KAYSC has a new crew on the block! The Heritage Crew is going to be working in the Archeology department in the museum and will be working out at an archeological dig site called Sheffield Site.
Courtesy The Science Museum of MinnesotaJoin us on December 14th, from 12-4pm, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, to talk to the KAYSC Heritage Crew and the Archaeology staff in the Archaeology Lab! Get a behind the scenes look at the artifacts from the Sheffield Site, an Oneota Site along the St Croix River! Learn about Minnesota Archaeology, and the research the Archaeology Department has been working on with the Heritage Crew! Dr Ed Fleming will be available to talk to the public about the Sheffield Site and his other projects at the Science Museum of Minnesota!
The other labs on Level 3 will be open as well! Visit the paleontology lab, ethnobotany lab, and biology labs! Visit with the other scientists who work hard to preserve the collections in the museum, and learn about their research too!
Courtesy Scott AnfinsonHey there! Do you know that we have a State Archaeologist here in Minnesota? Meet Scott Anfinson the 3rd State Archaeologist of Minnesota. Scott came to visit us and while talking to him, we’ve learned some interesting things about the burial mounds in Minnesota. We’ve learned about the Lidars (shots of lasers that are use to scan the ground from above, used to detect mounds) that are used to detect the mounds and the importance of his job of protecting them. We’ve interviewed him with some questions and will like to share some of his answers to you about his job experiences.
What inspired you to become an archaeologist?
When I was 8 years old, I received a book for Christmas, that was all about dinosaurs. It showed mainly these guys who were digging in China in the Gobi Desert… That sparked my interest in digging and archaeology… However, at that time I didn’t know that paleontology and archaeology are different.
What is exactly a State Archaeologist? What is the significance of the job you do?
One of the jobs that I do for the state is, I’m in charge of all ancient burials that were made 100 or 12,000 years ago in Minnesota...
Some people would probably say to me “Why do we need an state archaeologist?.
First of all, I’ll say to them is, “Well who do you want to be in charge of all those 3,000 pioneer cemeteries and 12,000 Indian burial mounds? Who would be in charge if they asked,
“Can I disturb them?”, “Where are they?”
“What are the disturbance?”. I can help them find a solution.
I also help state agencies... It’s against the law to disturb any archaeological site on public property. So they need my help to figure out how to build their road, their trail, or their new visitor center by reducing the harm to the site.
How long have you’ve been the state archaeologist?
Started in 2006. So it’s been 7 years now.
What places you excavated?
I’ve never done archaeology in another country. I do almost all of my archeology right in the Midwest.
Have you ever misidentified anything or changed your mind about something you found?
Happens all the time... When you create a hypothesis, basically it is saying is “I think this what happened”. But you can never prove for sure if that’s what exactly what happened, but you can prove something that didn’t happen... What you do is, you can start eliminating the possibilities until you are left with possibly what probably caused it… Science proves the truth, it is just getting closer to some kind of truth, and that truth can change. For an example, one time when I was working on a site in western Minnesota and I found some burnt bones, which looked very much like hand bones from a human. I thought I had found a cremation burial, but then I noticed that the bone that I found must be a very big guy. I went over to the Bell Museum in the University of Minnesota and took the bones with me to look at them a little more carefully. And they were are actually a paw of a black bear… So I was wrong on my first conclusion.
As you can see the job of the an State Archaeologist is very important to the state. Meeting him, was a great opportunity because just learning what he does, really draws you closer to the importance of archaeology. It’s more than digging, it’s science!
Courtesy SMMOn November 15, the Heritage Crew got to talk with Paul from Flat Rock Geographics. Paul spoke about how GPS works, what GIS is, and how people use GIS and GPS. GPS stands for "Global Positioning System." GPS is a network of satellites, used to find a position on the Earth within 5-10 feet. GPS triangulates your location by using 3 or more satellites that it can "see" by sending a message to them and receiving a location. GPS is a big factor in GIS.
