In this week’s lab, we toured sites of archaeological interest in the Cowling Arboretum with Alex and Nancy Braker, the Arb’s director. We met at the Arb Office and crossed the highway into the Lower Arb, pausing so that Nancy could tell us about the history of the Arb and various points of interest along the way, including the remains of the Waterford mill along the Cannon River. I found the mill site especially interesting because it was a part of the Arb to which I had previously been but never really investigated. I learned that the path leading to the site is on top of the old dyke that held water back to power the mill. Alex pointed out that we can tell it’s an unnatural formation because it runs perpendicular to the Cannon, which is the opposite of what we would expect, and because it is unnaturally straight and uniform.
Nancy then led us on a detour that branched to the northeast off of the path to the mill site. She led us to a mossy outcropping of rock of which she had only recently become aware, and we discussed what it could potentially be. Alex said that holes bored into the rock could indicate the past use of dynamite to quarry stone. Beneath the outcropping were littered bottles and cans from different time periods; many cans were old and rusty with antiquated openings while others were more recent purchases from popular Midwestern beer companies. There were also some old pails or buckets at the site and Alex and the group expressed interest in returning for further investigation in subsequent labs.
We visited the Waterford bridge at the extreme northeastern corner of the Arb and Alex pointed out the sign above it, which indicated when it was built (1909) and who designed and built it along with other details, which represents an important source of information in historical archaeology. We visited the site of the Women’s League Cabin along the western edge of the Lower Arb and ran into some local teens up to something fishy (or skunky). In class, we contemplated the place as a potentially ideal spot for illicit activities due to its proximity to parking and its relatively secluded nature despite being close to the trail, which related to broader ideas about relationships between a place’s unique characteristics and how humans interact with it. At the end of our tour, we visited the Pine Hill Village near the Rec Center and behind Goodhue Hall. We walked several miles, but it was rewarding to see the sites we had read about and explore the possibilities of archaeological work in the field.
In this week’s lab, we put our new knowledge about archaeological survey to good use in a field in the Upper Arb. Before we left for the site, we did some remote sensing work using satellite imagery from Google Maps and a LiDAR map of the area. We also discussed the importance of processing and analyzing artifacts by categorizing them well and then determining their form, function, and chronology based on their attributes. Then we went out into the field to conduct our survey. We split up into two teams and spaced ourselves ten meters apart on an east-west line; the first team of five students walked parallel to the road on the east side of the field and the second team of five was further west into the field’s interior. Each team had four walkers and one recorder, who catalogued artifact finds in each survey unit and noted several other important details like weather conditions and the features of the landscape. I was in the second team and walked the far western edge of the survey unit. In the first survey unit, it was difficult to distinguish between rocks and potential artifacts of brick, tile, or ceramic. Most of what I collected were rocks and I didn’t find anything very exciting. Golf balls from the nearby driving range dominated the end of the first survey unit and the beginning of the second. I also found a piece of glass which was the broken bottom of a bottle and could be precisely dated based on the width of the glass. In the third survey unit, I found a long, bent piece of old metal that could have been part of some farm equipment. I also found some very small, fragile shells, which were interesting. After walking each survey unit, we categorized the finds and put them in bags based on their material. The survey was exciting for me and I enjoyed seeing all the diverse artifacts we gathered from just a small part of a nondescript agricultural field. I gained a new appreciation for those with the ability to separate artifact from rock and had fun during our hands-on experience with the material we had covered through readings and in class.
In this week’s lab, we conducted another site survey, this time at the quarry that Nancy Braker showed us during our tour of the Arb two weeks ago. Before we left for the site, we discussed what we need to consider about a site to approach its survey with the most appropriate techniques and research questions, including the site’s basic physical aspects like size and characteristics, its function, how it’s changed over time, and its local context and interactions with the surrounding area. We also discussed what we need to think about regarding the collection of artifacts, including resource limitations (e.g. money, time, effort, storage, etc.), diagnosticity (some artifacts are more informative than others), and the importance of recording location and collecting ethically.
Then, we went to the quarry site, which the Tuesday group had sketched a map of and divided into 16 squares, each 25 square meters in area (five by five meters). We began surveying units and a small group of students used a differential GPS to collect coordinates. I oversaw the surveying, assigning pairs to survey units and orienting them using the blue flags that the Tuesday group had put up. I also copied the map from Tuesday and tracked which units were being surveyed and by whom. In observing the survey, it was clear that artifact density around unit L10 was high relative to units farther away. Pairs of surveyors in units closer to J10 took longer, although this isn’t necessarily due to a higher artifact density and could also be related to the thoroughness of survey and time taken to clear the unit of dead leaves and other detritus. Additionally, it was clear that units containing part of the slope were difficult to survey. Towards the end of the lab, I took lots of pictures of survey unit L10 in a kind of bubble over the square, which will be used for a photogrammetric representation of the unit.