Student Social Use

At the quarry site we found a plethora of beer cans and bottles from primarily the time periods of 1966-1967 and the late 1980s, which suggests that the secluded site was used for social gatherings. In this section we weave together our artifact analysis with insights from the documentary record in order to imagine why students may have flocked to this site in the first place. Inherent in our analysis is the assumption that this was a site used by Carleton students. Though we cannot confirm this from our artifacts, it would not be unfathomable that Carleton students would go there, considering its proximity to campus and easy accessibility by foot. In contrast, it would be unlikely that those from surrounding towns would delve so deeply into the Arb to find a place to drink. Other sites that are known to be frequented by non-Carleton students for drinking, such as the Women’s League Cabin, are easily accessible by car and have parking space. This suggests that the quarry would likely not be a desirable place for non-Carleton students to frequent. Our analysis thus seeks to explore the reasons why Carleton students may have sought this secluded space to socialize during the specific time periods that we have identified.

Insights from the Documentary Record

In their COMPS, “Paradox in Academia: Sense of Place in the Cowling Arboretum,” Flora Sol Richey asserts that “The Arboretum is a social place.” The Arb is the site of a plethora of recreational activities: walking, running, biking, and then in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Sol Richey remarks that much like public places on campus like the Bald Spot or Sayles Hill, the Arb provides “the grounds for students to convene and connect” (Sol Richey 2017, 26). However, unlike these public spaces, the Arb has a unique and coveted offering: seclusion. The Arb is both “away from campus and the vigilant patrol of security.” To that end, “The Arboretum was not only a ‘gateway’ but a place to ‘get away’ with certain activities” (Sol Richey 2017, 27).

There are many campus-wide social traditions that take place in the Arb, such as Rotblatt and Easter, but it is also the site of a host of smaller, more private gatherings. The quarry site is deep in the Arb, about a 20 minute walk, as well as a distance from the path. It is not a site that you stumble upon, rather it is a place that you go to. The remnants of beer cans and glass bottles that we excavated suggest that the quarry was a site for social gatherings and imbibing. Thus, this location was likely chosen because it was deliberately secluded. Through scouring the Carleton archives, we looked for possible references to the site, or for possible reasons why students felt a heightened need for privacy. Through our research of the documentary record, cross-examined with the dates from our artifact analysis, we were able to see how social usage of the Arb changed in response to changes in federal, state, and campus policy.

The Arb has historically been used by students to imbibe when campus policy prevented drinking in dorms. Pre-World War II, drinking was not permitted, but the authors of Carleton: The First Century, remarked that the widespread drinking in dorms that still occurred meant that the campus handbook, “might better have said “officially permitted” (Headley and Jarchow 1966, 354). After 1946, the policy became stricter and prohibited alcohol in all campus buildings but still allowed students who were of age to drink in bars. The authors write, “The ‘Arb.’ rightly or wrongly, was over the years a kind of ‘safety valve’ where countless cans of beer and other potions were consumed around bonfires by students relaxing from the rigors of intellectual endeavor” (Headley and Jarchow 1966, 354). Additionally, there was not an Arb management team in the 50s, and 60s, and this, according to an article in the Carl titled, “Things Carleton Students Used to do Arbing,” “added to the sense of lawlessness in the Arb. It was not uncommon to find parts of the Arb littered with beer cans or discover an abandoned car” (Ellis 2016, 11c). The article asserts that before the 70s, the Arb was a “hotbed for the more illicit activities of Carleton students” as a result of a “policy of strict curfews, gender-separated dorms, and prohibiting students of different genders to visit one another” (Ellis 2016, 11c). As a result, students flocked to the Arb in order to socialize and drink with members of the opposite gender without the threat of punishment. 

Through our artifact analysis (which we will elucidate more on in the section below) we were able to date the beer bottles to two specific periods: 1966-67, and then the late 1980s. The documentary record confirms that during the 1966-67 period there was frequent usage of the Arb for socializing and drinking, suggesting that it is possible that the artifacts we found were remnants of a social gathering hosted by Carleton students. Additionally, the gap between the two time periods suggests that the spot was frequented considerably less in the 1970s. The documentary record confirms that the Arb was indeed used less frequently for illicit drinking during this time as a result of a more relaxed campus drinking policy and the opening of dorms. As Ellis writes, “Since the opening of the dorms in the late 60’s and early 70s, Arbing has become considerably less popular. Parties are kept to dorms and new-fangled townhouses (with the exception of Easter)” (Ellis 2016, 11c).

