2021 Weekly Field/Lab Summaries

This page collects the weekly blog posts written by students over the course of fieldwork during the 2021 field season.

Posts appear in descending chronological order, with the most recent post appearing at the top of the page.

2021 Field Season (Wednesday Lab)

2021 Field Season (Tuesday Lab)

Week 5 (Wednesday Lab)

Week 5 (Tuesday Lab)

Week 4 (Wednesday Lab)

Week 4 (Tuesday Lab)

Week 3 (Wednesday Lab)

To start the week, the class was introduced to Scotti Norman, candidate for an archaeological teaching position here at Carleton College. She introduced us to her work as an archaeologist in the Andes Mountains of South America, specifically Peru. Much of our discussion revolved around the ethical aspects of her work and how she strives to conduct her work to learn more about ancient civilizations in the Andes Mountain region. This included how to work with natives, battling superstitions, respecting the dead and relics, and processes of excavating and moving artifacts for study. Following our visit with Scotti, Professor Knodell returned to the class to talk about our Google Tours/3D Mapping assignment. We were tasked with observing a historical site on Google Earth and observing what we notice about the site. Among the common themes was the issue of perspective. Observing the sites from the ground produced very different perspectives about the site than satellite imagery. A different perspective allows us to see different features not visible up close, the overall structure of the target site, and the relationship the site has with the environment. This led to the introduction of LiDAR imagery. Professor Knodell explained its significance and how it helps archaeologists develop another perspective by looking at elevation rather than color images.

The Tuesday lab conducted an archaeological survey in one of the fields in the arb. The survey consisted of two teams, each with a team leader to mark out survey areas spanning 50m by 100m. Inside each survey area were the other team members spaced 10m apart, walking in straight lines and surveying the surface of the ground to see if there were any objects to collect. Once materials were collected by the walkers, these items were recorded and sorted into labeled bags according to their categories. This process was repeated a total of three times. The Tuesday lab found mostly trash and debris from a farmhouse, far different results from the Wednesday lab group.

On Wednesday 3/14, we went out in the arb in order to practice what we learned about and put in practice what we knew of surveying. Specifically, the class of 10 was split into two groups of 5 with each group having 4 walkers and 1 leader to manage the walkers and record what they found. Each group, from henceforth called either group C or group D in order to respect the groups A and B of the Tuesday lab and mitigate confusion, surveyed a total of 3 50 M by 100 M survey units in transects with each walker spaced 10 M apart and expect to record or collect relics for a 2 M stretch around them (See 3/14 Survey units). This resulted in a total of 6 survey units called C01-C03 and D01-D03, with C01 being the Southeasternmost survey unit and D03 being the Northwesternmost survey unit. 

The area surveyed was the eastern edge of the cornfield directly to the east of the baseball fields and to the west of the driving range (See 3/14 Full survey area graphic). In the field, this area was estimated to be close to 30,000 M2 with a slightly smaller area due to D03 being unable to survey a debris mound in the Northwestern corner of the survey unit. This was determined by having the each team leader count out 100 M lengths for each survey unit by determining the length of their paces and extrapolating to accurately judge the length. However; when the known start and end points of the survey area were plotted on Google Earth, the total length of the area surveyed was determined to be over 400 M, more than an entire survey unit off of what was expected. We believe that this is due potentially to outdated satellite imagery from Google Earth, with the most recent images of the area dating from 2017 resulting in our endpoints actually being incorrect. The main points used to determine the end of the area in map view were the southernmost edge of the field, and the point where D03 had to stop surveying due to the debris mound. We believe that the Southern end of the field did in fact not change, making the debris mound the source of confusion with its size being many times larger than what is shown on Google Earth. 

