to have a high density of artifacts on the ground. We then measured out a two meter wide radius around the stake, creating a circle with radius 2 meters and the original stake and flag as the center. We spent some time surveying the area and collecting artifacts of interest. There were a lot of plastic bottles and old, rusty metal cans, none of which we chose to collect. However, we did find three ceramic pieces, some small shards of metal, and a few pieces of glass (one of which was patterned, and looked to be part of a drinking glass or bottle). Most interestingly, we found an old, leather shoe (in several pieces). We are unsure if we have all of the pieces of the shoe, since it had decomposed and was scattered around a portion of the overall area. However, we did find a few pieces of leather, the sole of the shoe, two rusty nails that may be part of the shoe, and a metal piece with holes in it that may also have been part of the shoe.
We talked a little bit about how old the shoe might be, and noticed that it appeared to be made entirely of leather, and also had at least one nail in it. There were also a couple of other nails found nearby that may have been originally be part of the shoe. These attributes of the shoe made us believe that it is likely fairly old, since people didn’t have full leather shoes with nails in them in any recent time period. However, it is possible that the nail in the shoe was not there as an original attribute of the shoe, and the two nails found nearby may have had nothing to do with the shoe. Maybe the shoe got impaled with a nail, and was subsequently thrown out and that’s how it ended up with all these other pieces of trash in our mill site? I would be very interested in seeing what else we can find out about this shoe in the analyzing part of our lab. Once we clean the dirt off it, will we be able to tell if the nail was part of the construction of the shoe, or if it came later? What does that mean within the context of the building?
Picture of the sole of the leather shoe, with the nail visible
Picture of patterned glass shard
Picture of corner of overall site (Building 2)
Waterford Mill Excavation – May 7th, 2019
In today’s lab, we continued our excavation of the Waterfold Mill Site. I worked on excavating our second site, a square set along what used to be the wall in G10. We dug in the square with trowels and put the loose dirt into a bucket, which we then sifted and removed any material culture. We found a bunch of small metal shards, a few nails, a few pieces of glass, something that may be a leather strap, and a couple ceramic pieces. There were also a bunch of small and large rocks in the trench. We removed the smaller, loose rocks, but dug around the larger rocks in order to make sure that there was no material culture associated with them. I think that it is likely some of these larger rocks were part of the wall, since we were digging right up against the old wall, and the large rocks resembled those that were in the parts of the wall still standing.
We did not seem to make much progress on excavating the trench, even though we were digging for the better part of two hours. I started wondering about how long it actually takes to excavate a site, since I believe that I lack a strong understanding of how much work actually goes into excavating such a small area. In addition, I started thinking more about what we are going to be able to do within the time constraints of this class. If we only have about four weeks left, and at least some of those need to be spent analyzing the artifacts we did find, are we going to be able to excavate this site to a point where we can actually gain some knowledge about the types of things that happened here? Furthermore, what exactly are we looking for? What questions are we trying to answer, and perhaps more importantly, what questions do we have the time to try to answer?
Waterford Mill Grid Collection – April 30th, 2019
On this week’s rainy lab day, we went back out to the Waterford Mill site and performed a survey of a couple of the previously laid out survey units. My group surveyed F12 and F13. F12 is in the corner of the wall of the mill site, with the edges of the survey unit extending beyond the wall. F13 is beyond this unit, closer to the railroad tracks. We spent ten minutes on each survey unit, beginning with F12. In F12, we found a large metal piece that was too large to remove from the ground, accompanied by some smaller metal pieces and a medium sized rounded piece of glass. We also found a lighter, five small blue plastic pieces, two aluminum cans, and a rusted metal can/cup. After searching in F12 for the full ten minutes, and recording our findings, we moved to F13.
After moving around the wall and into F13, we discovered that the previously placed flags for F13 did not appear to be placed correctly. The flag that should have formed the upper left corner of F13 should have been on a parallel line going from the leftmost corner of F10, F11, and F12. Instead, it appeared to be equidistant from the flags forming the upper left and right corners of F12. The two flags that should have indicated the upper corners of F13 created a slanted parallelogram that was not a square. Instead of surveying this unit right away, we got a tape measure and compass and redetermined the flag positions for F13. We did not correct the rightmost flag for G13, or the flags for H13, so it is possible that these also reflect inaccuracies.
