Our final field trip is today and it is to Mt. Pleasant, MI to visit the Indian Industrial Boarding School. This will wrap up our week of a cross state visit of multiple historical sites. But before we leave for the summer, it is important to note the things that we have taken away from this class.
This class allowed us to gain knowledge about things that we did not know existed. We visited Fort Michilimackinac, the Michigan Historical Museum, Michigan State University’s archaeological sites, as well as Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles, MI. These trips included guided tours, hands on excavating, and even the chance to observe a cannon fire! While learning the history of Michigan, we were also becoming informed of what goes on behind the scenes of archaeology and its role in history. Today, we took a trip to the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School and the Ziibiwing Cultural Center. We learned loads of inofrmation regarding the students who were forced to attend the boarding school. In addition to that, at the Ziibiwing Cultural Center we learned about the rare and rich information regarding the North American Indians.
While the field trips were fun and extremely informative, we could not forget about our beloved Old Main. The class has been constructing research reports that depict graphs, as well as pivotal information regarding the artifacts that we have found. For example, our groups graphs will show how many artifacts we found in what levels and what sort of artifacts were found in our most prosperous level.
With Archaeology Day coming to an end this past weekend, our class excavation on Old Main has also come to an end. There were many units that had found some intriguing artifacts and others that had found simply bricks, metal, and pieces of glass. Blake and I’s 4 ft by 4 ft unit was turned in to an 8 ft by 8 ft unit with the help of some fellow classmates. Now, let me explain why this was done to our unit.
Expanding our unit was a result of a couple of probe tests and one shovel test finding a cultural level approximately 12-14 inches below datum. With clay being a part of most of our unit, these test were nothing short of ordinary. Archaeologist use these tests when their excavation unit becomes “dry” and artifacts are no longer being found. So, we connected three more units to our original, making a 8 ft by 8 ft unit. Our goal was to expose the cultural level in all four quadrants in our unit. A cultural level is the ground where Old Main sat. This would be where the top of the soil was located back then.
With the cultural level exposed in all four quadrants, we began finding whole bricks and multiple pieces of larger glass. This level was also full of nails, along with what we believe is a piece of leather. Our Old Main excavation came to an end this past weekend, so we could only reach the top of level 2 in our additional 3 units that we added on to our original unit.
Although we ended our excavation, this week will be filled with archaeology history. We will be taking field trips around Michigan learning about historical sites and their archaeological importance. These trips will wrap up our archaeological experience, as well as leave us with a bit of history about the state some of us grew up in.
First Full Day of Excavating
Today, May 6th 2015, was the first full day of excavating this week due the weather earlier in the week. Even though the day started out cloudy and wet, it improved to a sunny condition where we could comfortably uncover interesting items.
The rainy night allowed us to have a teaching lesson from Professor Conell, manicuring our excavation unit. This process consisted of scrapping the thin layer of wet/clumpy dirt from the surface to remove any items that were put there from the rain. We clean up the materials that do not belong there, after this, we can begin excavating.
In addition to manicuring our excavation site, the class learned to not remove an artifact that is partly showing in Level 0 and continues into Level 1. For our site, Level 0 is the first 4 inches from the surface and Level 1 is the next 4 inches after level 0. To be able to classify artifacts into levels you have to excavate in even layers. With this being said, you need to finish excavating the next 4 inches below Level 0 before you can begin excavating Level 1. After finishing a level, it is important to fill out your paper work, which takes some time. For example, you need to sketch your excavation unit after each level. This allows for you and your partner to note changes in soil, as well as changes in the stratigraphy as a whole.
Every new day presents new learning experiences; this will allow us to become the best archaeologists we can be.
With the final week wrapping up, the class has learned multiple areas of archaeology and its processes. From measuring excavation units, to developing research questions, our class is well on their way to begin excavating the site of Old Main. With research questions locked and loaded, multiple groups are excited to see if they can discover something new about Old Main. For example, one of the research questions was “Were there any renovations done to Old Main before it burnt down”? We will have to figure out what kind of materials were used when Old Main was first built and if there were any new materials used before Old Main burnt down in 1969.We have learned the history of the building, including the departments that were inside of Old Main, as well as the amount of damage (in dollars) that was caused by the fire.
Before we dive into today’s activities that include: measuring our units, excavating, and gathering valuable information, we needed to spend some time on Thursday’s Archaeology Olympics. We were asked to compete multiple events that are related to archaeology. For example, we competed in:
5 – meter pace and Labeling Artifacts
Trowel Toss and Dirt Toss
Re-organizing a mixed up Munsell Chart
Measuring 1 meter excavation units and using line levels
The competition was there and we were having a good time learning about archaeology. I know that at least a couple of us are excited to excavate a real historical building that unfortunately burnt down.
Today will be the first day of excavating, but first we need to measure our units and gather supplies. Once these tasks have been accomplished, it will be time to begin excavating! Many of us have talked about what we may find and what the possibilities are of finding something of value. There are talks of some findings that may include bricks, nails, glass, and maybe even some ceramics. We were given information on these possible artifacts by our mentors, which will help us identify the different types of artifacts that could be involved in our excavation findings.