Spring Preparation

It is a sort of in-between time for archaeologists, they are anxious to get out in the field after being inside all winter, but also hoping it might still snow once more so that they can complete the report that they needed to have done a month ago.  This year with the abundance of snow and cold temperatures there should be lots of repots getting finished.  Here it is the first week of April and there is still an abundance of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities area with more forecast for the next couple of days.  Those portions of the fields that are free of snow are too wet to cross, or if attempted the mud clods adhering to your boots fast become as big as dinner plates.  It is best to wait for a good rain shower to clean some of the winter’s accumulation of dust and grime from the surface, firm it up, and improve visibility.  When I farmed it was always surprising how a good spring rainshower firmed up the soil and allowed us to easily navigate fields in which we had mired down only a few days before.  Like farmers most archaeological consultants are getting the field equipment ready for the coming season, making sure licenses and permits are in order, screens are repaired, the necessary field supplies are in hand or have been ordered, and many are hiring or are searching for seasonal staff (affectionately referred to as “woodchucks” for the amount of digging they do).

Minnesota Archaeology Updates

The Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) recently added a couple of publications to their web site which are downloadable.  These include the 2010 Annual Report of the Office of the State Archaeologist which, along with a lot of bureaucratic information, also includes summaries of the projects that the OSA investigated.  There are also PDF versions of final reports from some of the Legacy Amendment funded projects including the Swift County archaeological survey, exploring the possibility of using LiDAR to survey for mounds and earthworks, and an examination of traditional cultural properties in the five county metro area.  The OSA also provides  a document summarizing the completed projects and the status of ongoing Legacy Amendment projects titled A Preliminary Summary of the Accomplishments of the Statewide Survey of Historical and Archaeological Sites.”  This summary report is a good place to start to determine if you would like to get more in depth information about any of the projects before downloading the individual project reports which are rather large files. 

The Spring 2011 issue of the Minnesota Archaeological Society (MAS) Newsletter is now available on line.  The MAS will hold its annual meeting and banquet on Friday, April 15 at 6:30 pm at Sorin Hall on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul.  The speakers will be Anne Merriman and Chris Olson of Maritime Heritage Minnesota who will present their findings from “A Survey of the Mississippi River in Aitkin County and the Wreck of the Steamer Andy Gibson.”  For additional information or reservations check out the newsletter link above.

Remember to keep in mind that Minnesota Archaeology Week will be May 14th through the 22nd and to watch for event information in the weeks ahead.

Lake Superior Basin Workshop

The Lake Superior Basin Workshop will be held this Friday and Saturday, March 18th and 19th at the Northwest Company Fur Post near Pine City, Minnesota.   The workshop is a rather informal gathering of archaeologists, avocational archaeologists, collectors, and the general public with lots of hands on opportunities to view artifacts and hear about ongoing projects.  Something of a last hurrah before the field season begins, the focus has traditionally been the archaeology of the Lake Superior Basin with archaeologists from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada in attendance.  It has gradually expanded to include any regional topic and has facilitated collaboration between archaeologists from different states and countries.  Continue reading “Lake Superior Basin Workshop”

Upcoming Classical Archeology Lecture

If you are looking for something to take your mind of the snow and cold on Thursday evening check this out.  The Minnesota Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) will be hosting a lecture by Nancy Wilkie titled, Archaeology in Sri Lanka: Challenges and Prospects for the Future on Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 6pm in the John B. Davis Lecture Hall in the Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center at Macalester College.  Nancy C. Wilkie is the William H. Laird Professor of Classics, Anthropology and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College in Northfield. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Greek from the University of Minnesota, and her B.A. in Classics from Stanford University. Her areas of specialization are prehistoric Greece, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and cultural property issues.  The lecture is open to the public.

Archaeology on Almanac @ the Capitol






Last night, Wednesday, February 9, 2011, TPT’s Almanac @ the Capitol featured a segment on the archaeological excavations at the historic Agate Bay townsite which is located near Two Harbors, Minnesota.  They speak with State Archaeologist Scott Anfinson and Minnesota Historical Society archaeologist Tim Tumberg who is in charge of the project.  The feature is near the end of the episode.  To view this episode click on this link.

CMA Spring Conference

The Program and Abstracts for the CMA conference coming up in February were just released.  The conference is an even mix of papers on prehistoric and historic subjects (eighteen of each).  The two day event will be held at Inver Hills Community College, Friday, February 18th and Saturday the 19th.  No preregistration is required to attend the conference.  It will be a long holiday weekend for some and an excuse to bring your family and spend the rest of the long weekend exploring the Twin Cities.

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.  

Continue reading “Winter Fieldwork”

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.