Podcast

Welcome to the CEC podcast series, designed to inform and entertain the engineering crowd and layperson alike. Whether you only have time for CEC Chats, a quick hit on a trending topic, or you want to take a deeper dive into the issue with CEC Explains, every episode offers insights and analysis from our dynamic team of experts on subjects that matter to our clients. Tune in now to find out more.

Uncovering History
12/31/2021

What lies beneath? Our experts can find out. In our latest podcast, CEC archaeologists Colleen Westmor and Gabi Ritter talk about Cultural Resource Management and a unique archaeological survey they conducted in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Podcast Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to CEC explains, your deep dive into fascinating subjects from the worlds of engineering and the environment, brought to you by Civil & Environmental Consultants. And now, from our CEC studios around the nation, this is CEC Explains.

Gabi: Hi, my name is Gabi Ritter and I’m a professional field archaeologist with cultural resource management at CEC, Civil & Environmental Consultants. And I’m here with Colleen Westmor, my coworker.

Colleen: My name is Colleen Westmor. I’m a professional archaeologist at CEC, and I’ve been doing archaeology for about 11 years throughout the Midwest in North America and in Egypt.

Gabi: Very cool. I actually just graduated in 2020, and then I started working at CEC in June, so two months after I graduated, and the first project that I ever got to go on was the Peabody Mining in Terre Haute, Indiana, which is a very, very cool one, and that’s the one we’re going to talk about today. 

Colleen: Yeah, it’s a pretty interesting project. It was for Peabody Mining and they’re doing a wetland mitigation on the floodplain of the Wabash River in Indiana and it had a pretty cool series of sand dunes within the floodplain. And so when we first got the project, the first thing we tend to do is a records check, and they had a ton of archaeological sites already recorded within the project area, which is always exciting for us. Kind of makes our clients a little bit nervous, but we went in kind of knowing we were going to find something pretty cool but didn’t know too much about what it was because the site records were pretty limited in their information.

Gabi: I was very excited. It was the first dig that I’d ever done out of college and I got a very warped idea of what cultural resources was going to be. We walked in and it was just so many artifacts, felt like when you went to one of like the children’s museums or one of the museums where they have you dust off, like everything’s just laying in the sand. It was so much fun and very, very cool. 

Colleen: She says that completely forgetting that we spent 10-hour days in 95 degree weather walking 9, 10 miles a day just through cornfields and soybean fields. 

Gabi: I blocked all of that out. I blocked out the corn rash. I blocked out the sunburn, everything is gone in my memory except for just looking down and seeing like hundreds and hundreds of artifacts. It very much spoiled me.

Colleen: I know, I can’t tell you how many projects I had to go on before I finally found an actual cool archaeological site.

Gabi:  I’m just very lucky. We found some prehistoric pottery. It was very cool. One of the pieces had the rim attached so we could kind of see where the top of it was. It was very surreal to find it and I was very excited. 

Colleen: In the Mediterranean in the old world or in the southwest in the US, you can find pottery all over the place. But in the Midwest, pottery doesn’t preserve very well because it’s so humid and the type of material that we’re using just degrades. Plus this was a field that was plowed for like a hundred years or more. And so to find pottery there was pretty cool because I’ve never found pottery in the midwest before. It’s the only project. 

Gabi: Yeah, and you can see it in the lab or when you’re in school and stuff, but it’s just very different to find out when you’re out in the field, it’s just it’s very surreal when you see. Someone made that — it’s very, very cool. Well, everything, but. 

Colleen: It’s really significant to because pottery is one of the most dateable types of artifacts that you can find on a site. So in the midwest we’re often with prehistoric societies limited to just arrowheads or spearpoints or like sharpening tools and those kind of stone tools that lasts forever, but pottery you can check to see the way it was formed and what it was used and whether they were cooking with it or it was a burial vessel or you can check the material that it was in it. You can do residue analysis if you have enough of it to figure out what they were eating. And so often in the Midwest, we never get to do anything like that. So just finding a little piece of it. It’s amazing.

Gabi: It’s also very cool because you can find pottery broken and it still tells you a lot and is very dateable and all those things Colleen just said, but sometimes, you know, if you find points or flakes or anything else, if it’s broken sometimes the dateable aspects are gone from that. So it’s a little different. 

