Day 1 of Field Work

Cliff Mine Stamp Mill (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech Archives)

Hi everyone. Its been awhile.

Today marked the first day of field work for the crew of the Cliff Mine Archaeology Project. After spending the first two days of the week going over field protocols and learning the ins and outs of mapping using a compass, your pacing, and triangulation, the crew got out to the site to learn the basics of mapping historic structures and archaeological remains.

Tim Goddard instructing MTU field school students on surveying with an EDM. (Photo by S. Gohman)

Michigan Tech Industrial Archaeology PhD candidate, Tim Goddard, has been kind enough to spend some time instructing myself and the field school students how to using an Electronic Distance Measurement device (EDM or Total Station). The device uses standard surveying techniques (optics and stadia rod) only instead of taking measurements by sight, it is done digitally with the help of prisms and laser. The EDM allows us to measure many points quickly and efficiently, all very important in a 6 week project that hopes to map as much of the industrial core of the site as possible. Today, the mapping team was mostly concerned with putting in control points (often spaced far apart from each other on the ground) from which we can sight in more points between them in order to “fill in the gaps,” and make a complete horizontal and vertical representation of the ground and structural features lying within the area of focus.

Along with mapping the site with the EDM, students also began drawing a plan view of the stamp mill complex located just below the bluff to the southwest of the main mine shafts. The students used running tape measures, plumb bobs, and drawing compasses to triangulate points on the ground in order to draw a representation of the surface of the mill. Drawing can be slow going, to the point of tedium at times, but it is a vital part of archaeological documentation. Later, many of the same points we use to draw the plan views will be mapped using the EDM as well, thereby providing real-world coordinates to our drawings. Together, the drawings and digital mapping complement each other, combining modern technology with age-old, traditional archaeological methods.

Dr. Timothy Scarlett and MTU students drawing a plan view of the mill.

Tomorrow, the students will be hearing a lecture by Dr. Larry Lankton of the Social Sciences department at Michigan Tech given to the Copper Country History class being taught this summer by Dr. Bill Gale (also of Social Sciences). Dr. Lankton will discuss some of the early mining history of, and technology used in the Keweenaw copper mining district. Following the lecture, we should be heading back out to the mine site to continue our work at the stamp mill.

Be seeing you.

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About Sean Gohman

Currently a PhD Degree seeking student in the Michigan Tech University's Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program.

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