Summer Fieldwork Catch-up

I’ll admit it, this post is a little late in the making. I’ve been trying to play catch-up from the last couple of days of summer survey that left us with a ton of artifacts, and even more questions. I, and the CAP crew, spent a good portion of the summer organizing and planning, in order to not fall behind…and it all went down the drain on the LAST day of survey.

I believe we last left you with an update on our results from the People’s Park survey. While the survey did not result in many artifacts, we were able to confirm-based on GIS- that the Chittenden Memorial Cabin once stood on what is now the back steps of Wells Hall. And even though we didn’t find any artifacts directly relating to the cabin, we are now absolutely sure as to where it was

Decorated salt-glazed stoneware found in the trash pit.
Decorated salt-glazed stoneware found in the trash pit.

not. As they say, negative science is still science.

With a few days left in the summer field season, we decided to survey areas of high probability along the north side of the River Trail. MSU construction has a long-term plan of regrading and repaving both sides of the River Trail, so we figured we’d get ahead of the game and narrow down areas of potential cultural heritage. During the first couple of days of survey we found a fairly steady stream of historic artifacts (bottle glass, whiteware, and a cow tooth!) between the western edge of Beal Gardens and the Wells Hall bridge. All very exciting, but also very expected.

Then, as every archaeologist knows, we found a fascinating feature on one of our final shovel test pits, on the final day of our summer season. Directly behind Hannah Administration Building, on the beautiful lawn next to the Red Cedar River, we dug

directly into a huge trash pit. We found the entire range of CAP’s artifact typology, and more. We were pulling up bottle glass of all colors, notebook size pieces of stoneware, glass from lab beakers, lab test tubes, bullet casings, and the list goes on.

Me(Kate) showing the depth of the pit.
Me(Kate) showing the depth of the pit.

We expanded the shovel test pit into a 1×1 meter unit that went 160cm deep, and we still never found the edges or the bottom. This indicates that the large pit was purposefully dug and infilled with trash, though we don’t know when, or exactly why. It was not uncommon for the University to use trash to shore-up the river bank against erosion, or to fill in low spots…but we’ve never found a trash pit with the plethora of material equal to this. We shovel tested around the pit and found that the artifacts continue, but in a much more dispersed pattern.

Currently, we are working on the lab side of the analysis, i.e. washing, cataloging, and researching the artifacts and the area around Hannah. Dozens of the ceramics have makers marks, so it shouldn’t be difficult to narrow down a date, but it is quite time consuming. So, that is where we stand with CAP work, once again playing catch-up from a busy summer field season.



Author: Kate Frederick

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