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Final Exam!

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The students are in the midst of giving their final oral exam at The Loft in the LaFlesch Building (Special Thanks to Jay and Stephenie La Flesch).

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Archaeology….Can you dig it?

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ImageNeal Lynch  Field Notebook Entry 6/27/2013

             Today, I got a real taste for true excavation. Knees in the mud and trowels in hand, we scraped away tiny layers of dirt, rocks and mud. The sweat was dripping, the jokes were flying, and our spirits were high. What seemed like every few minutes, we would find another amazing tiny piece of history only inches below our feet. I can totally dig it, man.

                Each time we revealed another amazing artifact, we meticulously measured the exact location and plotted it on the proper form. In this way, someone can come back at a later time to continue the work. The attention to detail is so important for this reason. A proper field journal and well measured plot points, allow the research to continue for some future excavation.

                It saddens me that field school is almost over. It went by so fast. Ultimately, however, all things come to an end. I am happy to say, I have met some wonderful people and have had a great time that I will always remember. Thanks everyone!

Archaeologists…..Jack-of-all-Trades

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Josh Uecker  Field Notebook Entry  6/25/2013

Covered in muddy filth, trowels dulled from digging rock, in the sideways blowing rain was how our group emerged from today’s practicum of setting up test units and archaeological excavation.

At an undisclosed location, our group was lucky enough to be able to set up test excavation units and get our hands dirty excavating a real archaeological site. More each and every day our class learns that becoming an archaeologist also infers that you additionally become a mathematician (finding the “hypotenuse” of a test unit), cartographer (mapping site locations/ALWAYS knowing which way is north) architect (planning/drawing everything), geologist (dark rock or burned charcoal?), botanist (identifying poison oak), spider exterminator (they are everywhere), and European (Metric is easier, its all in 10s).

It’s all of these additional interdisciplinary aspects and sometimes variable conditions which archaeology incorporates to make it a truly unique and encompassing field of study.

A Piece of the Puzzle

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Katherine Dahlberg  Field Notebook Entry 6/24/2013

My group and I have worked diligently over the past week, mapping out the basement of Piece of Mind, located at 123 W. Main Street. Today we took the last measurements, cheerfully thanked the employees for letting us traipse through their store, and looked at one another in silent relief, having finished this rather daunting task (and without any spider bites to boot).

The basement, from what we can tell, is a conglomerate of several additions. The original square basement features doors and windows that would have faced open space, now boarded or bricked up and facing solid walls of filled in space. Moving through the spaces feels as if you are moving up through time, as you walk through an early addition onto the original basement both alike in features and building materials, through a more modern space that has a storefront-like entrance, likely a basement office space, and into the drywall-and-concrete space that Piece of Mind uses for storage. 

Many questions still remain, and indeed we found more questions than answers as we investigated this space. Was there once a ravine that allowed access through what is now a bricked up door? What was this space used for over the years? Why is the east-west width of the rooms so irregular with each new addition? Is there a sub-basement, waiting to be rediscovered under the concrete beneath our feet? What is the significance of March 4th, 1914, and why would someone write this date three times across a plaster wall? We can answer some of these questions through our continued research, with the help of our community and both the university and city archives. Some questions, however, may have to remain a mystery for now, lost in time and simply waiting for the right person to stumble across the answer.

I would like to thank the manager of the Piece of Mind building for allowing us to document his space, and especially thank Piece of Mind’s employees, for being so very gracious as we walked past their beautiful displays every morning and afternoon.

Mystery Buzzer….

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Dane Torgerson  Field Notebook Entry 6/20/2013

Today we were afforded some work time to shore up our measurements in  our basement spaces.  My group is responsible for documenting the underground space at the Riverside Cafe on West Front Street.  After finishing our measurements we had some time to speculate on the interesting features in the basement, mainly the large painted door-to-nowhere on the North wall, and the remains of a door buzzer system located on the right-hand door frame.

We traced the remaining wiring for the buzzer system along the ceiling until we lost track of where it ends up.  This opens up one big question for us about the placement of the door buzzer: If the door-to-nowhere once led outside, then why is there a door buzzer located on the inside of the building?  This is just one of many mysteries in the basement of the Riverside Cafe.

I would like to extend a big thanks to the owners and operators of the Riverside for opening their doors to us and allowing us to work in their basement.

Gone But Not Forgotten

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Liberty Barrows  Field Notebook Entry  6/20/2013

Today our class was lucky enough to get a view of The Wilma Theater from an angle not often seen, the underside. After a short decent and a little bit of a crawl, we emerged into the sub basement area under the building. Very cool! After exploring this space, our wonderful guide Justin told us all about the colorful character Eddy Sharp and his pigeons. He also told us about the Chapel of the Dove and about the old swimming pool the building used to have. All gone but not forgotten! We also were able to see the Wilma’s two story sidewalk vault, again, very cool!

In the afternoon we spent some time with Jeff MacDonald and learned about his preservation work in Virginal City Montana. Never been there? Check it out sometime!  The remainder of the afternoon was spent with John Coffee, owner of the Hammond Arcade building. He was nice enough to show us his sidewalk vault and tantalizing steam tunnel entrance, and to let us pick his brain for a while.

We’d all like to give a big thank you to our guide Justin, the staff of Scotty’s Table, Jeff and Mr. Coffee for all being so accommodating and for offering us their wealth of information!

 

It’s right beneath our feet…

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Mac Taylor  Field Notebook Entry 6/19/2013

Even after all the things we’ve seen and done, I think our tour of Butte might has been my favorite so far. (And I promise it’s not just because I grew up there.) We’ve seen some amazing things in our time looking into the dark corners hidden beneath Missoula, but where the spaces under Missoula were often filled in and abandoned, a lot of the spaces under Butte were just covered up and forgotten about, waiting for someone to stumble upon them.

                We have so many questions about the Missoula underground: Where were these spaces? Who used them and how? And why were they abandoned in so many instances?

                Touring Butte helped us to find some answers and draw some parallels between our own sites and those of Butte. Learning the history of Butte’s Chinese and the Mai Wah helps us to ask the right questions about Missoula’s Chinese population, and the locations and legends surrounding them.  Every new basement we set foot in, every little nook and cranny we shine our lights on uncovers vital insights to our past, but every time we uncover some piece of the past we end up with more questions. It’s amazing to think how close the past is. It’s right beneath our feet.

 

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