Colleen: Yeah, we did find still quite a few points. That project we came away with probably more than a dozen, like, full intact points, which also can be used to date things. So it was a really cool project. Plus the artifacts dated for such a broad range because some of these artifacts were like, 2,000, 3,000 years old. And some of them were from a couple hundred years ago.

Gabi: Very, very cool. Colleen you should go on your rant between the difference of the term arrowhead and point. 

Colleen: OK, so arrowhead is probably the term that most people like to use in the day-to-day but arrows weren’t actually around in North America until like a few centuries ago. And so most points are actually spearpoints. In the professional world we don’t tend to call them arrowheads, because most of the time they’re not we just call the projectile points. A lot of times people will be like, oh we found these cool arrowheads and they bring them out and they’re these super large, couple thousand year old spear points, and that’s not…

Gabi: People think that it’s archaeology slang to call it points, but really they’re using the slang this like they don’t really… I didn’t know that before I actually started in cultural resource management either. But now I know. So I’ll take that information around.

Colleen: There’s been a few projects we’ve been on for CEC that have kind of given me a little bit of the heebie-jeebies just because they have the potential to find human remains in them. And that was one of them. I’ve been lucky enough to not find any human remains in the U.S. So I’m very grateful for that. But when we were going through, we’re going through the records checks, that was one of the comments on the site form with the state at the bottom it just said potential human remains. So we spent the whole like eight or nine days we were out of this view in the field site just terrified we were going to find like a femur or skull fragment, but we didn’t in the field which was good. That didn’t happen. So the client didn’t have to worry about that. But after we got back, we had to go through the whole process of analyzing, collected over 1,700 artifacts from that project. So we to go through and analyze all the artifacts figure out like the time period of the site and whether or not it’s eligible to register for the National Historic Places, which a couple of those sites were. It’s just such a cool continuously visited seasonal campsite. But while doing the post research, we went back to the record structure and get more information about the sites and figured out that a University in Terre Haute had actually submitted the site forms and it was done by some professors. So we contacted the university to try to get some information and got ahold of somebody who was willing to help us out and get through the records and found out that they had actually done a series of full excavations on the site for about five years, including using it as a field school to teach students. So part of that site had been very well excavated, but never published.

Gabi: And what happened to the artifacts after we collected them and brought them back? What was the long term for those? 

Colleen: Usually all artifacts week collect to go straight back to the landowners. But in this case, because Indiana State University had conducted excavations there and already had their own collection of artifacts in the site, I thought it’d be a good idea to keep them together. That way any future scholars could actually go to one single place to get all the records instead of having to hunt them all down. And so we contacted the landowner to see if she would be interested in donating them to Indiana State University and she agreed. So we actually drove them all down to Indiana State University and left them with the previous artifact collection. 

Gabi: This project was a little different than normally what we do with the CRM, Cultural Resource Management, right? It is a little bit different how it was set up?

Colleen: Setup was pretty similar. We tend to start with just kind of figuring out the logistics of the the field work and then doing that records check. That’s how we figured out that there were several archaeological sites, including a couple of historic ones, and then we go out and conduct the fieldwork, bring it back, analyze it, submit the artifacts. I think most of the unusual stuff for this project was post-field work, and that was just uncovering all this extra information learning about excavations that weren’t recorded or reported to the state or published like archaeology should be. We ended up learning just way more in the post research than we normally do about a project at all in a Phase I. It was kind of cool.

Gabi: What happens to the area when an archaeological site is found in located? 

Colleen: When we find one in the field, we do a bit more of an intense of a survey because a phase one, which is what this project was, is usually just as identifying any cultural resources in the project area. And so in this case, we already knew they were there and when we relocated them we went through the process of kind of delineating a boundary so that the client and the state both know exactly the extent of any potential buried archaeological deposits and then when studying the artifacts, we figure out whether or not it’s eligible for the national register and give a recommendation. So for this project a lot of them were actually deemed not eligible, which means the client can go ahead and continue with their proposed project plans, but when they are deemed potentially eligible or eligible as this project had a couple sites that fell into those categories, then we have to coordinate with the state historic preservation office to figure out whether or not the client can still do work there or whether or not there are special mitigating efforts that have to be taken into account. And in this case, there were a few that were listed as eligible. And so the state and the client decided to kind of leave that area alone. And since the client was doing a wetland mitigation project it was really kind of easy for them to leave the higher elevated points, the sand dunes, alone just where these prehistoric sites were so they did not just build their wetland forest around the site and leaving it intact and actually more protected than it was before. 

