April 6 Lab: Walking Tour
We began today at the Arboretum Office just south of Highway 19. We headed north and east, passing Kettle Hole to arrive at the remains of the old Waterford Mill on the south bank of the Cannon River. There, we saw what looked to be some concrete supports next to the riverbank and in the middle of the river. We also saw a large dead fish in the water and a small post-it note with “co-op 3828” written on it. I recovered the post-it as an artifact. From the Mill site we continued north-east, passing on the north side of Best Woods. We arrived at the northern corner of the Arboretum on Canada Avenue. From there we could see an old iron bridge across the Cannon, built in 1909 and retired in 2010 when a modern bridge was built slightly south of it.
Here we turned south, following Canada Avenue along the east side of the Arboretum land. We saw a dead raccoon on the road and a deer in the drainage ditch. We turned into the Arb after a while to locate the site of the Women’s League Cabin. The site is inside a small grove of trees bounded by the road to the east and cleared trails on the other three sides. After a little bit of poking around, we noticed a path leading into the grove. Following this, we arrived in a clearing where we found a pile of stones, perhaps 8 feet in diameter and 2 feet high. This, we understand, is what remains of the Cabin since it was demolished by the College to prevent unsanctioned use. A little ways off from the Cabin remains, we passed a man seated at the base of the tree drinking from a can. He was looking at a tree carved with the word “Lilly 🤍”. He seemed to be not more than 40 years old and did not speak to us.
We turned west here, back into the Arboretum. We walked west and south until we arrived again at Hwy 19 where we crossed into the Upper Arboretum. We headed south on Hall Avenue, skirting the eastern edge of the Arb and passing by the Twin Oaks Driving Range to the west. We then turned west, heading into the Arb to see the site of an archaeological survey conducted by the students from ARCN246 in 2019. Here we walked off-trail, cutting directly west across a grassy field. I was unshod at this point in the afternoon and was able to detect abundant thistle in this area. We passed south of the Hill of Three Oaks to arrive back at the Recreation Center. At this point, our tour was finished and most group members split off to get showered and start on homework.
I was impressed on our tour by the afterlives of the sites we visited. It looked as if someone had been fishing by the old Mill site and the Cabin site also showed signs of continued use. Additionally, each site was located near a trail or road. To me, this indicates a curious resonance of past locations, that the paths we use should still correspond to old significances.
April 13 Lab: Snowy Survey
Today we began our search for artifacts. The method we adopted was the archaeological survey, in which our surveyors walk across an area systematically looking for surface-level finds. This method is essential before any excavation can begin, and is increasingly being used independently to understand regional patterns.
Before our survey, we used Google Earth satellite images and LiDAR scans to better understand our target area (in this case, the Upper Arb). These images allowed us to pinpoint a field where there looked to be traces of a building. With this in mind, we set out. Before beginning our survey, each student paced out 10 metres, allowing us to quickly estimate walking distances across the field. We then divided into two groups and spread ourselves 10 metres apart in a line stretching across the west side of the field, standing with our backs to Spring Creek Road. We slowly walked east, keeping in lines, called transects, and scanned the ground for surface features. Group A, containing 6 surveyors, covered a unit of land extending 60 metres in width, from north to south, and 100 metres in length. Group B contained 5 surveyors and therefore extended 50 metres. This was repeated twice, covering the field in 6 gridded squares.
Conditions were less than ideal. Ground visibility was very low, owing to long, thick grasses that covered the field. These grasses had matted together to cover the ground, obscuring anything lying below them. Additionally, we experienced driving snow, which made thorough investigation of the field more difficult.
The survey finds confirmed our intuitions from the LiDAR data. The great majority of our finds, consisting mostly of bricks and concrete, were in unit A01, in the northeast corner of the field; this is where we had guessed that there was a previously existing structure. Our results, if a little underwhelming, show clear evidence of past interaction with the landscape.
April 20 Lab: Site Survey & Results
This week, we planned to do a more intensive, site-based survey than our fieldwalking in 3rd week. To this end, we initially considered returning to the farm site, but eventually decided to visit a supposed quarry site along the Cannon River in the northwestern part of the Arb. Not having visited the site before, we examined LiDAR data of the area and decided to investigate a small anomaly just north of the Mill Pond Dike. The weather was cool and slightly overcast.
We arrived at the site to find a cut rock wall falling away to a low-lying plain next the river. The whole area was quite overgrown, but we immediately found a large-ish pile of rusted out beer cans and broken glass bottles. Taking this as clear evidence of interesting things to-be-learned, we laid out a grid of 16 5m squares, measuring 20m to a side. This grid just about covered the site, although we did find some more recent remains outside the area: a large pile of burnt wood, possibly left by Arboretum workers (Fig1). The grid-work was somewhat complicated by the fact that the northwest corner of our site falls down the hill, making distance measurement more difficult.
