Week 1- March 31, 2015
At the start of class we discussed different archaeological survey techniques and ways to approach surveying and recording finds from an area. Then we proceeded to put concepts into action and conducted a practice field survey, using the area behind the Libe as our subject of study. Applying some of the techniques we discussed in class, we divided the area into different sections based upon already present physical features and broke into small groups to more intensely examine these sections. We recorded all objects that we found in tables, organizing the finds based upon the material the object was made of, along with marking the location of the objects on maps we sketched in our notebooks. My group walked the stretch of land from the road to the lake (survey unit 12) and found a total of 8 objects, 2 of them were plastic and 6 were made of other materials, such as plastic tubing, a candy wrapper, a shred of newspaper, and a cement chunk. The majority of our objects were found close to the path running along the lake, which would make sense since its a more heavily trafficked area and there’s more opportunities for people to drop or lose objects.
Week 2- April 7, 2015
Our class went on a field trip to the Goodhue County Historical Museum, located in Redwing Minnesota. The museum is currently housed in what was the Baptist Old People’s Home and is situated upon a bluff with a prominent aerial view of the city of Red Wing below and Barn Bluff. We met with the museum’s educational outreach coordinator, James, who showed us around the museum’s archaeological exhibit. He gave us a background history on archaeology in the Red Wing area, describing the Mississippian and Woodland cultures that have been found in the area and the work conducted by Dr. Schirmer of Minnesota State University at archaeological sites such as Energy Park and Silvernale. James told us that most inhabitants of the Red Wing area and Goodhue County are unaware of their home’s prehistoric past and the current and past archaeology that has been conducted. Most people assume that the Dakota were the first Native Americans in the area and had never even thought about earlier inhabitants.
At the end of our talk, a curator brought out some artifacts from the museum’s collection which we were then given the opportunity to handle. The artifacts were all excavated from the Red Wing area and consisted of bone tools such as awls and a fishing hook, a copper spear point, pottery shards, and a reconstruction of a pot. We were then allowed some time to explore the museum on our own and got a chance to look at the museum’s archives. Before leaving the museum, we walked to the edge of the museum’s property to look at a Native American burial mound and briefly discussed what geographical aspects make locations ideal for burial mounds. On our way back to Northfield we stopped in Red Wing in an attempt to view some burial mounds, but were unable to locate the site. We plan on returning later in the term with Dr. Schirmer and will hopefully have better luck locating the mounds with his guidance.
Week 3- April 14, 2015
Today we practiced the pedestrian survey technique in farm fields near the Women’s League Cabin site in the Arb. Each student got to use a clicker and compass to help them with their surveying. We divided the class into three teams, A, B, and C, to take on three different sections of the field. Team A and B surveyed the farm fields, while team C surveyed the burn area.
Before breaking off into our teams to commence surveying, we all walked along a measured distance of 15 m in order to determine how many strides it takes each of us individually to cross 15 m. I was part of team A who shadowed team B for their first survey unit in order to accommodate for the narrowing of the field in team A’s section. Then we proceeded to walk to our section, the narrower end of the field near the dirt road. We spaced ourselves out 15 m apart from each other to walk in transects, with 5 field walkers, a recorder, and someone mapping the survey units. We walked 3 survey units down towards Highway 19 and then pivoted to walk 2 survey units back, flagging the ends and beginnings of each unit with dark pink tape. We collected all the objects that we found and recorded them based on their material makeup. I found 6 pieces of plastic belonging to a cup that appeared to have been shredded up (perhaps by a combine the last time the field was harvested), and a large piece of bent up metal, all in the survey units closer to highway 19. Additionally, upon finishing our team’s section we helped team A out by walking their last survey unit for them.
Week 4 – April 21, 2015
We started our session with a short lecture on 3D recording and the evolution of the use of photogrammetry in archaeology by Professor Sarah Murray of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Photogrammetry is basically measuring with photos, and with photogrammetry archaeologists can combat some of the destructive nature of archaeology by creating a detailed record of the progression of sites as they are excavated.