In F13, we found five large, skinny pieces of metal that were very long. We were very curious about what these might have been, and one guess was that they had something to do with the construction of the railroad tracks, since we were fairly close to the tracks at this point. We also found a chip bag and piece of garbage, but chose not to bag anything. The chip bag seemed unimportant, and the pieces of metal were too large to collect.
Waterford Mill Site Survey – April 23rd, 2019
For the first time, our lab group went out to the Waterford Mill site, our potential project site for this class. I was part of a group of four people that were in charge of laying out the grid and creating survey units. In order to accomplish this, we needed to map out five meter by five meter squares across the area of interest. We placed our first flag along the very edge of a rock ledge, and used the ledge as one of our axes. We then took a bearing on that ledge, and laid out a tape measure for about 15 meters going in that direction, and placed flags on stakes at five meter increments. That line of flags served as our x axis. After placing those flags, we took a bearing 90 degrees off the first bearing, and laid out a tape measure for about 15 meters perpendicular to the first line of flags. We placed flags at 5 meter increments along this tape measure as well. We then repeated this process along some of the other flags placed on the “x axis”. In some cases, this involved walking around the wall, since our survey units extended past that feature. We also checked the sizes and angles of our survey units by checking the bearings of the 10 meter flags that were 5 meters away, and they appeared to be accurate.
It was slightly difficult to get completely accurate measurements, since the plants and trees made it difficult to get the tape measure completely flat to the ground. In other areas, this was completely impossible due to the topography. I have included a diagram of the flags we placed, even though we did not finish laying out the grid.
Fieldwalking – April 16th, 2019
This week, we surveyed a section of the Cowling Arboretum. I was part of the first group of people, which surveyed the more open portion the site. We surveyed three different units, but did not find any material culture at all. I was in charge of holding the bags for collecting the artifacts and I also helped with the mapping of the sections surveyed. Since we did not actually find or collect anything, I spent most of my time with the mapping. As units were surveyed, two other people in my group placed flags at the corners of the units. I took photos while standing at each of the flags, so that we could later use the photos to obtain the coordinates for the flags. I also recorded the times that I took the photos for each unit, so we would later be able to match the photos to the different units.
I found it interesting that we surveyed much more overall land, and had less vegetation to deal with, but we still found no artifacts, compared to the other group in our lab section, who found many different artifacts. Since we’ve been reading about sampling techniques, and about how sometimes only some of the units are actually surveyed, I started thinking about how often units that have many artifacts aren’t surveyed, just by chance.
Visit to Rice County Historical Society – April 9th, 2019
For this week’s lab, we visited the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault, MN. The museum was smaller than I expected, but had many artifacts from the prehistoric, archaic, and historic time periods. We were initially welcomed by Susan Garwood, the director of the museum. She showed us a topographic map of Rice County, and told us about the glacier formations over the county. We learned that the glaciers did not completely cover Rice County, but instead covered the western part of the county. As a result, the western part of the county has many more lakes, while the eastern portion is drier and has more hills.
Susan Garwood also told us a story about a donation of bison bones found in Rice County, which people were initially surprised by, since the prevailing theory suggested that there would be no bison in Rice County. However, they later discovered many more bison bones in the southwestern portion of the county. She also told us about a previous report of burial mounds in the county, which have now been proven to instead belong to animals. I thought it was very interesting how often people misinterpret discoveries, or use them to correct previous misconceptions. This created a lot of uncertainty for me—how many theories are there that we currently believe, but are actually incorrect? How long will we believe them before some discovery leads us to reexamine those ideas?
After hearing from Susan Garwood, we wandered around the museum for a few minutes. I looked at the different arrowheads and stone tools that the museum had on display, and read about how practiced archaeologists can tell which points were used for different tasks. I wondered how many—if any—of these stone tools were incorrectly classified. It seems as if it would be so difficult to correctly identify what everything was used for, there are bound to be some mistakes somewhere. This visit made me think more deeply about the techniques and skills that go into identifying and classifying artifacts, along with allowing me to recognize their limitations.