For lab this week we started at the Arb office––a place I’ve heard of, maybe even passed, but have never actually been to. Though there were dark and thunderous clouds percolating ahead of us, they quickly dissipated as we began our trek to the furthest site: the destroyed mill in the north end of the arb. In order to get there, we passed through the mill pond dyke, a mound that you can tell is man-made because it runs perpendicular to the river. When we emerged from the shrubbery, we saw the remains of a dam in the middle of the river, with a chair placed on top of one of the rocks. Across from where we were supposed to be the remains of the mill itself, though I found myself more interested in the currents in the water created by the formations jutting out from the destroyed dam. After that, we headed on a long and buggy walk to our second site, the Waterford Bridge. I had heard this bridge referred to as the “iron bridge”––a site that people often float along the Cannon River to from a starting point in the lower arb. After the bridge, we walked along the highway and traversed the various roadkill to get to the remnants of the Women’s League cabin. It took us a few minutes to find the path in the shrubbery to get there, but when we arrived there was a man sitting next to a fire adjacent in a small clearing next to the site. He did not look at us when we came by, and he was facing a tree that had been carved with the name “Lilly” and inscribed in a heart. We saw a structure that I believe may have been a chimney, but I was most struck by how this site seemed to be reused by people in Northfield, and maybe even students. There was a place for parking, with a car that I assume may have belonged to the man sitting there so clearly this is a known spot. I was most interested by how the various structures that we visited had been reused and repurposed by residents of Northfield and students––the addition of the chair in the middle of the dam remnants, likely placed there by a fisherman, the women’s league cabin that had been demolished in 1990 because people were hosting parties there yet that legacy seems to live on even without the structure, and then the bridge which I know as being a site where people float to, but where I also noticed there were people fishing.
For lab this week we explored the method of archaeological field survey through conducting a ground survey in a field in the arb. The point of the lab was to better acquaint ourselves with the method of field walking, and explore the surface signature in relation to what we know about the documentary record. For this specific field, it was hypothesized that we would find the remains of a previously demolished farmhouse in the left hand corner of the field. We divided up into two groups and each surveyed sections of the field that was 100 meters in length with each individual was assigned a 2 meter swath of land to cover. To begin, we all lined up 10 meters apart from each other parallel to the road, then walked perpendicular to it and facing west. As we walked, we were tasked with looking for anything in the ground that was not natural such as ceramic, tile/brick, lithics, metal, plastic, or glass. However, the field had not been plowed in a few years so large swaths were covered in thick overgrown grass that obscured any objects on the surface. Additionally, the weather was rather unfortunate: it was bitterly cold, and over the course of the lab period the weather shifted from snow to rain and then to hail. Though the weather didn’t impede visibility, it definitely affected morale. During my survey, I was walking on a slope right next to the second group, and I struggled to maintain the straight line and frequently veered to the left, inadvertently shifting the rest of my group as well. Thankfully, MJ was helpful at reminding me to mind the distance because I frequently lost track. My survey did not yield many finds––I found a few large slabs of concrete (that we ultimately did not bag) and a small shard of opaque glass. Additionally, I had the unfortunate experience of picking up in my bare hand what I presumed was an artifact but turned out to be a piece of (hopefully animal) feces. The majority of the items were found in the field A01, the presumed location of the farmhouse. Of the people in my group, I was walking on the side closest to A01, so it makes sense that I found a piece of glass and some slabs of concrete. Though Alex mentioned in class that most objects tend not to travel far from where they originated, I was definitely struck by how close the objects found were to the original location of the farmhouse, despite the field being plowed previously.
After some debate, our lab section decided to survey the quarry (instead of the farmhouse) even though we were unsure where exactly the quarry was located or whether there would even be material objects to collect. We decided to head over the quarry to ground truth in order to determine if we want to use the site to survey. Before we headed out, we formulated our research questions: Is this a quarry? What is the function of the site? What surface artifacts are present at the site? What is the occupation history/chronology? What is the size of the site? After a brisk walk to the site, we began a general site plan such as determining the perimeter/size as well as began to measure out a survey grid. Our class was divided up into groups, some people were assigned to survey the area and draw a map with notable landmarks, and then groups of two were assigned to measure and lay out the lines of the grid, and then survey and collect the corresponding field. I was assigned the task of keeping track of everything that was going on, which mainly included labeling the survey units, and making sure that groups were in the right units and keeping track of their progress. I enjoyed this role immensely because I was able to walk around and interact with each groups and see how the project as a whole was coming along. In this role, it was easier to look at the site as a whole and see the potential future steps.
