Winter Fieldwork

 Every Midwestern archaeologist has a story about doing winter fieldwork, weather it is having falling snow cover the ground while trying to do surface reconnaissance or soil freezing in the screen and numb fingers.  (On the plus side mosquitoes and snakes are not an issue.)  It used to be that archaeological survey stopped when the ground froze or snow covered the ground.   But now days, with construction continuing year round or with the necessity of meeting regulatory requirements before early spring construction it seems there are occasions when winter survey becomes necessary.  

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Winter Archaeology

This time of year archaeology in Minnesota moves indoors.  There are still a few projects where the clients need something done and are willing to pay a premium to have the archaeologists thaw the ground to do the testing, but for the most part, the field season is over.  (Look for a future post on doing archaeology in the snow.)   Most archaeologists have started the processing and analysis of artifacts recovered this past field season and writing up reports for completed projects. 

To get an idea of what happens at an archaeology lab check out Brian Hoffman’s blog.  Brian teaches at Hamline University in St. Paul and his main focus is Arctic archaeology.  But Brian and his students have also been doing some excavations on a historic site near the Hamline campus.  His blog “Old Dirt – New Thoughts” details what has been happening there at the Hamline lab.  You might also want to check out his entries about doing excavation at the  Aniakchak Bay Village (SUT-027) on the Alaskan Peninsula.

Latest Legacy Amendment Projects

This week (December 9th) was the deadline for proposals for two new projects funded by the legacy amendment.  The first is an investigation of the earliest human occupation of Minnesota.  The project is to summarize what is known about Minnesota’s earliest sites, to build a statewide model of where the earliest sites should be located, and to test that model in the southwestern corner of Minnesota (SHPO Region 1) through a focused but limited field survey designed to find and evaluate the research potential of early sites.  The second RFP concerns investigating unrecorded historic cemeteries in Minnesota.  Its purpose is to summarize what is known about unrecorded historic cemeteries, to update the State Archaeologist’s files with regard to such cemeteries, and to conduct limited field work to determine the status of unrecorded cemeteries in a few selected counties.

This week’s State Register (December 6) also included another request for proposals, this time to determine the Age of Brainerd Ceramics in Minnesota.  The purpose is to determine how early Brainerd Ceramics appear, how late they survive, and the effect of carbonate contamination on dating charred food residues on prehistoric ceramics in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Archaeologist

 The latest issue of The Minnesota Archaeologist (Vol 68, 2009) has just been published and is available from the Minnesota Archaeological Society.  The journal should be mailed the week of November 15th and be to most subscribers by Thanksgiving.  This issue focuses on Northern Minnesota archaeology, with an interesting mix of both pre-contact and contact era subjects.  There are a several articles on Northern Minnesota lithics and copper and an overview of northern pottery types.  Trade period subjects include guns, axes and silver with good papers on each.  Discussions about shipwrecks in Lake Superior and Hamline University’s archaeological work in Alaska wrap up the issue.  I’ve included the table of contents from the issue for your review.

Obsidian at Lake Vermilion State Park

 

Finding obsidian artifacts in Minnesota always excites archaeologists, since without any nearby source of the material, it provides clear evidence of long distance travel or exchange.  (Much of the obsidian found in Minnesota has been sourced to Obsidian Cliff in Yellowstone National Park.)  In a presentation on Nov. 9th, Dave Radford, DNR Parks archaeologist, announced that recent survey excavations at the new Lake Vermilion State Park have recovered the largest number of obsidian flakes ever found on an archaeological  site in Minnesota, about 150 flakes.  This is equal to the total number of obsidian flakes previously recovered at all the archaeological sites in the state and is the most ever found at a single site, however it should be noted that the majority of the flakes are very small. 

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Archaeology at Lake Vermilion State Park

The Minnesota Archaeological Society will sponsor a lecture by Dave Radford MHS/DNR Parks archaeologist and others who will give an overview of the ongoing archaeological survey of the new Lake Vermilion State Park at 7:00 pm Tuesday November 9, 2010 in the Ft. Snelling History Center Auditorium.  The event is free and open to the public.  Continue reading “Archaeology at Lake Vermilion State Park”

SMM Excavations at Ranelius

The latest entry in the Spring Lake Archaeology blog at the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) discusses some of the reasons for the excavations at theRanelius site this past summer.  One of these was a series of circular, shallow, concentric, ditch-like depressions visible on the surface 50 years ago.  The current researches did not relocate any evidence of the feature and suggest it is historic in orign.

 

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North Shore Archaeological Survey

The Duluth Archaeology Center (DAC) is conducting an archaeological survey with funding from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the Minnesota Legacy Amendment, approved by voters in 2009.  The survey will focus on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook, Lake, and St. Louis Counties and adjacent areas of Carlton County, where glacial lakes were present 12,000-10,000 years ago. Researchers will be looking to document both historic and prehistoric sites. The fieldwork will begin this fall with a final report to be completed by the end of June 2011. Continue reading “North Shore Archaeological Survey”

CMA Symposium 2011

The Council for Minnesota Archaeology (CMA) is planning a two-day symposium on current archaeological research in the Upper Midwest to be held February 18th and 19th, 2011 at Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.   “Farmsteads, Factories, Forts and Frontiers” has been chosen for the theme.  The main focus will be Historic in nature but papers on all regional subjects are welcomed.  A call for papers was issued in October with a submittal deadline of December 19, 2010.

 

 

 

 

Maritime Archeology in Minnesota

A Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant provided by the Legacy Act will fund the excavation and documentation of a portion of the starboard side gunwale of the wreck of the Andy Gibson.   The Andy Gibson was a sternwheel steamer that operated on the Mississippi River between the towns of Aitkin and Grand Rapids.  The data collected from this partially dry excavation will be combined with the preliminary measurements made of the submerged portions of the wreck by Maritime Heritage Minnesota (MHM) in previous seasons.   Maritime Heritage Minnesota is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, conservation, and when necessary, the excavation of Minnesota’s finite maritime archaeological and historical resources.  Excavation is expected to begin October 15.
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