After surveying the area, all relics were collected and categorized based on their material and the survey units in which they were found (See attached spreadsheet of objects). From the objects found, two notable conclusions were made about the area and it’s material record. The first was that the debris mound and the modern construction creating it were leaving a tangible record in terms of collecting together relics along with the felled trees and dirt that made up the mound with many settling down to the flat area around the mound. This is reflected in the unusually high number of objects found in unit D03 which bordered on the mound, and how they were of a more diverse material composition compared to relics found in the other survey units (See attached spreadsheet and 3/14 Survey units by total relics collected graphic). The second conclusion we reached was that the driving range across the road from the field was leaving a tangible legacy on the material record of the surrounding area including the field we surveyed. This was determined by the unusually high density of golf balls found and collected within the survey along with the especially high density of golf balls in C02, the unit closest to the range (See 3/14 Survey units by golf balls collected graphic). 

Among the objects collected, there was one anomaly which we were not able to find an explanation for. That was the presence of small white marine shells found in survey units D02 and D03. We were unable to determine the full scope of the presence of the shells because there was still the majority of the field left unsurveyed to the east of the units which contained the shells; however even the small presence of shells we collected could potentially tell a tale of the area. Because the shells were from animals that would not naturally occur in the area, and there were no signs of lithification, we believe that they are a relic left behind by humans in the area in the recent past. They showed unusually low amounts of damage and fracture for such delicate objects making them unlikely to have been around for more than a few years if even that long. The current hypothesis for their presence is their use of decoration at some sort of sea or beach themed event; however, there is no presently known record of such an event taking place in the area. 

Figure 1: A map of the full survey area
Figure 2: The survey area split into individual survey units
Figure 3: The survey unit map split by the number of general findings 
Figure 4: The survey unit map split by the number of golf ball findings 
Figure 5: Table displaying the number and type of objects found per survey unit 

Figure 6: Table displaying the number and type of
objects found per survey unit (continuation)

On Thursday, we were provided with the opportunity to ask Sarah Anne Kennedy (a candidate for an archaeological teaching position at Carleton) about her fieldwork experience and what she would be able to add to Carleton’s archaeology department. She eloquently explained her extensive knowledge of soil chemistry and her lengthy stint in Peru to study the population’s lifestyle during the Colonial period. After coming to Carleton, she hopes that she will be able to expand the Mediterranean-focused archaeology to include North and South American archaeology as well. Her first-hand experience with teaching in colleges and her endeavors across the Americas will certainly be an asset that Carleton could benefit from. 

Once the virtual visit from Sarah was complete, everyone proceeded to head to the archaeology classroom in Anderson Hall for the second half of class. Alex started with a lab recap for both Tuesday and Wednesday. During the Tuesday Lab, we established that there used to be some sort of building in that area through some helpful LiDAR data and the common occurrence of brick findings in that area. For the Wednesday lab, we concluded that it used to be a corn-field due to the abundance of dried maize spread throughout the field. Additionally, we didn’t find anything of interest, however, there were numerous golf balls spread throughout the eastern area of the field. This wasn’t a surprising discovery since the golf balls can be attributed to the driving range that resides past the highway on the eastern side of the field. To conclude the recap, we determined that all this information would be most valuable to people who would want to ascertain the land’s agricultural prospects and the value of the land to sell at a later date. 

After the recap, Alex showed the contrast in the old and new world archaeological approaches through his captivating fieldwork experience. With these examples, he further displays the different styles of surveys one might have to use according to the terrain and the environment. This was a good transition for a discussion revolving around the environmental constraints and the affordances that archaeologists have to consider during fieldwork. Some of these environmental constraints we conjured during the discussion include seasonality, weather, topography, accessibility, etc. Once we got a better grasp on the environmental constraints, we moved on to understanding the different elements of survey design. Alex showed a real-life example of how his team used Google Earth Pro to create LiDAR flight paths in Euboea to get a better insight into The Lelantine War that occurred in that region. The demonstration was very helpful and interesting as it gave us an opportunity to understand how mapping is done in a real archaeological setting.  Towards the end of the class, we tried to finalize an area for our archaeological survey next week as we would need to prepare for more mapping next week. 

