Week 8 (Wednesday Lab)

During this week’s lab block, students in the Wednesday lab group were granted a third and final day of fieldwork, since last week’s rain had cost them one last week. We were fortunate enough to have good weather, but evidence of earlier rain could be seen in the fungal growth, wet soil, and speed at which the Cannon river flowed past the mill site. As in previous lab periods, students split up into working groups focused on DGPS mapping, locating and recording information about archaeological features, and continuing excavation in the two trenches. As this was the last day that either lab section would be working at the Waterford mill site, extra steps were taken at the end of the lab period to clean up the site. Particularly, all the metal stakes and bright pink tape that had been placed throughout the site during initial surveys were removed. Trenches were not backfilled, as we had not penetrated enough layers of soil for that to be necessary. Additionally, the state of the trenches after recent storms illustrated the speed at which they would soon be naturally filled.

Over the previous excavation days, several features were identified but only on the last day of lab were they fully mapped. This was both on paper, with sketches of each of the sites, and using the GIS mapping equipment. One of these features was the back wall of the second mill building, which was connected to another wall closer to the original site. In the process of following each of these formations, a pile of cans and various pieces of colored glass were found along one of the walls. The GIS team mapped each of these locations in order to get a more complete picture of the site. Another group was in charge of drawing some of the features and locations around the mill, such as the lower section of the main mill building closer to the water. Because of its proximity to the river and a rainy spring, we were not able to excavate there, nor were we able to excavate near the wall further along the river by the campfire. However, the GIS group mapped each of these locations as well, meaning future iterations of this class have a head start if they choose to do more excavations at the mill site.

The final day of excavation was quite productive, with both excavation groups getting through a good amount of depth, and putting several buckets worth of dirt through the sifter. Both excavation groups contended with the dampness of the soil as a result of recent rains, in addition to coming to the end of the high artifact density that near-surface excavation at this site yielded.The four students working in the first trench worked in subgroups of two, so that while one subgroup was sifting a bucket, the other was proceeding with the excavation and working on filling another bucket. The group working in the trash pit trench found, as in previous weeks, copious amount of charcoal and metal scraps, in addition to several pieces of glass, plastic and ceramic. Of particular note were a large metal item, which may have been an automobile component, a ceramic sherd that bore the name of the company that manufactured it, and a hollow, bulbous item that could have been either ceramic or rusted metal. Less was found in the second trench, as was consistent with the other excavation periods. Students excavating in the wall trench found a smattering of nails and metal shards, in addition to a large piece of a ceramic artifact. By the end of the excavation period, both groups ensured that they flattened the floors of their trenches, as well as removed the corner stakes and the perimeter tape surrounding their trenches. Trenches were left in such a state that nature could take its course in refilling them.

Week 7 (Wednesday Lab)


Img 1. Look at those branches!

Week 7 Summary by: Emily Moses and Sam Wege

Beautiful Weather, Drone Failure, a Deadly Tick, and a Fired .22 Casing


“Under the Scorching Sun” – Maanya

Attempted Drone:

Though we tried to get drone data, due to restrictions around telephone lines and railroad tracks and general tree cover it wasn’t possible. Hopefully in coming weeks we can obtain drone footage.


WM weekly summary test.jpg

Img 2. DGPS points from the Waterford Mill site on May 14 and 15


Img 3. Clarissa and Loren mapping with the DGPS


Pictured below are some of the findings from trench 2, which are explained in the trench 2 section.

Trench 2: Context 3


Img 6. Trench 2 before Wednesday’s excavation

Annie, Aaron, Clara, Hank, Emily and Sam excavated in Context 3. This was the first time excavating for all of us (Aaron was our mentor as he was an experienced trowler from his previous work in Israel and Jordan with Barbara). As Sam mentions in his fieldnotes, previous groups had mislabeled contexts which made it confusing to identify the context Wednesday’s lab was working in.

After establishing context 3, they began excavating working as flat as possible to evenly excavate the site. This was challenging, as it was tempting to dig in areas where there were clearly artifacts protruding. Additionally, as Clara mentions, there were possibly too many cooks in the very dirty kitchen which made communication very important–making sure that everyone was still troweling and clearing at about the same level. Each excavator used a trowel and dust tray–holding the trowel at 90 degrees in order to disturb the stratigraphic layers as little as possible–and swept thin layers of dirt into the pan. Dirt was emptied into large buckets. This process was time-intensive and exhaustive, but rewarding. A few ticks were found crawling, which caused for a minor panic, but they continued work. After buckets were filled, each bucket was brought to the sifter so that hidden artifacts could be uncovered.

As excavation was happening, Annie and Emily took turns drawing a sketch of the various artifacts and rocks as they were being uncovered on the Excavation form.

For bucket one, Sam poured the contents of the bucket onto the sifter as Hank moved the sifting device back and forth; this process surfaced items such as nails and bullet casings, letting the rest of the dirt fall to the ground. This process uncovered charcoal, nails, plastic, bone marrow, shells, and a .22 bullet casing.

Trench 1: Context 4


Img 9. Trench 1 being excavated

Arya, Maanya, Miyuki, Price, and Sam worked to excavate trench 1, specifically context 4. This group had a similar process to that of those working in trench 2, and followed the same excavation techniques. This group, however, was working much deeper than that of trench 2. As Maanya discusses in her fieldnotes, they conducted trail trenching–digging the site solely for its archaeological findings and potential.