Gabi: Was there ever a potential for a Phase II? 

Colleen: There could have been if the client had decided that they didn’t want to avoid these areas, which happens sometimes. Any potentially eligible site would have to go to a Phase II investigation which would be going into those sites and doing a bit more intensive of an excavation, opening up larger test units and doing a little bit more research and trying to figure out whether or not it’s actually not eligible or eligible. And then if the state and the archaeologist, us, if we decide that it’s not eligible and they can continue and use that area. But if we decide that it is eligible, then the only way they can use it from there is by coordinating with the state to see if they could do a Phase III, which is a full-scale excavation, kind of what Indiana State University did in one of those sites. And as long as enough percentage of that archaeological site is excavated and recorded and published, then the client can still use that site because the knowledge will have been saved.

Gabi: How soon does this kind of stuff go in? Because I know I do the records check sometimes when we have projects coming up. How soon does this stuff go into the state register. Each state has its own registered, that shows the surveys, the cemeteries, the sites, everything, and that’s part of what we do when we do a records check to check before we go out to do a Phase I survey is we check all of that stuff. How soon would that go into a records check if someone were to go back there.

Colleen: The site form updates can happen fairly quickly. Like as soon as we analyze the artifacts and stuff we’ll submit an updated site form to the state and then they’ll update their state database. So any future archaeologists will know that additional work had been done and that additional information had been recovered. For the reports, it takes a little bit longer because depending on the size of the project or how intensive it was, it can take us a week to a month to write a report. In this case, it took a little bit longer because there were so many artifacts that had to be analyzed and so many sites that had to we had to give recommendations on and a lot of post research. So that can take a few weeks. And then once it’s submitted, usually we’ll let the clients have a moment to review the report and make sure that they’re OK with what we’re talking about as far as the project and their involvement and then the state has the opportunity to also make comments. In this case that happened, where the state kind of give the report back and had some questions. So we went through the process of answering that and then resubmitted. Each time we submit to the state, they have about 30 days to respond. So in this case, it took a couple of months to go through the report process to it actually getting recorded in their state database.

Gabi: That’s one of my favorite parts of the whole process is doing the records check for an area because you see everything around for a mile. You can see cemeteries, some cemeteries that are private, some cemeteries that aren’t there anymore, sites, every single thing that’s been recorded. So isolated finds, everything that’s in that area you can kind of see and get a background on before you go out. So you kind of have an idea of what you might find or what might be out there, which is really cool, it’s one of my favorite parts — I like that a lot. And you can look at old maps, like old topo maps and stuff, just to see what’s been there in the past and what’s been recorded on map.

Colleen: I always get super into the post research. Like once I’m done, I’m invested and I want to do all this extra research. I want to know everything and I’ll get super into writing out the history of the county or that town or the state. In this case, I just did a huge deep dive into like Indiana State University’s excavations to the point that they introduced me to nonprofessional archaeologists who had been working in the site. They let me go through all of their backlog of artifacts to kind of go through it. Which is how we found out that they actually had discovered human remains of the site. So that was one of our post research informations and they still have them. The university didn’t even know about it because the excavations were from the 60s and 70s, and it’s never published. So they found out last year that they actually had human remains in a warehouse storage area on their campus. So they’ve been dealing with that. You end up learning so much more stuff about these sites just by doing a little bit of digging. 

Gabi: That was crazy when you told me that. That blew my mind. Colleen is a very, very, very in-depth with her research. Everywhere we go, we just went to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Colleen just knew the entire history of this town. She was just telling me like all of these battles like everything within the entire town limits. It’s so cool. She’s just like an encyclopedia of information of everywhere we go. I was just asking her questions. She was like, how would I know that I’ve never been here before? I’m like, I just assumed that you knew everything in the area all around.

