This week’s Tuesday lab consisted of a guided tour around the Arb led by MJ, and then a quick look around the Archaeology Lab in Anderson (with its much-appreciated air-conditioning). While most of the time was spent walking and getting to know some of my classmates, it was also spent getting a better idea of where the important sites in the Arb are and the general geography of the area. The first site we visited was Waterford Mill, which is currently just a few remaining stone structures on the edge of the Cannon River. We talked briefly about how it was one of two mills, and how it was demolished once it was no longer in use. Next we made our way to the Waterford Bridge, which we appreciated from a distance before heading out. The next site of interest was the Women’s League Cabin, which after some searching we found the trail to. We discussed its use first as a place for women on campus to gather to do activities like knitting, and then later as a party spot before it was declared unsafe and demolished. Before heading back towards campus and our final site, we took a break and talked about conducting field surveys around the Arb. Finally, we stopped at the site of the Veteran’s Housing and looked at the remaining posts that are still left over. A few of us then went with MJ back to the lab, where we were able to see some of the artifacts discovered by previous iterations of this class, as well as some mysterious pottery that was recently donated with very little information on where exactly it was from, other than “Israel”. It’s interesting to me just how many of the significant sites are located around the edge of the Arb. Natural barriers like the river, the road, and Carleton itself tend to lend themselves to being places for construction, unlike the more central parts of the Arb, which would be harder to access.
This week, the Tuesday lab group braved the snow to practice conducting a field survey on one of the fields out behind the rec in the Cowling Arboretum. We started out by meeting up in the classroom/lab, and looking at both satellite images of the fields we were planning to survey and LIDAR images. While the satellite image didn’t give us much aside from the difference between plowed and unplowed field, looking carefully at the LIDAR allowed us to see what looked to be a rectangular area that had been artificially flattened, right about where an old farmhouse used to be. After a brief discussion about survey teams, we gathered our supplies and headed out into the cold. Once we arrived at our chosen field, we counted how many paces we took over 10 meters for measuring the distance between team members, and divided ourselves into teams. I was among the members of the first team/group A, who probably lucked out, because the area we ended up surveying was on top of the old farmhouse, and we were able to find several bags worth of artifacts, as well as some too big to remove. In addition to being a survey team member, I was also on the end of the team, which meant that I was in charge of flagging the edges of our area. This task was especially helpful when it came to walking in a straight line, as I could always look back to see the bright pink flag behind me. Most of our finds came in the first 40 or so meters of our 100 meter long area. I found 6 broken bricks, 1 small white piece of ceramic, a piece of glass, and a full quarter of a cinder block that was too big to collect. We stopped for a while to catalogue our finds and sort them into well-labeled bags. After the first stretch, we did not find anything else, so the walking became a bit less interesting, but everything progressed significantly faster. Once we finally made it to the end of the field, as the flagger, I had to walk all the way back and collect the flags we had left behind. We stopped for a little while longer to gather up our finds, and then hurried back to the warmth of Anderson Hall and the classroom. Once there, we placed all of our finds into a box, leaving the ziplock bags open so they could air out, and made sure that all our documentation was in order, before heading our separate ways.
The Tuesday lab group began by discussing potential research questions involved with the farmhouse site that we had previously surveyed. However, most of the class quickly began to feel like there weren’t that many more answers, and the allure of the mysterious quarry site was much stronger. So, we set out towards the quarry with some preliminary questions in mind: Was this in fact a significant site within the Arb? And would we be able to find proof that this site was man-made? We made it to the site and were pleased to find a large amount of discarded beer cans from multiple eras, proving to us that this site was worth some degree of investigation. The rock face was a bit more difficult to find obvious human interference on, but we nevertheless split into teams to begin the grid survey. A small group went out to map out the larger area, and the rest of us stayed behind to establish the grid, which we decided would have 5m by 5m squares and run in the north-south direction. Once we finished flagging out the squares, we split into teams to surface survey each square (except for the one with the main trash dump, since we needed more practice before undertaking that task). Sophia and I worked together on grid unit L12, which, at first glance, did not have anything significant. However, due to the amount of leaf litter and branches in our square, we quickly realized that we would need to do a lot of moving leaves in order to get an idea of what was within our square. In the end, we found one plastic comb, 4 pieces of glass from a glass bottle, and most exciting, a stone formation built into the ground that had a clear corner structure. We documented and bagged the glass and plastic, and drew out the corner structure and photographed it. By the time we finished carefully surveying our grid unit, time was almost up, so we all gathered together and headed back to the lab.
In the end, we found that we had answered our initial questions. It is pretty certain that this site was used, at the very least as a dumping ground/drinking spot, and possibly as a quarry and location of some other structure. Its proximity to the Waterford Mill and Millpond Dike also lend credit to the idea that it could be involved with other significant sites. The questions still remain as to what exactly this site was used for and when, and I am certainly excited to see what else we can find in our continued investigations.