Figure 7: Wednesday lab going through the field to find objects
Figure 8: A sample of survey bags from the survey conducted on the field

Figure 9: Alex and Sean going through the survey unit forms

Figure 10: The Wednesday lab group coming together to discuss the findings 

Week 3 (Tuesday Lab)

Kairah Foster, Emery John, Hannah Zhukovsky, Sam Zimmerman

The focus of this week’s lab was getting a sense of ground surveying and the techniques that go into doing it well. There are several aspects of surveying that ensure accurate quantifiable results, and most importantly, create a context for surface finds.

Before we headed into the field, we examined aerial images of the area, using Google Earth images and LiDAR scans. We were able to identify a potentially worthwhile location where we saw anomalous geometric patterns that looked similar to other known sites, like the Women’s League Cabin. We tentatively identified this location with a farm house that we knew used to stand in that field. With this information in hand, we gathered our supplies and headed into the snow.


The field we were surveying was of known agricultural use. Since being plowed several years ago, the field has been overgrown with thick grass which obstructs almost all ground visibility. That, coupled with the unusual weather conditions made finds, especially of smaller items that are less likely to poke up through the grass, exceedingly rare. 

           We segmented the field as shown in the image to the left. Two teams (A and B) split the field vertically. We lined up parallel to Spring Creek Road, and walked in lines perpendicular to it, facing towards the West. Each team’s complete survey consisted of three smaller areas. Both teams in all three units of the survey walked from east to west, or, in archaeological language, with a bearing of 270°. Each area was approximately 100 meters in length, with the exception of B03 and the very south western corner of A03, where both are truncated due to a wheat field. In total, the teams surveyed roughly 27000 square meters of ground. Unit section B03 is cut short due to a wheat field impeding on the survey area. B03 is not the expected 50 by 100 meter area, such as all of the previous survey units. The final western boundary, of section B03, is a curve that cuts off what would have been a 100 meter transect. This could have some implications for measuring the potential density of the field, but probably not due to the fact that almost every artifact was found in unit A01.

General Sketch of our Area to be surveyed

           The field sloped quite a bit. A01 and A02 constituted the top of a small hill which made its way down through B01-3. The slopes within the field did have an effect on line spacing and consistencies; some surveyors did find it tricky maintaining a straight line. 

             Maintaining as close to accurate distancing throughout the survey is crucial. In order to do so in a timely manner, each surveyor measures their strides against a twenty meter measuring strip, and divides by two to find an accurate personal number of strides/ten meter ratio. That process ideally was completed many times to ensure an accurate median average. Then, each surveyor can be trusted to measure their own two meter sections, maintaining the grid as shown above. This method is not perfect, especially in a sloped environment that can make stride lengths inconsistent. However, it tends to average out over the course of the units. Flagging tape was used in each corner of each unit to mark out the sectors. The units are kept to ten meters by one hundred meters maximum to ensure accuracy.  After each unit, the surveyors came together to discuss and tally their finds, based on type, i.e. brick, glass, or ceramic. Then the surveyors, using the flagging tape for reference, reconvene, reposition, correct their distances from each other, which ensures a fairly consistent grid, and begin the next unit. The longer the distance, the more likely variance is to occur, so repositioning after every 100 meter survey unit, is a correcting measure. Consistent measurements are crucial for determining context for artifacts and density for units. 

Team member L to RDistance walked (m)ceramictile/bricklithicsmetalplasticglassothernotes
Josh254B02: Iwire
Sophia270B01: IB01: 1 Concrete (not, too large)
Hannah280B01: IB01: 1 Concrete (not bagged, too large)
Emmy290A01: IA01: 6A01: 1
Sawyer300 A01: 4A01: 1A01: 5 concrete
Hannah300A01: 2A01:21A01: IA01: 7A01: 1 Rubber
Neil300A01: 5A01: 4 concrete
Hanah/Kairah300 (split)A01: 6A01: 2A01: 6 tiles or concrete 
Noah300A01: 9A01: 1
Data and Results: this table combines the finds from all six sections, taking into account the regions of original discovery

The vast majority of the finds were in A01. There were especially high quantities of tile and brick found, which is consistent with expectations and intuitions based on records and information of a since destroyed structure or farm house on that portion of the field. A good deal of assorted concrete was also found in A01 and (northern) B01, which further reinforced the hypothesized location of the farmhouse. There were few ceramic findings which perhaps point to a more modern and recent structure with modern trash disposal systems in place. 

