On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, I traveled with my classmates to the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault, MN. There, we spoke with the society’s executive director, Susan Garwood, about the history, archaeology, and geology of Rice County. We learned about the development of Paleoindian and Native American stone tools, the geomorphology and glacial past of Rice County, and the life of Alexander Faribault, the man for whom the town of Faribault is named, among other historical information.
While I learned many things at the Rice County Historical Society, I was particularly fascinated with a story I heard about how Alexander Faribault sheltered some 200 Native Americans on his land after the Dakota War of 1862. When I walked around the museum, I found an 1882 map of Alexander Faribault’s land, produced by one of the Native American women he sheltered. I also found photos (and the gravestone) of Taopi, the Mdewakanton Dakota chief who was allowed to live on Faribault’s land with his people. Lastly, I found a portrait of Alexander Faribault himself, which was painted by Ivan Whillock. I hope to explore this period of Rice County history during the course and uncover the extent of Native American interaction with Alexander Faribault.
On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, I traveled to the Lower Arboretum to conduct an archaeological survey. My survey group was assigned to inspect a ravine and the surrounding hillside, which we soon discovered was a trash dump for farmers. Starting at the bottom of the ravine, I found multiple brown, rusted cans which were either cylindrical or square-like in appearance. The square-like cans had circular caps on them, which meant that they were probably used to contain some kind of liquid, such as water, oil, or paint. There were 9 cans in my immediate vicinity. As I walked up the ravine and continued my search, I could find no further evidence of material culture. When I concluded my search at the bottom of the hillside, I still found no signs of material culture. This led me to determine that the hillside next to the ravine had not been used as a trash dump by the farmers, who chose to deposit their trash in the steeper, more secluded ravine instead.
On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, I traveled to the Waterford Mill site with my lab section. Alongside three other students, I helped create the grids that organize the survey site into sections, which will be invaluable for later archaeological surveys and fieldwork in the course. My group used a bearing of 70 degrees to establish the x-axis for the grid, which ran alongside the edge of the wall that separated the top level of the site from the waterlogged lower level of the site. The length of the x-axis was 20 meters, and we marked every 5 meters with pink tape on a stake or a branch. The y-axis of the grid was perpendicular to the x-axis, at a bearing of 340 degrees. The length of the y-axis was 15 meters, and just as with the x-axis, we marked every 5 meters with pink tape. By the time our lab section ended, we had created grids for most of the site. I look forward to returning to the Waterford Mill site, completing the remaining grids, and getting started on conducting excavations.
On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, I returned to the Waterford Mill site and started performing excavations adjacent to a trash pit. Ali, Judi, and I used measuring tape, string, and stakes to create a 1 by 1-meter excavation trench. We constructed this trench next to the trash pit to see the stratigraphy of the pit and recover artifacts. After measuring the trench and delineating its boundaries with pink tape and strings, we began clearing its surface of any vegetation, rocks, and artifacts. We placed the artifacts we found in separate bags for classification and later analysis. Lastly, we began shovel shaving the surface of our excavation trench, unearthing and classifying some disparate artifactual remains.
During our time examining the excavation trench, Ali, Judi, and I found three types of artifacts: ceramics, metal, and glass. The ceramics we found seemed to be sherds of pottery, and the shards of glass we found seemed to be the remains of old bottles. Lastly, the metal we found was dark, corroded, and rusty. It came in many different forms, such as metal cords and sheets of scrap metal. Ultimately, further excavation must be conducted at the trash pit site to determine whether there are more types of artifacts present, as well as to uncover how the stratigraphy of the pit developed.
A view of our excavation trench:
On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, I returned to the Waterford Mill site and continued performing excavations in the trash pit. Ali, Wendy, and I used trowels to clear our excavation trench of dirt. We unearthed sherds of ceramics, shards of glass, various pieces of metal, and small shells. Aubrey stood next to the excavation trench, taking pictures of our progress and writing down detailed notes about the excavation.
Many of the artifacts we uncovered were more detailed than those we found on the surface of the site. The ceramics we found were more ornate, as many had a bright white coating on the surface. Two sherds of ceramics even had golden lines inlaid on their white surfaces. With regard to the metal artifacts we found, there were higher proportions of nails, screws, and wire as we excavated deeper into the trench. Many of these artifacts were found by sifting through the copious amount of dirt we had excavated. Lastly, we had great success in terms of uncovering glass artifacts. While working in her sector of the excavation trench, Wendy uncovered a complete glass bottle in good condition. While we were disappointed that we were unable to completely dig up the bottle, it was not cracked and was well-preserved. Thus, we hope to continue excavating the trash pit in the future. It is a site that yields valuable artifacts, artifacts that have varied in complexity as the stratigraphy of the trench has deepened. Ultimately, the artifacts discovered in the trash pit are valuable because they can tell us about how the workers at the Waterford Mill, as well as the residents of Waterford itself, lived.
