Another Student Perspective

Members of the field crew cooling off at Eagle River during one of the warmer days this spring (post author, Steve Moray is sitting at far right).

Below is another post from one of the Field School students.

As we approach the end of the field school (but hopefully not the end of the archaeology at the Cliff), I’d like to share a little bit about my experience this summer. I suppose I first better introduce myself. My name is Steve Moray and I’m a third year undergraduate in the archaeology program at Michigan Tech. (Anyone else ever get an AA vibe when introducing themselves like that?) I have a special interest in using both material evidence (archaeology) and written and oral accounts (history) to study the past. Field School at the Cliff Mine has had us studying both and it’s always rewarding when the two aspects match up.

Post author Steve Moray using the "Staff of Ra" to aid in surveying the mine's machine shop.

If you’ve been following the blog at all you’ve read a little bit about the mapping and the measured drawings we’ve been doing, so I won’t get into great detail about those, but what you may be wondering about is what exactly we do all day. The answer is “a lot.” Field School is not your typical day of classes. I wake up every morning around 7 am to be on campus in Houghton by quarter after 8. We then load the school truck, “Jimbo,” with all our gear and leave on our 30+ minute ride to the site, located between Calumet and Eagle River in Keweenaw County. On the way we may be asked questions about what we think about how and why features of the site exist how they do or how we would solve certain problems we might encounter with our work on the site. Every day is a little bit different, but at the beginning of the day we usually break into separate groups to cover different jobs that need to be done. There’s the aforementioned measuring and mapping of course, but we also work with electronic survey equipment (the Total Station) to plot points in 3 dimensions of space, personally one of my favorite things to do. A lot of the day might be spent walking around the site. There’s nothing like a fairly strenuous ten minute hike up a bluff to start your morning. And that’s just the beginning. I’ve spent hours hiking through the woods in the rain with a GPS to try and map transportation systems between mine buildings. Maybe we’ll spend the day tramping through the underbrush in Clifton, the town portion of the site, to try and find what’s left of buildings. It’s more difficult than it sounds. All that’s left might only be a slight depression or bump in the ground, sometimes covered in brush. Around 5 o’clock we call it day and make our way back to campus, maybe upload some information into the computer, and get home around 6. After getting home, we all write the day’s events in our field journals and look over our assigned readings for the week.

Here we are at the end of field school and I’m scratched, bruised, bug-bit, and sun-burnt. I’ve been hot, cold, soaking wet, tired, and sore. I absolutely love it, and I wouldn’t trade a minute. I’ve met some fantastic people and learned so much more than I ever could have in just a classroom. I paid tuition to work for 10 hours a day, but it was worth it.

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About Sean Gohman

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

2 responses to “Another Student Perspective”

  1. Joe Dancy says :

    Neat Steve, thanks for the blog.

    I just finished a new book entitled “Michigan’s Columbus – The Life of Douglass Houghton” that reminded me of how bad the bugs were up in that part of the country.

    Apparently they bit so bad some days that some of the crew’s faces swelled up so they had difficulty seeing. And Houghton had to lance some of the bug blisters for his crew. One guy actually went swimming in Superior during a hot spell and Houghton said he turned ‘cherry red’ – I can relate.

    Did the university provide you with dozens of cans of bug spray? Essentially you were working in a swamp.

    Also, was there anything about the site or the experience that surprised you?

    I took an archaeology course years ago at Tech (before the program you are enrolled in was offered) and had a great time. I got an A in the class I remember, but we did nothing like what you are doing. But it was interesting.

  2. Steve Moray says :

    You’re very welcome Joe. As a good boy scout I came prepared with my own bug spray, but I think many of the crew (including instructors) had plenty to go around in case anybody forgot.

    I think the thing I found most surprising about the site was just the amount of stuff that was there. There was always something more to find. And just driving by you wouldn’t think any of it is there, it’s all covered by trees now. One of the things about the experience I found most surprising was how difficult it actually is to try and find features when you haven’t had any experience before. It definitely got easier with time and experience, but even then there’s a lot of judgment calls that can be difficult.

    I’m hoping I get an A as well, but I suppose that’s up to the professors. Thanks for the reply Joe.

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