In the up and coming lab, we will presumably analyze the finds and thus complete that vital aspect of the survey, which looks at the finds without the potential biases that location on site and in the moment can provide. 

The image above, as well as those below are meant to portray the very much varying weather conditions over the course of the survey. They also serve to display the density of the grass, making the ground visibility very poor almost all the way throughout. 

Above: The weather was overcast and snowy, with a surprise hail at one point. The unusual conditions were far from what we were expecting! The snow made it hard to accurately survey at times, as our hands felt frozen and numb from the cold. This did have a slight effect on visibility; when the snow was falling its heaviest, it was hard to see. But most times, group members did not have the physical ability to expose more of the ground due to the difficulty and harshness of our working environment and weather conditions. This image is looking due east, towards the initial starting point, parallel to the road. This also conveys the initial surveying line with the roughly ten meter spacing consistent throughout. 

Above: before beginning the survey of the second unit, the snow subsided, giving way to simply overcast, yet cold conditions. However, the grass was much  more dense in this section, worsening ground visibility. This image is looking due west, the direction in which all surveyors proceeded throughout each unit. 

By the time the surveyors began on unit 3, the snow had come to an end and the sun was out, nonetheless, us surveyors were still freezing. 

This image depicts Group A’s ample finds.

Image of Group A beginning to field walk.    A picture of a wire found by Group B.  

Overall, mostly in hindsight, the lab was a great experience, and the class got a valuable induction into what a general transect ground survey goes like. During the survey, students learned how to space out and divide the survey into units, and how to survey each unit accordingly. The class learned how to fill out survey forms, including things such as bearing in degrees, sketches, visibility, tallies of findings and bags, and other information. Students learned to make correlations between the materials found, where they were found, and what that relays about the history and occupancy of the space in previous times. And what felt most important, especially in the moment, the class obtained first person experience with the significance of weather conditions and environment type on survey findings. In that, not only was it difficult at times to maintain group morale, but due to harsh working environments, some things were most likely overlooked. Nonetheless, the class soldiered through about three hours of surveying which lent the experience of genuine hands on archaeological operations and methods. The class found some pretty neat things, and had a pretty cool time (literally) while doing it!

Here are some more pictures from our finds and snowy adventure:

Week 2 (Wednesday Lab)

Connor Jansen and Kalju Maegi 

           On Tuesday this week, we had the privilege of talking with Gina Buckley, a job candidate for Carleton’s archaeology department, about her research, pedagogy, and desire to teach at Carleton. Her work in Mesoamerican migration and isotope analysis of human skeletal remains to determine ancient diets was very interesting, as were her ideas about new classes at Carleton regarding North American and Mexican archaeology and the ethics of archaeological fieldwork. After Gina’s virtual visit we discussed the results of our garbology assignments and the objects of study in archaeology. Our discussion revolved around two questions: What does material culture tell us about the past? What work does material culture do in society? We thought about the relationship between objects and the people who use them and pondered whether objects are active agents in social relationships. These questions were challenging but will doubtlessly come up again as we continue our study of archaeology.

           This week’s lab constituted a tour of the Cowling Arboretum. Our guides included director of the arboretum Nancy Braker, who provided both a general history of the arb and predicated much of the information she presented upon an ecological perspective, and of course Alex and Sam, who were able to offer valuable archaeological insight throughout the course of the tour. We encountered several archaeological sites along the tour, including sites of previous excavation and those yet to be subjected to any recorded and/or systematic fieldwork. The multi-sited nature and interdisciplinary framework of the tour stimulated with efficacy a holistic comprehension of the archaeological history of the arboretum, serving as an ideal introduction to the term, as well as the “what” and “where” of our impending fieldwork. 

