Loren Townsend

Week 9 – May 30

This week’s lab was all about artifact analysis, we had to sort and ID all of the artifacts we had discovered during our digs at the Waterford mill site. Before the lab I had not really grasped just how much effort has to go into sorting, it totally makes sense now that I have actually participated in cataloging the artifacts. If we were to just throw everything into bags and dump those bags into a closet it would be an unimaginable nightmare trying to find anything. This way if anyone needs to access some specific item, he or she could locate it on the google spreadsheet, and then would have all the necessary information to find the physical item in storage. It also blows my mind how much space our small amount of finds is taking up, I can only imagine the vast warehouses that must be needed to store finds from Petra, the Athenian Agora, or any other large scale dig site. Now that I fully appreciate the work necessary to cataloging artifacts, I cannot wait until the new archaeology lab opens in the new science building, it will be so helpful to have our own designated space where we can clean and store artifacts, and process discoveries.

Week 8 – May 22

This week I was working on feature forms, I was assigned to take notes on the garbage put excavation trench. Annie, Sam, Clara, and Emily were all working on excavation. I spend most of my time trying to draw as accurate and simple a map as possible, my goal was to draw something with enough detail to provide an accurate mental image of the area without adding so much detail that the map would become impossible to understand easily and quickly. It was very impressive to see just how many rocks had been excavated from the trench and scattered in the vicinity by the excavation teams. Some of the rocks were obviously man made, and were presumably used long ago in the mill’s construction, but there were still a lot of natural rocks and that surprised me. I was under the impression that rocky soil is especially bad for building on, but I was evidently wrong because this mill has lasted for a long time without any maintenance, and it appears to be built on some very rocky soil. I am not sure where I heard rocky soil was bad for building, it was just one of those random things I remembered and took for granted without checking for myself. Once I had finished sketching the map, I was able to help with the excavation. The trench had long since passed the surface trash layer, but we were consistently finding more artifacts as we dug deeper. Annie had a particular knack for finding artifacts, as she found 2 metal containers (vial/jar objects) and a metal pipe. We also found numerous bits of pottery which was surprising. I certainly did not expect to find those in this environment.

Week 7 – May 15

This week was supposed to be the lab session in which we cleaned and sorted finds, but because of inclement weather last week the schedule was flipped and so we got to sort the finds last week and this week we went back to the Waterford mill site. This week I worked with Clarissa Smith mapping the site. We started mapping the out wall on the river side of the site, but it became clear to us that a previous group had already mapped the ledge, but had just mislabeled it. So we moved on to mapping out the walls of the main area of the mill. Due to branches and thorns overhanging the wall, we were only able to get data points for the top of the wall on the North East side of the structure, but we got data points for the base of the wall along the North West and the South West walls. Before we could do the South East ledge we were called to map out the ruins of a wall found by Holland and MJ in the bushes. Holland and MJ measured the wall as being 39 meters long, and Clarissa and I took data points for every visible stone we saw. It was hard work getting the GPS system into place without letting it touch any branches. Mapping out just this small site has given me a lot of newfound respect for the untold days it must have taken to map a massive site like Petra, and there under a much more grueling sun. Gradually, as Clarissa showed me how to enter the data points, we began to move faster, and it was very satisfying to be able to look back at the ground we had mapped.

Week 6 – May 8

This week we were scheduled to go out and do another excavation lab, but unfortunately the weather prevented us from being able to actually go out so we reconfigured our schedule to make this week our cleaning and cataloging the finds week. I was partnered with Sam, and we started with Sam Wege’s team 1 unit 1 collection bag from fieldwalking in week 3. Sam had six pieces of glass, ten pieces of metal, two bits of brick, two bits of plastic, and one bit of concrete. Looking back at the survey unit form, Sam was on the edge of what we believed to a homestead, so his finds heavily leaning towards older building materials makes sense. Cleaning the glass, brick, plastic, and concrete was easy as we were able to wash them in a sink without fear of destroying the item. The metal bits were slightly more of a challenge, since they were so rusty we could not risk getting them wet for fear that the items would disintegrate under water. Sam was able to use a toothbrush to gently clean off the metal, that way we were able to clean them enough to expose any significant identifying characteristics without risking their destruction. I found a cool piece of glass that Sam was able to identify as an old glass bottle of the soda 7up, and Sam found a old Hamm beer bottle, but with a logo from over 10 years ago. Sam and I also were responsible for cleaning up the metal bits from excavation trench 2 context 3, unfortunately they were all so rusted we couldn’t risk washing them in a sink so we hand brushed them off. Sam then started working on cleaning the G12 sector of the grid’s finds, while I went to clean up the F12 metal cans. The cans were infested with ants, and it took me at least half an hour to clean them all out, I lost track of how many I had counted several times, but I know that I counted from one to 100 several times over. Eventually I just gave up and I flooded the bag in an effort to just get them all out at once, but even that didn’t work so I had to just continue patiently. It was cool to do the actual sorting of the finds today, I see now how this is such a huge and time consuming part of any archaeologist’s dig. The fun part is the actual excavation, but now that I actually had to participate in the cataloging I understand that  without today’s work, all the stuff we excavate is pretty much pointless because it would have just gone from being unrecorded in the ground to unrecorded in plastic bags.

