Posted by: Brian | October 27, 2009

How Much Should We Dig?

Hamline Methodist Church - Old and New (Alisha brushing the foundation)

Hamline Methodist Church - Old and New (Alisha brushing the foundation)

Today was gorgeous – lots of sunshine, beautiful fall colors, and great stratigraphy. My Excavating Hamline History class is continuing to work three sites – the Methodist Church, the Levin Backyard site, and Hamline’s Old Main. All three sites are producing interesting results. In our backyard dig were finding complicated deposits with layers of ash, trash, and sand. We’re at 70 cm below the ground surface with no sign of an end to our finds.

Old Main Dig (left side is at the top of the 1880s surface)

Old Main Dig (left side is at the top of the 1880s surface)

At Old Main we’re excavating what I believe is the 1880s ground surface. It is a thick deposit of brick, morter, and limestone all jumbled together. There’s been no sign of fire, though, so perhaps we’re digging construction debris from Old Main and not yet finding the demolition debris from the original University Hall.

Church 2x2

Expanding the Methodist Church Excavation (note the foundation in the lower left)

Our excavation at the Hamline Methodist Church site is the largest of our digs. Last week we found the limestone foundation marking the church’s eastern wall. Now we’re excavating a 2×2 meter square just inside the wall. The 2×2 is still going through the sand and gravel fill – we probably need to dig another 2 or 3 feet before we get down to the burned church deposit. Our finds right now are coming from a small area we’re digging just the outside of the wall. This ‘outside wall’ excavation has hit the 1925 fire remains. We’re finding a lot of burned glass, charred wood, and other signs of fire. The richness of this deposit makes me want to expand the outside units. I’m sure we’d find a lot of interesting artifacts. The problem is that we’re running out of time. In the past, my class has never dug much beyond the first week of November. I’m not sure whether we can afford to expand our church dig. On-the-other-hand, this year may be my last at this site. The current congregation is considering building an addition to their church. The new addition would destroy the 1925 church archaeology site (or at least destroy the portion available for me to dig). The possible loss of this fascinating site makes me want to dig as much as we can this year – even if I need to keep my class digging later into November than we’d originally planned.


Glass from Outside the Church Wall


  1. Sounds like a good excuse for a summer field school. Or to encourage the Church to work with you to preserve their own cultural heritage before they rip it up!! Maybe close up the other sites and focus on the one to get as much out of it as possible?

    looks like you’re getting great stuff!!

  2. Hi Terry, I’m following your advise – at least I’m planning on expanding our church dig. I’ve got some volunteers lined up to help this Saturday. We should be able to finish three or four more units from outside the wall. It’ll be fun digging.

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