For this week’s lab we went back to the site of the quarry in order to explore whether archaeological excavation could help provide answers to our research questions. My group was tasked with excavating the stone pile that was found in L12––one of the grids that yielded the most surface materials from last week’s lab. We began by marking out the perimeter of 1 x 2 m trench, which was initially supposed to be 1 x 1 m but we decided to extend it in order to include as much of the stone feature as possible. After demarcating the perimeter of the trench, we started to clear off the surface debris using trowels, brushes, and weed clippers. Removing some of the roots was a bit tricky because some were very deep and I didn’t want to disrupt some of the deeper layers by pulling them out. After clearing the first level as well as each level we completed, we took pictures of the trench. After clearing the surface debris we began to dust off the soil in order to reveal the layers of the rock formation. Using the trowels and brushes, we collected the soil into buckets that we would sift through at the end of the lab. Though it was raining and my hands turned purple, I found this to be one of the most enjoyable labs. It was exciting to see the stone formation slowly reveal itself as we dusted away each layer. The stones were were smooth and gave me the impression that they might have been cut (anthropogenic) rather than a natural formation, perhaps suggesting that the quarry was indeed an anthropogenic construction. I look forward to continuing to excavate the trench at L12.
This week we were graced with much more pleasant weather and sunshine. Unlike last week, my hands did not turn purple from the cold so it was much easier to excavate and we spent more time working on the trench than last week. However, I did find at least two tics on my arm. For lab this week, I continued to excavate trench 1. We continued to remove the top soil using a trowel, broom, dustpan, and hoof pick, and then placing the soil and into buckets to sift through. Unfortunately, the only material artifact we found was a bone, perhaps of a phalange or vertebrae. We did not collect any of the large smooth rocks that we found, and in class on Thursday Alex explained that contrary to my assumption, they were not anthropogenic. We hit bedrock for half of the trench, and in the parts of the trench that had not yet reached bedrock, two of our group members noticed the beginnings of a soil change, perhaps indicating a new context. We decided to continue to excavate trench 1 for next week’s lab, with the goal of continuing until we had reached bedrock for the majority of the trench. This is because once we’ve hit bedrock, there are no more material artifacts for us to find, unless we involve geology.
For lab this week we finished our excavation of trench 1. Our plan was to excavate until we hit bedrock, and when we started excavating during lab this week, a little over half was done. We sectioned the remaining part into thirds and then each of us worked on troweling, dusting, and clearing our respective sections. Unfortunately, we did not find any material artifacts this week. When I first started, I found a small piece of glass on the surface of the dirt. However, since it was found on the surface before I had started digging, Alex said that it was likely just from someone’s shoe and told us not to collect it. We did not find any more glass in that section so Alex’s hypothesis about the glass was likely accurate. By the end of the lab we had successfully removed most of the dirt from the trench and had reached bedrock in most of the trench.
For lab this week, we worked on cataloging and analyzing all of the artifacts that we had found in the previous weeks’ labs. For this endeavor, we went through all of the artifacts bags, counted, classified, and recorded our notes into a spread sheet. In order to do this, I grabbed a bag of various glass shards found in the quarry excavation trenches and first began to clean each piece. I then separated the various pieces into “lots”-which is a group of artifacts that have the same or a similar classification. After recording the preliminary information into the google doc, my group worked on trying to date the glass bottles using resources provided by Alex. I found this task to be extremely difficult because I struggled to navigate the artifact dating website. Using a symbol on the glass bottle base, Emery helped us find the exact maker of the bottle and date it to 1963-1967. We then moved onto a bag consisting of 2 metal caps. After some cleaning, we were able to see the name of the company written across: “Grain Belt.” Emery found that the specific version of the logo came out in the 1960s-70s, thereby dating the bottle to that period.
For lab this week I worked on my final project which is about using the documentary record to fill in our understanding of the social usages of the Arb. My role in the project is to look specifically at student usages of the Arb during the years that we were able to date our material objects to. I spent time during lab today scouring the Carleton College digital archives, including the Arb archives and the Carletonian archives for more information on social usage of the Arb in the late 80s, as well as drinking culture/policy during that time.