Following the sifting process, this group separated findings by material, bagged findings, and labeled the bags appropriately. Some interesting finds from this group included metallic springs, a (potentially) glass coaster, some pottery pieces, and a few nails.


The abundance of charcoal found could be indicative of the mill’s original time in use. In our research about mills, we have learned that they catch fire quite often because the powder released during the milling process is extremely flammable. One local mill that burned down multiple times as a result of this is the Archibald Mill – we hypothesize that the same thing could have occurred here. One further question we could pursue to seek out an answer to whether or not this is the cause of the charcoal would to be to do some sort of analysis on the walls that remain in the mill to see if they have remnants of ash on them. Another possibility is that the charcoal is not the result of a mill fire, but rather from site usage after the end of the mill’s functioning.

Additionally, we found many nails (pictured above), which were greatly rusted. Perhaps these came from the mill’s construction or mechanisms which existed within it. Furthermore, many of the nails are bent or broken, indicating that they were used for something heavy or as support. It is difficult to tell without further analysis, but given the layer at which they are buried and the damage they underwent, we are hopeful that they prove to be from the time of the mill’s use. One potential next step might be to analyze the different nails used and the construction practices of the time. We could compare this research to the nails we found to get a better idea of whether our nails come from the mill’s initial occupation or not.

As far as more contemporary occupation, we found a .22 casing, which is potentially from a more recent time than the mill’s use. With more research regarding the hunting and firearm practices throughout the last couple centuries, we may be able to figure out approximately when the bullet was fired. Depending upon the time at which the bullet was fired, it could raise a few different questions. If it is from the time of the mill’s use, then we should search the Waterford records to see if there was any news of something being fired, intentionally or unintentionally, at the mill. Alternatively, if it is more contemporary we could try to find more bullets or casings to see if we can piece together a pattern of why/when they were fired.

[wpvideo M6DTOPlg]

Vid 1. Aaron demonstrating wonderful brushing technique to excavate trench 2, while Annie ponders the realities of the earth.


Week 6 (Wednesday Lab)

Aaron, Maanya, and Apoorba
Archaeological Methods
May 10, 2019
Weekly Write-up- Week 6

Due to inclement weather, the Waterford Archaeological Team (WAT) worked on artifact cleaning inside the classroom instead of traveling to our usual fieldwork location at Waterford Mill. Our objective was to organize the artifacts into groups based on their material categories. We washed and sorted the collections that we had discovered up to this point from the fieldwalking survey, the gridded survey at the Waterford Mill site, and excavation trenches 1 and 2. Due to the variety of artifact sources, we divided ourselves into groups with each team assigned to artifacts from a particular trench context, survey unit, or gridded survey square.


WAT carefully unpacked the artifacts from their bags unloaded them onto trays for thorough cleaning.

20190508_170654.jpgFigure 1. A cardboard box containing artifacts from the Waterford Mill Archaeological Site.

Organizing the forms:

As WAT moved on to the organizational step of the archaeological process, forms and paperwork took the central stage along with the material collections. Sam W. and Clarissa organized the forms and rechecked the data to match with the material collections. Clarissa proceeded to make an inventory for the washed and unwashed bags of materials to help accelerate the process of analysis over the coming weeks.

20190508_153955Figure 2. Sam W. and Clarissa maintain an organized structure for keeping track of the locations and labeling conventions for each artifact source.

20190508_152957.jpgFigure 3. Sam W. and Clarissa report to Professor Knodell regarding their task. Meanwhile, Sam A. and Loren remove dirt from ceramics of Trench 2.

Division of labor:

Everyone divided into teams to keep track of the artifacts we were cleaning. Maanya, Arya, Lena and Miyuki undertook the cleaning process for the materials collected during the field walking surveys. Aaron, MJ, and Holland worked on material remains recovered from trenches, the primary artifacts being from trench 1, context 2. Emily, Anne, Clara, Sam A. and Loren focused on collections from the gridded surveys.

Brushing the dirt off:

This was a crucial step in the archaeological process since it enabled us to get a better understanding of what the artifacts looked like before they were buried under piles of dirt and soil. The groups used toothbrushes or a tool brush to clean excess dirt from the outside of the material. Brushing off the dirt off was essential especially for materials that could not be washed. For the metal remains, the group used subjective judgement to distinguish between diagnostic pieces and pieces that lacked diagnostic qualities. They used a toothbrush and paperclip to clean the dirt off of the surface of the diagnostic pieces, which are more valuable to archaeological interpretation than non-diagnostic pieces. We appreciated the wide range of objects that the various survey groups and excavators had collected since they each have a story to tell about the mill’s past.

20190508_153004Figure 4: Maanya starts off the cleaning process for her materials by brushing the dirt away using the tool brush. Taking the dirt off beforehand makes washing easier and less muddy.

Wash em clean:

Next, for all materials other than metal, we used water to finish the cleaning process. Water was avoided for metal and other biodegradable materials to prevent further erosion and degradation. We used the LDC bathroom taps to wash the artifacts clean, and wiped them off with paper towels after. This was especially difficult for hollow objects like cans, the inside of which had to be cleaned before moving on to its surface. We encountered a number of earthworms and bugs that had found a home in the unwashed artifacts. These had to be washed off before the artifact could be dealt with. Cleaning the glass and ceramic objects proved relatively easy. The objects that were collected during the rain-showers were harder to clean because the dirt was damp and stuck to the surface, whereas for the artifacts gathered on the clear days, simple dusting and brushing proved sufficient.

