Week Four Summary

On Monday, before class, we went to a talk about why archaeology matters today with Professor Jeremy Sabloff, formerly of Penn. On Tuesday, during class, Professor Sabloff joined us and talked about his research at the Sayil site in the Northern Yucatan in Mexico. This site focused on topography and trying to understand the organization of the Maya in that area for normal people. He also talked about the technology the project used, specifically LIDAR and the ability to see the agricultural terraces and roadways of the site. We then connected that to survey sites that we had looked up before class from around the world. Students were able to ask Professor Sabloff some questions, and thought about how his work and their sites might connect to our class research.

PineHillGrid (1)

Then, we went out to the Pine Hill Village site to begin our own research surveying the area. We set up the grid based on Alex’s map that proposed the site location as a series of 10 by 10 meter survey units, as shown in the link above. We started from the southeast corner of X16, then used 50 meter tape measures at angles of 315 compass degrees and 225 compass degrees to set up the edge of the survey area. From there, we used string and stakes to mark the edges of the survey area, then pink ribbons to mark off individual survey units. A group of students worked at this for the whole time we were in the field, and were able to set up survey units from T-X and 13-16.

Once the survey units were adequately marked, 10 students began the process of actually surveying the units. To do this, they split into groups of two people per square and did an intensive survey of the squares, noting any artifacts or features they found on survey unit forms. They then took those artifacts and bagged them by survey unit and material, so we can analyze them further at a later date. Among the artifacts we found were glass bottles, tennis and golf balls (which probably are not that useful) and general plastic stuff. Those groups were able to completely survey units T-X of rows 15 and 16, and U and V of row 14, as shown highlighted green in the map below.

0968_001 (Survey Unit Forms)



Finally, three students went with Claman to use a Differential GPS (DGPS) to mark features in our survey area. The DGPS allowed them to this with centimeter accuracy. While one person marked the location of the features, including the fire hydrant, a cement block, a pile of rubble and the path down to Goodhue, with the DGPS, one person was taking photographs and documenting each feature, while the other filled out feature forms.

Thursday, we took what we learned from the field on Tuesday and from outside research to discuss where we should go next with the project, with regards to both survey work and excavation. Some potential excavation locations to start on next week include the fire hydrant, the stairs to Goodhue, or any possible patios or outdoor spaces we may be able to discern from maps or artifacts we found while surveying. We also thought a little about potential research questions, largely focused on the family aspects of Pine Hill Village and the memories and stories of the people who lived there, some of whom are still alive, so we could possibly do a related ethnography. We also connected these further proposals with readings we did from Renfrow and Bahn and from Deetz, specifically in the context of social archaeology and societal analyses.

Week Three Summary

Our class discussion on Tuesday covered different methods of surveying an area and what would work better in varying situations, as well as considering different factors that would have to be considered for a successful survey, like location, the coverage of the survey and it’s intensity, resources like funding, time, people, etc, and other practicality concerns. We also outlined what we would generally look for and pay attention to in a survey: artifacts and what material it was made of and features of the area such as roads, mounds, water management features, structural remains, etc. 

We then put this into practice during our lab period through a practice archaeological survey of the field adjacent to the Carleton Student Farm. This demo was a pedestrian survey using fieldwalking in transecting lines to survey unit areas. This was done by arbitrarily splitting up into 3 groups: A, B, and C. A member of each group was assigned to fill out a Survey Unit forms for each surveyed unit (a survey facilitator). Another member of each group was assigned to mark the corners of each unit with waypoints on a GPS (a mapper). The remaining members of the group would be assigned to walk along transecting lines of the unit area. This fieldwalking crew was to walk due north in parallel lines spaced some distance apart. Their task would be to maintain a straight walking trajectory (it was decided these should point north because of the orientation of the target area) and to count artifacts encountered. If the artifacts were noteworthy and potentially of archaeological significance, the fieldwalker would collect them and then report their finds on the Survey Unit Form. This way, each artifact collected could be traced back to the exact transect line in which it was found.

In order to space fieldwalkers out evenly, some form of standardization in measurement was needed. Before we started, each student was to pace out 10 meters and to count for themselves, how many strides was approximately 10 meters. The fieldwalkers then spaced themselves apart evenly by 10 meters. The survey facilitator and mapper then would set flags at the corners of the unit area (the length of which was determined arbitrarily). The mapper set waypoints at those far corners too. Once the fieldwalkers reached the end of the unit area, they would report their findings to the facilitator while the mapper set two new flags (and also waypoints) some arbitrary distance due north, creating the next unit area. This process was repeated until the group reached the end of the field.

