Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The End

Ariel:  It began in Tent City. Having driven three and a half hours from our home state of Iowa, we were introduced to a new group from MSU and UW-Madison. In the afternoon heat, we unpacked equipment, set up our tents and were given a tour of Aztalan National Park by renowned archaeologist Dr. Lynne Goldstein. The mission was to learn more about how these people structured their lives and their means of doing so. In the next five weeks, this would be our all-consuming task.

The first step: ground sweeps of west palisade and the gravel knoll, a process known as survey. The second step: setting up our giant grid with the total station. The third step: demarcating units with nails and string, and calculating elevations. Once this had all been completed, the action could begin. We were each assigned a partner to work on one unit and through clay soil, trowel hand, blisters, heavy buckets, the blazing sun, the pouring rain, confusing elevations, strange visitors and multiple people telling us what to do or not do, we persisted for five weeks. In the midst of all this digging, there were also moments of magic when one recovered a splendid artifact, was given snacks at a time other than cookie break, or had conversations that took one’s mind off of all the difficult work at hand.

Field school had been full of mystery, drama, danger, action and more. The mystery included not only what each excavated area was used for, but what lay beneath the Earth with each shovel full. Drama came in the form of interpersonal relationships. Danger could be found in a sketchy canoe trip across the Crawfish, sharp trowels, tiny ticks, and dehydration. Action occurred daily – everyone was to assist in packing the gator in the morning and for the rest of the day either shoveled, screened, troweled or took notes. Even after work there was a flurry of vehicles to the showers and dinner. 

But with all of this said and done, our story came to a close in much the same way that it began. After a pressure-filled last few days in which we were plagued by rainstorms, it was time to leave. Saying goodbye to those we had truly bonded with even though we were ready to go home was bittersweet. In such a short space, I cannot possibly include every event or emotion, but I can say with certainty that field school is a story worth telling and experiencing. 

The Other Blog

Michigan State University students from the Aztalan field school have their blog up and it can be read here.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

News Coverage

In addition to being filmed for a PBS special, the field season saw other media coverage.  Here are some links:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lake Mills Leader

Daily Union

Wisconsin Public Radio

Finally, we were visited several days by our friend and photographer, Dan Seurer, who maintains a blog at

Be sure to look through all the tabs on the side of his main page, as there are several different links featuring the field school. 

Crew Photo

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Relaxin' After Work

Last Week

Alanna:  It has come to the last week of field school, sadly, and I have learned more than I ever expected.  I found gravel is difficult to shovel (but sand is way too easy).  I learned about bone identification a little as well.  The newest thing I have learned is that exiting and entering the square is an art form.  Especially with sand, you have to carefully "leap" in, but exiting needs more of a running start.  Besides our

My partner and I removed the soil between two of the squares recently.  It was a little intense since we got part of a prehistoric pot out of the wall while it poured down rain and caked me in mud.  The other students had tarped their units earlier, but our square was partially covered by an Easy-Up Tent.  So, the professors and students were watching as we protected the pottery with our cold, wet, muddy bodies.  I have to say that has to be one of my favorite experiences at field school.

Alanna (bottom right corner) watches her partner work in their unit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Gravel Knows

Jacque:  For the past week, I have been excavating a feature in my unit on the Gravel Knoll.  A feature is a human-made structure that can't be removed, such as a house or a fire pit.  A suspicious circle of gravel appeared in the floor of my unit, so we decided to cross-section it to determine exactly what it was.  While digging out half of the the gravel circle, we were able to follow the color changes in the soil to determine the shape of the feature, which ended up being shaped like a pit.  After mapping and profiling the feature, we dug out the other half of the gravel pit.  Based on the artifacts discovered within this feature, such as charcoal and animal bones, we were able to conclude this feature may have been used as a cooking pit.