20190508_153737Figure 5: Clara and Anne team up to wash the artefacts from the gridded survey while Arya shows her solidarity by recording this wonderful moment. (You’re welcome!).


Finally, the artifacts lay on clean trays to dry off. Paper towels also came in handy to speed up the process as we had limited time and a few more steps to fulfill.

20190508_153746Figure 6: Emily takes the assistance of paper towels to accelerate the drying process.

Like with Like:

The team counted, bagged, and labeled the non-diagnostic pieces, and placed all other artifacts in a distinct bag according to material. Then, the smaller bags were placed in a larger bag labeled for the square and context from which the artifacts were recovered. We labeled the initials of the person who had undertaken the survey, the type of material placed in the bag, and the survey unit/grid that the materials prescribed to. Sam W. and Clarissa traveled to each table and documented the numbers of each material type on Clarissa’s computer, which could then be used as a data set in future analysis.

img_5130.jpgFigure 7: Good organization allows us to keep artifacts organized by their context, so that we do not lose valuable information about any of our materials by failing to record where they were originally found in site. In this image, Aaron, MJ, and Holland have created a tray of objects exclusively from Trench 1, context 2, and have also divided the objects according to their material.

The future accountants:

On Thursday, Aaron, Arya, and Maanya went to Alex’s office hours where he showed us all the artifacts that had been collected by the lab groups (and gave us coffee!). Following this, we produced an inventory of which artifacts had been cleaned and which artifacts still needed to be cleaned:

Trench washed:

Trench 2, context 1- 1 bag (plastic)
Trench 1, context 1- 3 bags (glass, ceramic, metal)
Trench 1, context 2-  5 bags (metal, other, metal scrap, pottery, glass)
Trench 2, context 3- 4 bags (glass, leather, metal, ceramic)

Gridded Survey washed:

F12- 4 bags
H11- 3 bags
F-11- 1 bag of metal
F-10- 1 bag of other
H-12- 4 bags
H-13- 2 bags
H-10- 3 bags
G-11- 1 bag
G-12- 6 bags
G-13- 2 bags

Fieldwalking washed:

SU W1-01- 5 bags
SU W1-02 – 3 bags
SU W2-01- 4 bags
SU W2-02 – 7 bags

Trench unwashed:

Trench 1, context 3 – 7 bags
Trench 2, context 2- 1 bag

Gridded Survey unwashed:

G-11 (6 small bags in 2 big bags)

Fieldworking unwashed:

T2-01 – 16 bags

Blog it!

After each week of fieldwork, each member of WAT publishes a summary of his or her contribution to the project website, or blog. Finally, a designated group of team members creates a blog post each week to capture a holistic summary of all the work completed for that week, giving everyone a better sense of where we are in the process of our excavation. Additionally, this website is available to the general public for anyone interested to learn about the project.

59803229_2252253348424402_2038175849848504320_nFigure 8: Future archaeologists (from left to right: Aaron, Maanya, Arya) summarize WAT’s hard work from week 6 outside the Carleton College Classics department. WAT values civic engagement through archaeology, which is why we publish our process and research for the public to view each week on our website.  

Fun Fact of the week:

Alex “the Barista” Knodell makes bomb coffee. Drop by his office hours to witness the magic (Again, you’re welcome!).

IMG_5140Figure 9: No caption needed.


Week 5 (Wednesday Lab)


During the Wednesday lab at the Waterford Mill site, we continued our archaeological work by continuing mapping, survey, and excavation. The class divided into three groups: a mapping group (3 people), a surveying group (2 groups of 3 people), and an excavation group (6 people).  


Figure 5.1: Trekking along the railroad, mentally preparing for our surveying exploits.



Hank, Clarissa, and Aaron were in charge of mapping for this week. The focus was first to lay out the last points for the grid. In laying out the grid, they noticed that while the points are supposed to be five meters apart, most of them were not exactly five meters apart. This discrepancy was likely caused by both human error in measuring the land and by the uneven landscape.  They then took points at the corners of the excavation trenches and  in the middle of the trenches to figure out the depth of the current excavation. Analyzing this depth will be useful as we later consider how artifacts and their context relate to their position or depth in the soil or ground.


Figure 5.2: Almost levitating.

grid 2

Figure 5.3: A Google Earth depiction of all the points that have been mapped with the GDPS, with Tuesday lab group points in blue and the Wednesday lab points in red.

grid and lines

Figure 5.4: A depiction of mapping points and their correlation to their surroundings: the yellow lines represent the mill walls that were mapped, the white circles represent the excavation trenches, and the pink lines represent the survey units.



We split six people into two groups of three and each surveyed the units which were not  yet surveyed. The units left were H10, H11, H12, H13, and G13. Group 1 surveyed H10, H12, and H13, while Group 2 surveyed H11 and G13. Alex advised us to survey one unit for the first ten minutes and then to start counting the artifacts we found in that survey unit. If we do not set a time limit, our surveying could last years, maybe even a lifetime. Our archeology labs only last two hours. During our survey we took pictures of each artifact and wrote down the number of artifacts we found, which we classified according to material types. We also drew a sketch of each unit to show where each artifact was found.

