Author Archives: harri938

Ian Harrison – Depth Perspective

It’s hard to imagine that the field school is almost over, as it seems like I’ve finally just settled into the routine. My and Kyla’s excavation unit started with Kyla and I uprooting sod, and using the sharp edge of our spades to smash through the thick plastic mesh just beneath it. Today though, when the work day ended I realized that I could no longer just step out of our pit any more. It had been a stretch for a while, but now it seems the only way out is to get a running start (as much as one can in a 2×2 meter pit) and then jump for it. The one alternative is a method commonly referred to as the ‘beached whale method’ which involves the archaeologist jumping up the wall and landing with their stomach on the above ground, such that they are bent over the wall of the pit like an inverted ‘L’. They must then swing their feet upwards and roll over onto the grass.

DSCN0159 DSCN0165

Needless to say, the ever decreasing ease of entering and exiting the pit has made me really start  to rethink what is a worthwhile reason to leave once I’m inside. Where as I once kept by backpack, water, and tools strewn randomly across the nearby grass, I now keep them within easy arms reach of the pit. Depth has also brought about the occasional disheartening realization that I have left something important behind, or just out of arms length, immediately after entering the pit.

Even the dynamic of such other important activities such as our 10:00am cookie break has shifted. Normally, cookies are set out in the central information kiosk (which our units roughly surround) around 10:00, as a good way to get us to mingle and look at what is going on in our pit neighbors’ units, yet today was the first day that they were brought over to us to let us avoid having to leave our squares.

‘Pit yoga’ as it has come to be called has also begun to change and adapt to the ever deepening excavation squares. The practice of pit yoga, first invented by Kyla Cools is the method of laying down and suspending one’s self over the side of the pit. When it comes time to trowel the floor of the unit, to ensure that the surface is even and at the proper elevation, as well as to make any variation in soil color or texture more visible, the excavators must ensure not to step on an area that they have previously troweled clean.

At higher levels, it was easy enough to simply kneel down and trowel the floor from the edge of the unit. As we have gotten deeper however, it became necessary to lay down and suspend one’s self over the edge of the pit, leaving one’s legs on the grass while they reached down into the unit to trowel the floor, and thus the practice of ‘pit yoga’ was born. More recently though, as our pit has passed the one meter mark for depth, it has become increasingly impossible to reach the bottom even while suspending ourselves over the pit. Thus pit yoga has become something more similar to ‘pit handstands.’ as we support ourselves with one hand while troweling with the other.


On the bright side of depth however is the fact that as we continue to go deeper and deeper, there is an ever-widening area of shade inside of our unit. The heat, especially towards the end of the day can be oppressive, yet as we’ve gotten deeper the walls of our unit have begun to provide us with a nice band of shade towards the end of the day that helps us to cool off. So while depth can be both a good and bad thing, it always has the tendency to make things a lot more interesting.


-Ian Harrison

An (Almost) New World – Ian Harrison

As odd as the title may seem, it feels all too appropriate as I sit here writing this. Right now being the first time I’ve been on the internet in almost two weeks, I realize that there really is no way to fully prepare for the lifestyle change that coming to this archaeology field school represented. I came in expecting to be roughing it in every sense of the word – camping in the middle of no-where with no electronics but digital watches, the situation I found however was quite different.

My tent (among almost 20 others) is set up in a ring surrounding a DNR service shed large enough for them to store various tractors, equipment, and picnic tables for us to use. There is electricity in the shed, enough to power lights, a refrigerator (for our breakfasts of cereal and milk), and an additional power strip for everyone to plug in their phones and other electronics. To my surprise there is not only phone service, but also internet (sometimes) made possible by Dr. Goldstein’s satellite router. It is truly an odd combination to be sitting in an open shed at the mercy of the wind and weather, while at the same time sitting around others who are playing games on their phones and laptops.

IMG_0610 IMG_0622

To look around from our excavation site one gets the impression of being deep in the wilderness, and yet after a long day of work we wander back to camp sweaty and covered in dirt, and then  drive five minutes into the town of Lake Mills to shower at the Drumlin Trails State Park trail head, and eat a nice meal at the restaurant ‘Carp’s Landing.’

Our water used to come from a large metal hand pump, but the hard taste of the water prompted us to bring our water coolers into town and fill them up from a hose at the trail head building. There is an odd mix of civilization and wilderness that has made for an interesting adjustment. In many ways it feels as though I’ve left the world I came from, the world of electronics, internet, and civilization, while in many other ways it feels as though I’ve never left.

It has definitely been an strange transition, but an interesting and worthwhile one nevertheless. We have many of the luxuries of civilization, but yet I feel that this lifestyle has left behind much of the stress of the civilized world. Me and many others have started to lose track of the days, with each one blending into next, but this a nice feeling, a tranquil feeling. It is a slower-paced lifestyle, one with hard work, as long days of digging in the hot sun can attest to, and great rewards, such as uncovering a strange relic of the past. Even looking back on my time here so far I am very glad I came, but have yet to fully decide which of the two worlds (if not both) that I find myself living in.

-Ian Harrison