This week, the Tuesday group split into three groups: exploration, surveying and excavation, unhindered (more or less– there was some very soggy documentation by the end) by the rain. Hannah Z, Kairah and I (and later Sam) were responsible for excavating. We chose to excavate the feature that Sophia and I had found in L12 the previous week, a pile of stones that seemed to have a somewhat corner-shaped feature. Our first step was to measure out the size of our trench. Originally, we were going to keep the trench as a 1m by 1m, which is fairly standard, but we decided that a 1m by 2m trench would work better to encompass more of the feature. Once we measured it out and made sure that our rectangle was roughly at a right angle, we began to clear away the surface debris. While the others began clearing, at this point I made a rough sketch of the area, for documentation, and Kairah took some initial photographs.
We cleared away some roots and small vegetation (many of the larger roots and a stump in the middle of the stone pile stayed), and troweled and swept away plenty of leaves. Most of the trench was fairly easy to clean, but when it came to trying to remove leaves from the rock pile, the going was very slow. A horse hoof pick was the MVP for this particular part of the project, since it’s small brush and pick were apparently very helpful for cleaning out debris from in between the stones in the pile without disturbing them, compared to the larger brushes which just did not fit.
Once we had cleaned the area, we took some more photos and then began the process of excavation, using the same trowels and brushes that we had used for clearing. The soil that we removed from the site we used dustpans to collect and then placed in buckets for sifting. At this point we began to uncover more stone to the north and east of the main feature. I found that the brush in particular was very helpful in removing dirt from these stones, though I would imagine it would be a good deal easier if the soil was dry.
We ran out of time not too long after beginning the excavation, so at this point we quickly pulled out the ¼” Mesh Sieve, and poured the two buckets of dirt we collected into it, depositing the leftover soil and debris in unit L13. This process revealed a single piece of glass, which we bagged and labelled once we got back to the lab.
Since we are planning to continue to excavate in this spot next week, we did not backfill the trench, and we also did not get the GPS coordinates for the documentation. We gathered our gear and headed back to the lab.
Most people left, but a handful stayed back to complete documentation and bag/label our finds. I spent a few minutes copying over the information from the soggy excavation form I had worked on in the field to a new, somewhat dryer one, and labelled the singular piece of glass and left it to dry as well.
The Tuesday lab split into three teams: surveying and DGPS, Dike excavation, and continued work on Quarry Trench 1. I continued work on QT1 for the second week in a row, focusing more on excavation and less on documentation. I worked mostly around the northeast corner of the trench, where we were exposing a lot of bedrock. At first these rocks seemed like they might be some kind of floor or structure, but at this point after talking with a geologist Alex is pretty sure that the cracks between these rocks aren’t because they were moved to the site separately, but because of rain and roots causing them to crack over time.
The bedrocks in the corner I worked in were fairly consistent, with only one place where they were a few inches deeper than the rest, which required a bit more extensive digging.
Once I cleared the area with solid bedrock, I moved to the section where much of the debris from the rock pile was located. This area took a lot longer to uncover with the trowel and brush method. There were numerous roots coming from the stump in the middle of the rock pile, and many of the rocks were located in such a way that using the trowel to remove dirt from around them was difficult. In this area I did find what I thought was our most interesting find so far: a piece of bone. The first thoughts we had was that it was either some kind of vertebra, or a finger bone. Notably, it seems to be missing a significant part of it, with several small divots on the broken side. We bagged it and took it back to the lab, and will maybe do further research as to what kind of bone it is.
On the side of the trench that I wasn’t working on, we have still yet to uncover a different context or hit bedrock. There are two places where the soil appears to be more brown/claylike, indicating that we might soon hit the second context and then bedrock.
While we worked we did some more sifting with the ¼” sieve, and found one more small piece of glass.
There is still some more excavation work that can be done, so we will continue work in the trench next week, with the goal to uncover the bedrock across the whole area.
This week I was part of the Tuesday lab team responsible for continuing excavation at the Millpond Dike Trench. Once we brought our supplies to the trench, we discussed how we were planning to continue the excavation with Alex, and decided that our best bet was to stop carefully scraping each layer, and instead focus on clearing out as much as we can and using the edges of the trench to determine stratigraphy. With that decided, I ended up working with Neil to sift through the large amount of soil that we were removing from the trench.
It was tiring work, but we were rewarded when Neil found a bullet casing, which will hopefully be very helpful in dating the Dike, as the make and number are clearly visible on it.
