Off to Clifton for Some Testing

Roger, mapping a shovel test pit (off camera) while other student's excavate a worker's log cabin home.

Aside from excavating in and around the Cliff mine’s various stamp mills, we also wanted to tackle a couple other projects during the field season. Last year we spent weeks mapping the industrial core of the site with digital surveying equipment (Total Station surveying). This year we hoped to continue with some mapping of Clifton, the mine’s townsite.

Due to the complexity of the mill excavations and the attention they demanded, we weren’t able to get nearly as much accomplished as last year on the mapping end. There simply wasn’t the time. We did manage to site in many new control points inside the townsite though, and these will be helpful next year if we continue with the project. So if you are wandering around the townsite sometime over the next year and spot a (modern) nail in the ground with flagging tape, please leave it in place. These control points allow us to tie into the previous years work, saving hours and days of re-work if they are missing.

In the background is the prism Roger is using to map test pit locations. Nick and Gary excavate and record another worker's log cabin home. Note the screen, all the material removed from the test pit must be screened in order to catch seeds, bones, and small pieces of glass and ceramic.

One thing that had to be mapped accurately in Clifton were the many shovel test pits dug around specific foundations we selected for artifact survey. I wrote a little about what shovel test pits were in the July 16th post, “Testing for the Early Mill,” though in this case it wasn’t stratigraphy we were concerned with, but rather the artifacts contained within.

The idea was to select a few different home foundations in order to create a wide sample of different classes/positions within the community’s/mine’s hierarchy. Worker housing, boarding houses, and managerial housing were all selected to see what if any differences there were regarding what the people ate and ate off of.

Kim is inspecting a decorated piece of ceramic found during excavation. Note the paperwork. Everything from depth, soil changes, artifacts found and their location is carefully recorded in order to recreate the student's work either in the lab or in report form.

From a methodological standpoint, the test pits were dug inside and outside any given foundation. Artifacts were collected at specific level intervals in the pits depth. In total, a few dozen pits were excavated and bags and bags of artifacts collected. What is of great interest are the types of ceramic found (well, fragments of ceramics) as well as the bones. Identifying cut bones can tell you what people ate, while the ceramics can help to place people in specific class categories. Perhaps certain food stuffs one wouldn’t expect to find in a mine location will be found. Or, maybe there won’t be wide differences in the types of ceramics used by both the working and managerial classes. These answers won’t be available until after the artifacts are cleaned, catalogued, and analyzed. Such is the pace of archaeological investigation.

The not-so-exciting shovel test pit.


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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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