Survey Group 1: Loren, Miyuki, and Sam

Sam was in charge of note taking and Miyuki and Loren surveyed the unit and counted the artifacts they found. In the inner units, we more likely to find artifacts which seemed related to the site itself.  In outer units, especially H13, we more likely to find artifacts thrown in the unit from the outside relatively recently. We started to think about and investigate the spatial and chronological relationship of the site and artifacts, especially in the articles of trash we found. We found different kinds of artifacts in different locations and units, and we would like to think about how the locations of these artifacts reflect on or reveal something about the different types of people who disposed of these things in these units.  


Figure 5.5: The gang huddling before the big dig.


Figure 5.6: Survey Unit Form of H10


Figure 5.7: Sam and Loren eyeing the earth.


Figure 5.8: Glass lost


Figure 5.9: Glass found


Figure 5.10: Survey Unit Form of H12


Figure 5.11: Survey Unit Form of H13

Survey Group 2: Emily, Lena, and Annie

Emily was in charge of sketching, outlining product features, and Annie and Lena dug in the dirt for findings. We found a maroon palm-sized fragment of pottery, roughly 14 pieces of glass, an old bag of chips, and a tiny clamshell, among other things. Surveying G13 was particularly difficult, as prickly branches covered the ground and we had to be careful not to let the thorns seep into our clothing and prick our skin. Despite this obstacle, we did find one shell fragment, and got some good practice clearing brush. How does contemporary archaeology make it possible to reveal the relationship between the site and the people who used it chronologically and spatially?


Figure 5.12: Lena finding glass stuck between a rock and a hard place.


Figure 5.13: Dirty glass


What does the spatial distribution of the found artifacts tell us about their chronology? Can we infer anything about the people who used this site from the spatial distribution of the artifacts?



For excavations, we again split six people into two groups of three.  The first group was Price, Holland, and MJ, and the second group was Sam, Arya, and Maanya.  The groups discussed with Alex about whether new 1m x 1m excavation trenches should be started, or whether they should continue working in the excavation trenches created by the Tuesday lab group.  The decision they reached was to continue the excavations started on Tuesday and pick up where they left off.


Figure 5.14: Trench 1 Pre-excavation on Wed


Figure 5.15: Post-excavation at the end of the lab

The first group excavated the trench that was next to the trash pit, which was identified as trench 1.  They trowelled the area and used dustpans to remove excess dirt. The trench was on a slight slope and was just above the trash dump, which made excavations a little trickier, so the dustpans were easier to use than a shovel would have been. They found a lot of rusted metal pieces, broken glass, and broken ceramics, which were all bagged, after sifting their excess dirt.


Figure 5.16a: Excavation form for trench 2


Figure 5.16b: Excavation form for trench 2

The second group excavated the trench next to the lower wall, which was identified as trench 2.  They shovel shaved and trowelled the area, removing several roots and digging around embedded rocks. They found mostly metal scraps and nails and bagged them and sifting their excess dirt.


Figure 5.17a: Excavation trench 2


Figure 5:17b Excavation trench 2

This week, our finds included rusted pieces of metal, broken glass, and broken ceramics. These finds tell us that people may have gathered around this area to eat or dispose of eating or food containers. From these finds, we can learn about the material culture of the area. As the mill was an industrial site, it makes sense that we found a collection of rusted metal fragments. It also makes sense that we found so many pieces of glass as trench 1, as it is located next to a trash dump. People often dispose of glass and related materials in trash dumps. We wonder who used this site as a trash dump: men in the mills, nearby farmers, or both? Our further excavations may be able to help us answer this question. Looking into historical records to see if we can find records of this dump would also help us determine who used this dump.


Lab Highlight

About halfway through the lab, as Lena and Annie were clearing brush, Emily turned around toward the railroad track and bid an enthusiastic “Heeey!” to the void. Lena and Annie were confused. It turned out that Emily thought the goats who were bleating were people saying hello to her. As a good citizen of archeology 246, she had to return the greeting.


Week 4 (Wednesday Lab)


During class time on Tuesday, we continued our discussion of site surveying and the broader question of social organization in archaeology. Stressing the importance of documentation in the field, as well as responsible post-fieldwork information management (which would become crucial post-lab session on Wednesday) we talked through some of the ethics of the field and the irreplaceability inherent in the work. Next, we discussed the assignment “campus complexity” in small groups. Through the course of these conversations, issues of site definition variation, settlement pattern analysis, site hierarchy, tell sites, and vertical vs. horizontal approaches to archaeological analysis. We eventually moved on to consider recording methods for survey, some of which we would use in our lab section the following day. A few of the strategies we would use in lab include mapping with a tape/compass, differential GPS mapping,  feature recording, site clearance, photography, transection of site into grid squares, and fieldwalking.

We were also visited by Dr. Andrew Wilson, and archaeologist and an Academic Technologist at Carleton. He gave a talk on his own experience with surface investigations in various locations, including Britain, Dhiban, and Buseirah.  In the Madaba plains of Jordan, he used GIS, multi-scale historical maps, and over 50,000 digitally recorded artifact points to try and pinpoint artifact clusters. Mapping artifact clusters seems like it would be a useful exercise with our own data at Waterford. Finally, he talked in length about his use of magnetometry and DGPS, as well as ground penetrating radar. He hilariously noted how not everyone can use magnetometry equipment, because “some people just have magnetic fields about them.”

