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.


Week 5 (Tuesday Lab)

Waterford Mill Site – Gridded Collection, Excavation, and Mapping

This week at the Waterford Mill site, the Tuesday lab split up into three groups in order to continue the archaeological work at the mill: two groups did gridded collection of a few of the survey units, 2 other groups did small excavation trenches around the site area, and one other group did mapping in the site. As this was our first day doing actual excavation, there was a bit of a slow start and a learning curve for all of us to get comfortable with our jobs, but having had this day to get a little experience with the somewhat hectic atmosphere at the site will be very helpful continuing forward with the excavation in future weeks.

     Two teams of three people did a gridded collection in the survey area: Claire, Jaylen, and Ilan; and Matthew, Aubrey, and Wendy. Each group picked up where last week’s Wednesday lab had left off in the survey site. One group surveyed survey units F12 and F13, while the other group surveyed units G11 and G12, respectively (see diagram below). Each group spent 10 minutes surveying the area and pointing out finds, then 5 minutes bagging the notable finds. Two people surveyed while one person recorded on the Survey Unit forms. The group surveying F12 and F13 found 3 metal beer cans, crushed and somewhat modern, as well as a bunch of glass shards and plastic bits. These were found all in unit F12, just inside the mill wall. This collection group had to re-orient unit F13 since it was askew, but once that had been done, they found four strips of rusted sheet metal (too large to bag) and a chip bag (too contemporary to bag). The other collection crew found more cans and some metal wire, as well as some glass bottles that still had writing on them.

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A schematic diagram of the survey units at the Waterford Mill Site.

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A piece of sheet metal that one of the excavation teams (Claire, Ilan, and Jaylen) found in survey unit F13.

     Two teams started to excavate strategically picked areas around the site. The first team (Ali, Seth, and Judi) excavated next to a trash pit. They started the excavation by laying out a 1×1 meter grid using measuring tape and stakes, and then marked the square with string (picture of the trench below). The first step was to clear the surface of vegetation and rocks, as well as any artifacts that were lying directly on the surface. These artifacts were collected, sorted by type, and then bagged; they included metal, ceramic, and glass items. After this surface work, the team continued to shovel shave the area by about an inch, where they found more artifacts similar to the ones described above. Due to time constraints, this is as far as the first team got.


The first team’s excavation trench.

     The second team (Julianne, Tanya, and Anya) chose to excavate an area next to the wall of the lower structure. Like the first team, they set up a 1×1 meter grid using the same methods, and marked it off with string (picture below). Vegetation and rocks also had to be removed from the surface, but there were no artifacts to be collected. The team began to shovel shave the surface, where they found numerous pellets from an airsoft gun. Some of these were collected and bagged. However, no other artifacts of interest were found. Again, due to time constraints, this is as far as the second team got.


The second team’s excavation trench.

   The remaining members of the lab section participated in mapping. Brendan and Elise worked together to do DGPS mapping of the area so that the subsequent lab group would be able to translate the labels on the DGPS mapping readings from our group. The mapping groups also took down the locations of our individual trenches that were dug, and later on will hopefully incorporate the information on what sorts of finds were dug up and where.

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Google Earth representation of the Waterford Mill Site, with the Tuesday group lab mapping points in white and the Wednesday group mapping points in blue.

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DGPS points from Tuesday lab; the red circle represents the first group’s trench (trench 1), the yellow circle represents the second group’s trench (trench 2), and the cyan lines represent the area covered by the gridded survey team.

     With the excavation started and the gridded survey on its way, we are making progress in uncovering the Waterford Mill. Looking to future labs, we hope to continue finding artifacts of interest as well as analyzing the entire area as a whole, applying what we learn in class to the field work.


Week 4 (Tuesday Lab)

Waterford Mill Site – Gridding, Clearing, and Mapping

During lab in the fourth week of ARCN 246, the Tuesday section arrived at the Waterford Mill site and began to clear the area, put down some grids, and do some mapping.  We had had an introduction to much of this process in class, talking about what we would do when we arrived and what we could expect out of the process. Getting an idea of how these processes work in the field and how we should start to go about them was really helpful, and prepared us to take it on once we reached our own site.  

Once at the site, we divided up into three rough teams: clearing, gridding, and mapping.  Each team were assigned specific instructions and began to work to complete their side of the day’s work.  The mapping team were in-charge of site documentation and collecting coordinates points, which they did using a GPS device and recording different coordinate points, or by filling out feature forms and sketching different features.  They worked in teams of 1-2 and moved around different areas of the site. Some mapped the main area and the walls that extended into the mud and river. Others went further to the northeast and found a midden and fire pit, exploring an area not easily seen from the main site.  The last group went in the opposite direction past the main site and found a midden with lots of interesting artifacts already visible.


