Hamline News

July 23, 2013

Hamline Students Dig Into The Past

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This summer, the Hamline Anthropology Department offers opportunities for students to dig into the past. Students participated in two excavations: The Jeffers archaeology project in southwestern Minnesota and the Plum Island archaeology project in Door County, Wisconsin.  

The ongoing Jeffers archaeology project started three years ago in collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society at the Jeffers Petroglyph Historic Site – one of the largest rock art sites in the Midwest. The key objective was to discover evidence of the ancient camp sites near the petroglyphs. Different types of artifacts can reveal the origin of people who created them and the reasons they came to the site, while stone tool styles help evaluate the time range of the ruins.  

Kevin Reider, who graduated from Hamline in 2013 with a major in anthropology, finished his archeology honors thesis about the Jeffer Petroglyphs sites. Reider has been studying the sites around Jeffers for more than two years, and his honor thesis will be published in the Minnesota Archeologist.  

“We’ve found about four hundred individual stone artifacts. I was looking at what kind of rocks they were to determine where those artifacts originally came from.” Reider said.  “From there, I tried to figure out who the creators were and what time the petroglyphs were made.”

The Plum Island archaeology project is associated with the U.S. Fish and the Wildlife Service at Plum Island, Wisconsin on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Hamline students on that trip examined a collapsed lighthouse, built in 1849, and its relics. The building was left to fall into disrepair after a new lighthouse was built on a nearby island in 1858. The key objective of this project is to uncover any remnants of the original lighthouse building that might be buried beneath the rubble of the collapsed walls and tower. The Hamline students also hope to recover artifacts left by the lighthouse keepers to better understand what it was like to live in a Great Lakes lighthouse during the middle of the 19th century. There is both archeological and historical evidence showing that the Native Americans used to live on this island as well. Students will have the chance to excavate the sites and locate more artifacts, such as pottery, stone tools, and glass beads which would prove the existence of the Indian American on Plum Island.

“A central purpose of our archaeology program is helping our students achieve professional skills, such as cataloging, identifying and analyzing artifacts, doing field work, and so on.” Anthropology Professor Brian Hoffman said. “It is really beneficial to come to a place like Hamline because we offer the opportunity to learn basic skills in archaeology through both fieldwork and lab work.”  

The Hamline archaeology program is also working this summer on a public archaeology project in the Hamline neighborhood, which is a way of having archaeology connect with and work for the benefit of the community.  “I think it is very important to let students think about archeology from a public perspective and to make students’ capabilities valuable to the world beyond archaeology.” Hoffman said. “Hamline is a liberal arts school, so we want our students to be able to apply their education to solving the problems of the world.”  

You can read more about these summer field school experiences on Professor Hoffman’s blog.