Lab Prep

On Wednesday, our lab group put all that we had learned on Tuesday to the test as we headed out to the site.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.54.02 AM.png

Figure 1: The Site

Expanding on the already substantial work done by the previous days lab group, we worked on clearing, laying, and documenting our site grid into 5 m² sections, marked by pink tape. We split into four main groups: site clearance, feature mapping, grid laying and documentation/differential GPS mapping.

Site Clearance Group

The site clearance group got to work immediately clearing brush and meddlesome vines from the grid area, primarily the southern and western parts of the site. The physical labor necessary for this task was considerable, but satisfying. Thorny vines, however, proved especially trying.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.55.01 AM.png                                                                                            

Figure 2: A Particularly Thorny Vine

Because of the extensive labor already completed by the Tuesday group, the site clearance group was able to start collection in the G10 grid. In just ten minutes, Clara and Loren found 25+ BB gun bullets, a metal can, a dated ceramic brick, a lump of charcoal, and a couple shards of glass in the G10 grid alone. This seems a promising omen for future finds.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.55.27 AM.png                                                              

Figure 3: Site Clearance in Action

Grid-Laying Group

The grid laying group added eight new grid sections to the site in total. Maanya and Owen measured distances with measuring tape, Arya was in charge of the compass and recorded bearings, and Price put down the stakes and added the flagging tape.
waterford mill schematic sketch.png

Figure 4: Waterford Mill Schematic Sketch

A few in this group brought up the possibility of expanding the grid for further collection in the coming weeks.

Differential GPS Mapping Group

Another mapping group used a differential GPS to plot different points around the sunken part of the site, avoiding trees. They began by labeling their points with the following notation: WM(waterford mill) and the number point (01). However, they soon realized that this would not be the most effective manner of mapping, and so revised their notation to make it more specific: for example, WMSB01, WMSB02, etc for the south building. By the end of the lab period, they had mapped out points on the south building, its adjacent west building, and the corners of some of the survey units. However, due to various constraints, they noted that their numbers did not always appear as expected, and that because they could only access some of the points, the corners could ultimately end up being numbered something like 01, 02, 03, 22. While this was not ideal, they came to the conclusion that it was a better solution than trying to guess what numbers to omit.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.56.03 AM.png                                                                                                                                 

Figure 5: GPS Mapping in Action      

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.56.28 AM.png                                                                   

Figure 6:  LIDAR Waterford Mill Topography

Feature Mapping Group

The group responsible for feature mapping also split into two. Annie and Emily mapped and surveyed the larger compound on the SW side of the site, while Miyuki and Lena covered the other side of the mill wall.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.57.23 AM.png

Figure 7: Waterford All-Features Map


Feature Mapping/Collection Team 1: Emily and Annie

After a period of feature mapping, Emily and Annie began collecting artifacts from grids F10 and F11. Despite reporting 30% visibility they were able to find 10 metal artifacts in the F10 grid, as well as a tobacco wrapper, charcoal, and a clam shell.

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Figure 8: The F10 Grid Feature Form w/Map of Feature Placement in Field

Their finds were even more numerous in the F11 grid:

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Figure 9: The F11 Grid Feature Form w/Map of Feature Placement in Field


Feature Mapping Team 2: Lena and Miyuki

Lena and Miyuki were primarily concerned with features in their part of the grid, filling out eight feature forms and taking an abundance of pictures. Among some of the features they noted were:


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Figures 10-13:  A Road/Path (W2-02)

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Figures 14-15 : An architectural fragment, or the remnants of a metal fence (W2-01)

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Figures 16-17: A stone foundational wall most intact on the side parallel to the road (W2-04)
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Figure 18: Concrete block with square holes where posts or “concrete toutings” may have been (W2-05)
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Figure 19: A rusted pipe jutting out from the side of the mill wall likely made of iron (W2-03)

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Figure 20: Concrete blocks (W2-06)

Also found were two artifact scatters, indicating high density artifact areas (W2-07, 08) (Not Pictured).


To conclude, we learned many new techniques during our week four lab section, putting into practice a lot of what we had read about outside of class and discussed in class. While there were plenty of challenges, the experience as a whole was rewarding and we came away with solid, useable data. With practice, we hope to improve coordination and precision in data collection. We look forward to getting back out into the field next week, this time with more suitable protection against ticks and thorns!


Week 3 (Wednesday Lab)

The class preceding our lab was primarily focused on learning about relevant archaeological survey methods. Guest speaker Neil Slifka helped the students gain a better grasp of the material as it pertained to his job as Area Resource Specialist for the Minnesota State Parks and historical sites. We talked about various highly developed technologies like Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), AIRSAR, and LiDAR, and how these can help archaeologists survey terrain beneath a forest or jungle canopy. Compared to these highly developed technologies, we also examined the role of more basic and simple survey methods like using Google Earth’s satellite images and street view functionality. We finished class by going over field walking and other methods of on the ground survey techniques, with most attention being paid to the transect method as that would be the method used during our lab.

