Today I received an email from Gina Nicholas, of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District. Next week, the HKCD is going to hold a meeting for representatives of different stakeholder groups with interest in the Cliff Mine site and the remediation of stamp sands from historic sites along the Eagle River. During the meeting, Chad Kotke will present an update of the DEQ remediation plan. After this meeting, the Conservation District holds their public meeting, during which Mr. Kotke will give a lecture about the project.
If you have an interest in the Cliff or Clifton, consider contacting a representative of one of these organizations to discuss your views. Of course, the public is always invited to join the Conservation District.
Dear Cliff Mine Stakeholders,A meeting with Chad Kotke, DEQ, is scheduled for Thursday, March 21 from 2:00-3:30 PM at the MTU Lakeshore Center, first floor board room, to discuss plans for Cliff and restoration of the Eagle River. You and your organization have been identified as key stakeholders and we hope you or a designee(s) will attend.
Organizations invited include:Keweenaw County Road Commission (KCRC)Keweenaw County Historical Society (KCHS)Keweenaw National Historical Park (KNHP)Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC)Michigan Tech — Industrial Archaeology ProgramNatural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD)Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
If you think there are other key stakeholders please call me.Attached for your use is a map of the Cliff site.Please call me if you have any questions about this meeting.We look forward to seeing you on March 21!
Join Michigan Tech industrial archaeologists in documenting a historic copper mine in the heart of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw is famous for its abundant formations of native copper, ranging in size from pebbles to record-breaking boulders of pure metal. Our ongoing project investigates the ruins of the Cliff Mine, the region’s first profitable copper mine, the townsite of Clifton (established 1845, peaked c.1870, and abandoned in the early 20th century), and comparable sites on the Keweenaw. The “Cliff Vein” produced over 38 million pounds of refined copper over a 40-year period, paying dividends to its investors totaling $2.5 million. People working in the mine and living in the town transformed the social and technological practices of mining, adapting to the mass copper running through the region’s rich veins and starting America’s first successful industrial mining boom. The Cliff site is situated along the 200-foot greenstone bluff that runs up the spine of the Keweenaw Peninsula, about 30 miles northeast of Houghton, Michigan.
Fieldwork in Clifton during the 2012 season included both Wide Area Excavation and Shovel Test Probe survey.
Learning archaeological fieldwork is an immersive experience where teamwork is essential. It takes weeks of work before a person can begin assembling the clues from each discovery into meaningful pictures of the past. As a result, students should expect the work to be exacting, often slow, and physically challenging, as one develops professional skills over time. We work eight-hour days in all conditions, five days a week (generally Wednesday through Sunday) throughout the six-week summer course. All that time is essential to the process of learning tools and techniques, as well as piecing together the clues of Cliff and Clifton. Students should expect to do the actual fieldwork instead of watching other people work and tell you what it all means. Every day, each person adds an important piece to this large, multiyear, interdisciplinary jigsaw puzzle that is rediscovering Cliff and its community.
The class is led by Associate Professors Timothy Scarlett and Samuel Sweitz, in close collaboration with Project Archaeologists Sean Gohman and Lee Presley. The course runs May 13th-June 28th, 2013. Instruction is enhanced through the active participation by guest scholars and experts in Copper County industrial and preindustrial history, archaeological and environmental sciences, and planning and industrial heritage studies. The course may be taken for undergraduate or graduate credit.
Our research is driven by questions posed by a team of graduate students and faculty, as we pursue several intertwined threads:
• We are reconstructing the evolution of the mine’s industrial processes during its heyday, using clues left by workers as they built, worked, and reworked the site’s shafts, mills, engine houses, stacks, shops, houses, and offices.
• We are excavating in town to recover artifacts that tell stories about the residents’ daily lives, putting “meat on the bones” of the animals they ate and illustrating the material worlds they built in their homes, churches, and schools.
• We have established a landscape archaeology theme as well, in which we are using bioarchaeological, geoarchaeological, and archaeochemical studies to enhance our understanding of how the residents transformed the Keweenaw’s ecological setting. Our effort ties the people of the Cliff Mine to the transformations of the entire region as farms and villages waxed and economic, social, and ecological relationships with Cliff waned.