GIS stands for "Geographic Information System." GIS is a combination of GPS and LiDAR, which is an imaging process that takes a laser and scans the ground, timing how long it takes to reach the point where it left the emitter, like sonar does underwater, or radar in the air. Paul and his company used GIS to map the site that we went to this summer. Flat Rock (who is helping us manage our data from Sheffield) can scan the data from the LiDAR and remove things that we don't need, like birds, trees, and even buildings! LiDAR is incredibly accurate, and has even been used to map all the burial mounds in the entire state of Minnesota!
When someone tells you about your nice features you should tell them how fun it is to excavate. I am talking about features in archaeology, of course. A feature is information that contains a cultural importance and cannot be taken to the lab the way it was found.
Examples features are hearths and post-molds. These features are located when the soils have certain qualities in them. Since archaeologists must keep digging to learn more from their block, the feature is destroyed as you dig the feature out. Another example is when artifacts are found together or next to other features. You can see this when artifacts are given context to where they are found. A group of shells found together has more cultural value than individual artifacts by themselves in an excavation unit. Just as how a piece of bone have more meaning when it is found in a fire hearth. As I have said before, the further we excavate down into our blocks we destroy the features, so in order for features to be represented, archaeologists record the features they find as they excavate.
To record features that are a part of the soil, archaeologists draw and map out the block that they dig with each layer that they dig out. In doing so they will have somewhat of a 3-D map of where the feature was in their block. At the Sheffield site we normally dig ten centimeters per layer and record what we find on the surface. When we find a feature we start digging in five centimeters layers. We dig in smaller layers so that we can record the shape of the feature more accurately. The behavior of how we dig also changes. Sometimes we dig out certain sections of the feature in order to record how the feature looks from the side.
Archeology is ultimately a destructive science and keeping a good record is key for a good analysis. The features we see as we dig will not physically be there when we go analyze our data in the lab. The more data we record from our features the more chances we have of making a cultural connection with our findings. Features are one of the most important parts of archeology because it gives the artifacts and other data more meaning to why they might be there. Without features archeology would just end up as a display of objects without any cultural significance.
Fun Facts about Archaeology:
Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
-It's not paleontology. Paleontology is when you dig up bones, etc from dinosaurs. You don't dig up dinosaurs.
-Archaeology is basically digging up people's cultural artifacts. People's everyday items.
-Archaeology is not just digging up the dirt; it's digging up some one's everyday life and their past and their every day items. it is a fine art of digging up things slowly, patiently, and gently.
-If you find gold or money or anything else, you have to turn it in and report it.
-You have to ask permission from the state archaeologist to do a dig, even if you are a famous archaeologist.
-When you become an archaeologist, you learn a lot of new things. I have enjoyed learning how to clean artifacts and how to learn how to tell the difference from artifacts in the screen at the excavation.
My favorite thing we have done is going to the excavation. It was the hardest thing we've done because we had to work in the hot hot sun all day.
Courtesy AmandaDid you know that artifacts must be cleaned once they are taken from an archeological site? Every category of artifact must be cleaned in a different way, as to prevent damage. Lithics (stoneworks) can be scrubbed vigorously and can be soaked with water unless it has a worked edge which may have residue that can be identified. Pottery should be scrubbed less vigorously and cannot be submerged, as the pottery would absorb the water and disintegrate. If pottery is larger than a quarter, it should not be scrubbed on the interior, as it may have some residue that would be helpful. Faunal (bone) artifacts must be cleaned very carefully, like pottery, or it will become soft and brittle. Charcoal contains certain carbon isotopes, like carbon-14, that we can use to date when the item was burned, allowing us to learn a lot from small artifacts. Charcoal also preserves anything living, like seeds or wood. Artifacts are scrubbed with a wet toothbrush and put on a newspaper to dry. Once the artifacts are dried they are cataloged and put in the collection for research.
Heritage went to the Sheffield on August 20th and the 21st to help out with the excavation. We learned how to screen for artifacts, measure the depth of our unit using datum points, and we learned how people use the data from geophysics to select where we should dig.