Colleen: I mean, to be fair, you were asking me why a section of a mural hadn’t been painted.

Gabi: I thought you would know, you knew everything else!

Colleen: I don’t know. I just get super into it. After you do the field work, I just get so invested in. Every time we find a foundation, I want to know who built it, I want to know who lived there. I want to know why they were living there, what they were doing. To me that’s my favorite part of archaeology in general. Finding stuff is cool, doing the field work is fun and I love that, but then it just shoots you down the rabbit hole, which is how I think I ended up writing a master’s degree on shellfish. I didn’t know anything about shellfish, but somebody gave me a unit somewhere that had mussels in it. I was like I’m going to learn everything I possibly can about mussels and how people use them. 

Gabi: It’s not even specifically about that area. It could be the whole town, and then everything comes together as context for what we’re doing, which is really cool. She went down a rabbit hole of learning all about Johnny Appleseed because he traveled through a town we went to. It’s very, very thorough. Very cool. I’m always excited to hear all of Colleen’s stories and research that she’s done. 

Colleen: There is one project we did outside of Chicago. And I went to go write up the county history, and it’s far enough out of Chicago that their 1800s history doesn’t have anything about the city of Chicago in it. Instead because they didn’t have anything else to talk about, they just talked about old plowing tournaments that they had every year for 50 years. And so I read this whole chapter that talked about every winner that they had, this whole dispute about how there was one family where the three brothers kept winning every single tournament that they had. And then as they introduce new and new technology they would start new sect like sections of this plowing tournament, and I think I spent the entire day just reading about that. Finally I was like, well, I should get back to writing this report.

Gabi: I mean, it definitely does come in handy being thorough. I don’t know if we would have been able to find the human remains in the basement of a college without really deep diving and researching it for that long. 

Colleen: Yeah, that’s one of the cool things about the Peabody project is doing all that extra archival research. We ended up learning that there was a whole series of excavations done in the 60s and 70s that wasn’t published. And so now we have the opportunity, we being me and the nonprofessional archaeologist who also has been researching that site and Indiana State University, to go back and fix that mistake from 50, 60 years ago. So now we can go and take all the notes and all of the reports from that excavation and we can put them together and finally get that published so that information is no longer lost.

Gabi: Yeah, and that’s, you know, archaeology is always changing and evolving. So archaeology in the 60s and 70s doesn’t necessarily match up to what we do now in the same way that it’s published and documented and that can put a wrench in our research. And just having all of the information in one place, which is super important. 

Colleen: Yeah, and that’s one thing we run into a lot with new projects is sometimes when we do those records checks, we’ll come back and be like, oh, it looks like the entire project area has actually been surveyed in the past in the 70s. And a lot of times people would assume that means they don’t have to resurvey it. But because back in the 60s and 70s they didn’t have GPS devices to properly record where sites are located and the research techniques have completely changed since the 60s and 70s, where now we’re a lot more thorough than they used to be in the past, and so we always have to kind of take a step back and say, OK , just because it was surveyed in 60s and 70s does not mean that the state is going to give you a pass and not make you re-survey it. Usually we always have to do that and that was the Peabody mining case. It had been surveyed in the 40s and then again in the 60s and 70s. and we still had to go back out there, and going back out there, we were able to figure out the exact boundaries instead of the 60s and 70s, they had just drawn circles on topo maps so it didn’t quite match up with wearing the sites actually were. In the 40s and 50s it was a hand-drawn map. And so the state records actually had that recording like what a mile east of where the site actually was. So sometimes we need to this records checks depending on how old that information, it might not be accurate. And so becomes part of our job in those Phase I’s to relocate them and give accurate boundaries for those sites. 

Gabi: Yeah, because now we can put exact coordinates in if we find one isolated find, we can say exactly where that isolated find was found. So it’s just a lot of different processes, but then there are, you know, people who find things and they’re like, it’s somewhere in that field. Not the same as knowing exactly where it would be at. 