On the Cliff Mine and Clifton site, students will learn a wide range of archaeological field methods and gain proficiency using important equipment and tools, within a committed public archaeology context. Examples of what team members learn include the following:
• consulting documents, maps, aerial photos, and oral history during excavation and survey, including several different types of remote sensing (satellite, aerial, ground-based, and maritime remote sensing systems have all been used in past seasons);
• using traditional mapping technologies, along with LiDAR, Global Position Systems (GPS), and digital Total Station (EDM) tools, in mapping landscape details such as walls, structures, and roadways for the purpose of creating “living” geospatial environments within a Geographic Information System database;
• working with both “wide area” excavation and Shovel Test Pit survey for data recovery, including appropriate sampling methodology to ensure that artifacts are representative of the larger area;
• completing measured drawings of architectural remains with traditional tools, as well as digital equipment like EDMs and LiDAR, to produce measured drawings;
• sampling for archaeobotanical, geoarchaeological, and archaeochemical analyses;
• ethically driven decision making about artifact collection, cleaning, identification, analyses, and conservation, with concern for industrial archaeological sites in particular; and
• working with stakeholder and descendant communities in the responsible conduct of public scholarship and research with industrial heritage; including legal, ethical, and environmental issues surrounding industrial communities, sites, and landscapes.
During time off, students will be able to enjoy the rich cultural and natural heritage of Michigan’s spectacular Keweenaw Peninsula and the shores of Lake Superior. A short drive brings visitors in reach of two national parks, two national forests, several state parks and wilderness areas, industrial heritage museums and monuments, miles of public lakeshore, watersports, and world-class mountain biking trails. Students are also encouraged to attend the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society for Industrial Archaeology in Minneapolis, Minnesota!
More information about class registration and costs can be found here:
As we are about to start our open house weekends, I wanted to take a moment to offer thanks to a few key organizations that have helped us bring the Cliff Mine Archaeology Project to fruition over the years.
First and foremost, I must thank our host, the Keweenaw County Road Commission. The KCRC owns the Cliff Mine site. The county purchased the property years ago with the idea that they would use the poor rock piles as gravel on road projects. They hold the land as an investment for the tax payers of Keweenaw County. The Road Commission have been tremendously supportive through permission to do this archaeology study for three consecutive years. They give us permission to map, dig, and remove items from the site for scientific and historical study. In addition, they have made very wise decisions about site management, and I know that all the members of our collaborative research team- faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and volunteers (spread over three years so far), are all grateful for the commission’s support.
Next, I’d like to thank our sponsors. None of our study would be possible without the support of several key organizations and individuals. Doing archaeology costs real money. Pure historical research, where a scholar works in an archive or county records room, costs much less. One scholar can decide to spend three weeks of the summer in an archive, with only concern for travel costs. By contrast, archaeology requires a team of workers. The artifacts and ecofacts that we recover are fundamentally different from the notebook filled with data by that “lone wolf” historian. The hundreds or thousands of objects need to be washed, cataloged, conserved, and archived. A report of the dig must be written, that lays down all the technical details for posterity. These are the things that separate professional archaeologists from for-profit salvage operators or pot hunters. The analysis and reports, done correctly, require real money to pay for scientific analysis, mundane field equipment and supplies, and student labor in the lab after the dig ends.
Our budget generally breaks down into three parts, and I with to thank each in turn:
1. The Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University lends us valuable technical equipment for the project and spends real dollars to support to undergraduate and graduate students, provide vehicles and fuel, and administrative support.
2. The Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission, through their Heritage Grants program, helps to support graduate students during analysis and report preparation.
3. Private gifts from individuals and corporate sponsors are essential to our successes, as they make up a third or more of our annual budget. These gifts help us provide support for students (such as Sean Gohman, our excellent blog author and public speaker), cover the costs of scientific analyses, permit us to purchase supplies like nails, string, and shovels. In particular, I am pleased to thank Joe and Vickey Dancy, LSGI Technology Venture Fund L.P., Bill and Eloise Haller, and Paul LaVanway.
If you have enjoyed Sean’s blog or you’ve been able to come out to see one of our open houses, please consider making a gift of support to the Michigan Tech Fund account for the Cliff Mine Archaeology Project. Gifts of all sizes are helpful and appreciated!
