Reflection Week 10
For our final class, our group wrapped up our draft of the final project page. While we still have some formatting issues and a couple things to add, things have mostly come together, which is very exciting to see happen. We found a great deal of material in the archives (both online and in person), and our interviewees were very helpful. As the project comes to a close, I’m proud of what we’ve done. And as the term is ending too, I realize looking back that I’ve learned so much and helped complete a very cool project!
Reflection Week 9
Since last week was our final day of field work, we spent this week’s lab in Hulings. The first part of class was a discussion on storage and curation. This was really important to consider, since the bulk of our term has been spent doing fieldwork, but now we are doing the equally important work of analyzing our findings and preparing them for the public. The readings and discussions impressed on me the danger in devaluing the post-fieldwork stages of archaeology.
Beginning these stages of our own project was exciting. It was impressive to see all our artifacts from the term spread out, and to get a sense of the findings as a whole. Cleaning the items meant spending more time with individual items such as pieces of glass, which at first we were just bagging. Now, I noticed more details in shape and texture.
We also spent time working in groups on the final project. Elaine, Rachael, Elizabeth, and I have been collecting data through interviews and archival research over the past couple weeks, but Tuesday was when we began planning how it would come together into a webpage. By the end of the period, we had come up with some creative ideas for pulling together the wide range of media and information we have into a cohesive and accessible account of the cabin’s history.
Reflection Week 8
This week, we began a new context in Trench 2. Context 2 was ended and context 4 begun, due to the change in soil from loose, dark brown dirt to a lighter-colored, clay-ier soil. Not only did the soil change, but also the amount of artifacts. After numerous pieces of glass (mostly white and clustered in one spot in the context) and a couple other objects, there was nothing more in context 4 even though we dug several inches down. I’m curious as to why this is the case, and what the relationship is between the age of artifacts and the contexts they were found in. I wonder if we would continue to find materials further down, maybe items or materials that were buried when the basement was filled in.
I enjoyed having visitors at the site for Community Archaeology Day. Especially since we have begun to produce materials for this website and will be publishing our final projects online, it was good to talk to people in person and seeing the interest people in the community have with the project. I also loved that a toddler came– I would’ve had a blast visiting an excavation site when I was a kid, so I’m glad someone got to!
Reflection Week 7
On Tuesday we continued excavated the trenches we opened last week. Last week we had just finished the first context of Trench 2, where I was working, and this week we opened two more contexts. Because of the patio stones running through the middle of the trench, we divided it into context 2 (west of the patio) and context 3 (east of the patio). Already there have been some differences between the contexts, most notably the large amount of charcoal in context 3 but not 2. Despite being very close together spatially, each side of the patio stones (presumably) had a different function during the time of the cabin. Another thing that surprised me was the amount of artifacts that went unnoticed when we removed dirt but where revealed after sifting. The first time we sifted the dirt from context 2 there were many nails and screws we had completely missed. I was confused as to how there could me so much we had missed, but I realized that with all the roots in our context it was hard to quickly distinguish bent and rusted nails from them; additionally, small objects were often clumped in dirt and as a result got swept up with the rest. Clearly sifting is just as important as using the trowels or shovels.
Reflection Week 6
This week we began our excavation at the former site of the Women’s League Cabin. We were split into groups to begin three trenches; the positions were the front and back patios of the cabin as well as the bottom of a slope in the front. I was in the group behind the cabin. We first were cleaning the cement slabs that had been unearthedit last week, and trying to find the edges of the patio. This process raised a lot of questions about the function of the back patio– how it was used, whether it contained steps to the back door, whether it wrapped around the corner of the building, etc.
I also cleared buckthorn, both for improving the walk to the back trench and for the group recording coordinates with the total station. Learning about how the coordinate mapping worked was interesting, and it was impressive to utilize that kind of technology in our project, especially after reading about the vast array of technilogies available to archaeologists. And actually, the buckthorn clearing was illuminating, too. Much of what we read, since they often are summaries or theoretical, doesn’t encompass the various tasks like cleaning and clearing that are essential to how a project interacts with its site and leads to a transformation in the environment. Overall, putting theory into practice was exciting and taught me things I wouldn’t have though of otherwise.