The revival of the quarry location in the late 1980s likely reflects yet another policy shift: the change in drinking age. There were a plethora of Carletonian articles on the impacts of the new state law on campus social life. As one article, “Should Co-op events be dry next year? Yes…serving beer won’t be fair to freshman class” explains, “The Social Policy Committee is in the process of revising the College’s Alcohol Policy so that it will comply with Minnesota State Law when the new drinking age goes into effect on September 1, 1986. Because of the grandfather clause, we at Carleton will not feel the full effect of the increased age law until fall 1987. At the start of the academic year in September 1986, however, a very few of our sophomores will not be old enough to make the age cut-off, and almost the entire incoming freshman class will be under the drinking age” (Cluxton 1986, 8). The effects of the law would not start to be felt until the fall of 1987, which fits our estimates of when the usage of the quarry for drinking began again.

Additionally, articles published after the new drinking age came into effect describe a much stricter campus response to parties. In an article published in 1990 titled, “Act prompts policy changes,” the authors describe the impact of another law aimed at curbing underage drinking: “The role of alcohol on the Carleton campus will be redefined this year in response to Congress’ passage of the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989. The act requires that the College toughen its stance on underage drinking in order to continue to receive federal aid. President Lewis issued an order at the beginning of the term amending the alcohol and drug policy found in the Student Handbook to conform to all of the stipulations of the Act. Until this year the Code of Conduct did not mention underage drinking and thus did not restrict it” (Valliere and Villalba 1990, 1). In response to the new federal and state laws, campus policy changed in a number of ways. Firstly, underage drinking was explicitly prohibited in the Code of Conduct and disciplinary measures were put in place to respond to underage drinking violations. Additionally, other articles published in the Carletonian describe new practices put in place by the college in order to regulate campus partying, such as requiring students to register parties and to card all party guests. These new rules and practices meant that parties, especially those that were un-registered, needed to be less visible. As another Carletonian article from 1990 laments, “In years past, (we’re juniors now and we can reminisce) we could get all our underage friends together, have a keg in our lounge, and be as loud as we wanted. Tragically, these days may have disappeared. Recently we filled out our first party form, and we have also been forced to start the dread practice of carding at the keg” (Revelle and Lankenau 1990, 1). Thus, parties in general, but specifically parties that wanted to serve alcohol to underage students, could no longer take place in such visible locations such as a dorm lounge and needed to look for more secluded locations. The need for seclusion was exacerbated by an increase in “party-busting” efforts by the college. A rather melodramatic article from 1991 explains, “I am fairly certain that everyone at Carleton is aware of the earthshaking, party-busting actions by security of two weeks ago, affectionately labeled the Friday Night Massacre by some partisan folks here on campus. Just to jog your memory, however, the lead article in last week’s Carletonian was headlined “Security cracks down: campus parties left dry”” (Sleeper 1991, 5). It makes sense that this campus environment would rein-spire usage of a secluded quarry deep in the Arb for parties.  

Though we do not know exactly why people went to the quarry to party in the years that we recorded, we can surmise that campus policy in the late 1960s and then its changes in the late 1980s did create incentives for increased usage of the Arb for more illicit activities. 

Artifact Analysis

Hundreds of artifacts were collected from the Quarry site throughout our lab periods, with many signs pointing towards the artifacts being left due to student social activity. The majority of our finds were glass bottles and metal cans, with many of these in pieces rather than their original form. Most of the objects recovered offered no diagnostic value, as they had no discernable text or other identifiable properties. Furthermore, many of the objects with distinguishable markings were unable to be placed into a useful date range, either being assigned a very broad time period or not being given a last date of production. Still, the limited number of useful artifacts provided a wealth of information into social usage of the Arb, through the examination of the quarry as a site of past social gathering. Through the careful analysis of these objects, three main periods of modern activity were identified. It is assumed that each period was a single event, due the isolation of the quarry location, although this is by no means necessarily true. The quarry locations could have instead been used many times throughout the identified periods. Additionally, it is assumed that the objects were deposited at the site relatively close to their manufacture date, as is the prevailing way to use one-time consumable goods. Below is a table (Table 1) listing these useful objects and the date range that they were produced in; additionally, a timeline (Figure 1) is provided to visually demonstrate the distinct periods/events.

