Author Archives: Ashley Smith

Clean Up at Aztalan

So today was the last day of field school and it was a very exciting day! We worked until noon, trying our hardest to complete all the things that needed to be done. We prepared our pits for backfilling also. Part of that was placing poker chips with “Aztalan 2013” on them so that if a future excavation comes across our units they will know who did it.

The Wisconsin DNR helped us backfill all the units with a bulldozer which significantly decreased the amount of time it would have taken us to backfill the pits by shoveling. There was a storm before they got there so all the soil was very wet and difficult to move. All of us were wet and cold but armed with our shovels and rakes, we followed the bulldozer around from pit to pit, stomping in holes, leveling the ground, and raking it prepare for seeding. We had to fill a total of sixteen units, some of which were connected to others. The deep pits that we have been digging for five weeks are now pretty much gone, all that is left are square shaped patches that lack grass.


The next step to wrapping up the excavation was cleaning all the equipment, a couple of the students had to take the shovels and buckets in to town to wash them, the rest of us stayed back at camp to clean and sort what we could. My job was to clean the rust off of the files we use to sharpen our trowels. When the equipment came back we loaded everything up in the U-Haul and besides our own personal packing we are ready to go! Overall, the clean up day was really fun, everyone’s spirits were high knowing we would be sleeping in our own beds very soon. This was a great experience that I will never forget!

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Contrasting Sides – Ashley Smith

Aztalan State Park is a very interesting place. My field experience here began at the Gravel Knoll on the East side of the site, closest to the Crawfish River. My unit over there produced plenty of interesting finds, including points, flakes, pottery sherds, shell, and animal bone. The soil was also varied and everyday in the unit was something new and exciting!

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Just this last week I was moved to the West of Palisade excavations to open a unit that hopefully will bisect the western palisade wall and possibly a previous excavation done by Barrett. I must say that excavating in this area is not for the faint of heart. The soil is a hard packed clay that is very hard to dig through, my muscles, most days tell me I just need to stop. This unit also is very low in artifact and debris density. We may go hours before finding a tiny flake. That is not to say that we are not finding anything, in fact, we have found some rather large pottery sherds with a very course grit temper, and some Aztalan brick. The most exciting sherd, at least for me was a rolled handle pot top. There was this sense of awe as we pulled it out of the ground as it was something that I had never seen before.


However, things besides artifacts are being found and provide information from this unit. We found a concentration of postmolds near the center of our 1×4 unit that coincides with a low trench in the ground. These were relatively hard to see as the soil discoloration was very subtle. The middle postmold that was excavated seemed to have been purposely filled as it contained a concentration of fired granite and some sherds. There was also a concentration of burned clay and charcoal in this unit, which is much smaller in diameter than the other postmolds. This particular feature may end up being a taproot of a tree that burned. This thought is due to the size of the featuire, the lack of artifacts within it, and also its location compared to the palisade. While I don’t find this to be as exciting as finding projectile points, it still provides priceless information that we will not be able to study again.

Happy Digging Everyone!

Ashley Smith