Following the lecture we went outside and photographed the monument outside of Laird to use as an example for how to photograph objects for photogrammetry and to reconstruct later in the 3D recording software. We used coded targets to help the software later identify corresponding points on the monument and not have to go directly off of pixels in the images. When photographing an object it is important to set the camera a low ISO setting in order to eliminate noise in the photos and set a relatively high aperture in order to keep all details of the object in focus. After having photographed the monument, we headed back to Hulings and received a brief walk through on how to create a 3D model in the software. I was really amazed at how simple the process of photogrammetry is and how it can be done with basically any kind of camera. The idea of being able to use this on our own project is really cool and earlier I never would have thought we would have the capabilities to make 3D models of our own site. Additionally, I like how photogrammetry can serve as a connecting factor by facilitating the dispersal of information around the world and allowing experts to examine artifacts/architecture without flying to the location of the site.
We then headed out to the Women’s League Cabin site in the Arb to lay the grid for the site and finish up our survey work in the corn field. I was a part of Team A who finished surveying the corn field, and we divided the transect into 3 survey units, walking towards Highway 19. Our team in general didn’t have much luck finding objects, and all I found was the plastic lid to a disposable coffee cup in survey unit A08 close to the highway. Upon finishing our transect, we headed back to the Women’s League Cabin site and helped the rest of the class finish up and bring the gear back to the cars.
Week 5 – April 28, 2015
Today’s session commenced at the Arb office where we loaded all our excavation gear up and set out to the Women’s League Cabin site. Upon arriving at the site we split up into survey groups and excavation groups, with one group returning to the field to finish up surveying it. I went with the field survey group to finish up surveying the corn field and we divided the last transect into 2 final survey units, walking towards Highway 19. The field had just been freshly tilled using a zone tilling method. I found 10 bones in the last survey unit, all which appear to be vertebrae. Two of the bones were intact vertebrae and the rest were pieces of vertebrae that had been broken up most likely by a combine or when the field was tilled. I think that they belonged to a deer judging by the size. I also found two pieces of paper well into decomposition.
After finishing the field survey, we returned to the Women’s League Cabin site to join the groups working on the site. I joined Anna and Alice’s survey group and helped them hunt for objects in their survey units. I raked away leaves and detritus to uncover the forest floor while looking for objects. Alice kept a record of the objects found and Anna bagged and labeled the objects we collected in addition to surveying the area. We found a lot of charcoal and glass pieces from bottles and windows. After finishing our survey of the units we sat down to finish recording the objects, and Alice found some kind of mesh fabric for washing dishes protruding from the ground. Upon pulling the scrubber up, we unearthed a spoon that had been laying underneath it. It was really great to start work at the site and exciting to see the variety of objects already starting to surface.
Week 6 – May 5, 2015
Today was our first day of excavation at the Women’s League Cabin site. After driving out to the site and unloading the gear, we divided into three different groups to excavate three trenches at the site, and one group learned how to use the total station. One trench was placed at the entrance to the cabin and another was placed at the bottom of the downward slope next to the front patio where a high concentration of artifacts were found during our survey last week. I was in the group that worked on excavating trench 2 positioned on what was the back area/patio of the cabin.
To begin with we cleaned up the back patio area and removed a lot of the brush that was covering the back patio pavers. After we had thoroughly cleaned the area and gotten a bit overzealous in finding all of the pavers, we discussed where to put our excavation trench. The pavers we had uncovered were 2 stones deep except for a space in the middle of the patio. We think that this might indicate were the back door was for the cabin going off of our blueprint for the building. Finally, we settled on a 2m x 1.5m trench situated in what we think is the door way with the line of pavers running across the middle of the trench and a portion of the trench located on the outside of the cabin and a portion located on the inside of the cabin. Elizabeth and I, with Alex’s help, measured out the trench and then proceeded to mark off its boundaries with stakes and pink string. Then the team started excavating the first context of the trench with trowels after taking photos of the staked off area before starting. Context one compromised the first layer of dirt going to the pavers that crossed through the middle of the trench, and it was all the further we got for the day. We found a lot of charcoal, objects of drinking culture like pieces of glass bottles, bottle caps, and the wrapping for the top of a champagne top, and a piece of metal piping. Erika recorded all of our finds. There were two large buckthorn trees in the middle of our trench that we eventually removed to make the excavating easier. It was really cool to start excavating and get to apply and experience what we’ve been reading about for class to our own project.
Week 7 – May 12, 2015
Second day of excavations: I once again was part of trench team 2 working on excavating trench 2 at the back of cabin/back patio area. We decided to open up two contexts after context 1, given the dividing nature of the pavers through the trench. The team divided into two groups of 3, one working on context 2, located on the west side of the trench, and the other on context 3, located on the east side of the trench.