Colleen: I get so frustrated when we do the records checks and we get site forms like that. It’s a nonprofessional archaeologist found the site and their backyard reported it to the state, which is great and we love when they do that because it’s nice to have a heads up. But often the way they describe where it is that they’re just like, oh, yeah, it was like down the road, a few hundred feet. Then you took a left at the tree and then you go down and there’s a rise and, like seven years later, the landscape looks completely different. So when you go back you’re like, there’s no tree. There’s no rise. There’s like a gas station there now, like I don’t, I don’t know.

Gabi: There are a lot of people who just like collect a lot of artifacts or will have a lot of artifacts that they’ve collected throughout their life and then if you ask them where they found them, they’ll be like, oh I found them all in this like, 60-acre property. They are all somewhere in there. 

Colleen: Yeah, a lot of times, that’s how it is. They’re not super careful about where the recordings, they’re just out of like looking for cool artifacts and stuff. Hopefully, with the landowners permission, so that it’s legal. But like, occasionally, though you run into some really good ones, like the nonprofessional archaeologist. He termed in hunting but was actually doing research at that site, where the Peabody mining site was located. And when I finally got to meet up with him, he actually had better records than professors from the 60s and 70s did. So, he actually knew where all these artifacts were coming from, exactly which sand dune, he had dated them all, and he had actually written up small little reports for himself. So it was really cool working with him and trying to put it together with the 60s and 70s research because he actually knew way more about that project area than I mean, we could have learned an eight days and more than the 60s and 70s professors had. It’s pretty cool. 

Gabi: It’s always very cool when people who, you know, have an interest in this and then find things on their property take the time to record it and report it to the state and stuff because that always helps us out and will help in the future for archaeological surveys and stuff. 

Colleen: Yeah. He’s actually really cool. His name is Irv Mason. He’s still sending me emails asking because he knows I’ve been presenting some of this information to conferences. I gave that one presentation at the Midwest archaeology conference. And I was talking about how academic archaeology and avocation archaeology and contract archaeology, which is what we do, can work together to learn way more about some of these sites than one type archaeology can figure out. So, it’s been kind of fun merging all of those trying to bring this information from the past back to life. Because not only was this a site that had been occupied seasonally for thousands of years based off of the artifacts, but also had been excavated the 60s and 70s so you get this cool snapshot of students and archaeology professors from late 60s, early 70s, and I can bring a lot of that back to life and I can bring the research that they found back to life and kind of put it all together. thanks to one cultural resource management project. 

Gabi: I hope you can get something published. I would be very eager to read it.

Colleen: That’s the goal, is to take all of their research that hasn’t been published yet and publish it in a peer-reviewed journal. So, the information doesn’t get lost again. 

Gabi: That would be great. Yes, especially knowing that there are, you know, so many Lost in Translation things, and I know most colleges have archives and they have so many things like their archaeology department will have archives down there and a lot of the archives were set up in the 70s and just having those logged and, you know, organized is really important. 

Colleen: I know I’ve been out of the academic world for so long. So it was so weird going to Indiana State University’s their storage area and just seeing these shelves and shelves of artifacts and boxes from sites all over the place and their written records are just shoved in folders and file cabinets. Locked away in another storage area. And I’m just like if this site was forgot about, how many other sites in here do you have that haven’t been published or haven’t been recorded and they’ve been talking about creating new classes about going through their archives and kind of fixing some of those past mistakes that obviously aren’t the fault of anybody at ISU now, but they now have the opportunity to take a look back and be a little bit more reflexive. Instead of finding new archaeological sites to dig in which as we know is destructive and actually destroy sites when we do archaeology, but now, instead of doing that, they can go through their records and do the same type of archaeology, but through paperwork and research what they’ve already destroyed and publish all of that material, so that we don’t lose it. 

Gabi: Yeah, and it could also be near where the Peabody site is or around Terre Haute as well which could offer more clues to that site too. 

Colleen: Yeah. That’s true. They can kind of find others. I know that professor, he had done a lot of work in sites in the Wabash Valley area. He was specifically looking at the Albee culture, which was from a couple thousand years ago and he had been targeting sites that had similar cultural makeup. So by going through a lot of his other sites, they might be able to piece together a bit more about one specific culture near that university, which would be kind of cool. 

