The Basics of a Pedestrian Survey (by Katie Simonson)

The Basics of a Pedestrian Survey (by Katie Simonson)

Hi, my name is Katie Simonson and I am one of the students taking part in the 2024 field school, where we are working on the site of the original observatory here on MSU’s campus. Part of the foundations were found earlier in May of 2023 by CAP, so we are expanding on the work already done. Our field school started on the 28th of May this year, and we went over the history of the site, safety, and got to know our team. We continued this on the next morning, but after that we began the pedestrian survey of the site.

A pedestrian survey is when we walk along the surface of the site to find artifacts on the surface. Since the site is in an area where many people occupy, that means the surface has been very disturbed since the time of the site and it is unlikely we would find any historic artifacts, but it is still important to look. We all walked along a transect, a straight line across the site, that was spaced out a meter apart, and flagged any artifacts we saw. Since the majority of us have never done a pedestrian survey before, we decided to flag all man made objects as practice. After we flagged the objects, we would map their position, take a picture of it, and describe the object using a program called KoboToolbox. If we found anything possibly historic then we put in an artifact bag, otherwise we would dispose of it.

As we predicted, we didn’t find many artifacts that could be historic. We found lots of modern trash including plastic wrappers, cardboard, paper cups, and cans. We also found a rodent bone. Some of the things we found were not historical but still interesting, so were kept by some of us for our own use. For example, I kept a broken cd and a beaded chain to make into a suncatcher. We did find some objects that could possibly be historic, such as pieces from glass vessels, metal bottle caps, and some pieces which were most likely from a dining hall plate. These were bagged for further analysis later.

The pedestrian survey might not have given us much insight into the history of the site, but it did allow us to become familiar with the area and the process of surface survey. On other sites which are less disturbed by modern human activity, it would be more likely to find more historic objects. It is important to know how much a site has been disturbed, because that can affect how we need to study the site.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the pedestrian survey of the 2024 observatory site, and if you are interested in learning more there are plenty of resources on this website about the history of the site and our work here.

A photo of the suncatcher I made using a broken cd and a green beaded chain found during the pedestrian survey.

1 thought on “The Basics of a Pedestrian Survey (by Katie Simonson)”

  • I enjoyed learning about pedestrian surveys. Are they an established tradition in archaeology or an emerging method in a subfield? I love you are using some of your findings in such a creative way!

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