Week 10: Wrapping Up (June 2)
Today was our final class of the term! Each group had a pre-arranged meeting with Prof. Knodell over Skype to go over our progress on our final projects thus far. My group, Oral Histories, spent the first hour and a half of class working independently on different details of the website. I personally finished formatting the personal statements we had collected from the ALGOL yearbooks. The edit page for WordPress was difficult to fiddle with since the formatting on the final page of the website itself was different than it appeared while editing. We received very positive feedback from Prof. Knodell, so we disbanded after the Skype meeting, and proceeded to finish our respective duties on the website later in the week.
Week 9: Categorizing Finds (May 26)
Having wrapped up the excavation part of the project, our lab was held in Hulings today. We met with our groups for final projects for a little while to discuss our plan, and then we began to organize/clean all of the artifacts from the survey and excavation portions of our cabin project. We sorted all of the artifacts according to the trenches or survey units that they were found in. I dealt mostly with survey units from the “C” plot in the farm fields; I sorted a few pieces of scrap metal, and washed several shards of glass under the tap water to get the dirt off.
Week 8: Community Archaeology Day (May 19)
Today’s lab consisted of wrapping up the outdoor portion of our excavation project. It was also “Community Archaeology Day,” which meant that flyers had been posted across campus inviting faculty/staff/students/Northfield community members to come out and visit our site. We had shuttles departing every 30 minutes from the Arb Office to bring them over. Personally, I was surprised with the amount of visitors that we had to the site! Most of them were faculty members, but we had a few students, including one from St. Olaf. They had the opportunity to walk around the site, look at our progress, and ask questions about the project. I really enjoyed getting the chance to show off all of our hard work on this project!
In terms of work assignment, I was once again assigned to working with the total station. We re-positioned the station to a back corner of the site for easier access to a few points on the grid map that we had previously been unable to get accurate readings for. We also were charged with mapping changes in elevation for every time a trench opened/closed a soil context. I was mostly in charge of sketching the geography of the points we were mapping into a small notebook. And holding back trees that were getting in the way of the total station’s laser. I did a lot of tree bending.
Week 7: Mapping Grid Corners (May 12)
For lab this week I was once again working with the total station. Figuring out how to work the station took a little less time this week, having been previously acquainted with it during the past lab session, so we were able to get to work relatively quickly. This week we focused on mapping the corners of the grid system (10m x 10m grids) we had plotted out over the WLC site. We successfully managed to plot a majority of the corners, but had to skip a few due to immovable obstacles in the path of the laser, such as large groupings of trees. The corner points that we skipped this week we will take during the next lab when we are able to move the location of the total station. We then proceeded to take points along the flag-stone path leading away from the WLC and towards the driveway. The path leading towards the water pump, which branches off of the path to the driveway, will also be plotted during the next lab period. Another part of our responsibilities with the total station this week was to map out the corners of each excavation trench whenever the group excavating opened up a new context/soil layer. Towards the end of the lab period, in the midst of plotting one trench, we discovered that at some point the reflective prism had accidentally been lowered. This means that a few of our readings will need to be adjusted for the accidental change in elevation height.
Week 6: Door hinges and Total Stations (May 5)
Lab this week was mainly focused on setting up and beginning the excavation of three trenches at the WLC. I was assigned to trench 3, which is situated on the western part of the site, at the bottom of the sloping hill leading away from the patio. After plotting out a grid that was 1 meter by 1 meter, our group began to excavate the top layer of soil using trowels and a process known as shovel sifting. In the first context, we mainly found shards of glass and charcoal. The next two contexts also revealed more samples of glass and charcoal, along with an old rusted door hinge which caused much excitement within the group.
For the last hour of lab, I was switched from excavation duty to mapping duty. Charlie, Sara, Alex and I assisted Liza with the total station, which we used to take mapping points throughout the WLC site. I drew a rough sketch of the patio, and determined which points along the perimeter would be ideal to collect data points at.
Week 5: Starting the Dig (April 28)
This past Tuesday our entire class met at the Arb office, and proceeded to drive over to the Women’s League Cabin site. We were divided into 3 different groups to begin preparing the site for excavation. The first group was sent out to the agricultural fields to finish up the pedestrian survey we have started in the previous weeks. The second group was split into pairs, and were responsible for conducting surveys over 20 different 10 m by 10 m boxes within our plotted grid over the site. The third group, which I was in, began to clear and prepare the site. My group was tasked with marking out the possible foundation of the cabin. We had access to a rough blue print of the cabin, with an approximate scale. We converted the measurements, and plotted out the corners of the foundation of part of the cabin with blue flagging tape; however, we found that there was a large tree growing directly in the middle of one of our proposed rooms of the cabin. This was problematic. Next week in lab we will re-evaluate the accuracy of the blueprint, to see if it is our calculations or the blue print which caused the measurement errors. My group then proceeded to look for a supposed path leading from the steps of the cabin out to a water pump. By thrusting trowels and shovels into the dirt, we managed to find several spots where we hit flagstone. We then connected these points to form a rough path. I began to excavate the part of the path directly stemming from the water pump; it is unclear if I was actually supposed to start digging, so only part of the path is currently excavated, and it remains to be seen whether the rest of it will eventually be uncovered.