Finally, I would also like to thank some of our intellectual partners in this heritage endeavor! We are grateful for the support of many people during our research. Everyone on the research team has benefited from our interactions with three institutions in particular:
1. The staff of the Michigan Tech Archive and Copper County Historical Collections at Michigan Technological University has been a tremendous research resource. Besides being one of the key repositories for primary historic documents and photographs, the staff have also been excellent colleagues. The CCHC has given us permission to use their images on this blog and in our public archaeology efforts at the site. We are very grateful.
2. The Keweenaw County Historical Society, and its community of scholars, have been very supportive of our work at Cliff. Their members have shared their research with us and continue to collaborate with us on many research topics regarding Cliff, Clifton, and the connections to Eagle River. We strongly advise everyone to visit their museums in Eagle River, Central, and other places. Everyone should go to see their brand new exhibit on Cliff and early Keweenaw County life when it opens this summer!
3. Our colleagues at the Keweenaw National Historical Park have been very enthusiastic about our work. One thing we learned during last year’s open house tours is that it really makes a difference when a staff member at one of the Park’s heritage sites advises visitors to go see the archaeologists while they are in the field. Those human interactions make a big difference in the way guests experience the heritage of the Keweenaw. We are thankful to have National Park staff as colleagues in our efforts to research and teach about the heritage of this region.
That’s enough for now! We’ll have a big day tomorrow and I need to get some sleep before the tours start!
WE hope that everyone will come to visit us this summer in June! Cliff is an important site with a fascinating history, and we hope to share it with as many visitors as possible. Come see the excavations while they are in process and talk with the student, faculty, and volunteer research crews while they dig, screen, and map!
As Sean Gohman has written, we’re working in the Stamp Mill Complex again this year, expanding our excavations from last season to answer questions raised by last year’s dig. In addition, Anna Lee Sweitz and Roger Gerke are leading teams working in Clifton, mapping and excavating house structures in the town.
Last year, about 650 people visited us during our fieldwork and we were thrilled by everyone’s intense curiosity. To help people plan, I am posting this schedule to the blog early. Research teams backfill all the excavations on the afternoon of Sunday, July 1st, so try to visit before then!
Public Tours led by students and faculty:
June 30th-July 1st
The first tour heads out at 10 AM and subsequently start around the top of each hour. Each tour lasts about an hour or more and people can visit several parts of the site this year, so multiple tours are available. The tours are informal, and led by faculty and students while work continues right in front of you. Visitors speak directly with researchers.
You can find detailed driving directions here, and remember to be prepared for rough backwoods hiking in the Keweenaw: bottled water, hat, bug repellent, clothes that can get muddy, etc. No flip-flops please.
This Saturday morning, the students and I will host our last tour at the site of the Cliff Mine. This tour is for Michigan Tech alumni and friends, and the tour was organized by the Alumni Association. If you are planning to visit, please watch the introductory video by Mark Dice and come prepared for a good hike full of interesting things to see. Good shoes and long pants are preferred, along with some bug spray and sunscreen.
We’ve been quiet on the blog lately, but we are still making progress in our study. Sean Gohman finished a final draft of his Master’s thesis, which he defends this Friday. Which also explains why he hasn’t posted to this blog in a little while. Immediately after Sean’s defense, we will return to the Cliff for more archaeological work. The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District selected us as their preferred contractor for some archaeological survey before they undertake work on the stamp sands at the site. This will give us our first opportunity to put Sean’s map into use, guiding our subsurface testing to focus on areas where project might encounter industrial or other features. We will continue updating the blog throughout our work in August and September.
Last weekend, the Keweenaw County Historical Society took one of their tours of the site. ”A Look at the Cliff Mine from the Top Down” was led by Mel Jones, Al Johnson, Larry Molloy, and Phil Mason. They took about 60 people on a walk around the site starting at the #4 shaft, engine house, and waste rock piles, then the #3 shaft complex, then down the hill to the industrial core and the cemeteries. Their tour was also a big hit and everyone I spoke with who went along had a great time.
Information about the Keweenaw County Historical Society’s activities is on their website:
This introduction is by Mark Dice, one of our project team members.
Like all field projects, the first week was terribly busy. Eight students, two volunteers, and two Michigan Tech faculty got our project rolling. This week was all about learning to make maps and becoming familiar with the history of the Cliff Mine. The project team spent the first morning of the project on campus learning the basics of mapping, “old-school style.” Team members learned how to make maps as an extension of the human body, pacing off distances and creating a sketch map. Then we advanced to triangulation by tape measures and also using compass bearings. When they scaled and plotted their data, the students had much more success with the former than the latter.
