Fieldwork Blog Week 1
Today was our first archaeological survey. We surveyed the area behind the Gould Library as a class, dividing up sections amongst ourselves. It was my job to survey the side of the road that extends down from the parking lot. I found some litter, which I expected, but I thought it was a useful exercise to do on the first class, because I definitely got the hang of careful surveying. I’m excited to see what other interesting things we’ll uncover as the class moves forward.
Fieldwork Blog Week 2
Today we had our trip to the Goodhue County Historical Society. We had a brief tour and learned a lot about the many ancient burial sites archaeologists have found all along the Cannon River. The most interesting part of the trip for me, however, was when we went outside and saw a burial mound for ourselves. It really didn’t look like much, just a hill with grass growing on top of it. We then got back in the vans and tried to find another mound that was rumored to be off the highway somewhere, but we couldn’t find it. It astounds me that amateur archaeologists in the old days could have discovered the hundreds of burial mounds that they did. They must have had an enormous knowledge of the geographic features of this area to be able to pick the mounds out from the ordinary hills. Seeing what it was like to go searching for burial mounds also helped me understand why there were so many different theories about who initially dug them. There really isn’t a lot of evidence left over from those days; I could barely tell a burial site from a natural hill.
Fieldwork Blog Week 3
In our lab today, our class met at the Arb Office and hiked to an area East of campus to practice survey techniques. We were split into three groups: A, B, and C. I was placed in Group C, whose task it was to survey an area of the field that had recently been burned. We had eight students in our group. Six of us divided the area into transects and walked the length of the field (about 150 meters) and back, searching for artifacts along the the way (we only had to worry about the artifacts within a meter on the left and right of our path, however). The other two members of our group either mapped the area we were surveying or recorded all our data on a chart. There was also a member of our group, Patton, who collected all our group’s artifacts in a bag after each each sweep. During the survey, I came across a few interesting things. First, I found a melted Sharpie. Another member of my group found another type of pen, and later I found a burnt piece of the tape we have been using to mark the endpoints of the survey area, so we inferred that another class had done a similar activity to the one we did today in the same are prior to the burn. I also found a leg of a deer, have of which was just bone. I will be interested to see what kinds of things we find once we start to look beneath the surface of the ground.
Fieldwork Blog Week 4
After a demonstration by Professor Sarah Murray on 3D Photogrammetry, a survey technique we will likely use at some point this term in our fieldwork, our class went out into the Arb and began setting up a survey area by the Women’s League Cabin. We were split into two groups (a third was practicing survey techniques along transects): one to clear the forest floor of leaves and twigs that would prevent us from seeing any artifacts on the ground surface, and a second to mark the dimensions of the survey area. I was part of the second group, and it was my job to measure out the lengths of each side of the rectangular survey area. Once we had measured fifty meters going North, myself and another member of the group went about laying down string to mark our area for the long term. We held the string in place with stakes placed at intervals of about ten meters. Next week we will finish laying down the string fence and perhaps begin our excavations.
Fieldwork Blog Week 5
This week our class was split into groups again to perform different tasks. One group went out to a nearby field to practice survey techniques. A second group divided our survey area into 20 sub-areas and assigned the task of looking closely at each one to different pairs of students. A third group, the one I was a part of, attempted to fence off the perimeter of the Women’s League Cabin by looking at the old floor plans and photos Chloe and Charles had found. This proved more difficult than I thought it would be, because the floor plans were not as accurate as I had hoped. The Cabin’s relation to the path and the patio is not certain. There are also several large, seemingly old trees growing right where we believe the center of the Cabin once was. Our biggest successes of the day were realizing that the documentary sources we were relying on weren’t accurate and finding exactly where the path to the underground pump is. Next week I hope we will have more success in figuring our the exact location of the Women’s League Cabin and be able to begin our excavation.
Fieldwork Blog Week 6
Today our class met at the Arb office and drove over to the Women’s League Cabin Site once again. This time, however, we were to start our long-awaited excavation. We marked off three test pits; a one-meter-by-one-meter test pit where the back patio of the cabin once was, a two by two in the doorway, and another one-by-one at the bottom of the slope next to the patio. The class was then divided into three main groups, one for each test pit. A smaller group was designated to to use the total station, which deals with elevation and slope distances. Alex’s colleague, Tom, who gave a lecture on his work in the El Zotz region of Guatemala last week, helped that group operate the new equipment.
This week it was my turn to record our lab for website maintenance at the end of the week. I took photos of the class learning the proper way to dig a test pit with a shovel and how to use the total station and sifting equipment. I also kept a photo log of the progress each group was making as they dug deeper into the ground. I made note of soil changes, found artifacts, and directional orientation. At the end of the day, we laid tarps down over our excavation sites so that the soil would remain more or less as it is for next week.
Field Work Blog Week 7 and 8
Though it seems that I forgot to write a blog entry for last week, I have been working on the same excavation trench for the last two weeks. After week 6, when I was in charge of the photo log, I got assigned to Excavation Trench 3, the one-meter-by-one-meter trench at the base of the slope to the east of the patio. We used shovels and trowels to pick through the different context layers (we got through five in total) and also used the sifter to break up the larger dirt clumps more efficiently. Our findings consisted mainly of shards of glass, nails, and lots and lots of charcoal. We also found an almost fully intact metal can.
Today (Tuesday of week 8) was our community outreach day, where members of the Northfield, Carleton, and Minnesota Archaeology communities visited the Women’s League Cabin site and observed the work we have been doing. Explaining the project was a good exercise for me, because I once again had to think about the project in terms of the work that the whole class has been doing; the full context, rather than the work I’ve been doing individually. I think putting all of our final projects on a single web page is a great idea because it will strengthen our sense of the collective effort that has defined this class.