During Third Week, the Wednesday lab section of ARCN 246 experienced our first chance at field surveying as a team. Prior to arriving at our surveying location, our class went over a few important technical aspects of survey work. We went over the use of survey unit forms for important documentation, compasses, collection bags, and pink fly tape for marking the boundaries of survey units. We also assigned tasks and roles within each of the two survey teams, including serving as team leader, serving as mapper, handing out collection bags, and marking the edges of each survey unit.

Upon getting to the survey site, a field due east of Goodhue Residence Hall and the Recreation Center (Fig. 2), and we learned how to measure ten meters by counting our steps and lined up, ten meters apart, in order to walk transects of our teams’ survey units (Fig. 3). Each field surveyor walked about fifty meters in a straight line, using an online compass as a guide to maintaining a straight line bearing 270 degrees due west across the field. The two groups continued to walk their transects as the team leaders and mappers documented the conditions, geology, and topography of the scene, noting that the site used to be used for agricultural purposes and was now a grassy field with approximately 50% visibility of the ground. Because of the rain that day, team leaders noted the overcast weather conditions and the added difficulties of the light and mud in detecting artifacts on the surface of the ground. Team leaders also handed out collection bags and collected them again at the end of each survey (Fig. 4).

During our hour in the field, each group was able to walk through two survey units. We were forced to stop early and walk through the second set of transects rather quickly because the rain became heavier over the course of the lab, and this made documentation and collection of objects more difficult as we progressed further out through the second survey unit, but this turned out alright as the general density of artifacts seemed to decrease the further the surveyors got from the path we started on. The densest region of the four survey units we worked through seemed to be the northwest corner of the field, where Team 1 began its first surveying in T1-01 (Fig. 2). Some members of the lab section discussed the possibility of an early farmhouse or other structure existing at that site at one point in time.

The units surveyed by Team 1 were 50m in length and 50m in width, with a surveyor located every 10m to maximize our chances of discovering artifacts (Fig. 1). The terrain appeared to be a cultivated field, which helped with ground visibility as there was not as much grass cover and no fallen leaves covering the ground. However, this help to visibility was counterbalanced by the rain which turned the ground into a sucking mud very quickly. Team 1 found quite a lot of tile and brick in T1-01, with a total of 66 individual bits of tile/brick and 81 individual bits of concrete, this incredibly high density of building material suggests the presence of some man-made structure in our survey unit 1. The rest of the finds appear more predictable, with only 5 bits of ceramic found (these were all piled together and found by one surveyor), 23 bits of metal (spread out more evenly between the surveyors), 32 bits of plastic, 20 bits of glass, and 9 objects that didn’t fall under any other category but were obviously manmade. Unfortunately, the survey of unit 2 was rushed by the increasing rain, and so we had to rush in order to avoid being soaked. But it appears that sector two had significantly less human artifacts, Hank found a rather large pile of bones, but we did not count them in our survey as they weren’t man-made objects and handling them was probably not sanitary. Total team 1 found one ceramic artifact, no tile/brick items, five bits of concrete, no metal artifacts, two plastic items, three bits of glass, and two items that did not fit into any other category (a baseball, and some rubber ball [possibly a stripped tennis ball]) (Fig. 8).

For Team 2’s 50x50m survey units, T2-01 and T2-02, which were located to the south of survey units T1-01 and T1-02, the most collected artifact class consisted of ceramics (Fig. 7). This team collected a total sum of 42 artifacts in the first survey unit, including 13 pieces of ceramic. One collector, Arya, found 6 pieces of ceramics within one transect. In addition to these pieces and other tiles, lithics, and plastics, our surveyors found other objects that did not fit in any category: a piece of a metal pipe and an aluminum can (Fig. 5). Like Team 1, Team 2 was rushed as we surveyed our second survey unit and collected significantly fewer artifacts. We collected 11 artifacts from this survey unit, with ceramics again being the most found class with 7 objects. This group also found 2 tiles, 1 plastic, and a baseball. It appears that this more southern part of the field was less artifact-dense, but our findings may also have been a result of the weather conditions and rushed documentation (Fig. 6, Fig. 9).

Over the course of this lab, Teams 1 and 2 learned how to measure transects, document the location and conditions of survey units, and deem which artifacts might be worthy of collection and further study. This being our first time working in the field, we learned more about both the technical work and documentation involved in field surveying as well as the difficulties that variable and uncontrollable conditions such as weather may cause for archaeologists in the field.



Fig. 1 – Team 1 survey units 1 and 2

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Fig. 2 – Surveyed field

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Fig. 3 – Discussing survey unit assignments and learning how to measure meters by counting steps


Fig. 4 – Artifact bags being distributedIMG_6517

Fig. 5 – Finding organic objects as well as man-made artifacts


Fig. 6 – Surveyors returning with bagged artifacts


Fig. 7 – Team 2 in survey unit 1

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Fig. 8 – Team 1 survey unit forms

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Fig. 9 – Team 2 survey unit forms


Week 2 (Wednesday Lab)

Our second week seemed to have a main focus on introducing us to archaeological research. It is important for us to understand the work that is required away from the excavation sites, away from the tools, away from the surveys, we need to understand the general information of what we find. This includes having the knowledge of where and how to quickly access the information you need, but also the importance of recording data and keeping artifacts so that those who come after you can progress further. To prepare us for this, we read about the type of research archaeologists need to be ready to do, and we also read about Documentary Archaeology, which helped to open our minds to just how many different kinds of sources can be used when learning about the past, especially if the past does not seem clear.

