Week 2: An Exploration of the Cowling Arboretum
This week’s lab gave us the opportunity to visit a few of Northfield’s archaeological sites after spending the first week of class delving into readings and websites that discussed them in great detail. Since many of the archaeological sites happened to be in and around the Cowling arboretum, this lab primarily consisted of exploring and familiarizing ourselves with the arb. MJ met us at the Arb office and led our group to our first stop: the Waterford Mill Site, located along the Cannon River.
I enjoyed the breeze that came from standing alongside the river, and from our position, we were able to see some stone remnants of the mill protruding from the water and spoke briefly about the mill’s history and function in Northfield. We spent less time at our next stop, the Waterford Bridge, which is no longer in use by vehicles. We looked at it from a distance before heading to our third stop: the Women’s League Cabin. We learned that around the 1940s, social life on Carleton’s campus was divided and the Women’s League cabin served as a space for female students to congregate. The cabin became a hotspot for parties and shortly after being deemed a liability by the College, was torn down. A pile of stones and iron pieces remain at the site of the demolished cabin. The scattered beer cans and graffiti on the trees were indicators that this site is still frequented and used for parties/hangouts to this day.
We then walked along a stretch of highway till we reached a field behind the Hill of Three Oaks, where MJ told us about what fieldwork and digging would look like. On our way out of the arb, we stopped at the site of Pine Hill Village, a Carleton-installed housing complex for returning World War II veterans and their families. Although very little physical evidence of this complex remains, we were able to see a few scattered green poles which marked the location of the houses. Our tour concluded in the Archaeology Lab in Anderson where we were met with artifacts from previous excavations of the sites we visited on our walk. It was interesting to see tangible evidence of these sites in use, and looking at the labeled artifacts in the lab gave me better insight into the process of labeling and organizing that comes after excavation.
Week 3: A Snowy Archaeological Field Survey
Much of our class on Tuesday was spent discussing GIS and remote sensing. We spent time talking more specifically about the purposes and benefits of satellite imagery analysis and LiDAR as forms of remote sensing used in archaeology. This class was a good prologue to our lab which involved going to a site we had previously identified on both Google Maps and LiDAR to conduct a field survey.
We spent some time in class going over standard field procedures and were given notebooks, plastic bags, clickers. A few students were given clipboards with forms to fill out, so they could document our potential field finds. Before heading over to the field, Alex told us we would be walking in straight, evenly spaced lines, and drew a diagram so we could get a better sense of how our paths would allow us a more even scan of the field. Seeing so many photographs of professional archaeologists spaced the same way (on our class slides) we would be at the site, made our entire experience feel more authentic and professional to me.
Tuesday provided me with some of the craziest weather I’ve experienced in Northfield. As I was walking to class, it was chilly, but grey. When we left the classroom for the field, there were small flurries of met snow and gusts of icy wind. We began our field study in this weather. We walked out past the Hill of Three Oaks to the field we had been observing via Google Maps and LiDAR. Once there, we measured out twenty meters and had each person pace up and down the distance several times so they could get a sense of what ten meters were in terms of their own paces. After that, we all spread roughly ten meters apart from each other. Kairah was our group’s leader and we stood shivering in the chilly wind till she told us to start our exploration of the field. At first, I was skeptical that I would find anything. The grass that covered the ground was fairly dense and not very susceptible to being removed. However, I soon found my first artifact, a small piece of brick, followed by many more.
I found it hard to walk in a straight line when my two markers for equidistance (Noah and Neil) were either too far behind or way too in front of me to give me any kind of scale. Once we reached Kairah, she recorded our findings and we were able to see what other people had found. There was a lot of brick, concrete, and a few pieces of glass, metal, and ceramics. After our items were cataloged and accounted for, we consolidated our finds and sorted them into groups, creating new plastic bags with labels that were more specific to the class of object. Writing was hard since our fingers were so cold from the snow, and the bags were wet from it.
Since most of the group’s findings were concentrated on one specific area in the field, we postulated that there was once a house there. Many of the pieces we found seemed to be part of the wall or ceiling and indicated the remains of some kind of building. Someone told me that the bricks that I had picked up looked like shingles, which fit with the whole farmhouse theory. The theory continued to make sense since during our scan of the next parts of the fields where no one found anything. It also made sense with the LiDAR scans we had been looking at before exploring the field; they showed a small indent in the spot that yielded the most artifacts, something Noah had pointed out in class earlier and indicated as a spot of specific interest.
I was the recorder after Kairah and was able to get a sense of what it was like to write down the details of the survey and keep track of everything. My job was significantly easier, because no one found anything, so there really wasn’t much to record. After completing the surveys in the fields of interest, we headed back to Anderson. Of course, once we started to leave, the sky cleared up, and while the weather was nowhere near warm, the snow had completely stopped and a few feeble rays of sunshine hit the field. Grabbing our newly found artifacts, we walked back to the classroom.
Week 4: Field Surveying the Quarry
Before heading out to lab this Tuesday, our class decided to hone in on what kinds of questions we were hoping to answer by conducting field surveys on certain areas. Since we surveyed a field just behind the Hill of Three Oaks the last time we had lab, we focused on that area and what we hoped to learn about it. Based the artifacts we collected, we postulated that there was once a farmhouse located close to the road, but the rest of the field was likely left untouched. Many people believed that the interesting questions to ask were about the people who lived in the house, questions that arguably could not be answered through material finds. As a lab section, we decided that it would be more productive if we chose a new site to survey, hopefully being able to learn more from a different experience.
The site we chose to survey was an old quarry in the Cowling Arboretum (see Fig.1). We went surveying hoping to answer the questions: what was the quarry used for and who used it?
We made our way through the arb, with Alex leading us. We made our way through a narrow trail that led us off the more defined main path we had been taking. Upon reaching the quarry, we found a ton of old beer cans littered, indicating to us that this location has been used as a dumping ground in more recent times (see Fig 1, right).
Since this site was new to Alex, and also covered by trees, thus inaccessible via Google Maps, we had to hand draw a birds eye view sketch of the area in addition to dividing the area into sections to explore. Emery, Sawyer, Hannah, and I were part of the team scouting the area and drawing the birds eye view map., which would later be used to create a grid that would be labeled and referred to when noting down where certain artifacts came from. We walked around the site’s perimeter, noting that there appeared to be three levels to the quarry. We got a sense of the shape of the area, as well as the prominent features, recording them on our map. In our search, we happened to stumble upon a more paved main path that passed right by the quarry, which we noted for our way back.
When we got back to the quarry site, where the rest of our classmates had been, we found that they had created 5 by 5-meter squares to search for artifacts in. The 5-meter marks were denoted with colorful markers, which we left up for the Wednesday lab, so they could continue the search. On our way back to Anderson, we took the new path we found!