Gabi: That would be really, really, really cool. I would, I would geek out over that a little bit, I think.

Colleen: If I were an archaeology student I’d be begging, this is a master’s thesis, please let me be involved in this. I know that they did move the human remains that we located. 

Gabi: That’s good. That’s good to hear. 

Colleen: Because of when we found them. It was a bit of a shock. They were just in brown paper bags, inside the storage unit. And so they were telling me that they were actually going to take all those and move them into a more secure respectful location until they figure out a more permanent home for them. They’re contacting tribes and figuring out, whether these does need to be returned or like reburied, or whatever the tribes want to do with them. 

Gabi: That’s crazy that they’ve been in a basement in a paper bag for like 40 years. That’s insane. 

Colleen: What was your favorite part of that project? 

Gabi: My favorite part of that project was definitely the sand dunes in the middle with all the artifacts everywhere. It was very cool because we were in, it was a cornfield and then in the middle of the cornfield was kind of a sand dune. So halfway through, the corn would kind of get get shorter and shorter and then they would be like a little tiny sand dune in the middle that was just clear with tons of artifacts through it. So we’d be walking doing a pedestrian survey, which is a part of CRM. When we do a phase one survey, if the ground is clear, if we have … depends state to state. But we have to have a certain amount of visibility to be able to do a pedestrian survey. In Indiana 50% visibility to do a pedestrian survey, which is where you walk, and it’s different. Sometimes you do 15 meters apart. Sometimes you do 10. Sometimes you do five just depending on where you’re at, but you’ll walk you’ll stand 15 meters apart from each other and you’ll just walk looking straight down. And you’ll look to see if you see any church, which is a type of stone that they make stone tools out of, a lot of points out of, and it’s a very specific kind of rock. There’s different types of chert to, but you’ll look down and look for that kinds of things. And as we were walking through, usually, it’ll be a cornfield., soybean fields or plowed fields. So you’re just looking straight at the ground as you walk. And this one, we would see like, nothing, nothing, And then it would get a little sandier and you’d start to see like a little bit more like maybe a couple of like rocks or flakes and stuff. And then you would just get to this open area of just everything everywhere, and it was so overwhelming that you would just every single place on the ground had something incredible on it. It was very very, very overwhelming and cool. Very surreal experience.

Colleen: I just remember the first day when we actually found the first sand rise, we popped out and often you find like low growth areas and corn, that’s not super irregular. But this one, you can see like a slight incline as you’re going up the sand dune, and we would get to the top of it and just looked around. Like, what are we going to do? Because in the state of Indiana and most states, when you find an artifact for every single artifact, you have to kind of shoot it a GPS coordinate for each artifact that you pick up. But when we looked at this sand dune we’re like, there’s hundreds, we don’t have the time to just go around and shoot in the GPS point for every single one of these artifacts. What are we going to do? And so, for the first one we were in, I was like, maybe they’re not all this bad. So we actually did. We ran around and put it in GPS points for every single artifact we found on that first sand dune and we collected like a couple hundred of them. As we finished that one up and then we move to the next one, we got to the next sand dune, it was a really small sand dune, only a few artifacts. So we do the same thing again. And then when we got to that southeastern one, we popped out on that crest and we were like, this is even more than the first one. We will be out here forever if we’re shooting a GPS point for each artifact. I remember calling Jim up and being like, I don’t know what you want to do. Like you thought I was looking to bring 300 artifacts home and I’ve already collected that many of them on the first of 12, so I don’t know what you want me to do. And so instead we started doing this, we did a grab bag which we had to work out with a state leader because that’s not that’s not an already pre-approved collection method in the state of Indiana. But the pre-approved one would be to stake out a 1 by 1 meter area and only pick up artifacts in that. But if we did that, we would get a nice overview of the artifacts coming from those sites. So we did a grab bag and I remember by the time we got to the last sand dune, it was like a series of three that were connected and that had more artifacts than all of the other ones. I remember, just giving all of you guys a bag and just being like, all right, just walk around and just pick some stuff up I’m just going to GPS in like where the concentrations are of these artifacts. 