Julianne, Alex, and Brendan look at a feature form while Elise takes coordinates in the back

The gridding team marked the sites and took bearings.  The four of them worked together to make sure the lines stayed on course, work the tape measure through the brambles or hand it up walls, and mark every five meters with a flag.  They began with an x-axis of 20 meters running along the lower wall at a bearing of 70° northeast, and staking down flags every 5 meters along this length as well. They also began to create y-axis grid lines, which extended 15 meters at each 5 meter point on the x-axis at a bearing of 340° northwest.  They also staked flags every 5 meters along the y-axis lines, and completed three full lines during their time. This will provide a guideline for future survey and documentation work, and was completed by the Wednesday group, although the grid will probably be extended even further to either side.


Extending the tape measure through the brambles and trees to create the grid.

The clearing crew worked primarily in the main walled area near the trail, hauling out logs, bushes, and general natural debris that was preventing easy access to the site.  While this was treacherous at times, and no easy work, the team managed to clear a large portion of the site during the time we were there. They also often got the first look at any artifacts on the surface and at the different features and walls present in the area.

Ilan and Matthew discuss the best way to clear the area, and the pile of slash collected by the end of the day (photos courtesy of Aubrey)

The feature forms ended up giving us a rough idea of the different large features in the area. Various walls, middens, and smaller artifacts were recorded that give us a preliminary look at what we will find in the area and the different sites of interest.  The artifacts looked to range in age from this year to possibly several decades old, although it is hard to tell without close examination. Some examples of artifacts found include glass bottles, metal buckets, pottery, and keys. There was also a fire pit found, so there may be some interesting artifacts in the area as it would have been used fairly often.  

Overall, it was a very productive day, and with the work that the Wednesday group did, we should be in pretty good shape to move on to more surveying and excavation next week.  We got a chance to really put what we’ve talked about in class into practice, and it was a really interesting look at where we will be working for the next few weeks. Getting to do some practical application and explore some different facets of archaeology was interesting for all of us, and gave us some things to think about as we plan our next steps.


The site was divided into a coordinate plane with x and y axis. The lower and upper wall represent the site of the mill and the current ruins of the wall. The other yellow quadrants around the walls are sites that was designated for other groups to survey.


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Week 3 (Tuesday Lab)

By Ilan and Aubrey


Our third Tuesday of ARCN 246 was largely dedicated to learning about and practicing the various types of archaeological surveys. In class, we discussed the benefits and limits of Google Maps and its street view feature as an archaeological survey tool. We further learned about various innovations in remote sensing technologies and techniques, including AIRSAR and the revolutionary role of LiDAR scanning on jungle archaeology in particular. This lesson was supplemented by guest speaker Neil Slifka, who discussed how these technologies have assisted in his job as Area Resource Specialist for the Minnesota state parks and historical sites. Our class ended with a brief summary of the different survey types, with special attention paid to fieldwalking techniques, as that would constitute the bulk of our lab period.


The lab itself began in the classroom, where we were introduced to some of the equipment that we would be expected to use in the field (Fig. 1). These included survey forms, compassess, and sample bags. We also selected the area that we planned to survey, a relatively flat grassy area in the Upper Arboretum that would be a good spot for beginners to conduct their first field survey. Unfortunately, when we arrived the Arb crew was in the middle of a controlled burn there, so we instead traveled to the second location marked for the lab: a section of the Lower Arb that consisted of a similar grassy space and a more densely forested gully, the two areas separated from one another by a trail.


Upon arriving at our new site, the lab group split into two teams, one for each side of the trail. We walked along 10 meters of a measuring tape, counting how many steps it took to go from one end to the other. By doing so, we learned how to measure distance with our steps, a skill important to maintaining equal distance from other field walkers while surveying. We also learned how to take our bearing using our cell phones as more readily available alternatives to traditional compasses.


Team 1 was tasked with surveying the “cleaner” side of the trail, which was characterized by low shrubbery and a relatively flat topography. Six group members assumed roles as surveyors, pacing themselves out five meters from one another, using the step counts we had established by walking along the measuring tape (Fig. 2). The two team members at farthest left and farthest right marked the two corners with hot pink fly paper, and set our bearing for 250°, in order to ensure parallel orientation. The final two members, who weren’t actively surveying, acted as team leader (i.e. recorded the finds, sketched the survey units in relation to one another, and established which new plots to survey) and mapper (took photos of the hot pink flags in order to establish geographical coordinates) (Fig. 3). Our team moved through three survey units in the half hour we had! We flagged the corners of each unit to produce the surveyed area seen below (Group 1’s units are named as T1).

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Map of survey units via Google Earth.

Despite our wide breadth, we found no evidence of material culture— not one thing. Our group started to feel a little demoralized in the absence of the thrill of discovery, but, luckily, Team 2 struck gold. Team 1 still learned a great deal about the survey process, and we were importantly reminded that archaeology is as much about the process as the end results.


