Sachit Mallya

Week 2

For this week, we are going to be part of an Arb tour to get a better understanding of the surrounding area in order to get familiarized with the Arb for future lab sessions. We first started our Arb tour at the Arb office where we were greeted by Nancy Braker. With her numerous years of experience being the Arb Director, she was able to provide essential details about the ecology and the inner workings of the Arb throughout the tour. Additionally, her stories from when she was a student certainly added to the enjoyment of the tour as she was able to directly empathize with us.

Once everyone was ready, we headed north from the Arb office which led us down a path with beautiful landscapes that we eventually found out were restored prairies. Nancy informed us that the restoration of these prairies started around the time she was studying at Carleton. We then passed by a water body that Nancy claimed was the main breeding ground for the frog population located on campus. After that fun discovery, we headed northeast along the Millpond Dike to eventually reach the Cannon River. When we stood by the Cannon River, we were able to see some remnants of the Waterford Mill from a distance as Alex gave us a summary of the site and the type of research that was conducted on the site by previous students from this class. We then turned back south and, on the way back we headed towards a potential quarry site that was recently discovered by Nancy. The area was littered with old beer cans and bottles that could be decades old. Even after some discussion, we were not entirely sure whether it was a man-made quarry site or a natural formation, hence, I think it would be an interesting place to explore and conduct research on at a later date.

After that mysterious site, we went to the northeastern corner of the Arb where we visited the unmaintained, rusty Waterford Bridge that is many decades old. While there were many signs saying that the bridge was off limits, people went on the bridge regardless as we could see signs of graffiti all over it. Our walk then took us back towards campus after we were told the brief history of the bridge by Alex and Nancy. While we were heading back, we stopped at the location where the Women’s League Cabin once used to exist. Alex gave us a general recap on the study that was conducted in that area by the previous archaeology class. Concurrently, Nancy was telling off some Northfield youths that were partaking in some shady activities in that area without any masks on (this was quite entertaining). Once we returned to the Upper Arb, we stood on some agricultural fields that we determined could be potential survey sites in the upcoming weeks of this class. With everyone in high spirits (while also being very tired), we continued walking back to campus and eventually split our own ways. Overall, the tour was quite enjoyable as we learned a lot about the Arb and the further insights provided by Nancy and Alex were very informative.

Week 3

This week, we headed to an agricultural field in the Upper Arb in order to conduct an archaeological field survey. Prior to heading to the survey site, we used Google Maps and LiDAR data to get a better understanding of the topography and size of the field. Once Alex had provided us with a basic summary of the area after arriving at the site, we proceeded to split into two teams of five people where one person was the leader/ recorder of the group while the other four group members performed hands-on ground surveying. I was the designated recorder of my group and an example of the survey unit form I filled in can be seen through Figure 1. In total, we ended up surveying six 50 x 100 meter survey areas on the eastern side of the field. Each group surveyed three different areas using a transect method where four people from each group walked from the south towards the north. Each group member was spaced 10 meters apart longitudinally and we started at the southern end of the field.

During the survey, both groups found some interesting items that could be used to make further deductions about the area. The findings from the survey include ceramics, metals, plastics, glass, golf balls, shells, and strings. However, a large majority of the artifacts we found were golf balls (43 out of 79) and we can attribute this to the driving range that resides past the highway on the east of the field. Therefore, most of the golf balls were found in the central survey areas as they happened to be right behind the most used driving range spots. As a fun exercise, we were trying to deduce how the golf balls ended up in the opposite directions of the driving range onto the field, but we never came up with a concrete answer. Additionally, we found innumerable amounts of dried corn which helped us establish the fact that this field was seasonally used to grow corn. Most artifacts found on the site were to be expected either through past human interactions at the site or through trash getting blown onto the field by the wind, however, there was a uniquely shaped piece of metal found by Group C that appeared to be a component of an unidentifiable artifact. We never determined what the unique metal was, but it would be interesting to examine it further at a later date to get more information on it.