Here is Google Earth satellite imaging of the unit areas of this survey demo:

(The unit areas are color coded based on group. The flags are waypoints set by the mapper. The pink line at the bottom is 100 meters in length to show scale. North is indicated in the top right corner.)
We started Thursday’s class talking about the different ways new technology has been implemented into archaeology, with things like LIDAR scanning and GIS. LIDAR scanning allows users to see the ground through disturbances like trees and heavy foliage. GIS systems are just different programs that archaeologists can use to gain more information about the area of land they want to survey. After talking about how we can use technology to help archaeologists be better and more efficient, we had visiting professor Austin Mason give us a guest lecture on different ways 3D mapping and imagery can be used by archaeologists. 3D modeling allows archaeologists to bring parts of projects or excavations online for anyone to see and allows the people studying the area to get new perspectives on the sites where they’re digging. Austin then showed us the different types of 3D modeling. The first was manual modeling, which is basically hand drawing the models on a computer program. This method is relatively simple and inexpensive, but takes a ton of time and skill. The next type is laser scanning, which allow you to create super accurate models with impressive details, but is really expensive and hard to travel with. Procedural 3D modeling is done by writing a script in a program that generates structures and usually used for large scale models. The last form of 3D modeling that Austin walked about was photogrammetry, which is the use of computer vision algorithms to align photos calculate 3D geometry from the overlapping pixels. Relatively simple and inexpensive, and it’s replacing a lot of the other methods listed above. After taking many pictures of the object or place in question at different angles and uploading them, software finds the similar pixels and uses this information to create the object in 3D, like a panoramic photo but in 3D. After Austin demonstrated how he has used photogrammetry to create 3D models of artifacts, the class had a discussion about the survey proposals that we had prepared for the day. The class decided to survey the Pine Hill Village site since almost everyone proposed that a survey should be done there. We will do a pedestrian survey of the land on Tuesday.

Week Two Summary


On Tuesday, we met as a class in the Carleton archives in the basement of the library. There, Nat Wilson talked to us about what is included in the college archives and how we can go about utilizing them as a resource for our research. He talked to us about the Women’s League Cabin, which we’d already discussed as a class before, and showed us some of the archives–pictures, letters, and records–housed there that related to the cabin.

After that, we all rode over to Faribault, a town about 20 minutes from Northfield, and visited the Rice County Historical Society that resides there. Inside, we met a retired archaeologist who showed us the museum’s collection of Native American artifacts, which included arrowheads, axe heads, tools, and potsherds dating from the paleoindian period to far more recent. He gave detailed information about how the artifacts were made, who made them, and how old they were. His professional insight was a good indicator of what the field of archaeology entails, and the people there stressed that one of the most important parts of being an archaeologist isn’t just knowing things, but knowing who to ask and where to look in order to find things out.

Rice Sign

Rice County Historical Society Sign

Rocks and Arrowheads

An archaeologist tells the class about stone artifacts found in the area at the Rice County Museum of History.

After a brief tour of the museum gallery, we all climbed back into the vans and rode to Dundas, where we stopped at the site of the Archibald Mill ruins, left over from the days when this area was one of the most prosperous milling sites in the country. We studied a map that showed the locations of the numerous mills between Faribault and Red Wing along the Cannon River and its tributaries. We then had the chance to walk amongst the ruins themselves. They consisted of crumbling stone walls beside the bank of the river, and Alex pointed out the ruins of another mill on just the other side of the river. He also pointed out the spots in the walls where the masonry changed, indicating places that had been rebuilt when the mill was functional but plagued by constant fires that destroyed parts of the building.