Our lab for this week brought us to the Carleton Archives in the library. This was a massive collection of sources, varying in quality, age, and even type. They had old yearbooks, newspapers, little notes, pictures, and some things we didn’t even know what they were. This, again, helped us better realize just how many resources are available to archaeologists, which otherwise I am sure we would have never thought to take advantage of.

We talked about the Waterford Mill, which will be the main focus of our labs later on in the course. We also read about the history of the general Northfield area. These, as well as our visit to the Archives, helped us in our assignment to research something/somewhere in Northfield that we found interesting, write about what we found and list the various (hopefully) sources that we used. This allowed was our first big exercise of our archaeological muscles, that drew on our newly acquired knowledge of where to find plentiful and legitimate information.

Week 8 (Tuesday Lab)

This week, the Tuesday lab section finished its excavation at the Waterford Mill site and started cleaning and sorting the artifacts that were unearthed. The members of the lab section were enthusiastic to start cleaning and sorting the artifacts, as many wanted to learn more about the history of the artifacts, as well as the contexts in which they were produced or used.

A few people in the lab section focused on sorting artifacts, but most people started cleaning bagged artifacts that were found during survey and excavation in previous weeks. Common types of artifacts that people came across when cleaning included ceramic, glass, and rusty metal. There were also some shells and leather. Many of the artifacts could be cleaned with the help of water, which helped to wash the dirt off of the artifacts. The leather and rusted metal, however, could be damaged by contact with water and had to be cleaned without it. These artifacts were cleaned by scrubbing the dirt off of them with toothbrushes.

Many members of our lab section enjoyed the cleaning process and the fact that it allowed us to learn more about the artifacts that our classmates had found. Some notable artifacts that were cleaned included a shoe, a glass insulator for an old power line, a button with a design on it that looked like a bunch of grapes, and a tube of old Colgate’s Ribbon Dental Cream toothpaste. While they might seem banal or ordinary, these artifacts demonstrate the artifactual diversity of the Waterford Mill site. Since the artifacts that were cleaned served multiple functions and had decorations of varying complexity, they show us that the Waterford Mill, at one time, was an important place of human habitation and existence.

Vintage 1953 Ad Colgate Toothpaste

Fig. 1: A vintage, 1953 advertisement for Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream. The tube of toothpaste that was cleaned on Tuesday closely resembled the tube featured in the advertisement.

In addition to cleaning, we sorted the artifacts. There were a few artifacts that were initially placed in the wrong bag (for example, glass accidentally placed in a bag of metal), so as we cleaned we relocated such artifacts to the bags that they were supposed to be in. A few members of our lab group also worked on organizing the bags themselves. This meant creating separate bins for the artifacts that were found at Waterford Mill and the ones that were found during fieldwalking in the arb in Week 3. Subsequently, these bags were sorted according to where the artifacts inside them were found.


Week 7 (Tuesday Lab)



From left to right starting at the top: Trench 1, Elise conducting DGPS mapping, Trench 2 excavation, Zobeida working with the sifter, Seth and Aubrey ensuring that buckets are ready for excavation!

During this week’s lab, we split up into four groups for our last day of excavation at the Waterford Mill site.

The team assigned to Trench 2 continued their excavation. Trench 2 produced several iron nails, ceramic sherds, a piece of red glass, and an alarming number of scarlet ticks. Trench 2 dug about 4 inches deeper into the ground, and the soil context had just begun to change by the time lab wrapped up. Trench 2’s team also used the sifter to ensure that no element of material culture was lost among the excavated dirt.

The team assigned to Trench 1 did very similar work, though they were forced to be cautious as the risk of destroying the various metal and ceramic artifacts scattered throughout their area of the site was high. They discovered and catalogued several ceramic shards painted with designs, as well as nails and other metal scraps, and like Trench 2’s team, used the sifter to ensure that nothing was missed.

The third team at the site was given the task of examining the ruins of the secondary structure upriver of the main mill ruin. This team worked to clear away the brush covering the site, and also performed a limited artifact survey of the area, collecting and cataloguing several metal scraps and, notably, a shoe which appears to have originated near the time the Waterford Mill would have been in operation. This team also determined that the building may have been larger and more complex than photographic evidence indicated, since its river-facing wall extended for some distance to the southwest.

The final group was given the task of DGPS mapping the site, taking points throughout the mill site to fill out our virtual map of the area. Among these points, several were taken at the secondary building in order to add its location, elevation, etc. to the site, requiring a harrowing trek through the brambles to reach its farthest extent.


Week 6 (Tuesday Lab)

In this week’s lab at the Waterford Mill Site, the lab section split up into four groups in order to continue investigating the site. The first group, consisting of Ali, Seth, Wendy, and Aubrey, continued with the excavation of Trench 1. Jaylin, Anya, Zobeida, and Julianne, the second group, worked on the excavation of Trench 2. A third team, consisting of Matthew, Claire, and Brendan searched for a specific feature: any remains of a second building at the site, as attested to by a historical photograph. The fourth team, made up of just Judi and Elise, took DGPS mapping points of various spots on the grid, both trenches, and the feature that Team 3 was investigating.

