Zobeida Chaffee-Valdes

Week 9:

Instead of attending the real lab this week, a couple of my group members and I went out to Waterford to conduct an interview with Ray Ozmun for our Oral History project. The interview itself went very well, and we got a lot of usable material for our documentary. Ray was extremely friendly and forthcoming with us, and I felt like it was a valuable use of our time. We learned so much about Waterford’s recent history and the community  there today, which is primarily agricultural and very close to Northfield.

Week 8:

For lab this week we spent time cleaning the artifacts we found in the mill. I found this to be a pretty relaxing task, overall. I intentionally picked bags with non-metal materials so that I could use water to clean them, which way much more satisfying since the change in the cleaned artifact was far more dramatic, and it had the added bonus of keeping MY hands relatively dirt free. I had a lot of glass and ceramics, not only from the mill site but from where we did our surface surveying at the beginning of the term.  A few of the bags I got were “mixed media” and contained objects made of multiple materials– these had to be re-sorted, and I did a lot of labeling and re-bagging. I thought this was a nice solo project that let me look at all the pretty plates and glass bottles we found.

Week 7:

The lab for 7th week was similar to last week, in that I was working on excavation in the same trench. I think there are very few differences, overall, though I was more comfortable with the process and found many more nails. I think the structure of the mill wall we uncovered is slowly being revealed, which is exciting!

This week we also worked more heavily on group projects. My group and I were able to arrange two oral history interviews for the coming weeks, which is gratifying because I wasn’t even sure we would find anyone to interview. We had a great time trying to come up with appropriate interview questions about the mill and our subjects’ experiences/knowledge of it, but we haven’t conducted any interviews yet so it is unclear if our questions are comprehensive enough. I’m a little worried about finding a common theme from these interviews to construct a short documentary from, and how to connect that with the mill project our class is working on currently.

Week 6:

This was the first week I was able to visit the Waterford mill site and do proper excavation. For most of lab, I was using a trowel to scrape off layers of soil and uncover the various artifacts and stones we found. This process also included a lot of pulling up and trimming roots. One of the issues I ran into was trying to dispose and pull up root systems without hugely disturbing the site itself. Similarly, knowing when to get rid of large rocks without compromising the integrity of the site was difficult. We were able to uncover a few inches and many pieces of rusty metal and screws in this lab. I also found a leather strap and a few chunks of ceramic, but we were not able to determine the purpose/original use of the ceramic pieces, which were often circular and hollow.

My favorite part of the process was probably sifting all the dirt we collected. It was surprisingly fast work, and shaking the screen was really fun. I found that most of the pieces we uncovered we recognized before the sifting action, though. I’m wondering if that is in part due to the relative young age of the site- maybe things hadn’t had time to break into tiny pieces, or were in general more intact/visible.

Week 5:

This week we had a few presentations about digital archaeological methods, specifically photogrammetry. We listened to two presentations on two uses of this technology: using it to map out and make digital replicas of large monuments(in Wales) and using the program to replicate smaller scale artifacts. I find this to be especially useful, as making 3D digital models and uploading them online can make detailed and interactive replicas of artifacts more accessible to a wider public, who cannot necessarily visit the museums or monuments themselves. It also allows for a rotational view of these artifacts, which you do not always get in museums, as they are behind glass cases.

My freshman year, I worked with Austin in his class Material World of the Anglo Saxons to create my own 3D model of a bronze square-headed brooch. The process of making the various skins (the photos had already been taken) was long, and I ran into many bugs, but the end result was pretty incredible. I can only imagine the issues you would run into when taking your own photos, with lighting and finding the right angles. Using a pottery wheel and your own rig would help solve this problem, and Austin gave us a demonstration of his own portable photogrammetry rig.

Week 4:

I missed lab this week, so I’m writing about the field trip we went of as a class on Saturday. We visited three archaeological sites: two mills and an old Native American settlement near Redwing. We also visited the Goodhue county historical society, and received a tour.

At the archaeological sites, we talked about the material remains we could still see. At the mills, we were limited to looking at the brick ruins (we were prevented from going inside due to bad weather and a no trespassing sign). There was very little in the way of material culture at the Native American settlement, though we did find a few lithics that showed evidence of being man made. We also found some animal bones, which was interesting. What we primarily talked about involved the history of natural processes in the area, and how that would contribute to the things found at these three sites, as well as the location of the sites themselves: why build a mill where it is, why settle in this field versus another one? The landscape and geology of Redwing made it the most heavily settled area in Minnesota pre-European arrival.

Week 3:

This week our lab got to do some field surveying in the northernmost part of lower arb. Our lab was divided into two sections, one to survey the relatively open left side of the path, and one to survey the forested right side. The section I was in was assigned the field. We counted off by five meters, and were able to complete a survey on three large sections of the field.  However, none of us were able to find any material evidence, despite the larger area we covered. We did find a snake, which was exciting.

The other lab group found a huge amount of material culture without having to look very hard. The forested ravine they were studying was apparently a popular trash dump– there were rusty cans, ceramics, beer cans, glass bottles, and many other things that I can’t keep track of. It was a really dramatic way to drive the point home that sometimes it isn’t about how closely you look, but where you look that matters the most with archaeology.

Week 2:

Our lab section on Tuesday was fortunate enough to get down to Faribault to visit the Rice County Historical Society before the big winter storm. The local historian showed us a range of prehistoric artifacts, but my favorite piece in the museum was the topographical map. The map was one of the first things a visitor saw when visiting the society, and displayed detailed information on the landscape of Rice County. Our guide was good enough to explain and point out on the map where most archaeological finds occurred– generally in the Western portion of the map, where there were an abundance of lakes. She explained to us that most Native American communities settled around the lakes themselves, as the Mississippi River was too large and rapid to be particularly useful. She also went into the history of the forestry of the region, and the presence of Bison– previously unthought to be in the region until a man found a large number of bones in the eastern portion of the county! These bones did not show signs of human interaction, but it would be interesting to pursue this research further, to assess some of the interactions between human activity and the environmental history of the region.