It’s 7:30 a.m. and a crew of five students from an anthropology class are headed out with shovels in hand for another day of digging in the dirt at the Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area (Ordway Field Station) in Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

They’ve already been rewarded for their efforts. On the first day of their survey they found a 2,500-year-old piece of pottery. Later, in a second plot, they found stone-tool remnants. It was exactly what they’d hoped for: evidence of human life dating back to prehistory. “It’s so cool that we found pottery,” says Laura Holt ’13, “because it indicates more of a serious presence there.”

This is a particularly important discovery, says anthropology professor Scott Legge. “Pottery of this type has been found in southwestern Minnesota, but not in southeastern Minnesota.”

The group was well prepared for the phase one archaeological survey. They had all taken Legge’s Cultural Resource Management course, taught collaboratively with Dr. Edward Fleming of the Science Museum of Minnesota, before breaking ground at Ordway. Legge received a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant to support the survey at Macalester’s Ordway Field Station.

A phase one archeological survey is different from the common perception of an archaeological dig. It’s all about locating new unknown archaeological sites rather than digging at a location that has already been identified as a site. The Macalester group dug 50×50 centimeter squares to explore for artifacts. Once that first piece of pottery was found, the shovels were put away so the pieces could be extracted more delicately.

The group spent four and a half weeks working in the 280-acre preserve. “Professor Legge taught us how to do survey work quickly but soundly,” says Holt. The pottery will be sent to the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul for permanent curation. The researchers hope to soon undertake a second excavation so as to better understand what human life in the area was like some 2,500 years ago.


Student Researchers

Laura Holt ’13 (St. Paul)
Carol Mejía ’15 (Los Angeles)
Kate Sinnott ’14 (Waterloo, Iowa)
Zoë Tomasello ’13 (Half Moon Bay, Calif.)
Shasta Webb ’13 (Santa Cruz, Calif.)

August 15 2013

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