DGPS Mapping

This week’s mapping was focused on better defining previously examined features – the points taken were mostly at the two excavation trenches and the edges of grid squares in the main mill complex. In addition, a single point was taken at the location of the most apparent remains of what might be a second building of the mill site, beyond the more visible mill building itself. In the map below, the southernmost cluster of points shows where the first trench was dug, and the tight set of four points just to the east of survey grid square F10 (the boundaries of which were also mapped with points) shows where the second excavation trench is. Finally, the westernmost point was taken at what appears to be a corner of the remains of the walls of a possible second building.

Week 6 DGPS Map


Feature Investigation: the second building?

The newest endeavor begun by this week’s lab was a survey of the western area of the mill site, which was meant to determine any possible remains of a second building attested to in the photograph below.

Fishing_below_the_Waterford_Mill_Northfield_Minnesota (1)“Fishing Below The Waterford Mill,” c.1900, from the Northfield Historical Society

While the remains of the building in the foreground, the main mill, are plain to see without any investigation of the site, the second building behind it is much less apparent at the site today. To determine where it might be, Brendan, Claire, and Matthew went up the hill to the west of the main building, and, using this photograph as a guide, found linear ditches that run parallel to each other, as well as stones buried under layers of dirt that appear to be placed as walls, much like in the main site. While this was only a preliminary search for this building, the linear features and visibly stacked stone are strong indicators of the location of this second building. To better investigate the feature next week, this team began clearing the site of brush, just like the initial clearance of the main building, and drew a sketch of both the clear boundaries of the building and what might be the extent of its remains.

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Brendan digging a test pit adjacent to the easternmost corner of the 2nd building’s walls (photo by Alex Knodell)

Excavation of Trench 1

Seth, Ali, Wendy, and Aubry continued excavating Trench 1. Seth, Ali, and Wendy dug with the trowels while Aubrey bagged and recorded facts on the form. The three people digging in the trench removed loosened dirt that was sifted and artifacts were removed. This group ended up with 7 bags of artifacts: one glass, four metal, one ceramic, and one miscellaneous “other” bag. They found a few ceramic pieces of interest, one with writing on it and two with golden lines inlayed in the ceramic. Wendy also found a complete intact glass bottle, which was not completely excavated from the trench due to time constraints. In addition, this group did not see any context changes in the soil while excavating the trench.

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Opening photo of trench 1, 3:37 PM

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Photo of trench 1 midway through excavation, 4:20 PM

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Photo of trench 1 at end of day, 4:38 PM

Excavation of Trench 2

Working off the efforts of last week’s Wednesday lab, Jaylin, Anya, Zobeida, and Julianne continued the excavation of trench 2. Zobeida, Julianne, and Jaylin continued to scape the earth with trowels and empty the loosened dirt into a bucket while Anya did the recording. Although the soil context did not change during their work, they filled two and a half buckets with the loosened soil. After filling the buckets, they put the soil through the sifter and removed and bagged any artifacts. This group found small shards of metal, pieces of glass, two small ceramic fragments, and a piece of leather, all of which were placed into 4 bags. This group also noticed many large rocks inside their excavation trench, which they believed to be part of the wall, since trench 2 is right up against the remnants of one of the walls of the mill.

Due to time constraints, this group only dug approximately three to four inches deeper in the trench, and the soil context did not change. However, the group believes that there is likely a new soil context and perhaps older artifacts underneath the current layer with the rocks (believed to be part of the building wall). Once the excavation is continued to a point where there are no artifacts associated with the current protruding rocks and those rocks are removed, perhaps a new soil context will be found.

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Photo of trench 2 midway through excavation, 4:20 PM

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Photo of excavation trench 2 at the end of the day, 4:34 PM


The artifacts found by the group excavating trench 1 could potentially provide interesting insights about the uses of the mill site. It is likely that the trash pit is not in use today, due to the lack of more recent (and more plastic) trash, so the trash likely came from the mill, although it is possible that it came from further upstream and was washed down.

The other possibility is that the buildup of trash in trench 1 could have been formed by trash falling down the hill from what we believe to be the second building of the site, an interpretation bolstered by the presence of similarly contemporary trash at the top of the hill. To determine whether the trash could’ve fallen down the hill to what we’ve called trench 1, we could first investigate the hill itself, perhaps with test pits, to see if there is any clear link beneath the soil between the trash at the top of the hill and that of trench 1. Although gridded collection would provide more comparable results to the main mill’s assemblage, the difficulty of extending our grid to the hillside points to gridded collection being more useful for the 2nd building itself, and perhaps not for trying to determine the extent of any possible links between trench 1 and the 2nd building.

The group excavating trench 2 believed that the rocks in their excavation site were part of the wall, so it would be interesting to further explore the origin of those rocks. The question of where those rocks came from could potentially be answered by some sort of analysis of the rocks (perhaps not feasible within the context of this class) or further excavation of the trench. It could also be illuminating to look more at the area below the wall (what would be F9 and G9, if we had gridded this part) if it ever dries up enough. Since the group excavating trench 2 thought the rocks were part of the wall, it would be interesting to see if similar rocks were also found below the visible area of the wall. The discovery of similar rocks would strengthen the idea that the rocks found in trench 2 were originally part of the wall.