In contrast to Team 1, Team 2 only completed a single survey unit, identified as T2-01 (seen on the map above)— but found a much larger record of material culture. We set our bearing as 270° and set about lining up to begin the survey, marking the corners of the survey unit with pink tape as Team 1 had. It was nearly impossible to line up evenly on the uneven and obstacle-ridden ground, so we used the tape measure to space ourselves along the line (Fig. 4). Though it was clear that this would be a difficult unit to survey, it was also evident that it would bring rich rewards— the area was strewn with artifacts, largely consisting of heavily rusted tin cans, glass fragments, and shards of ceramic material. One team member reported counting metal and glass objects in their hundreds. Though in the end we were only able to complete a single survey unit, we collected 29 artifacts (Fig. 5) and counted several hundred others. The rich array of discoveries made in this challenging area not only gave us a better understanding of the types of locations where people dispose of their garbage, but also served as a reminder that formidable sites are often worth the effort spent investigating them.


In total, the most commonly observed materials were glass, metal, and ceramic. The greatest concentration of objects was within the second transect from the road, suggesting that they were deposited from the trail, likely tossed towards the woods in order to keep the path clear. Metal objects, including old cans, a sheet of wire mesh, and pieces of rain gutter, were found by all five surveyors. This could be due to several things. First, it is possible that they were thrown further from the road initially. Another possibility is that those objects, either due to being lighter or being deposited earlier than the other materials, have been further moved from their original location. If this were the case, however, it is likely that plastic objects would have also been found across the transects, rather than just in the first one.


On the whole, this lab was informative to both groups, giving us a taste of real fieldwork after our readings and discussions about it. We learned that engaging in the process of surveying is sometimes challenging but well worth the rewards, even if that reward is experience alone. We also had a lot of fun, and are looking forward to applying what we have learned to our main project for this class.



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Fig. 1: Alex discussing some of the materials for Tuesday lab, before we left for the field.

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Fig. 2: Team 1 pacing out and establishing our survey line!

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Fig. 3: Jaylin and Aaron flagging survey unit corners and taking photos in order to save the GPS coordinates.

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Fig. 4: Julianne using the measuring tape for accurate spacing.

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Fig. 5: Wendy with some finds!

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Fig. 6: Team 1 survey record sheet.

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Fig. 7: Team 2 survey record sheet.


Week 2 (Tuesday Lab)

On Tuesday April 9th, the class went over logistics for the field trip, weekly summaries and fieldwork journals as well as material culture and garbology information during the regular class period. During this time, we discussed some of the surprising insights we found when examining our own waste, and what the changing nature of American trash disposal will mean for future archaeological finds.

Midway through the class period, we visited the Carleton archives on the first floor of the Gould Library, where we met Nat Wilson, the digital archivist at Carleton. Nat Wilson presented information about archives and research techniques and encouraged us to look through materials relating to the Northfield Women’s League, the subject of a previous Archaeological Methods class project in the 2015 field season. We were able to examine photographs and documents taken at the Woman’s League Cabin, and learned some strategies to identify and analyze these documents, and key questions we should always be asking ourselves when interacting with historical documents: what does the person who produced these materials want to show, and what should we be looking for?

During the lab period, the Tuesday Lab group rode over to the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault. We met with Susan Garwood, the executive director of the Historical Society, to discuss some of the current collections. She started the presentation by referencing a map of the surrounding Faribault area to talk about the local geological and environmental history. She gave detailed explanations of how the glacial activity, and the stagnant nature of many of the ice shelves during the period, shaped the geology of Rice County by forming a large number of lakes in the region, a defining feature of Minnesotan geography.

Both lakes and rivers are important features for understanding the history of human habitations in Southern Minnesota. Susan explained how lakes were the preferred places of habitation due to the often violent nature of larger rivers. This information is corroborated by the placement known archaeological sites in the region, the vast majority of which are located around a cluster of large lakes in Southwestern Rice County. However, the presence of materials may have been significantly impacted by the environmental factors, such as river flooding.

One notable piece of Faribault’s early history was the role Alexander Faribault played in aiding the local Wahpekute population. He sheltered around 200 Dakota people on his land during and after the Dakota War of 1862, a decision he made in part due to his family history in the fur trapping business. This community continued to play a large role in the shaping of Faribault’s history, as some of the few Dakota people in Minnesota who were not forced out of their ancestral lands by white settlers.

Susan also discussed with us some of the peculiarities of dealing with collections and material sources found by local(and often amateur) archaeologists. One more notable example of this are the bison discoveries found in Eastern Rice County– a region that, up until very recently, nobody thought bison had ever populated. However, donated  bison bones revealed six skeletons located near a river. When an archaeological team made it to the site later, they unearthed many more bones, all of which dated back thousands of years. None of the bones found displayed evidence of human activity, so it is unclear if the local peoples of the time hunted the bison or not. This find has exciting implications for the field of Minnesotan Prehistory, and further investigations are underway.

For the rest of the visit, our group was able to tour the Historical Society individually. Near the end of our stay, Susan pulled out boxes of historical documents to show us, including from the last hundred years, and we listened as she explained some of the intersection between written and material culture when documenting the history of a local area. One of the major takeaways we left with was the importance of saving things, and donating old documents and objects to local history centers whenever possible– you never know when your box of old newspapers or bison femurs could be the key to the next major discovery!