Sam Sweitz and I aren’t Luddites. We started the students with these techniques before advancing to the digital tools because we know that understanding basic mapping skills will make the research team more skilled users of high tech tools. Starting with the tape measure, a magnetic compass, and drafting supplies also helps the project team to understand the map makers and land surveyors who worked on the Keweenaw’s mine districts during the 1840s and 1850s. Those people made their maps sighting on optical instruments and pulling chain, the same way we will start mapping the archaeological remains.
We all loaded up into vehicles on Monday afternoon and drove out to the site. Sean Gohman walked us all over from the industrial core out to the town site. By the end of the day the research team members were all charged up an eager to go. While in the field, we spent this week exercising our mapping skills by recording the mill. We raked off the foundation of the stamp mill and started a measured drawing of the building, including the stamp mill and the wash room, where the ore was pulverized into sand and then washed to recover nuggets of copper.
This building has many intact features that provide clues for the project team. While mapping, students and volunteers are already able to match up some historic photographs from the collection of the Copper Country Archives. When our plot is finished, I’ll try to post the plot map, cross section, and sample photos here.
At the same time that one group was drawing and measuring the Stamp Mill, Tim Goddard worked with Sean to teach other research team members how to use the EDM Total Station. That group placed datum “control points” around on the site. These points will become the base locations from which we will map all the other buildings on the site.
Once the control points were set up, Sean will start the second week recording points for the digital map. He is also starting on the mill, so we’ll try to post a map when we can.
Besides our work at the site, we also took our first field trip and had our first guest lecture during the first week. We all went to visit The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Technological University. This Seaman is the Mineral Museum of Michigan and displays one of the largest mineral collections on public view in America. Curator George Robinson spoke to our research team members about the geological history of the Keweenaw and the Lake Superior Basin with particular emphasis on the formation and evolution of copper deposits. He then walked us through the specimens from the Cliff Mine and other Keweenaw locations displayed as part of the world’s finest collection of Michigan minerals. Dr. Robinson helped the students to become comfortable with float and fissure copper, conglomerate and Amygdaloid lodes, vesicular basalt, datolite, calcite veins, greenstone and other minerals, but also to see hints of past labor by recognizing chisel fan fragments and drill scars.
The team members also enjoyed a guest lecture by Larry Lankton, noted historian and author of several books about mining communities and technology in Lake Superior. We are using one of his books, Cradle to Grave: Life, Work, and Death at the Lake Superior Copper Mines (Oxford University Press, 1991), as a textbook for the field school course. Dr. Lankton gave an overview of the development of mining camps and locations in the Copper Country, outlining the progression from prospecting mining camp, to developing camp, and into mine locations and towns. He explained how the evolution of local landscapes like that at the Cliff Mine were directly effected by investor decisions in Boston or elsewhere as much as by the decisions of people who lived here. Dr. Lankton’s new book, Hollowed Ground: Copper Mining and Community Building on Lake Superior, 1840s-1990s (Wayne State University Press, 2010) adds even more to the discussion by expanding to consider the mining of copper from sulfide ores at the White Pine mine. The question of mining processes, ore bodies, and environmental legacies is of great interest to the field school students, so I expect to continue discussions of these threads over the summer.
The week drew to a close and we still had more drawing to do in order to complete this building complex, but the crew did a great job despite some poor weather. We are all excited for the second week!
My name is Tim Scarlett and I’m an Associate Professor in the Industrial Heritage and Archaeology Program in the Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University. I’m one of the faculty collaborating with Sean Gohman on his study at the Cliff Mine site this summer, along with Samuel Sweitz, Patrick Martin, and our colleagues, including Michael Falkowski from the School of Forestry Resources and Environmental Sciences.
I’ve been interested in the archaeology of miners and mining for a long time, so I’m excited to be part of this important project. This is my first opportunity to teach a field school in the Keweenaw Peninsula since joining the faculty at Michigan Tech. I write blogs about my other research collaborations, including the Utah Pottery Project, the West Point Foundry Archaeology Project, and Industrial Archaeology Blog.