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!
Week 5: (Absence & Documentary Record)
This week, I could not attend my regularly scheduled lab section due to a daily emergency. Instead, I looked at the documentary record of the Women’s League Cabin to get practice for what our final would potentially be — looking through the documentary record for the Millpond Dike and the Quarry. Most of my information came from the Carleton Archives, although there were some news clippings that I was able to find.
I went into Carleton’s Archives and typed in “cabin” and found a 48-page document relating to the Women’s League Cabin on my screen. I started off by looking through a collection of scans of documents that appeared to be legal matters regarding the construction of the cabin. The 48 pages had everything from a floor plan, to rules, to supplies of the cabin. I gained a lot of new insights into what exploring the cabin might have been like at that time. The images below are some of the pages of the PDF that I opened.
Something I found interesting was how strict the rules on separating women and men were. I wonder if these rules came from the college or if the women of the league wanted the cabin to be a completely isolated place and for men to not know where it was. Included in the 48 page document was a list of women who signed up to escort first-year women to the cabin for the first time. I thought it was really endearing to see how many women wanted to help and show other women the cabin. To me, this made it seem like a very special place to many people and it makes more sense why the Carleton population was so outraged when the cabin was later demolished.
In addition to looking through the Carleton Archives for the documentary record, I found myself visiting the Archaeology in the Arb website to also get some of the oral history sides of things. While it was really interesting to see the actual documentation from the time (the paper, rules, everything typed out neatly) I am still personally drawn to individual stories and found the oral recounting much more interesting.
I particularly liked hearing about the different dorm buildings that existed back in the 70s. Some like Nourse and Myers stayed the same, but others are completely unfamiliar to me and it feels so interesting to be reading someone’s personal recount of Carleton and feel like it was a different place, but still know some of what the people are referring to.
Week 6: Digging into the Dike
This week, I had originally set out to work on mapping with MJ, Emery, Becca, and Josh. We decided to switch off who worked on mapping so that MJ would not be overwhelmed by the number of people following her around. I started off not working on mapping and instead worked on adding to the current grid using bright pink flagging tape and a tape measure. About halfway through this endeavor, I heard that someone from the other group needed to switch out. Without really knowing what I was agreeing to, I said I would switch and headed over to the Millpond Dike excavation group.
The group had just decided on a spot to excavate and cleared it of the grass and roots on top to ready it for digging. I arrived just in time to help the group measure out the trench itself. We created a 1×1 meter trench at the spot that had been cleared. After measuring out the distance we used string and flagging tape to demarcate the spot.
Once that had been done, Alex showed us how to dig and only remove a fraction of the dirt from the trench so as not to displace too much at once. He also reminded us to keep the trench as level as possible. Sophia and I began the digging process while Noah and Sawyer went back and forth between the dike and the main quarry site bringing new materials and tools that we needed for later parts of the excavation.
After we filled a bucket of dirt, hauled it over to the sifter which we then used to sift out the dirt, ensuring that we didn’t miss any artifacts during the process of digging. We didn’t find much of anything– even rocks while sifting. I personally really enjoyed sifting. For me, it was incredibly enjoyable to watch the soil go from loose dirt to round circles of clumped dirt which we then squished with a shovel.
Noah, Sawyer, Sophia, and I switched between roles: everyone had the chance to try everything. Throughout our excavation, we were unable to find any artifacts, but we did deepen the trench significantly. At the end of our lab session, we covered the trench in a tarp so that if it rained it would not be affected, and left the trench for the Wednesday lab to continue working on.
Week 7: Last Dig
A new group split from the rest and headed Millpond dike. After having been invested in this project last week, I decided that I wanted to be part of this group to see the excavation through, even if it meant missing out on mapping. Knowing that this was our last day of fieldwork, our group came to the consensus that our goal for the day was to deepen the trench as far as we could while still following responsible archaeological procedures. Whereas last time we had been very conservative in our removal of the dirt in the trench, this time we took more liberty in shoveling larger amounts of dirt.
The trench had been left in a state of slight disarray: the sides were uneven and there was a fair amount of debris in the form of dirt clumps in the trench itself We also came across another problem. The trench had a bottom lip (circled) that made it very difficult to continue digging down in. After consulting Alex, we made the decision to completely level the trench on the side of the lip, thereby creating more space and allowing the digging team to dig deeper with greater ease. Noah and Hannah cleaned out and flattened the current dirt context in the trench instead of digging into another context. They put the loose sediment in buckets which were then passed to the sifting team Neil and Emmy, who would carry the buckets to the sifter and look for potential artifacts in the dirt.
