MSU Group Shot

 MSU Archeology Field School, Aztalan WI 2013

MSU Archeology Field School, Aztalan WI 2013

One of the traditions of a field school is the obligatory group shot of all the participants.  This year's field school was no different, and I was honored to be asked to take this picture.  Fortunately it was a overcast day with a bit of rain/mist, but that had become the norm for the MSU fieldschool at Aztalan, and actually made for good shooting. 

Finally, one of the tasks the students performed was the writing of a blog entry.  I found these to be very informative, and interesting in what everyones perspective on the whole experience was.  The blog posts can be found at:

 

Pottery, Backfill, and Backhoes

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The MSU field school at Aztalan State Park has concluded.  The tents are packed, the gear stowed in the trucks for the trip back to East Lansing, and the excavation units so meticulously dug by the archeologists over the past month were filled in by backhoes in a matter of hours.

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On the last day of excavations, profiling, drawing, and photographing, several interesting artifacts were recovered.  One of the more interesting items was a beautiful rim sherd from shell tempered vessel with a curvilinear design.

 

This will not be my final post on the MSU excavations.  More posts will be forthcoming as I process the remaining pictures from the last day of excavations at the site.

A Beautiful Sunrise After (another) Rainy Night

Much to the dismay and discomfort of the MSU Field School directors and students, the past couple weeks has seen a barrage of heavy rains and severe storms.  These same weather patterns, though, make for dramatic sunrises and sunsets.  On Sunday morning,  the sky conditions were right for attempting a time-lapse shot of Aztalan.  I set up shop on the southwest platform mound, looking east to the gravel knoll where the main MSU excavations are taking place.  The camera was set up for shots at 5 second intervals.  Once set up and underway, I enjoyed experiencing yet another dawn unfolding across the Crawfish River valley.

  Also, since this shot was taken only two days after the summer solstice, these time lapse shows pretty well where the sunrises at this time of the year.

Unfortunately, the clouds began to thicken shortly after the sunrise, so I was not able to get as lengthy a time lapse as I had hoped.  The result is in the following video.

 

What Truly Motivates an Archeologist in the Field

What is it that motivates archeologists and future archeologists to keep on digging?  There must be some motivation that allows them to endure working in all types of weather from cold biting winds one day, to searing heat and humidity the next.  What is it that keeps them going after a sleepless night caused by severe thunderstorms that flooded tents and gear with water, or worse, blew them over?  And what is it that allows them to endure the the incessant all night noise from a nearby residence’s screaming peacocks?

You might think it is the glorious moment of uncovering some feature or artifact that furthers our knowledge of past cultures.  Or maybe it is the camaraderie amongst your fellow excavators who are sharing in your good times and bad.  These are indeed important events in an archeologist's experience.  But there must be something more.

It has been a long, long time since I have participated in an archeological field school.  But after 30 plus years in the IT field, where change is the only constant, it is heartening to see that some things never change.

 A joyous reaction to the announcement of cupcakes being delivered to MSU Field School Excavations at Aztalan. 

A joyous reaction to the announcement of cupcakes being delivered to MSU Field School Excavations at Aztalan. 

What truly excites an archeologist is the call from one of your fellow workers that someone has brought donuts or cupcakes to share with the crew!

Dr. Donald Gaff, Northern Iowa University Excavates at Site of Aztalan, Wisconsin

Students from the MIchigan State University Archeology Field School, led by Dr. Lynne Goldstein, continue excavations at Aztalan Wisconsin. In addition to Michigan State University students and staff,  a number students from the University of Northern Iowa, led by Dr. Donald Gaff, are also earning field school credit.  Dr. Gaff is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UNI.  Dr. Gaff received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2005.  He specialized in Midwestern Archeology, Woodland and Mississippian Archeology, and Archeological Theory.

 Dr. Donald Gaff describes excavations at Aztalan to former NIU student. 

Dr. Donald Gaff describes excavations at Aztalan to former NIU student. 

Dr. Gaff has been concentrating his work in the area west of the stockade behind the southwest platform mound.   To date, little is known about how tis part of the site was used.  The team hopes to better understand what this area was used for, and to trace more of the palisade that was identified by earlier investigations.

 
 Excavations West of Stockade

Excavations West of Stockade

MSU Field School Continues at Aztalan

Students participating at the MSU Archeology Field School are continuing work at the site of Aztalan.  Overall the weather has been favorable.  A bit of rain, a little cool at times, but at least not the excruciating heat we experienced last summer. 

 

Excavations and mapping continues on the southeast gravel knoll, and west of the stockade behind the southwest platform mound. 

 

 

 Mapping the site.

Mapping the site.

 Excavations near the reconstructed stockade.

Excavations near the reconstructed stockade.

 Completing the paper work at the end of a long day.

Completing the paper work at the end of a long day.

A Brief History of Archeologists who worked at Aztalan

The site of Aztalan has been the subject of numerous archeological investigations since it was first thoroughly mapped by Increase A Lapham in 1850.  The most extensive excavations were conducted by Samual Barrett of the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1919, 1920, and 1932.  His book, “Ancient Aztalan”, remains the most comprehensive published account of excavations at the site. It was Barrett’s work at Aztalan that led to the discovery of the extensive stockade system that protected the inhabitants during Aztalan’s peak around 1100 A.D.

In the years since Barrett’s excavations, research by a number of archeologists have taken place at Aztalan.  Between 1949 and 1968 archeologists from the Wisconsin Archeological Survey who conducted excavations at Aztalan read like a who’s who of famous Wisconsin archeologists.  These include Warren Witry, Dave Baerries, Chandler Rowe, Moreau Maxwell, Joan Freeman, and William Hurley.  More recently, excavations conducted by Lynne Goldstein and John Richards  in the 1980’s and 2011 have expanded our knowledge of Aztalan.

 State Archeologist Mark Dudzik and Dr. Lynne Goldstein discuss plans for Aztalan excavations.

State Archeologist Mark Dudzik and Dr. Lynne Goldstein discuss plans for Aztalan excavations.

This year’s excavations by Dr. Goldstein and  Dr. Richards will undoubtedly add valuable information on the inhabitants of Wisconsin’s most famous archeological site.

Aztalan Archeologists 2013: Michigan State University

Yesterday, May 28, after a day of heavy rains, and and a foggy evening with nearby thunderstorms, students from Michigan State University arrived at Aztalan State Park to begin their field school.  Led by noted Aztalan archeologist Dr. Lynne Goldstein, the field school will concentrate their efforts on two separate areas within the ancient stockaded village.

Aztalan State Park.  Thunderstorm passing.

Over the course of this field school, and another field school conducted by Dr. John Richards of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, I will be documenting the work being done by these archeologists.  Please continue to check back often for new posts about all the activities going on at Aztalan State Park.