We conducted a survey today in a couple grid squares. The refuse pile remains the most interesting aspect of the site in terms of artifacts. We also noticed some cut stones, including the free-standing block in Fig2, that gave some indication of the site’s potential use as a quarry.
All in all, our survey raised more questions than we were able to answer on Tuesday. We collected a number of diagnostic artifacts that require analysis, and the site’s use as a quarry remains uncertain: where did the stone go? When was it cut? How was it removed from the site? We returned to the lab on Tuesday feeling confident that there is a large amount of work still to do on the quarry site.
April 27 Lab: Beer Can Typology
We had cloudy skies today, which eventually turned into scattered rain. The weather was somewhat warmer than it had been the previous week. The quarry site was much as we had left it the previous week; it has begun to feel home-y. Our team split off into groups today. The first group was tasked with visiting locations where the LiDAR data showed promising anomalies similar to our quarry. The second group began excavating a 1×2 metre trench to uncover some intriguing stonework. My group surveyed the trash pit, SU L10.
This mound of rusted beer cans was easily the most distinctive feature of the site, and I was excited to get going. First, we collected and piled all the artefacts in the square, separating metal cans from glass and other finds. We also found several small snail shells, which we delicately removed and piled on top of a rock. Beer cans were the most abundant find in the unit, and many proved hard to spot, as they were covered in leaves and dirt-colored. Once we had collected all the artefacts we began to classify and sort our beer cans.
Many pieces that appeared to be parts of cans could not be identified because they were completely covered in rust. These we merely sorted out and counted. The tops of cans, however, had not rusted and bore identifying marks and designs. We were also, in general, able to identify brands based on a few cans whose sides remained readable. All together, we found cans from Schlitz, Colt45, Budweiser, Hamms, Coca-Cola, and 7Up, as well as a couple that could not be identified. We also found a large (2/3 gallon size) drum that originally contained ham. We took representative samples of each can type, as well as all the glass.
We return to the lab muddy and wet, but our spirits and mental gears were unaffected by the rain. We feel that we have collected valuable data and made a good start towards understanding the previous users of the quarry site.
May 4 Lab: Quarry Trench 1
We returned to the quarry site today under auspicious blue skies. Work continued to expand our understanding of the site, as well as its connections to the surrounding area. Our team laid out more survey units on the south side of the grid and took DGPS measurements on the grid squares and trenches. We continued to excavate Quarry Trench 1 and opened a new trench on the side of the Millpond Dike.
I joined the excavation group, finding myself at long last with a trowel and dustbin in only my sixth week of archaeology. The trowel, of which Steve Roskams writes, “the ability to use a trowel well in a variety of circumstances must be considered the sine qua non of archaeological excavation.” I fear my troweling skills are not yet up to snuff, as I find the tool somewhat unwieldy. Our excavation went slowly, owing to an abundance of rocks and tree roots in the trench. By sifting our dirt, we found a piece of glass and a small bone. Having uncovered most of the topsoil, we found what appears to be bedrock, although the many of the rocks are loose, and we may be able to uncover another layer. The apparent corner in the top right of the picture remains our most promising hint of a human cause.
Fig 2: “a piece of glass and a small bone” Fig 1: “the apparent corner in the top right”
May 11 Lab: Dust and Rubble of History
The weather this week was superb; our team set off under warm, blue skies. Our plan today was to continue work on our previous projects, and hopefully finish them up. We split into four groups, two to continue Quarry Trench 1 and MPD Trench 1, another to collect DGPS data, and a fourth group to clean off the rock face and uncover its structure. I was in this last group.
We began by considering our approach. The Wednesday lab section had previously cleaned a narrow ledge about 7 meters long near the base of the rock. We selected a 2 meter section, notable mostly for its absence of (living) trees. We removed the small plants first, and then the larger rocks. The soil underneath was loose and full of stones. We attacked it with a combination of shovels, trowels, and hands, removing the soil to a pile just at the base of the exposed rock. After we removed a couple inches of dirt, we began to find pieces of glass, potentially all from one bottle; there was only one bottleneck piece and one piece of the base.
After a few hours of digging, we completely exposed the rock in the middle of our strip, leaving the left and right sides of the area (which had more tree-roots) for later. We paused here to admire our effort and sweep the rock clean. Once we had done this, it was possible to see where the soft rock in the top part had been removed to leave a harder, mostly flat base. We are now able to see how this rock would have looked when the site was freshly quarried. This excavator gained a fresh appreciation for how the past can be almost completely covered up; it is hard to imagine our little hillside being completely stripped of earth and plants, but so, we believe it once was. I also gained a fresh acquaintance with sore muscles and calluses.
Our site as we found it Exhumation in progress