We named this phase of excavation the “leveling context.” After the completion of the leveling context, we were able to move to lower contexts. The excavation of context 4 came next, and in this context, the dirt was heavier and richer. By the end of the excavation of Context 4, the trench was around 90 cm deep. At this point, we decided to start playing music. Noah suggested that we play music related to archaeology and digging, so we listened to the Rolling Stones, and “I Am a Rock.” Alex then came and suggested some other songs as well.
Something exciting that happened during our excavation was Emmy and Neil finding bullet casing while sifting. We spend a lot of time thinking about where the bullet came from. We ended up learning that it had to have been made after the year 1912, which completely contradicted what we thought we knew about when the dike had been constructed.
We finished up our excavation of the Millpond Dike trench by uncovering a final Context: Context 5. The process was extremely similar to that of the other contexts. This dirt was even heavier and darker than the dirt from Context 4. Hannah commented on the clay-like quality of the dirt. The darker, damper soil was harder to remove, which is why Context 5 was the final context that we excavated that day. We made sure to level out the ground and leave the trench with even walls and a flat base, before covering it up with a tarp.
Week 8: Archaeological Lab Work
This was the first week we stayed indoors for one of our lab periods. I personally thought it was a really good experience for me– it allowed me to see the other sides of archaeology that don’t involve fieldwork. It also gave me the chance to follow through on the artifacts we had excavated in previous lab sessions, which was very satisfying. Everything came full circle.
We first split up into pairs. I was paired with Hannah, and we grabbed a few bags from the quarry site and got to opening them up and cleaning up the artifacts inside. We picked up a bag with a lot of dirt-covered glass shards in it. We put on gloves and used warm water and toothbrushes to rinse the dirt off the glass. Both Hannah and I thought the clean glass on the tray looked aesthetically pleasing. While the small shards of glass were aesthetically pleasing, it was hard to complete the next part of the lab work on them (finding out a date or putting them in context) because so many of them had no recognizable markings on them and were fairly unidentifiable. We finished cleaning up the remaining artifacts in our bags and created and labeled different lots for them (see the images below).
After separating the artifacts into lots, we returned to the original task of attempting to find dates for them or at least get a sense of when they were manufactured. Hannah and I were struggling to identify the bottle base in lot 2. We were then joined by Emery who was incredible at tracking the dates of artifacts and their manufacture. She said that the bottle was made by the American Can Company. She was able to match the sign on the bottle from our artifact in lot 2 perfectly and determined that the bottle was created around the 60s or 70s which fit into our overall narrative that the quarry was used as a party site in the 1960s and 70s at Carleton.
We were also able to identify the brand at the top of the bottle caps in lot 8. We scraped off enough rust to read the words “Grain Bell.” It was easier to speculate about dates, because we already had the brand name and Emery once again did copious amounts of research to give us a time range for the bottle caps. Hannah and I inputted all the data from our lab session into the class spreadsheet and it was interesting to look at the other entries and see how they fit in with what we had done, especially date-wise.
Week 9: Final Wrap Ups
This lab was by far the least interactive of the ones we have had thus far. We were tasked with continuing work on our final projects. Our lab section was given the choice of continuing to excavate the Mill Pond Dike or to stay in the lab and work on our finals. Since the excavation of the dike had little relevance for my final project, I chose to stay in the lab and instead focus on formatting a template for the arb signs we had. I used Canva and found a color matching website that pulled the exact color from a pdf and replicated that. I pulled colors and was able to create a version of the pdf we were sent that appeared to be blank and ready for new writing. That endeavor took a surprising amount of time and by the end of it, almost an hour and a half had passed.
Afterward, I conducted some light research for both of my sites and thought about what I wanted to include in my poster pdfs. It was a little hard to work on the final because both other members of my group are part of the Wednesday lab, so I was unable to ask for their opinions on the things I was doing. This disadvantage was almost completely countered by the fact that I had Hannah, Becca, and Emery tell me about what they thought of the signs. It was good to hear that they thought the template looked realistic. I also took part of the lab time to email Nancy about the part of our final that I was unsure about: the digital aspect. I wasn’t really sure how we were meant to incorporate our information onto the Arb website, so most of the lab was spent doing little things that would help in the project later on. I, unfortunately, have no pictures from that day, but I do have a pdf of what the empty sign PDF that I was editing looked like by the end of class (see Fig. 1).