(Table 1) Compilation of artifacts with narrow date ranges, clearly displaying the three distinct periods of site use.
(Figure 1) Timeline visually demonstrating the information in Table 1. The timeline makes it clear that there are distinct non-overlapping periods of artifact deposition at the quarry site.

Of the three most clearly defined periods/events, only two are likely related to social usage of the Arb. The artifacts from the event that occurred in the 2010s fit more as things left from student Arb workers, rather than those using the Arb for a social purpose. Neither the elastic strap or the cough drop wrapper are similar to the objects that were evidently deposited from partying students. Also, there was evidence of work from Arb employees in the area, as some shrubs and small trees appeared to have been cut down within the last 10 years. This leaves the artifacts from late 1980s and 1966-1967 as evidence of two distinct periods of use at the quarry site in the Arb.

The 1966-1967 period was the most prolific in terms of artifacts, with the majority of identifiable artifacts being from this period. Most of these distinguishable artifacts were beer cans, but there was still a noticeable amount of variation within the types of objects found. Vessels for non-alcoholic beverages were found, with both a 7up and Coca Cola can being present at the site. A can of Rath’s Ham (Figure 2) was also found at the site, showing that during this time students’ use of the area was more complex than simply walking into the Arb with beers in hand. There were also many brands of beer found during this period, including Budweiser, Hamm’s, Schlitz, Heublein, Colt 45, and Schmidt, as well as unidentifiable glass bottles. Interestingly, this period of use at the quarry is congruent with reports of higher levels of illicit activities in the Arb before the 70s. During this period there were strict curfews, rules forbidding students of different genders visiting each other, and dorms were separated by gender. It is therefore understandable that the quarry site would see heavier use during this period, as students retreat to the Arb during the reign of a strict administration.

(Figure 2) Rath’s Ham tin found at quarry site.

The second period of marked use at the quarry site was during the late 1980s. This time saw a smaller artifact signature than previously, as well as slightly different artifacts. The objects found were all vessels for beverages, with evidence pointing towards the bottles holding beer. While many fewer identifiable artifacts were found during this period, it does not necessarily mean that there was less use of the site during this time. Many broken glass bottles and shards were found at the site, with most having no distinguishable features. This means that many of the hundreds of glass shards we found, some pictured below (Figure 3), could belong to this event. There was much less variety in artifacts from this period, with all being glass bottles, of only a couple distinct origins. The time of the deposition of these glass bottles also lines up with a relevant historical event. As was discovered in the documentary record, in 1986 Minnesota was forced to increase the legal drinking age, with the full effects being felt in 1989. Additionally, in 1989 Congress passed the “Drug Free Schools and Communities Act,” requiring Carleton to toughen its policies on underage drinking in order to receive federal funding. Coincidentally, the one bottle with a known manufacturing date was manufactured in 1989. While it is impossible to show direct causation between the artifacts found at the quarry and the passage of new laws and Carleton policies, having an artifact dated to exactly 1989 makes it quite probable that this period of usage depicts the physical effects of these new laws. The artifact record appears to show movement of drinking into the Arb during this legislative crackdown.

(Figure 3) One grouping of shards of glass, demonstrating the sheer volume of this type of artifact.

The artifact record from the quarry site serves as an effective tool to analyze the Arb’s social use by students throughout Carleton’s history. Both of the non-modern periods of use can be connected to known times of increased social use of the Arb through the documentary record. The 1966-1967 range was during period of a strict Carleton administration, as it was before the removal of rules prohibiting inter-gender fraternization at the start of the 70s. The second period of use, during the late 1980s, was also linked to the documentary record. It lines up with the passage of laws requiring Carleton to become less lax, along with an increase in drinking age. The quarry site demonstrates the value of archaeology as a tool to understand the past, and relate it to known historical events.


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Diane Cluxton, “Should Co-op events be dry next year? Yes…serving beer won’t be fair to freshman class,” The Carletonian, April 8, 1986, 8.

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