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.