Reflection Week 5
To begin work on the Women’s League Cabin, the site was divided into a 40×50-meter rectangle which was split into twenty survey units laid out on an alphanumeric grid. Anna and I worked within column C, in units C1, C2, and C3. We were surveying, but unlike the surveys third week, the units were small enough for us to do complete surveys rather than sampling in transects. Another difference from third week was that we found quite a lot of artifacts. The concentrations were highest in units C1 and C3, and consisted mainly of glass (both window and bottle), metal rectangles, and charcoal. One brush region in C1 turned up, within an area of a couple square feet, numerous bottles, possibly an entire shattered window, a broken “No Hunting” sign, a couple types of food containers, and an abundance of charcoal. As we continue to analyze the artifacts and site, I will be interested in looking for causes of the concentration of objects, as well as attempting to discover the date of objects in relation to the cabin’s timeline of use.
Reflection Week 4
During the first part of lab today, we were instructed in photogrammetric methods for 3d modeling and applied it to a statue outside Laird. After using many “low-tech” methods that have been in use for a long time, it was exciting to get experience with a cutting-edge digital technique. However, as our guest speaker pointed out, while new technologies expand the efficiency and capabilities of archaeological work in exciting ways, they are not inherently better than more traditional techniques and as such both kinds of methods should be used strategically, with the end goal in mind rather than because of a personal preference. Still, photogrammetry is a very important tool that we now have in our repertoire.
For the second half of lab, we ventured into the Arb to the former site of the Women’s League Cabin. I was in the group tasked with the clearing of the area we will be working in. We raked leaves and picked up sticks to uncover the smoother dirt surface beneath. I found numerous artifacts under the leaves, including various flat pieces of metal, bits of glass from bottles and windows, and even a wine bottle stopper. I’m looking forward to exploring this site further.
Reflection Week 3
For Tuesday’s lab, surveyed a section of the Arb near the former site of the Women’s League Cabin. I was in Group C, which surveyed a large field that had recently been subject to a prairie burn by the arb crew. The field was divided into six survey units. For the first four, there were six transects by which students crossed the area; units five and six were differently shaped and so they contained one and three transects, respectively. I was one of the fieldwalkers. We also had someone mapping and recording GPS points and a recorder for our finds.
There were very few finds. Perhaps because of the recent burn, the area was almost devoid of human remains. We found numerous ecofacts, including animal dwellings, clumps of fur, burnt eggshells, and bones. For the most part, though, the ground was an alternation of brown and black, with lots of burnt remains of bushes that crunched underfoot. Still, there were a few things to be found. A few bits of plastic and foil were on the ground. Some wooden stakes, partially burnt, were concentrated in a one part. And there were some intriguing plastic items disfigured by the fire: a pen, a sharpie, and (most noteably) a senior’s Onecard and keys. I imagine this experience is a realistic reflection of surveying: there’s a whole lot of empty ground, but also definite clues as to human activity and even a few exciting discoveries.
Reflection Week 2
Today’s trip to the Goodhue County Historical Museum in Redwing, MN was an interesting look at the connections between archaeology and local communities. There are numerous archaeological sites in the Redwing area where Native Americans of the Mississippian Tradition had settlements, so it is an important part of the county’s history; after reading about and discussing the ways in which archaeology can construct a national–or in this case, local–identity, I was curious to see an example of that in Minnesota. Our guide pointed out the capacity local museums have for delving into specific histories rather than trying to encompass the general history of a larger region. This was evident to me even in comparison to our reading from A Popular History of Minnesota–the GCHM was a chance to focus in on the artifacts and stories of a specific area mentioned in the reading, and it helped me to really situate the information.
I was particularly interested in the connection between the museum and the local Native population. Our guide said that, taking into account the demographics of the county, they get a large number of Native American visitors. He also discussed how their Dakota exhibit was absolutely a collaboration with the local Dakota community, who are assertive about their right to share and preserve their own history. It was encouraging to see this kind of relationship between a museum and its community members, particularly those community members whose histories are most often ignored or mistreated.
Reflection Week 1
During our lab on Tuesday, we put what we had just learned about archaeological surveying to practice behind the Carleton libe. My role in this process, along with Chloe, was to create a map of the survey area, including the units and paths taken by our classmates. The first step was to accurately map out the building, paths, wooded areas, volleyball court, and other landmarks. Getting the proportions right proved slightly tricky, especially when we realized there was an area near Lyman Lakes that we hadn’t mapped and had to add it on a new paper where the scale shifted. Next week spoke to everyone about which survey unit they had examined and the paths they had taken through it. Though I’m looking forward to trying surveying, it was interesting to start off with a more specialized position and to see how the individual units come together.