Courtesy Science Museum of MN
Screening for artifacts is when we sift through the dirt we dug from our unit. We use a tool called a screener that lets the loose dirt through so we can see the artifacts better. To get rid of the clumpy dirt we pushed it through the screen with our hands. The first unit we were at was called Block Two and we found a lot of artifacts in that unit. We learned how to recognize what was an artifact and what was not. Lithics, or stone that have been worked, have a sharper edge and a distinct pattern when it is shaped. Bone fragments are usually lighter in color than most of the items on the screener and you can see holes that are porous spots in them that make bones lighter in weight. To identify pottery they have a certain color on one side and a different one on the other side. When you look at pottery fragments from the side it looks like it has layers and the outer and inner faces of the pottery are flat. Sometimes you see small indents in the pottery meaning that it was tempered but the temper decayed away.
Courtesy Science Museum of MN
When we are digging in a unit we have to dig across and go down layer by layer. To make sure we stay level as we dug we use a datum point. A datum point is a point we designate to measure from. We tie a string to the datum point and to make sure it’s always level to the datum point there is a line level attached to it. To measure the depth of our unit we made sure the string is taut and nothing is obstructing its path, then we take a tape measure and put it perpendicular to the string and then take the measurement in centimeters. We record the unit every time we dig down ten centimeters by taking pictures and drawing sketches of the unit.
Courtesy Science Museum of MN
Geophysics is where we collect data from the ground to choose where a likely spot to dig would be. One of the machines used to determine the locations of the Sheffield units looks at the electrical resistance in the ground. Less resistance usually indicated that the ground was dug up and refilled. Resistance low areas might have been a fire pit or other settlement features thus making it a good site to look for artifacts. Another machine can spot magnetic differences in the ground. Dirt has different magnetic outputs from rocks and artifacts. One area of the site has a very different magnetic output so the team decided to put block three in that area to dig there. The last method we used to determine the location of our units was using lidar technology. Lidar is where you use shine light on an area and study how the surface reflects to map out the surface of the area.
Courtesy Science Museum of MN
Overall, I had a lot of fun at the site especially when I found pottery. I find pottery more interesting than lithics or bone for reasons I do not know why. It was really hot and humid but no one passed out so it was fine. Before we started digging we helped sift through the dirt in block two and we found a lot of pottery and debitage, or flakes, from stone tools. We even found an intact arrow point. We were assigned to dig in Block 3 where the magnetic anomaly was, but we only found one fragment of pottery and the rest were roots and rocks so digging there wasn’t so exciting. Learning from Ed, Jasmine, Mary, and Anne on the field has been very fun. I can understand why they like doing this for a living.
Courtesy SMMOn August 20th and 27th, Heritage Crew is going on a overnight at the St.Croix Watershed where they are going to join the Sheffield Site excavation with SMM and U of M Archaeologists.
Everyone is going to have a chance to do shovel skimming, screening, mapping, photographing, and record observations in our journals.
This is the second time we're going to see a excavation, but it's the first time we're going to help out. This is very exciting because we are going to have everything we learned put into action and have fun.
Courtesy Sheffield Site Facebook pageThe Oneota and the Woodland traditions have different pottery and different ways of making pottery. The Oneota used ground up shells as a tempering agent, allowing them to make pots that were thinner than the Woodland pottery. Tempering is adding ingredients to clay to reduce the likelihood of cracking when the clay is fired. The Woodland tradition had thicker pots because the tempering agents they used (rocks and stones, known as grit tempering) did not allow for thinner walls; the pots would break when they were fired if they had thin walls and grit temper.
Another distinctive sign that the pottery belonged to the Oneota tradition was the decorations on the shoulders (just below the thinner part) of the pot. Oneota decorations were usually star-shaped.
Written by Bilir and Elias
On Wednesday July 30th The Heritage crew took a small lesson on flint knapping with Rod Johnson. Rod has been flint knapping for about 30 years and he pursued this skill because it related to his work with archeology.
After a small power point about the history and different styles of flint knapping we were given some hands on experience on how you flint knapp.
Rod also showed us the marks that are present in flint knapping that differs from regular rocks. Being able to distinguish these marks is a good skill to have when figuring out if an item is a worked artifact or just a random rock. One of the marks is called the bulb of percussion. The bulb of percussion is the part of the rock that swells into a bulb after you hit it. Following the bulb of percussion are ripples in the rock. It looks like you dropped something into a river and seeing its ripples but instead of dropping you strike the platform and instead of river it’s a rock and instead of the ripples fading it stays frozen into the rock.