Through this field survey, we got introduced to an important physical aspect of Archaeology that will prove crucial to our understanding of the study. With this experience, we are able to further develop our deductive skills regarding spatial distribution and the significance of the area that is being studied. Lastly, Alex’s and Sam’s (Class TA) guidance throughout the process was quite helpful as it helped us avoid trivial errors that could’ve otherwise noticeably impacted our observations.

Figure 1: Example of a Survey Unit Form (PDF Scan credit – Lucille)

Week 4

For the fourth week of lab, we headed back to the potential quarry site that we visited in the middle of our Arb tour during the first lab session so that we can further investigate the area. Before heading to the survey site, Alex gave us a general overview of the gridded survey method as this would prove to be a far more thorough study compared to last week as the survey area was significantly smaller. The Tuesday Lab group had already laid most of the groundwork for the area including separating the gridded area into squares using colored tape and drawing a map with directions so we could accurately survey each square. We followed the sixteen 5 x 5 meter squares that the Tuesday Lab group had already calculated and plotted. After arriving at the site, the Wednesday Lab split into two groups where one group undertook the process of GPS mapping of the survey site while the other group proceeded to split into smaller teams of two in order to conduct a survey on their designated square. I was in the latter and my teammate, and I surveyed the square K10 for the entire duration of the lab due to the abundant number of artifacts within that square.

The survey of our square took especially long as the visibility of the surface was not ideal due to the sheer number of leaves hindering our view of the ground. This drawback was worsened by the numerous small trees located in the square making it harder to navigate around (as seen in Figure 2 and Figure 3). To help our visibility, we used our feet to brush the leaves aside to find any objects that were covered before. This was quite helpful to keep in mind as we found many artifacts including broken pieces of glass bottles, different types of cans, bottle caps, and we also found a halls wrapper. We kept a mental note of the objects with high diagnosticity (e.g., a glass piece or a can with a brand name/logo) as we could use it to further infer about the activities that occurred around the site and when specifically, those activities occurred. Once the group gathered all the artifacts that were found, it was deduced that this site could’ve been used for many parties over the years as all the evidence suggested that the cans, glass bottles, and bottle caps originated from alcoholic beverages. However, we would have to conduct further studies on the objects found to make a conclusive statement on this. Additionally, from the squares we were able to survey, the artifact density was notably high in the squares K10 and K11 compared to the rest of the squares. This is not surprising as it was closest to the square L10 which we visually determined to be a sort of trash pit where we assumed that most of the aforementioned “parties” took place. The L10 square and the I squares will be surveyed next week due to the time restrictions we faced. Information from these squares will provide us stronger evidence for the potential claims we were making after comparing the items we found. Lastly, on the way back from the survey site, Alex found a vitrified piece of metal within the vicinity hinting towards the notion that the survey site might have actually been used for quarrying at some point in time.

Figure 2: View of K10 from southeastern corner
Figure 3: View of K10 from northeastern corner

Week 5

We started this week’s lab by heading north towards the Arb office to collect archaeological supplies for the excavation we planned at the potential quarry site. The boxes we carried from the Arb office to the excavation site were quite heavy and this signifies the amount of equipment required to conduct an excavation even at such a small scale. After reaching the excavation site, the Wednesday Lab group split into three teams: one team continued the GPS mapping of the area and worked on a larger scale, another team started clearing the hill face to confirm whether the site is a natural formation or a quarry, and the last team was tasked with excavating a small area around the trash pit in L10. I was assigned to the excavation team and we started planning on how to excavate as effectively as possible.

We started out by setting a 2 x 2 meter square over the main pit area in L10, however, Alex suggested we reduce to the area as that would take a lot of time and doing a smaller area would allow us to get a cross section. Therefore, we reduced it to a 1 x 2 square and positioned it to be longitudinal close to the “rock seat” as it seemed like an important area. Once the area was decided, we used a mallet to push small poles into the corners of the square and then we proceeded to tie a string around the poles to distinguish the boundaries of the excavation square.