Dundas Mill

Archibald Mill ruins in Dundas

On Thursday, we began the class with a visit from CCCE director and sociologist Adrienne Falcon, who spoke to us about the three essential components an academic civic engagement course entails: academic rigor, an impact or reach beyond the classroom, and a reciprocal relationship with the community. She then spoke, with several class members contributing, about what it means to give back to the community in the specific context of archaeology, how we might go about doing that, and some of the ethical questions involved. Several students brought up this course’s ability to help provide more information about local history to the community and several methods through which we might share our findings.
Following her visit, the class rearranged the chairs in the room into a circle to begin a class discussion of the past few classes worth of readings. Alex introduced the discussion by framing the readings into three general categories. Some of the readings, as well as our field trips on Tuesday, dealt with local Minnesota and Northfield history, from prehistory to the present. Others, primarily the textbook, outlined more technical archaeological methods. Finally, readings like Deetz’s In Small Things Forgotten explored archaeological thought, how archaeologists think and create narratives based on material objects. From there the class began a wide-ranging discussion of our impressions and interpretations of the readings, largely centering on Deetz’s book. We discussed the role of space, style, materials, the context, cultural attitudes, and ethical question of stakeholders. In the final, third portion of the class, students split up into groups based on the general locations they focused on for their essays on local places of historical interest. After sharing and comparing finds within groups, the class reconvened to share as a group and to tie everything together.

Week One Summary

On Tuesday, Professor Knodell began the course with a lecture discussing archaeology as a multi-disciplinary field connecting science and the humanities. He touched on his research experiences in the field and explained the research opportunities available to students in the class throughout the term. The class then transitioned into a guided arb tour, led by the Director of the Cowling Arboretum, Nancy Braker.

The tour began in the Arboretum office. Students initially walked north past Olin Farm house and the Hillside Prairie (where Carleton students originally planted native prairie grasses). Students then proceeded to turn left to walk along the Canon river, past the Earth Day field (where students celebrated the first Earth Day by planting native and non-native species of trees), and along the Waterford Mill Pond Wing Dam to see the site of the Waterford Mill. Students observed some artifacts at the mill site; specifically, the concrete remains of a dam that once bridged the river and some trash. From there, the tour proceeded past lands recently converted from farmland into woodlands, as would naturally be observed in southern Minnesota. Students then walked east towards the site of the Women’s League Cabin. At the cabin site, students discussed the research undertaken by previous iterations of this class, and the past purpose of remains at the site. On the return to campus, students saw farm dumps containing trash from farms that previously existed on Arboretum land.

nancy braker telling us stuffNancy Braker explains the origin of prairie lands in the Carleton arboretum at the Hillside Prairie.

looking at mapsStudents practice reading maps to recognize their location in the arboretum.

continuin on the tourStudents set out from campus on their tour with Nancy Braker.

observingStudents observing the dam at the site of the Waterford Mill.

observing farm dumpsStudents observe the farm dumps while Nancy Braker explains their purpose.

On Thursday, Carleton geology professor Mary Savina encouraged students to connect with their childhood homes’ topographies with a place-naming exercise. Students broke up into small groups to discuss elements of their childhood landscapes. They then created a list of features to consider when performing land surveys. Professor Savina then had students observe these features at sites, shown below on a map, around the Arb office. In their small groups, students observed the diverse ecosystems that can be seen immediately surrounding Carleton’s campus and considered which locations might be more conducive to different kinds of building (for example, a village or a fort). She concluded the class with a summary of geoarchaeology and her research on the Grevena project in Greece.

Archaeology Weekly write up (week 1)Location of the sites students surveyed with Mary Savina.

working together!!
Students in the process of surveying a location.

Week Ten Summary

With exams right around the corner, students were busy using their last lab period to finish up their final projects. Most groups are in the process of uploading and finalizing their write-ups, and were able to consult with Alex on Skype for feedback and closing advice.


Hard at work on final projects.


Skype with Alex to discuss final projects.

Finally, to the tune of Bob Dylan, students began the cleanup process. This included organizing and re-bagging the artefacts, and then placing them in storage. Essentially, our goal was to make the lab appear as it was ten weeks ago.


Time to cleanup!

We have come a long way from our humble beginnings at the start of the term, learning the archaeological process be it research, survey, excavation, analysis, publication, or cleanup. Through this course, we have probed into the past through material culture informing us about the present and the future.


Farewell Archaeological Methods!

Week Nine Summary

This week the class was busy working on their final projects, which include trench and field work analyses, GIS mapping, oral histories, a history of gendered spaces at Carleton and Women’s Leagues in general across the country, and public outreach. On Tuesday, we discussed the issues of storage space, which is of special interest because the course is almost over and there is the question of what should be done with the artifacts retrieved from the Women’s League Cabin (Figures 1 and 2). We also discussed how one goes about determining the value of archaeological finds in order to decide if they should be stored for future analysis or discarded. This is particularly pertinent to our work, as we have a fair amount of trash that has been collected. As well, considering the high concentrations of objects such as glass shards found at the site, it is debatable whether the benefit of keeping every single shard is greater than the cost of energy and space put into storing them.


