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.