Week 6 (Tuesday Lab)

In this week’s lab at the Waterford Mill Site, the lab section split up into four groups in order to continue investigating the site. The first group, consisting of Ali, Seth, Wendy, and Aubrey, continued with the excavation of Trench 1. Jaylin, Anya, Zobeida, and Julianne, the second group, worked on the excavation of Trench 2. A third team, consisting of Matthew, Claire, and Brendan searched for a specific feature: any remains of a second building at the site, as attested to by a historical photograph. The fourth team, made up of just Judi and Elise, took DGPS mapping points of various spots on the grid, both trenches, and the feature that Team 3 was investigating.

DGPS Mapping

This week’s mapping was focused on better defining previously examined features – the points taken were mostly at the two excavation trenches and the edges of grid squares in the main mill complex. In addition, a single point was taken at the location of the most apparent remains of what might be a second building of the mill site, beyond the more visible mill building itself. In the map below, the southernmost cluster of points shows where the first trench was dug, and the tight set of four points just to the east of survey grid square F10 (the boundaries of which were also mapped with points) shows where the second excavation trench is. Finally, the westernmost point was taken at what appears to be a corner of the remains of the walls of a possible second building.

Week 6 DGPS Map


Feature Investigation: the second building?

The newest endeavor begun by this week’s lab was a survey of the western area of the mill site, which was meant to determine any possible remains of a second building attested to in the photograph below.

Fishing_below_the_Waterford_Mill_Northfield_Minnesota (1)“Fishing Below The Waterford Mill,” c.1900, from the Northfield Historical Society

While the remains of the building in the foreground, the main mill, are plain to see without any investigation of the site, the second building behind it is much less apparent at the site today. To determine where it might be, Brendan, Claire, and Matthew went up the hill to the west of the main building, and, using this photograph as a guide, found linear ditches that run parallel to each other, as well as stones buried under layers of dirt that appear to be placed as walls, much like in the main site. While this was only a preliminary search for this building, the linear features and visibly stacked stone are strong indicators of the location of this second building. To better investigate the feature next week, this team began clearing the site of brush, just like the initial clearance of the main building, and drew a sketch of both the clear boundaries of the building and what might be the extent of its remains.

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Brendan digging a test pit adjacent to the easternmost corner of the 2nd building’s walls (photo by Alex Knodell)

Excavation of Trench 1

Seth, Ali, Wendy, and Aubry continued excavating Trench 1. Seth, Ali, and Wendy dug with the trowels while Aubrey bagged and recorded facts on the form. The three people digging in the trench removed loosened dirt that was sifted and artifacts were removed. This group ended up with 7 bags of artifacts: one glass, four metal, one ceramic, and one miscellaneous “other” bag. They found a few ceramic pieces of interest, one with writing on it and two with golden lines inlayed in the ceramic. Wendy also found a complete intact glass bottle, which was not completely excavated from the trench due to time constraints. In addition, this group did not see any context changes in the soil while excavating the trench.

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Opening photo of trench 1, 3:37 PM

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Photo of trench 1 midway through excavation, 4:20 PM

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Photo of trench 1 at end of day, 4:38 PM

Excavation of Trench 2

Working off the efforts of last week’s Wednesday lab, Jaylin, Anya, Zobeida, and Julianne continued the excavation of trench 2. Zobeida, Julianne, and Jaylin continued to scape the earth with trowels and empty the loosened dirt into a bucket while Anya did the recording. Although the soil context did not change during their work, they filled two and a half buckets with the loosened soil. After filling the buckets, they put the soil through the sifter and removed and bagged any artifacts. This group found small shards of metal, pieces of glass, two small ceramic fragments, and a piece of leather, all of which were placed into 4 bags. This group also noticed many large rocks inside their excavation trench, which they believed to be part of the wall, since trench 2 is right up against the remnants of one of the walls of the mill.

Due to time constraints, this group only dug approximately three to four inches deeper in the trench, and the soil context did not change. However, the group believes that there is likely a new soil context and perhaps older artifacts underneath the current layer with the rocks (believed to be part of the building wall). Once the excavation is continued to a point where there are no artifacts associated with the current protruding rocks and those rocks are removed, perhaps a new soil context will be found.

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Photo of trench 2 midway through excavation, 4:20 PM

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Photo of excavation trench 2 at the end of the day, 4:34 PM


The artifacts found by the group excavating trench 1 could potentially provide interesting insights about the uses of the mill site. It is likely that the trash pit is not in use today, due to the lack of more recent (and more plastic) trash, so the trash likely came from the mill, although it is possible that it came from further upstream and was washed down.

The other possibility is that the buildup of trash in trench 1 could have been formed by trash falling down the hill from what we believe to be the second building of the site, an interpretation bolstered by the presence of similarly contemporary trash at the top of the hill. To determine whether the trash could’ve fallen down the hill to what we’ve called trench 1, we could first investigate the hill itself, perhaps with test pits, to see if there is any clear link beneath the soil between the trash at the top of the hill and that of trench 1. Although gridded collection would provide more comparable results to the main mill’s assemblage, the difficulty of extending our grid to the hillside points to gridded collection being more useful for the 2nd building itself, and perhaps not for trying to determine the extent of any possible links between trench 1 and the 2nd building.

The group excavating trench 2 believed that the rocks in their excavation site were part of the wall, so it would be interesting to further explore the origin of those rocks. The question of where those rocks came from could potentially be answered by some sort of analysis of the rocks (perhaps not feasible within the context of this class) or further excavation of the trench. It could also be illuminating to look more at the area below the wall (what would be F9 and G9, if we had gridded this part) if it ever dries up enough. Since the group excavating trench 2 thought the rocks were part of the wall, it would be interesting to see if similar rocks were also found below the visible area of the wall. The discovery of similar rocks would strengthen the idea that the rocks found in trench 2 were originally part of the wall.