Figure 1: Artifacts recovered from the survey units at the cabin


Figure 2: Artifacts from Trench 2

Later in class, people broke off into their individual groups to work on their projects (Figures 3 and 4). The last of the artifacts from the site were cleaned, and individuals began compiling data relevant to their topics. The time was productive, with photogrammetry models produced, artifact catalogs created, findings compiled, archival information researched, and the website upkept. Thursday we picked up where we had left off on Tuesday, and Mary Savina and Austin Mason were in class to provided assistance. The projects are coming along nicely, and everyone is working hard to finish their drafts for Tuesday.


Figure 3: Several groups hard at work


Figure 4: Groups working on their projects

Week 8

This week was the third and final day of excavation work at the Women’s League Cabin site. While the excavation and total survey work continued, the class also hosted a Community Archaeology Day. Members of the Carleton and Northfield community were invited to come and visit the site between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to check out the area and our finds, chat with students, and watch archaeology in action. A shuttle was driven between the Arb Office and the site on the half hour in order to facilitate visits. The event was well advertised by an outreach team of students and Alex through targeted emails and flyers to individuals with an interest in the site or class. In addition students were encouraged to invite their friends to attend. Many different people visited the site over the course of the afternoon and allowed the class to better engage the community in our project.

Approximately twenty people visited the site as part of the Community Archaeology Day. Visitors ranged from current Carleton students to professional archaeologists. Several professors visited, especially from the Classics department, and one even brought her family along. Students from Carleton and St. Olaf with relevant interests in archaeology seemed excited by the class and interested in future projects. Carleton administration and Arb staff were also present and very enthusiastic about exploring Carleton’s past archaeology. Someone from the Minnesota State Archaeologist office and Alex’s relatives rounded out our fairly large party of visitors.

Chloe and other students greeted visitors and conducted tours of the site, explaining both the history of the Women’s League Cabin site and the archaeology work conducted by the class. Explaining the site to a range of visitors gave the class the opportunity to learn about different potential community and professional interests in our work. Additionally, describing our process for different audiences helped us to understand it better ourselves. It was also useful to talk and connect with other people interested in archaeology.

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Excavation Report:

While visitors mingled throughout the site, excavation in all three trenches continued. The tarps were successfully removed to initiate work, and the trenches were largely free of water. The class was divvied up and resumed the process that had been established in the previous week. Teams at all three trenches separated soil scraped from different contexts into buckets. If artifacts were not found during the scraping, they were revealed when the loose soil was passed through the soil sifter. Overall, fewer artifacts were found in the trenches this week than during previous excavation.

Trench 1:

On this final day of excavation, Trench 1 remained divided between sandy orange context 2 and dark organic rich context 4. We believe context 2 to have lain outside the front door of the cabin. We continued and completed excavation of context 2, which contained the highest concentration of artifacts within trench 1. The highlights included a piece of ceramic plate and some bones. Context 4 contained fewer artifacts and many pockets of black clay. We found an additional paver at a lower depth, and some nails.

Trench 1 findings are as follows:

Context 2: Metal – 4, Ceramic – 2, Bone – 3, Other – 5

Context 4: Glass – 4, Metal – 1, Lithic – 1

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Trench 2:

As excavation of trench 2 continued, contexts 3 and 4 were complete and closed, and context 5 was opened. The contexts in the trench were divided by a row a stone pavers.  During excavation, the team reached below the level of the patio, and evidence of additional stone below the patio was found.  The most unique finds of the day included a bullet casing and pencil lead.

Trench 2 findings are as follows:

Context 3: Glass – 4, Metal – 6, Charcoal – 7, Other – 1

Context 4: Glass – 37, Metal – 2, Lithic – 5, Other – 1, Unknown – 21

Context 5: Lithic – 8, Charcoal – 3

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Trench 3:

Trench 3, the smallest trench, was very deep by the end of this excavation period.  A new soil layer that was documented as context 5 was finally reached, and some nails and charcoal were found.  Overall, there were fewer artifacts found than in previous weeks.

Trench 3 findings are as follows:

Context 4: Glass – 1, Metal – 4

Context 5: Glass – 1 Charcoal – 8

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