Week 4: Photogrammetry and Preparing the Site (April 21)
In class this week we had a guest speaker, Sarah Murray, who is a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She gave a presentation on her experience in the field of photogrammetry; this included a broad overview of the techniques involved in the process, along with personal accounts of archaeological projects that she has used this process on. The entire class then walked over to the front of Laird for a demonstration. We applied photo-targets to various spots on a monument outside of Laird with adhesive tack. Professor Murray proceeded to photograph the monument; she took pictures from four different angles, moving 20 degrees around its circumference for each picture. The number of pictures she had taken of the monument proved too many to effectively analyze into a 3D model given our short time frame, but she walked through the general process of assembling a model on the software PhotoScan, and showed us examples of previous models she had already computed.
For the second part of lab, we made our way over to the Women’s League Cabin site once again. Despite the snow and wind that unfortunately harassed us, we proceeded to prepare the site for further survey/excavation. The class was split into three groups: one to re-visit last week’s survey sites in the corn fields and finish up some data collection, one to begin gridding the Women’s League Cabin site, and the third group (mine) was tasked with beginning to clear off the site to improve visibility. Most of my group members were handed rakes and charged with removing the top layer of leaf litter on the site. I designated myself as the informal stick-gatherer and proceed to drag tree limbs to a wood pile. Several material artifacts were found in the clearing process, but no official information was recorded this week.
Week 3: Introduction to Conducting Surveys (April 14)
The goal for lab this week was to practice setting up and completing pedestrian surveys in preparation for our evaluation of the Women’s League Cabin site in the Cowling Arboretum. The area of interest for this preliminary survey included several recently harvested agricultural fields (corn fields, to be exact) a little ways away from the cabin site.
Our class was divided into 3 different groups, with 7-8 students in each group. As one of the students in charge of our lab’s weekly summary, I was assigned the task of recording all of the information for the group which I was assigned–group B. Our group also included a student in charge of mapping our survey units, and 5 students who would be conducting the pedestrian survey aspect of this lab.
After walking from the Arb office to the crop fields, our group was assigned a plot of land to grid off and survey. We divided the land into 6 different survey units, referred to as B-01, B-02…etc. Plots 01,02, 05, and 06 were 75 meters across and 150 meters long. Plots 03 and 04 included a diagonal stretch of land that was intersected by the road, causing them to extend a little farther than 150 meters in length. The 5 pedestrian surveyors were positioned 15 meters apart from each other, and instructed to walk in fairly straight lines to the end of the grid, collecting any material finds that could possibly relate to human presence in the area. For the most part, our artifacts included pieces of glass, ceramics, bricks, and pieces of plastic or paper. We also collected several samples of bones, which are actually “ecofacts” and therefore unlikely to be relevant to the data we were specifically looking for. At the completion of each survey unit, we bagged similar material finds together in a labelled bag, and the information was recorded on individual sheets. It took us a while to conduct the first five surveys, so Group A contributed members to help us finish the last section: B-06. The sheets of information we have for that survey unit are therefore a combination of effort from both Group A and B team members.
Week 2: Goodhue County Historical Society (April 7)
For lab this week, our class took a field trip to Red Wing, Minnesota, to visit the Goodhue County Historical Society. We were given a brief tour by an enthusiastic curator at the museum, which included an overview of the county’s history stemming as far back as the Paleoindian tribes. We were also shown reconstructions of pottery in the Mississippian tradition which had been found in the area. The subject which specifically peaked my interest on this trip was the mention of burial mounds and raised earthen platforms, speculated to have been used as religious sites for tribes stemming from the Paleoindians. This past summer I traveled with my family to southern Illinois to visit the Cahokia settlement, which shares similarities with the raised mounds found in Red Wing, so it was interesting to be able to approach this aspect of Goodhue County’s history with background knowledge and personal experience.
The artifact curator at the museum brought out a few items, which we were allowed to handle (provided we put on latex gloves). We were shown a small reconstructed Mississippian pot along with a few fragments from other pieces of pottery, a fishing hook made out of bone, a copper blade, and several other assorted bone items. I was most surprised by the copper blade, because I previously hadn’t been aware that metallurgy had been practiced in North America during this time period.
For those interested in visiting the museum, the link to their website can be found here: http://goodhuecountyhistory.org/
Week 1: Surveying a Drainage Ditch (March 31)
This week in lab, we practiced conducting archaeological pedestrian surveys in a plot of land behind Carleton’s library. I was assigned an area referred to as #SU3 which consisted entirely of a drainage ditch near the parking lot. I first created a quick outline sketch of the ditch, and created a table on which to record any non-natural items that I found. The categories included materials made out of plastic, metal, glass, cigarette butts, and miscellaneous items. My first route for the pedestrian survey cut a path directly down the middle of the ditch, from one draining pipe to the other. I recorded what items I saw, labelled them each with a different sequential number, and placed those numbers in the approximate geographic location on the sketch I had drawn. My next two routes were along the upper banks of the ditch, on the periphery. I found objects which ranged from library receipts to pieces of used chewing gum. There appeared to be a general trend that items were either on the edges of the ditch, or collected in topographic lows next to pipes or rock piles. This led me to conclude that items could have blown towards the ditch from elsewhere, and leaf litter obstacles stopped their movement at the top of the ditch; and that the objects found within the ditch likely collected there because it was a topographic low, and the pipes/rock piles created a wall which hindered any further progress.