With the foundation of our excavation being set, we began by doing some surface level clearing to brush out the leaves/roots so that the excavation would be easier. In terms of artifacts, we found nothing of interest except a few glass shards and bottle caps. However, we found some charcoal that leads us to believe that in the past, the site was most likely used as a fire pit during gatherings. We also noticed there was a moderately discernible circular rock pattern in the middle of L10 which further supports our fire pit theory. After the surface clearing was complete, we initially had three people using trowels to uncover areas that required more meticulous work and one person used a flat-headed shovel to level the excavation area where it could be used. After the dirt buckets became full, two people stepped aside and operated the sifter to see if we could find anything of value in the dirt. We occasionally switched with every batch of buckets that got filled. We mostly found glass shards, rusted cans, and bottle caps. An interesting find we uncovered was a large, rusted nail, however, we’re not sure what it was used for and further examination could lead to fascinating results. As we were finishing up, we discovered a new layer of rock underneath the first layer and the soil color was slightly different too. This is quite exciting as it shows the amount of progress we made during the day. We decided that it would be a good time to end the excavation and gathered all our supplies. We placed our supplies on the excavated area (so we wouldn’t have to carry it again) and then covered all of it with a tarp (as seen in Figure 5) to protect it from the fluctuating weather.

Figure 5: Covering the excavation area with tarp

Week 6

We initiated this week’s lab by heading straight to the excavation as everyone was more or less aware of the upcoming tasks. Once we arrived at the site, we split into three groups yet again, however, instead of clearing the hill face, the third group was tasked with continuing the excavation of the Mill Pond Dike that was started by the Tuesday Lab. The DGPS mapping team and the L10 excavation team continued where they left off from last week. I switched to the Mill Pond Dike group because I was fascinated by the notion that the foundation of this dike presumably originated from the potential quarry site we’re currently investigating. We can later confirm this through evidence in the documentation of the area and matching the stone from the foundation to the ones seen around the potential quarry site.

For the first half of the excavation, I was recording general information about the Mill Pond Dike trench on the archaeological forms we were given.  I drew a basic drawing of the 1m x 1.1m trench with directions and jotted down some important information. Once I was done with the form, I helped with sifting through the dirt that we uncovered from the trench. Nothing of interest was found by sifting through the dirt but that was to be expected because the dirt was artificially placed there to be used as a pathway. For the second half, I used a trowel for small-scale excavation as that was the most appropriate at that time.

After the excavation, we established that we discovered a new context and two new stratigraphic layers making it a total of three contexts and 4 stratigraphic layers. This distinction between the number of contexts and stratigraphic layers occurred because the sandy soil from context 2 seemed to continue even below the dark rich soil from context 3 (as seen in the top right of the newest version of the trench in Figure 6). The discovery of the new context and the stratigraphic layers can also be seen in the difference between the photos in Figure 6.  

Week 7

For our last excavation of the term, we headed immediately to the excavation sites again because everyone was acclimated with the tasks that we needed completed. To try and cover as many tasks as possible, we split into four teams that were smaller than usual. The four teams included the DGPS team, the L10 excavation team, the Mill Pond Dike trench team, and finally the hill clearing team. I was a part of the hill clearing team as I hadn’t participated in that team before, and I was determined to look for further evidence in determining whether the site was used as a quarry or not. This was the new, second clearing area that the Tuesday Lab started to get a better idea of the hill face. We continued where they left off as they had already done a majority of the groundwork for the clearing process.

We divided the labor equally between the three people working in this team to be as optimal as possible. One person shifted between recording and shoveling the dirt in the outer area (Kalju), another person worked more intricately with trowels underneath the exposed tree roots (Ella). And lastly, I worked on the left hand side of the clearing with a mix of brushes and trowels in order to create a defined boundary while also excavating more dirt. Additionally, we noticed some discoloration in the area that we were excavating (as seen in Figure 7). However, we concluded that it was due to the wet soil that was caused by the rain from the previous night. Thus, eventually the discoloration should disappear and we predict that the color of the rock would be uniform in a couple of days.

After our excavation, we concluded there were different levels of bedrock that descend down to Trench 1 and beyond in a similar fashion to a staircase. This provides further evidence that it is manmade since it implies that the soft rock was quarried while the bedrock was left in an altered state where it eventually became covered by dirt. The levels can be seen more clearly in the newest version of the clearing in Figure 8.

