Posted by: Brian | October 11, 2011

An Invitation to the Hamline Neighborhood

Neighborhood archaeology in action (from 2007)

Come dig with us. My students and I invite anyone interested in neighborhood history and archaeology to join our excavation at “Old Main” on Hamline University. You can come and watch, ask questions, or even help dig. We have opportunities for participants of all ages (including an art project). Children are particularly welcome, although we ask they be accompanied by an adult.

Old Main is in the center of Hamline campus (with the clock tower). We will be digging on the west side of the building where we are searching for evidence of the first campus building, University Hall, destroyed by fire in 1883. Our excavations at the site have already uncovered artifacts from the 1880’s that could be from this first building.

The open dig is scheduled for Saturday, October 15th between 10 AM and 2 PM. Participants wanting to dig (or help with the art work) should wear clothes that can get dirty. We’ll provide gloves and all other excavation equipment. Watch this blog for change in plans if the weather looks marginal on Saturday.

UPDATE: The weather looks good for tomorrow (although perhaps a little chilly).  To help warm us up, Ginkgo Coffeehouse is donating coffee and hot apple cider. Yea Ginkgos!

Posted by: Brian | October 8, 2011

Lost & Found

Deutsche Mark coin found at Old Main

Our dig at Old Main has uncovered a lot of building rubble and a few surprises. A coin turned up on the surface of the site during our Saturday open dig. While it’s not unusual to find loose coins just about anywhere in America, the particular coin we found was certainly unexpected. It’s from Germany. I don’t know anything about German currency, but I can google. From what I can tell the coin we found is a 2 Deutsche Mark minted in 1970 with with Konrad Adenauer (?) on the face. This currency apparently remained in circulation up through the introduction of the Euro in 2001.

To me, the real mystery is how this coin ended up in the dirt next to Old Main.  I can’t imagine that there have been that many German coins lost on Hamline campus. I’m willing to bet that the one we found may be the only one of its type anywhere on campus grounds. Could be that the person that lost it is still alive, maybe even still around. So if you know anyone that was on Hamline campus after traveling to Germany between 1970 and 2001, let them know that we may have found their lost memento.

Our other recent lost and found item is a bit older.

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Posted by: Brian | October 7, 2011

Come and Dig

This Saturday (Oct. 8th) 10 AM to 2 PM is the first of our open digs. Anyone interested in helping out with the Old Main excavation is welcome to join us. We provide gloves and other excavation equipment. We’re digging through 1880s rubble, so it’s an interesting time to see the excavations.

Photo of the Hamline Fire Hall on the corner of Asbury and Taylor

Fires were a very big deal in the early history of the Hamline neighborhood. Two of our major excavation sites – the Hamline Methodist Church and University Hall – were both destroyed by fire. So having a fire department presence in the neighborhood would have been a very welcome addition to the community.

The Hamline Fire Station, Hook and Ladder Company No. 7 (later No. 23?), was built sometime around 1887. It was an impressive red brick building on the corner of Asbury and Taylor – where the Drew Fine Arts building now stands. According to the Sanborn Fire Insurance map of 1925, a horse barn was attached to the back (east) side of the building. The photo above was taken around 1900. A closer photo from the same time, shows additional details of the building front.

Hamline Fire Station (these two images are from the Minnesota Reflections Digital Library database)

I have been curious whether any remains of this building could be found. So I had some of my Excavating Hamline History students dig a couple of shovel tests near the northwest corner of Drew Fine Arts. The first shovel test produced a little clinker, ash, and coal and smattering of other artifacts. Not too exciting. The second test, however, produced a bunch of red brick fragments and other building debris. My guess is that these remains are from the fire station – a pretty cool find if correct. We found enough to justify more work here some time in the future.

Fire Station Artifacts

 

Posted by: Brian | September 25, 2011

We’re Excavating Hamline History (Again)

First week of excavation at the Old Main site

Fieldwork has begun on the Hamline Village History Project for the 2011 season. This year we’re excavating at several sites. The main focus will be our dig at Old Main on Hamline campus. Our real interest in the Old Main site is not the building itself, but the possibility of finding remains of the original University Hall which was destroyed by fire in 1883. The University responded to this disaster by immediately rebuilding on the same footprint. The new University Hall, which we now call Old Main, was open for business a short 11 months after the fire. Old Main is now 127 years old and a focal point of our campus. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s Victorian Gothic style has a classic old campus charm.

It’s a great old building, but what about the first University Hall? Are there any remains of this structure buried in the ground adjacent to Old Main? The answer to this question is the goal of our excavations.

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Kayla and Harrison shovel testing at Roosevelt Lake.

We wrapped up our Roosevelt Lake fieldwork on Friday. The two sites we found are very different from each other. One site is a single component lithic reduction site (a place where stone tools were made). The second is a multi-component camp site. This camp site was first occupied more than a thousand years ago – with people returning repeatedly even as recently as the 1800s. The lithic reduction site will be harder to date – but our best guess is that it is much older – perhaps occupied many thousands of years ago.