Gabi: Yeah, and a grab bag is when you would give each of us a bag and be like, pick the coolest, most significant things that you can find in this area. So that you’re not, if you’re leaving something, it’s not going to be a point. It’s not going to be a worked piece of chert. It’s going to be kind of like the little flakes that are coming off. So you’re not leaving anything that would be really significant our dateable, you’re finding the most significant things and putting those in a little grab bag because we couldn’t physically bring everything back. And I know it hurt my heart a little bit to lose some of it but it was just impossible to bring everything. There was just too much. 

Colleen: Yeah. And grab bagging is not a method that I particularly like to use because when you said you end up leaving so much on the ground, I think we took less than five percent of all the artifacts that were the site. And we still walked away with 1,700 artifacts. But in this case, the reason why I was OK with using it was because I knew the archaeologists like you would go around picking really interesting datable pieces. So you guys went and got the pottery and all the points and other stone tools. We ended up with a grinding stone tools. So that helped a lot. But then we also had a lot of non-archaeologists who are out there, helping us with the survey and I knew they wouldn’t necessarily know the specific dateable diagnostic pieces. And they instead would just kind of grab any rocks that looks cool or called out to them. And so I knew it would give us a nice like a range of artifacts. Both from just, here’s a pretty rock to here’s a whole point that we can use to date the site and so that gave us a nice overview of all the different types of people that have been living there and all the different stages of artifact tool-making. And it ended up working out pretty well, but if it was all archaeologists, I wouldn’t use it because then we just would have left so many non-diagnostic pieces, not dateable pieces out on the field. 

Gabi: Yeah, and it was also so many fields. I mean we didn’t really shovel test or dig very much, did we? We did like one or two. 

Colleen: We did one shovel tests in each of the concentrations. So some of the sites, we only did one shovel tests, but that big one that had three dunes, I think we did three in there. And that’s just for those sites. We did shovel tests in some of the other areas throughout the project area. There were a few areas that weren’t plowed that we still had to actually go through and walk through. We had to shovel test — I don’t know if you were with that group with John — they had to go shovel test that whole flat area. Because that’s where the database had said the site was located based off of the 40 survey which ended up being incorrect because we already knew where the one was but we still had to shovel test the other one just to kind of prove there also wasn’t another site there. But I think the weird thing about that project was those sand dunes. We did those shovel tests and found nothing. And we went down over a meter. 

Gabi: I was going to say that we did peep tests there, which is when you go down over a meter. But yeah, so we dig when there’s not visibility. So when I said there’s 50% visibility we can do a pedestrian survey, if there’s not, if there’s grass coverage or we’re in a forest or anywhere where you can’t see a clear shot at the ground, we have to dig. Usually, we’d bring a shovel and a screen and the screen is like a little sifter. So it’s got like a metal grate in the bottom where you can shovel all your dirt in there and then shake it out. And anything that doesn’t fall through the screen, you can kind of look at and make sure there’s no significant or worked pieces of chert or anything cool in there, but we didn’t have to do very much of that on that project. You will have to do one in the site, but those areas were visible. So it was a little easier with the sand. Pick through sand, sand is a little easier than digging through dirt.

Colleen: Sometimes its that hard clay and it’s awful kind of push it through those like quarter mesh screens but sand just falls through. 

Gabi: I don’t remember finding too much in the screens on that one. Most of the stuff was just laid out on top, which is very cool. And some people have some confusion about that, like how things end up on the top of the ground and why they wouldn’t be, if they’re so old, in the ground, I’ve had people ask me that before and it’s usually plows like plows will bring everything up to the surface and sand is like a dune. So everything is constantly being brought up. 

Colleen: Yeah, it’s why states will allow us to do pedestrian surveys on plowed fields and it’s because the plow will kick up everything in the top 20 to 40 centimeters and all the heavy objects just end up right on top of the surface. So when we walk through after a good rain and they get all clean and shiny, we can just walk across these flat fields and these artifacts just sitting right on top of it.

Gabi: Yes, people always ask that. They’re like, how do things just end up like sitting on the top of the ground and I’m like, it’s perfect. It’s great. It’s science, and it works out for the best. 