I worked on context 2 with Alice and Charlie. All the dirt we removed from both context 2 and 3 were put through the sifter. We found a lot of glass shards and charcoal, and surprisingly a lot of nails we would have missed had we not sifted the removed dirt. The glass shards all appear to be from a window pane of some sort. I found the cartridge for what I think is a 22 bullet at the south end of the trench in context 2. It made sense to me to find this at the cabin since 22s are often used in recreational shooting or hunting small animals like rabbits. 22 rifles have very little recoil, so they’re great for beginner shooters or people who are nervous first shooting. This would feed into the idea of women seen as fragile at the time of the construction of the cabin and couple nicely with what Nancy was telling us about the outhouse being built into the cabin since women were viewed as too “fragile” to use the toilet out in the elements. Shooting a 22 rifle would have been a great activity for students staying in the cabin and a way for them to “connect with the wilderness.”
During excavation we uncovered two holes on the south end of the trench, one running under the pavers which could be from animals or roots. This coupled with the wet soil from the rain over the past few days made excavating rather challenging as the soil was wet in certain areas and the walls of the trench were rather fragile in certain areas. Additionally, there are many tree roots in our trench which take a lot of time to cut out and also mess with the soil consistency.
After hitting a more clay like soil under context 2, we decided to open up a new context, context 4. The total station group then took opening and closing points for context 2. We decided to call it a day before starting any digging on context 4 and carefully covered up the trench with a tarp.
Week 8 – May 20, 2015
Today was our final day of excavations at the Women’s League Cabin site, and it was also Community Archaeology Day. It rained off and on the past couple days, so rain water had gathered on top of the tarps and we had a bit of a tough time removing them from the trenches without spilling water.
I continued to work on trench 2 at the back of the cabin. Alice, Charlie, and I began by opening up Context 4 after photogrammetry and photo log shots were taken of the trench. I was in charge of recording for Context 4. Erika, Julia, and Carrie continued to work on Context 3 and eventually started Context 5. We found glass, a nail, and charcoal. The group working on Context 3 found another bullet cartridge similar to the one we found in Context 2. We used trowels, but soon turned to shovel shaving and using a pickaxe which proved to be much more efficient as the soil got harder and more compacted. Again, like last week, we struggled with the wet soil and fragile trench walls while excavating. Towards the bottom of Context 4 we stopped finding objects, and I think we had gotten past the point of the earliest layers of soil that would yield artifacts. Sifting became more difficult too as we dug further into Context 4 and the soil turned more clay like in composition and consistency.
It was really cool to see the people who showed up for Community Archaeology Day and get to talk to them about our work at the site. All in all, it was a nice end to our excavation work at the site.
Week 9 – May 26, 2015
We started class today with a discussion concerning issues of curation and storage of archaeological finds, and the publishing of work. I found this an interesting area of discussion, seeing as it concerns what happens to artifacts after they have been collected. This topic doesn’t come to mind often when thinking of archaeology, but it is obviously a very important step in the archaeological process. I personally had never really given the area much thought and was not aware of how big of a problem this was. From my understanding after reading the Kersel article and reviews, the issue seems to be very much one of the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy, and often the reality of collecting and analyzing finds is lost once the excitement of excavating has died down. I was also particularly intrigued by the idea of “bulk” and “goodie” finds and assigning value to objects. The issue raised by Silberman in his response to Kersel’s article about “dispelling the mystique of antiquity” I find an interesting concept, but am unsure about how I feel regarding the idea. While I see the rationale behind this argument of how it could benefit the preservation of archaeological finds by removing some notion of”holiness” from the past, I still cannot bring myself to fully embrace the idea. I think that one of the valuable assets of the past lies in its “holiness” as this can act as a factor in convincing people of its importance. There is a considerable amount of trash in our findings, and some of our findings are highly fragmented and were found in large quantities, begging the question as to whether storing all of them is worth the space and energy. We then spent the rest of class working in groups on our final projects.
Week 10 – May 2, 2015
Today was our last day of class for the term. People spent the time working in their groups on their final projects, and each group skyped with Alex to check in on their progress and to receive feedback. The outreach group worked on our poster for the Libe and Northfield Historical Society along with organizing our tab on the website. Towards the end of the class period everyone worked on cleaning up the findings from the WLC site, sorting everything into its proper bag, and preparing everything to be stored. It was a really great class and I feel like I’ve furthered my knowledge substantially on both archaeological methods and theories/current issues in the field of archaeology.