           We began our tour at the arboretum office to the immediate northeast of campus. After Nancy introduced herself, we proceeded north-northeast toward the ruins of the 19th-century Waterford Mill (fig. 2 & 3)–at which Alex, Sam, and MJ conducted archaeological fieldwork in 2019–on the Cannon River via an elevated dike (fig. 1). The latter feature was of note not only for its size and importance to the mill, but its prominence in the landscape and the archaeological relevance therein; while only faintly visible from a bird’s eye perspective on Google Earth or a conventional cartographic representation of the landscape, the dike provides a quintessential example of a site conducive to the employment of Lidar. Moreover, it is yet to be subject to a systematic archaeological excavation, marking it as a potential site for future fieldwork from which the archaeologist could elucidate themselves upon the processes through which the dike–and, by extension, other contemporaneous dikes and similar structures in the region–was constructed. 

           After discussing the mill and dike, we moved south back along the dike before diverting to a quarry site (fig. 4). Characterized by an abundance of discarded cans and bottles, the site has obviously been subject to human activity since it ceased operations as a quarry (fig. 5). Once again, the site’s history is devoid of archaeological activity, making it another candidate for future archaeological fieldwork. Such an endeavor has potential to reveal distribution networks of lithic resources in late 19th century Rice County (assuming the quarry was in use during this period) through the complimentary employment of both archival and geoarchaeological analysis, in addition to general quarrying processes. We subsequently ventured to the northeastern edge of the arboretum, culminating at Waterford Bridge (fig. 6), built in 1909 (fig. 7) and now closed to traffic. Next, we proceeded south to the Women’s Cabin (fig. 8 & 9). Interestingly, both the Tuesday and Wednesday lab group encountered (presumably) Northfield residents at the site (fig. 10); further, in each instance, the individuals in question seemed to have ventured to the site in an endeavor for isolation. It could be said, then, that the site occupies a sort of juxtaposition between publicity and seclusion; it is somewhat paradoxically widely recognized as a destination to be alone, or at the very least isolated from authority. This dynamic between people and space is not far removed from the original functions of the Women’s Cabin itself, when female Carls desired a space that was undeniably for a collective–albeit a concentrated one–yet removed from the male-dominated general student population. The site was subject to fieldwork conducted by Carleton in 2015, but an updated survey may prove interesting, particularly as the site has experienced a high degree of traffic in the years since its excavation. 

           After we finished our discussion of the Women’s Cabin site, we turned back southwest. On the way, we stopped at a cornfield, the former site of a farmhouse. Apparent roof tiles, brick fragments, and pieces of concrete were visible on the surface, likely brought up from the ground by processes during the winter freeze and spring thaw. Our tour concluded just to the east of Goodhue Hall at the site of the former World War II veterans’ village, otherwise known as Pine Hill Village. Excavated by Carleton in 2017, the site housed World War II veterans and their families as they attended classes at the college. Much of the site lies on what is now a heavily trafficked sporting field, rendering a more thorough excavation relatively unviable. 

           The arboretum tour was of genuine value, if anything as a member of the Carleton community let alone as an archaeology student. Alex, Nancy and Sam provided us with a succinct yet thorough overview of the history of the arboretum, while also guiding us through a handful of potential fieldwork sites, giving added pertinence to the excursion. In short, the tour set the foundation for informed archaeological fieldwork later in the term.

On Thursday, we recapped our adventures in the Arb and started talking about documentary archaeology, which combines archaeological findings with documentary records (including pictures, textual sources, and oral histories) to enrich our understanding of the material culture under investigation. Our assignment for the week was to research a place of historical and archaeological interest in or around Northfield, and we spent part of class talking about what we learned and contemplating how to engage with the documentary record for these sites. Common places included buildings on Carleton’s campus, historical buildings in Northfield like the Archer House and the First National Bank, and mills in the Cannon River Valley. In thinking about documentary archaeology in relation to our local sites, we learned about digital and physical archives and common locations in which we could find helpful textual and visual sources like libraries, museums, government offices, and local historical societies and institutions.

Pictures below! 