Figure 7: Discoloration on the hill face

Week 8

This week we focused on investigating the different artifacts we’ve collected over the term so that we can compile extensive data on them. This includes data like chronology, use/ function, description, typology, etc. Furthermore, each unique object is then placed into a lot depending on the unit it was found in. After understanding some of these initial instructions, we split up into multiple small groups and the groups were created by pairing up individuals who didn’t have laptops with those who did.

My team decided to focus on studying the numerous types of golf balls that we collected over the course of our agricultural field survey. We also studied other artifacts that were found in the same survey units as the golf balls. To make our cleaning as efficient as possible, we filled the sink with soapy water to clean all the golf balls at once and our setup is shown in Figure 9. We also used a toothbrush to ensure that we got all the dirt.

During our investigation, we found a variety of different golf ball brands and colors. Some finds that stood out include a golf ball with a hand-painted red stripe, a University of Texas golf ball, and a bright yellow Srixon golf ball. In total, we found around eight different brands and it can tell us about people’s preferences and lifestyles depending on the golf ball’s unique characteristics. From the random artifact category, some interesting finds include an old chewing gum wrapper and a rusted metallic object. We determined from Sam’s helpful research that the chewing wrapper was made prior to 2009. I initially thought that the metallic object was a golf ball cleaner, however, after Sam’s help, we deduced that it would be too heavy for that and a bar within the hollow circular area further disproves that theory. Hence, we are still unsure what it could be. The odd shape of the rusted object can be on the left in Figure 10. Lastly, during our meticulous investigation, we found that some eggshells had been mistakenly labeled as plastic. Therefore, we had to fix the previous forms where they were incorrectly designated as plastics so that our data is as accurate and consistent as possible.

Figure 9: Our setup for cleaning the artifacts
Figure 10: A collection of artifacts found in survey unit C01

Week 9

In the week’s lab, we split into two groups with different goals in mind. The first group stayed in the classroom to make further progress on their final projects while the second group included Alex and four volunteers who were willing to continue excavating the trench at the Mill Pond Dike. I was in the latter group and our primary goal revolved around reaching the hypothesized foundation of the dike.

We took turns excavating the trench using both pointed shovels and trowels when each tool was most appropriate. However, in my case, I was barely able to fit in the trench due to my height. Therefore, I focused my attention on two tasks for the duration of the lab: sifting the dirt dug out of the trench and excavating a small hole a couple of meters away to compare the soil composition of the nearby area with that of the dike. While performing my first task, we were unable to find anything of interest during the sifting. But this was to be expected as it is quite unlikely that we would find anything else in addition to the bullet the class found a couple of weeks ago. For my second task, we made an approximate 1ft x 1ft x 1ft below the ground level to observe the soil composition I mentioned previously. We discovered that the dark soil that represents a majority of the dike, is basically the same dark soil that is found below ground level in the nearby area. This suggests the materials gathered to construct the dike most likely originated very close to it.

By the end of the lab, the team was quite disappointed as we were not able to discover a foundation. Maybe if we excavated a bit further, we could’ve unearthed a foundation? Perhaps there was never a foundation to begin with? We will never be able to fully confirm without a reinvestigation so who knows what the future holds. Nevertheless, we measured the maximum depth of the trench (as seen in Figure 11) and noted it down on the excavation form to be roughly 234cm or 2.34m (as seen in Figure 12). Overall, even though we couldn’t establish a definite connection between the dike and quarry, we still gathered valuable information from the stratigraphy of the dike (e.g. we could approximate that each primary layer is most probably from different time periods). If we were to re-conduct an investigation of the dike at some point in the future, it would be useful to utilize advanced technology that can detect different material densities underground. This would enable us to predict beforehand whether there is a foundation and if there is one, how deep it would be.

Figure 11: Connor measuring the depth of the trench at the Mill Pond Dike
Figure 12: The context 11 excavation form of the trench at the Mill Pond Dike