A view of our deepened excavation trench:
On May 14, 2019, I returned to the Waterford Mill site and continued my excavation work. This time, however, instead of excavating the trash pit trench, I was assigned to work on the survey unit trench inside the mill itself. My group members at this trench were Aubrey, Zobeida, and Tanya. During the excavation, my main responsibility was filling out the excavation form for the trench and sifting through the dirt we collected. As my group dug deeper into the trench, I noticed that the color of the soil gradually changed. While the soil on the upper stratigraphic level of the trench was a dusty shade of brown, the lower levels of the soil were more black and rich-looking. Interestingly, the soil on the left side of the trench, which was adjacent to the south wall of the site, was browner than the other soil in the trench.
With regard to the artifacts our group excavated, most of the metal objects we found were nails and a few assorted bits of scrap metal. One important metal artifact we found was a modern-looking arrowhead that was wrapped in a coating material. Additionally, two components of a halved, rounded metal artifact, which we presumed to be the pieces of a fountain pen, were found. In terms of other artifact categories, there were only two pieces of ceramic artifacts recovered, as well as meager amounts of glass. There were, however, copious amounts of plastic BB pellets found, which matched the trends of previous excavations in the trench. Ultimately, I look forward to cleaning, analyzing, and categorizing the artifacts we found, as doing so will paint a clearer picture as to how the contents of the survey unit trench differ from those of the trash pit trench.
On Tuesday, May 21, 2019, my lab section ceased its excavation work on the Waterford Mill site and proceeded to clean the artifacts we had uncovered. This was an exciting time for everyone involved, as we finally got to examine the artifacts we had excavated in great detail. Judi and I formed a group and began cleaning off various ceramic and metal artifacts.
For the most part, all of the ceramic artifacts we cleaned were remarkably well-preserved. As we scrubbed the dirt off with water and paper towels, we found that the vast majority were covered in a beautiful, white glaze with various blue, gold, and red patterns around them. One half of a dinner plate we cleaned had an intricate pattern of blue flowers around its rim. However, a few ceramic artifacts we found without white glaze were much harder to clean, as dirt stuck to their rough surfaces.
With regard to the metal artifacts Judi and I cleaned, many of them were pieces of scrap metal, nails, and screws. They were far harder to clean than the ceramic artifacts, as using water on their old, rusted surfaces would make the artifacts decay even faster. Because of this, we used trowels and toothbrushes to scrape the dirt off of the metal artifacts. One of the most intriguing metal artifacts we cleaned, however, was an old tube of Colgate toothpaste. It bore the name “Bon Dental Crae,” presumably a misspelled or stylized form of “care,” which was written in red text. It also had informational, red-colored text on the back of the tube that proclaimed the brand’s effectiveness at removing acid from the user’s mouth. As my lab section continues cleaning and analyzing these artifacts, I hope to find unique objects, such as the toothpaste, that I can include in my final project’s exhibition. I want the exhibition to feature a broad range of artifacts that will demonstrate the archaeological complexity of Waterford Mill.
On Tuesday, May 28, 2019, I worked with my lab section to document and analyze the artifacts we had collected during our surveys and excavations at the Waterford Mill site. I specifically worked with Judi, a member of my final project group, who relayed information about the artifacts to me while I wrote them down on the Google spreadsheet.
Judi and I described, analyzed, and classified some unique and interesting artifacts. One group of artifacts we analyzed were three ceramic components of a “nail knob,” which was an insulating device for electrical wires. Nail knobs were commonly used in American households during the early 20th century, when electricity was becoming a popular commodity. The two larger components, which were circular, curved, doughnut-like caps, had the name “Brunt” emblazoned on them. After a bit of research, Judi and I discovered that the company that manufactured the components was the G.F. Brunt Porcelain Company. The company was located in East Liverpool, Ohio, and operated from 1895 to 1925. This find was so distinctive and unique that we decided to include the components in our exhibition for our final project. Additionally, we categorized the tube of Colgate toothpaste that was mentioned in my fieldwork journal for last week. We discovered that instead of saying “Bon Dental Crae,” the label on the toothpaste actually was “Ribbon Dental Cream.” While Judi and I considered including the tube of toothpaste in the exhibition, it was not found at the Waterford Mill, so we decided not to use it. Nevertheless, this was a good lesson for us both, as it taught us to critically judge which artifacts should and shouldn’t be included in our final exhibit.
Picture of the G.F. Brunt Porcelain Company’s nail knob components.
Picture of the Colgate Ribbon Dental Care Cream toothpaste.
On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, I concluded lab work with my section by documenting and analyzing artifacts that had not been cleaned. For most of the lab, I cleaned the dirt off of numerous assorted metal artifacts, most of which were nails or screws. The nails and screws had rusty, brownish hues and were of varying lengths. After I finished cleaning the metal artifacts, Judi entered data into the Google spreadsheet about their appearance, typology, and the like. Since we performed the same task the previous week, Judi and I were efficient at categorizing these artifacts.
As I ended my final day of lab work, I was thankful for how much I had learned and accomplished over the term. Prior to Spring Term, I had no archaeological knowledge or experience. I didn’t know what material culture was, how to conduct a gridded survey or an excavation, or how to classify artifacts. However, by the end of the term, I was able to establish survey grids, set up an excavation trench, use a trowel, and, most importantly, clean and identify different types of artifacts. I greatly enjoyed learning about archaeological theory and methods this term, and I can’t wait to see how my classmates incorporate these concepts into their final projects.