Week 5 – May 1

This week, we began the excavation at the Waterford Mill site. In order to excavate a lot of different tasks needed to be completed; a few people were put on GPS mapping (adjusting the work of the team from week 4), my team of Me, Sam, and Miyuki were on collecting and documenting artifacts on the ground surfaces, another group got to start the actual excavations. Although some of this work had been started by the Tuesday lab and by the Wednesday lab during Week 4, this lab mostly served as the first real starting point for our excavation work at the site. My team worked in H11 and H13 of our excavation grid. Our group conducted surveys of two survey units and spent about ten minutes searching each for artifacts, then another five minutes to categorize all of our finds. Our first survey unit (H11)  was within the walls of the old mill, and though there was a good deal of leaf and branch debris covering this part of the site, the unit was relatively visible and easy to maneuver. In this plot, close to the entrance of the mill site after descending the path from the road and train tracks, our group found several shards of glass, a few pieces of ceramic, and a rusted metal mason jar lid, among other artifacts. All the glass was so uniform that it seems likely that it was from the same source, perhaps the glass we found is from the many windows visible in the pictures of the mill. After finding each artifact, Sam marked its approximate location in a sketch drawn on the survey form. Our second survey unit (H13) was located further up, closer to the railroad tracks on the other side of the mill wall. Because of the bushes, brambles, and tall grass, this unit was much harder to walk through and much less visible. Due to the low visibility we were much less successful in searching for artifacts. Most of the man-made objects we could find were more recent trash, we found only one piece of glass compared to the many more found in H10, we also found seven pieces of a shredded foam cup. The contrast between these two survey units demonstrated how different finds can be even when they are only a few meters apart. It was difficult to determine the function of a lot of the artifacts we found. We don’t really know the function of the glass in H11 was, from context and amount found we can guess it’s from the windows, but we don’t really know. And we only knew that the foam found in H13 was from a cup because Miyuki luckily found a larger identifiable piece underneath some leaves, if she hadn’t moved those leaves we wouldn’t have been able to tell what the purpose of any of the foam we found was.

Week 4 – April 26

This week was our first lab at the Waterford mill, which will be the topic of our class project for the rest of the term. The site seemed interesting, as I did not expect to be excavating actual ruins of any type, so the fact that some of the mill walls are still standing was a pleasant surprise at least for me. I was on the site clearance team with Holland, Sam, and Clara. So I did not get to participate in the gridding off and mapping of the site. Working on site clearance was fun and rewarding, although I probably shouldn’t have worn a dress shirt, I still enjoyed it a lot. The actual clearance required some physical effort as well as some problem-solving. We had to determine which branches we could move without disrupting the site significantly, and if we could move this branch, how could we go about dismantling it into manageable/moveable pieces. We were able to finish off the work of the Tuesday lab’s team, fully clearing the ground level of brush, thorns, and sticks/logs. It was very satisfying to be able to look at the pile we had made at the end of the lab. Towards the end of the lab session (last 15 minutes) Clara and I surveyed sector G10, and while we didn’t find anything easily dateable to the time of the mill’s operation, we did find a dated piece of ceramic (1993) and dozens of pellets from a B.B. gun. I cannot wait to continue surveying the mill next week!

Week 3 – April 17, 2019

At the beginning of today’s lab session, Professor Knodell familiarized the group with several pieces of equipment that we would use during our fieldwork session. Examples of some of these items include the item and feature recording sheets, the compass, and flagging tape. Next, we drove to the location to conduct the survey. Everyone first tested to see how many of their steps were equal to ten meters, then we divided into our two teams. By counting out the steps to ten meters we were able to accurately space ourselves My group (team 1) conducted a survey of two sections of the field, each 50m by 50m. Ali had flagging tape, so he marked off the sections for our group. Ali used his iPhone compass and camera to get accurate GPS coordinates of each sector. The rainy weather made it harder than it would have been, but we were able to get through the survey quickly and efficiently. In sector 1 most of what we found was expected trash and waste, but intriguingly Hank and Holland both saw on what appeared to be the foundations of a home or other building. We believe it was a building because of the incredibly high density of concrete and tile/brick building materials. Sector two had a lot less general material, we only had four bags for sector 2 (with five almost full bags for sector one), but Hank stumbled on a large amount of bones in sector 2. The bones were too varied and of different sizes to be from the one animal, but this could be a coyote’s garbage pile. I certainly did not expect to find anything, so it was super interesting to see the ruins of some old building, because it was raining and we had to move on we couldn’t stop to examine the ruins, but it would be interesting to go back and see if we could figure out more about the floor plan and what the building was used for.

Week 2 – April 10th

Unfortunately this week we were snowed out from going into the Arb, but on Tuesday (4/9) we went to the college archives and listened to Nat Wilson. Nat told us about the rice county historical society, after his presentation we got to look at various photos from the Rice county historical society. Then we were shown images and documents pulled from Carleton’s archives about the Carleton Women’s League Cabin. Nat’s presentation included information on other important archives in the area, as well as more general information on how to best utilize archives, keeping in mind that there is a large difference in funding for different archives. College or university archives present an unattainable standard for most private or local archives, and it is not fair to ask these smaller organizations to compete in terms of quality and appearance. Nat told us that some of the local, poorly funded archives have little to no documentation of their materials because of budgetary/manpower restrictions, so any research you might need to do consists almost entirely of just searching through boxes, hoping that you find something relevant to the topic of your research. I thought that of the things Nat showed us, I got the most out of the more mundane things. There was a series of correspondence between the women’s league cabin and Carleton college concerning some instances of unregistered use of the cabin. I really liked this glimpse into the minds and daily activities of these Carls from so long ago. These letters provided a unique glimpse into the day-to-day issues and lives of their authors. Another example of these glimpses into daily life would be the various checklists and grocery lists found. One of the grocery lists had a note on the bottom requesting that individuals using the house stop breaking off tree branches from the nearby trees and using them to cook food over the fire. This very ordinary piece of paper, asking for very mundane foodstuffs, contained a more real glimpse into the lives and issues of the cabin’s occupants than any of the photos we have, which presented a more curated view into their lives.