Colleen: Yeah, and usually like when we find sites will still have to do one shovel test. And when we do that we’re looking to see how deep the deposits are to see if there are any artifacts still located underground or to see if maybe the plow didn’t destroy the entire site. So sometimes you’re looking just to see if there’s any Integrity left in the site below the plow zone level and then in some cases, you’re looking to see if there might be an additional site further down which we found when went to that one project of Illinois, recently. We ended up finding a lot of artifacts near the top and then we dug down what a meter, 60. It’s like 160 cm. We found more artifacts at an even lower level, so I can kind of show you if there’s multiple sites in the same spot.

Gabi: And when we dig, or when we do a shovel test, we are digging to the B Horizon. So we’re looking for a different soil change to see that time difference. 

Colleen: Yeah, and every state will dig your shovel tests to sterile soil. So in a lot of plowed fields that often is just the plow zone because plowing over decades can cause a lot of erosion. And so, usually the bottom of your plow zone is that’s your sterile soil. So that’s like the first soil color change and sometimes you have to dig down further. Most states will stop at 50 cm, but sometimes you’ll be in floodplains that have continuous deposits and you’ll go through multiple color changes before you finally hit a sterile soil, which is what we call a B. 

Gabi: We did mostly pedestrian surveys at Terre Haute though, but we did a couple of shovel tests. We did just have someone find something in a shovel tests, but it’s more likely that you’ll find something on a pedestrian survey. 

Colleen: The interesting part about that project is that was we had three different survey methods going on. So we had some people shoveling the grassy areas that were flat most of us were out doing the pedestrian survey because there’s so much plowed field to go through. But we also always had about two people just walking around doing a visual inspection. And so when your project area doesn’t have soil visibility and is not flat, so it’s either sloped or obviously disturbed, you don’t have to dig shovel tests there either. You can just kind of walk over those spaces and you’re looking for any structure foundations or surviving structures or any obvious signs of archaeological sites. So if you’re along cliff faces you’re looking for rock shelters, if you’re near wetlands or streams you’re looking for like old ice houses or old spring houses or in the case of this site, we actually had a portion of the Wabash and Erie Canal that was still intact. So they were able to relocate portions of that canal. The canal though, was I think registered as an eligible resource just because it was kind of a unique piece of Indiana history there, an old Canal since canal systems were only used for such a brief period of time. A lot of it had been silted over from floods, but John got one really good photograph of it still existing where it still had the berms on either side and still had water in it, which is pretty cool.

Gabi: Ooh, it had the berms. That’s very interesting. I would want to see that. I want to see that photo now. 

Colleen: Yeah, I think all in all though, I think that Peabody mining project was just like a really good example of what a phase-one archaeological survey can kind of find. Covered a little bit of everything. It had all of our methods, our pedestrian survey, our visual inspection, our shovel testing. We were able to relocate known prehistoric archaeological sites, as well as locate additional prehistoric archaeological sites. We also relocated a historic site, a couple historic sites. We were able to analyze 1,700 artifacts and then provide an eligibility status or recommendation for all of the sites that we located. It was a really good example of what you can learn from your pre-field work records checks, as well as your post fieldwork, archival research. And we were able to work really well with the client who was super cool. Every step of the way, kind of working with us to make sure that everything was done correctly and nothing was skipped and they were able to still use that site for their wetland mitigation and they left the eligible prehistoric site kind of on its own and it’s actually, more protected now than it was before. So it was really just kind of an interesting site.

Gabi: I’m very happy that that was my first site that I ever got to do. It definitely got me very, very excited about my future career in archaeology. 

Colleen: Thank you for listening to this episode of CEC explains brought to you by Civil & Environmental Consultants. 

Gabi: Thank you. Bye. 

Announcer: Got a question about this episode or an idea for our next one? Reach out to us at CECinc.com/podcast. Don’t miss an episode of CEC Explains. Subscribe now wherever you find podcasts. Because when CEC explains, you’re always invited to listen.

Are you looking to apply your expertise to help clients with their challenges, to bring forth new ideas and ways of solving problems? We are looking for experts like you to join the CEC team. Apply today at CECinc.com/jobs.

Let us know what you think

Got an idea for a future podcast topic? We’d love to hear it.