Fig. 1: A footpath now lies upon a late 19th century dike running perpendicular with the Cannon River, meeting the water where the Waterford Mill once stood. 
Fig. 2: Site of the former dam at Waterford Mill. The dike noted above meets the river at this point. 
Fig. 3: A concrete remnant of the dike for the Waterford mill. The Cannon River is visible in the background and the slope leading down to the left indicates the dike’s height.
Fig. 4: Wall face of a probable quarry site. Relatively geometric cuts in the material indicate human activity. 
Fig. 5: Old metal cans and a bucket or pail at the site of a probable quarry. The mossy rocks surrounding the metal refuse could be small pieces blown off by dynamite.
Fig. 6: The Waterford bridge in the northeastern corner of the Lower Arb. The bridge was built in 1909 by the Hennepin Bridge Company and is closed to use today.
Fig. 7: Epigraphic description of the Waterford Bridge, including its year of construction and commissioner. 
Fig. 8: The path leading to the Women’s League Cabin site in the Lower Arb. The remains of stone steps and stones framing the approach can be seen.
Fig. 9: The most conspicuous remnants at the Women’s Cabin site is this former fire pit. 
Fig. 10: Directly adjacent to the Women’s Cabin site, the fresh wood in the fire barrel, recently picked flowers at the base of the tree (center, background), freshly cut inscription in the tree, and abraded dirt ground speak to the site’s continued use. 

Week 2 (Tuesday Lab)

Noah Eckersley-Ray, Emmy Belloni, & Hana Horiuchi

For our Week 2 lab, we bravely ventured into the Arb with MJ as our guide, with the goal of visiting several of the spots of archaeological significance, particularly those investigated during the previous instances of this class. This lab consisted of a lot of walking and getting to know our classmates as we began to further expand our idea of what archaeology on Carleton’s campus has looked like in the past and will look like for us in the future.

Our first stop was the Waterford Mill Site, located along the Cannon River. As we learned in previous readings for the course, the Northfield area was a hotspot for milling, thanks to the presence of the river. This particular site is one of two mills in the area. It consisted of both a mill and a dam, and operated from 1874 to 1905. We were able to see some of the remaining structures, most of which were made from stone. We briefly discussed the nature of the 2019 dig at the site, notably the fact that while parts of the structure are in the river, the dig was entirely on land.

We briefly paused to admire the Waterford Bridge from afar and take a much-needed break. The bridge is one of the oldest bridges still in use in the area since many of the other historic bridges have been demolished due to the fact that they were unsafe. While the road now goes over a newer bridge, the old Waterford Bridge is still open to foot traffic.

Waterford Bridge

Our third stop was the Women’s League Cabin. The cabin stood on the eastern edge of the Lower Arb and was built in 1938-1939. We made our way to the sign describing the cabin and were told about the cabin’s history on campus. At first, the cabin served as a retreat for female students to get away from campus life; then, in the 1970s the Outings/Natural History Club took over control of the cabin which then served as a spot that students could reserve for various events. In the late 1990s, the cabin was destroyed. Gone but not forgotten the archaeology methods class excavated the cabin in 2015. After learning about the cabin we ventured into the woods to see the actual location of the cabin.

Moving on from the Women’s League Cabin we crossed into the Upper Arb to Nelson Farm behind the Hill of Three Oaks. After a break, MJ told us about the different field walking methods that we will deploy this term. While we didn’t actually do any field walking we were able to envision what it would look like. 

On our way out of the arb, we stopped at the site of Pine Hill Village, a Carleton-installed housing complex for returning World War II veterans and their families. We learned that the village was built behind the current Goodhue Hall in 1946 and consisted of 46 housing units. Once there was no more use for the complex, the houses were sold to a real estate company in 1955 and torn down. Although very little physical evidence of this complex remains, we were able to see a few scattered green poles (as seen in the images below) which mark the location of the houses.

We finished our tour in the Archaeology Lab located in Anderson Hall. Here, we were met with artifacts collected from previous excavations of the sites we visited on our walk (as seen in the images below). It was interesting to see tangible evidence of these sites in use, and looking at the labeled artifacts in the lab gave us insight into the process of labeling and organizing that comes after excavation.