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Posted by: Brian | June 22, 2011

Minnesota Archaeology Field School

Students testing our first site

I’m ‘up north’, as we say in Minnesota. I’m leading my first Minnesota archaeology field school. We’ve been surveying the shoreline of Roosevelt Lake in Cass/Crow Wing Counties. I’m having a blast (and feeling really guilty that I’m not writing my Aniakchak report). We’ve found a couple of sites, had some fascinating exchanges with a group of Native American interns, and enjoyed being in the north woods.

Right now I’m sitting on the porch of a cabin near where we’re staying, listening to loons call and watching the mist move past the far shore.It’s pretty sweet.

My crew is great – a really fun bunch of students. They’re learning the ropes and working hard. We’re invited to dinner at a cabin across the lake, so I have to keep this short. Two more days of digging and then we’re off to our next project.

Posted by: Brian | April 5, 2011

Excavating Hamline History – Fall 2011

Hall of Science excavation class (2004)

Hall of Science excavation class (2004)

This post is for Hamline students interested in registering for my fall class ANTH 3130: Excavating Hamline History.

This class is a unique opportunity to participate on an archaeological excavation as part of an interdisciplinary and collaborative project. It’s an interdisciplinary class because of the students. I ask each of you to contribute to the overall project goals based on either your major studies or other areas of interest and expertise that you have. Your contribution may be in a research area – where you apply your research skills to questions about the site, or the artifacts, or the historical background.

The first time I taught this course we excavated Hamline University’s original Hall of Science, a three story brick building constructed in 1887. I had a chemistry major that analyzed the chemical composition of the building’s bricks, a history major that collected oral history accounts from alumni and faculty, an economics major that analyzed 125Hall of Science artifacts (2004) year-old bills and receipts from the building’s construction, and an archaeology student who analyzed the distribution of glass artifacts recovered in our excavations.

Other students contributed by presenting and interpreting our project in various media including designing a web site, filming a video, writing a play, printing posters, and putting together an exhibit. We also had an education major that brought over Hancock 6th graders so they could experience archaeology first hand. Our philosophy major examined the ethics of archaeology. And our environmental studies major looked at the intersection of environmental protection and cultural resource management laws.

The point is, you can pursue just about any idea you want. What you need is an ability to collaborate on other people’s projects and an enthusiasm for interdisciplinary archaeology. If this sounds interesting then write a brief comment to this post outlining what ways you could contribute to this fall’s class. Also tell me a little bit about yourself (including your major and year). Finally, I would like to know why you are interestedHall of Science excavation (2004) in joining the class and what you hope to gain from your participation. You may want to look at posts tagged as “Hamline History” to get a better idea of what this class is all about. You can find these posts by clicking “Hamline History” under Categories on the right side of this blog. In particular, you may want to check out what students wrote the last time I offered the class.

If you take this class be prepared for a challenge, some fun, and a non-traditional educational experience.

Registration note: I recommend that everyone sign-up for a back-up class if your turn to register comes up before I have decided which of you to accept into this class.

Posted by: Brian | February 4, 2011

Tempering Pots – A Performance Experiment

Making Standard Bowls - Rachel and Alysia making all the bowls to a standard size and thickness. Rachel is using a round rock as a mold to insure all bowls are basically the same.

My Experimental Archaeology class ended the semester by designing and implementing their own experiments. I was very impressed with their results, especially given the limited time and facilities they had available. One group decided to explore the issue of temper in clay pots. They made four sets of bowls – one set tempered with sand, one with fiber (deer hair), one with shell, and one with grit. They fired their pots at Como Park, then brought them back to school to perform their experiments. They looked at differences in water absorption, thermal transference, and durability.

Bailey and Will organization the water absorption test. Theirs was a very simple experiment – they just filled up the bowls with an equal amount of water and timed how long until the water either evaporated or was absorbed into vessel walls. They did two trials – one with dry bowls, and one after the bowls had absorbed the first sample of water. It took between 13 and 45 minutes to complete the first trial, but over 5 hours to complete the second trial. I think the second trial was really important because it demonstrates that evaporation wasn’t a significant factor.

Bailey adding fiber temper to her clay. We used deer hair because I've seen Norton tradition pottery from Alaska tempered with caribou(?) hair. Bailey said it was hard to work the hair into the clay.

So what were their results?

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Posted by: Brian | January 24, 2011

Experimenting in Archaeology

Jim Jones explaining pottery making techniques

I am teaching my experimental archaeology class again this January.Winter term at Hamline is a month long, intensive course. We spend 3 hours a day, 4 days a week in class – the perfect format for experimental archaeology. The first two weeks we concentrate on learning (or at least experiencing) some basic ‘ancient’ technologies. We started with deer legs – butchering them with stone tools and acquiring useful raw materials – bone, sinew, and skin. Next was chipped stone tools – always a difficult skill to learn, followed by pottery-making, and slate grinding.

Eric flintknapping (with some of the tools he made)

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