2004 Field School in Industrial Archaeology West Point Foundry
Michigan Technological University
Posting June 11, 2004 by Scott See

The volunteers range in age and experience, e.g. Marie, a New Yorker, has participated in 9 archaeological projects in the past and Tim, a recent high school graduate from Indiana, is here volunteering for his first Earthwatch project as a graduation present from his aunt, Jane, who is also participating for the week. To learn more about the Earthwatch program visit www.earthwatch.org

Besides digging in the dirt, the field school also consists of two nights a week of lecture and/or lab work. This past week we began the lab work portion with washing and processing artifacts. The process of washing artifacts is very basic, with minimal materials needed. To wash the iron artifacts a dry toothbrush is used to remove as much debris and dirt as possible. Prior to the lecture on washing artifacts I thought a solvent would be used to assist with the cleaning process, but this is incorrect; a solvent may due more harm than good. The artifacts are already in a fragile condition due to their age, while washing special care is taken to not damage them further. Glass, pottery, buttons, porcelain, etc ... we use water along with a toothbrush to remove the debris. After the washing process, the artifacts are left out to dry and then rebagged, labeled, and placed in a bankers box to be transported back to Michigan Tech for further examination.

Stacey (MTU) & Jane (Earthwatch) profile a unit at the Blowing Engine.

So what's going on underground?? With assistance from the Earthwatch volunteers, a lot of dirt has been moving over the past week.

At the Blowing Engine, Erin Timms has four units open and being excavated at the present time. Unit 9B is now at an incredible depth of 2 meters. (The unit is no longer being excavated at this time due to safety reasons.) What we have found on the east wall is a large rock structure, believed to be a wall that is within 5 centimeters in height of the structure in unit 9AS to the south of it. This is believed to be the same wall extending through both units. On Thursday morning another section of this structure was uncovered in a unit northeast of 9B. With future examination the team will be able to determine if this new section of structure lines up with the existing wall structure exposed. Numerous other artifacts have been being uncovered during the past week; including two courses of bricks adjacent to the stone structure, lots of amorphous iron pieces, a porcelain button, washers, bolts, and a file.

Jarod (MTU), Tim (MTU) & Tamasine (Earthwatch) clean artifacts at the foundry

What is been going on at the Boring Mill for the past week? Rachael Herzberg has been very excited about the structures and artifacts being uncovered at her research area as well. Once again with all the extra bodies she has been able to move lots of dirt. This past week two new units have been opened to the south of the three existing units. In these units some very interesting structures and artifacts have been uncovered including: machine pads constructed of courses of brick, iron rings from a wooden barrel, floor boards, iron shavings, brass shavings, various pieces of amorphous iron, bolts, nuts, and a piece of a gear. The team believes the metal and brass shavings may be where the lathe pit was in the past. The team also hypothesizes they have located where an inside boiler may have sat due to the large amount of clinker they found; typically large deposits of clinker are directly related to the location of the boiler.

My time at the Foundry is quickly coming to an end, I am leaving next week. My experiences at the foundry will not be forgotten. Looking back over the past five weeks, it's been a fantastic field experience working with Professors Pat Martin and Tim Scarlett and their assistant, Elizabeth Norris. The West Point Foundry is a wonderful educational and social opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Stacey Pilling

Maria & Tim (both from Earthwatch) continue to excavate at the Boring Mill

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Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 49931
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