For our first lab, we did a walking tour of the Cowling Arboretum with Nancy Braker, the director of the Arb. She guided our walk and let us in on some history of the arb, and current methods being used to restore the prairie. She showed us a couple of interesting natural sites, such as a wetland that was the home to thousands of frogs, and even picked up a snake that we could all touch. We also saw archaeological sites that were investigated by past Archaeological Methods classes, such as the Waterford Mill on the side of the Cannon River, the Women’s League Cabin, and the Pine Hill Village, which housed veteran families during World War Two.
We also saw sites that have not been investigated by previous classes, such as the Waterford Bridge. This site was interesting on a historical, archaeological, and typological level, as the bridge was constructed in 1909 and is no longer in use. The sign on the bridge and the abbreviations used due to a lack of space is an interesting view into the early 20th century. Another site that Nancy took us to was one that she had recently stumbled upon, which was a partially hidden grouping of stone close to the Cannon River. We observed this area and made our guesses as to what was originally here, and whether or not it was manmade or natural. A strong theory was that it was a quarry, and we discussed having this be a possible site to further investigate and possibly work on for our class project and future labs. I was personally very interested in investigating this area because of the mystery around it, and I think that further searching could yield some really interesting and perhaps unexpected finds.
In many of the sites that we looked at, such as the bridge, the quarry, and the old Women’s League cabin, there was evidence of recent (or present!) human activity. There were beer cans found near the quarry area, and there was a group of teenage boys that were presumably using substances in the area. This possibly presents some issues if we were to excavate a site such as the quarry, as there might be people there when we go to do our lab. However, it would be interesting to analyze some of the trash that has been left behind and try to see how old it is, and how long people have been using that area as a social gathering spot.
A personal point of interest on this walk was about halfway between the quarry and the bridge. I was walking with Sam, and he stopped walking when he noticed some shards of pottery. I was absolutely amazed by this, as we were in a very remote location and I was in no way expecting to see any remnants of modern human domestic activity. Sam estimated that it could not have been very old, although we could not figure out why someone would be so far out in the arb with pottery. We thought that it could have been a pot for a plant, and perhaps someone was trying to plant something in the arb. Regardless, it was really cool to come across something semi-independently during my first lab that got me excited to continue to look for objects of interest at whatever historical site we decide to base our project upon.
This week, we did an intensive field survey of a field in the Cowling Arboretum. Before we embarked on our field study we did a brief orientation, and looked at some GIS and LiDAR mapping of the area that we were going to survey. We saw some examples of the different categories of artifacts that we might find, and then we set out for the arb. We separated into two groups, and within each group we stood ten meters apart. My group was located on the edge of the field, close to a road, while the other group was farther in the field. Once we were in our positions, we began to slowly walk forward and survey the ground in front of us, looking for objects that may have been a result of human interaction with the landscape. Once everyone in the group had gotten through their survey unit, we all got together as a group, and had our recorder take note of what we found, and separated it by material type. In the first survey unit, our group did not really find anything other than some pretty looking plants and rocks. In the second survey unit, my group found a large number of golf balls, as we were right across the road from a driving range. It was interesting to be able to see the direct result of human activity through the objects we were uncovering. In the third survey unit, we did not find that many objects, but at the very end, I came across a very intact piece of plastic that we determined was a part of a gum wrapper. We were even able to read the label, and see where it was manufactured (Chicago, IL). Although it was a very small find, it was a cool reminder that even the smallest and most inconsequential of things can be observed by other people, both near and far into the future. It made sense that there would be some sort of trash laying around, as we were fairly close to a road and this part of the arb is more heavily trafficked by students than other parts of the arb, as it is fairly close to campus. After going through these three survey units, we made sure that all of the objects were separated by material and by survey unit, and then took them all back to the lab. Overall, it was very interesting to see that objects of interest in archaeology can be quite recent, and that even little wrappers can make for an exciting find.
For this week’s lab, we started in the classroom, going over some of the methods we would be using in the field. We went over mapping, feature recording, methods of photography, cleaning and site clearance, and geophysical survey. We then went out into the arb, going back to the quarry site that we had located during the second week. We divided into groups with some members of the class mapping out the space, some dividing up the area into grids, and some that went into the grids and surveyed the area, looking for artifacts. I was responsible for surveying three grids, those being K11, J12 and J13, along with my partner Bee.
K11 was the first one that we surveyed, and we found a large amount of glass, 35 pieces to be exact! They all appeared to be from the same bottle, and so we made sure to take all of the pieces we found in the hopes of being able to reconstruct, or at least partially reconstruct this bottle. The other two survey units that we examined were situated on the side of a steep hill, making it difficult to survey the area. We did not find anything in these units, which is probably because there were
It was interesting to examine this area, as it certainly appears that there has been human interaction there. From what we have seen so far, it seems that the area has been the site of some social gatherings and parties, but it will be interesting to continue to observe this area and what else we can gain from this site.