Other than the casing, sifting the dirt was difficult and not very rewarding work. As the trench got deeper, the soil we were sifting got clumpier and clumpier, which made it even more difficult to look through for artifacts. Throughout the whole process, we noticed a lot of smooth river stones were in the mix, though it became much harder to spot them as the soil grew more clumpy. I also noticed a conical snail shell, which I thought might be interesting if conical snails are not native to the area, but a quick search revealed that they are and the shell doesn’t give us any new information on the dike.
In the end I would say that the diggers made it another two feet into the dike, still without finding any underlying stone structure, but I can’t be sure on measurements because I was mostly down at the bottom of the hill doing the grunt work.
Before we headed out I helped bring some of our equipment back to the quarry site, and while I was there I got to see the completed Quarry Trench 1, which it turns out does not have any evidence of a man made structure. It does, however, show off how the quarry might have been mined, since the eastern half has the kind of rubble rock that they would have easily removed, while the western half is solid bedrock that would have been left alone. It was very exciting to see the end result of that project, and to see how it demonstrates the quarrying techniques that would have been used for the whole site.
This week the Tuesday lab got started on cataloguing and analyzing the artifacts that we had found during the field survey, gridded surface collections, and excavation. Some of our time was spent carefully cleaning the artifacts, but most of our time was spent on determining how to separate them into lots and doing research in order to attempt to figure out rough time scales for each object. The first group of artifacts that I worked with was a glass bottle. Since this was my first attempt at cataloguing, Alex gave some helpful pointers about lots, and explained that since there were no duplicate parts (only one bottleneck and one thicker bottom piece), it could all be considered one artifact and therefore one lot.
The next items I worked with were some metal cans collected during the gridded survey. We were able to separate them into three lots: two tops of Schlitz cans, two tops that had no brand but were of a similar style, and one bottom. Using the style of the pull tabs, we were able to narrow down the date range of the cans from between 1965 (when pull tabs were first introduced) and 1975 (when laws saying that the tabs had to stay with the can after being pulled were introduced and the laws were changed).
After that I worked with another undateable broken glass bottle, and a plastic comb. While the plastic comb has been around since the late 1800s, we were able to find that the more malleable plastic used in the making of this comb was not in use until after WWII.
Next we moved on to the items that were collected during the excavation of Quarry Trench 1. The two small glass shards were unnotable, since they were too small to have any indication of what they were from. I moved on to trying to figure out what sort of bone the small bone we found there was. At first I investigated finger and knuckle bones, but Alex got out a bone collection, and we started comparing what we had to some of the more complete specimens there, and discovered that it was a broken (likely thoracic) vertebra. I couldn’t find any good charts for how large different animal species vertebrae are, but due to the size it was likely a rabbit or a raccoon or something along those lines.
I then worked with some of the ceramic sherds that we found during the field survey in Week 3. The first of which was incorrectly sorted as ceramic, and was in fact probably some kind of cinderblock, just with a coating of cracked teal paint. The next two were white ceramic, the first of which didn’t have any identifying features, but the second had a raised floral pattern and a small part of a pink and green design visible in the corner. I hoped that this would be enough for finding a match, but in the end all I could find was a German ceramics company that produced similar floral pieces in the early 1900s, though the likelihood this came from one of their pieces is very slim. While I was working on this, I also wrote down information on what Sawyer found cleaning and researching the brick and cinder block we found in the field survey.
After that I catalogued some unidentifiable glass pieces, and then did some research to find out when the Northfield area first got electricity, since one of the pieces we found was a glass insulator, which have been used since the first electrical lines. I couldn’t find an exact date for the Northfield area, but it seems Mineappolis was the first city in the state to get electricity in 1882, so the insulator dates from some point after that.
At this point we were running up on time, so I quickly got the basic information for the pieces of metal found in the field survey into the spreadsheet, cleaned my work area, and headed out.
This week the majority of the Tuesday lab stayed in Anderson to finish up artifact analysis and work more on final projects, and I went with a smaller group out into the Arb in hopes of finishing up our dike excavation. Since our group was small, we got to enjoy the new relaxed mask mandate, and were able to all see each other’s faces for the first time since our Zoom meetings in the first two weeks of class. Once we got to the site, Hannah and I uncovered the trench while the rest of the group collected the supplies we needed from the quarry site. For the first hour or so, I worked with Sophia sifting the dirt. We noticed that it had a very clay-like texture, and that there was very little other than the soil and the occasional root. Once we finished digging and sifting that context, we switched jobs and Sophia and I took a turn digging. However, we weren’t as expert as Hannah and Noah, so we had Alex help us out a bit, and got the spade shovel to help us get through the more solid clay that we were finding.
For the last part of the dig, I returned to sifting, where we found that the clay was getting chunkier and chunkier as we went down, which made sifting quite difficult, as much of the heavy dirt wouldn’t go through the mesh. Once we ran out of time, Hannah and I covered up the trench with the tarp again, and we returned to the lab.