Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Westward Ho! Bit by bit...

     This is Amsterdam, New York our next stop after Sturbridge. It is home to...well.....probably only the one way street pictured above which I managed to drive down before being forced to frantically high-speed reverse away from oncoming traffic (Why or how in the world Amsterdam managed to muster an entire street worth of traffic is beyond us). You might ask why we stopped in Amsterdam? Beats us...mostly a result of searching for a meal. Anywhoo...

     Finally we made it to something worthwhile, Niagara Falls (the closest I have ever come to setting foot in Canada)! As we arrived close to midnight, we were simultaneously met by snazzy lights shining from the Canadian side and half the population of Mumbai. Little did I know or even expect that Niagara was such an attraction to Indian tourists. If the abundance of Indian restaurants surrounding downtown Niagara didn't give it away, the unbelievable quantity of Indian street food trucks in the parking lots gave away a slight hint. It was awesome though to snag a cup of Masala Chai to beat the chilly upstate NY breeze! 

Next stop Chicago! 

And Chicago traffic...not something a loaded down
Black Knight (or Wyoming driver) was designed to navigate

    I've had molotov cocktails tossed around me in Athens, been lost in Moroccan shantytowns, and survived more than one Polish Bakery in Flint, Michigan, yet I couldn't help but to expect a street-side shanking or at least a humble subway robbery upon visiting the Windy City. However, I don't think I've been to a cleaner or more enjoyable city! 

     We spent the morning at the Field Museum checking out the (you guessed it) archaeology exhibits. Lunch was at a magnificent German Buffet followed by some serious exploration of the city. Highlights included the super-cool Chicago Tribune building and some free Blues and Indie Rock music in Millennium Park. After this quick visit, it was off to Des Moines. 

Road Trip Day 1-2: Maine to Sturbridge, Mass

After packing all of our stuff up and saying goodbye to Hirundo and the Shelter were finally headed west. Our first stop on our 7-day trip was Sturbridge, Mass.  The ride wasn't long only about 6 hours. 
Of course, on our way south we stopped in the original L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine.

In front of the Giant Boot!
LL Bean was a good opportunity to get outfitted with some rain pants, for our next archaeological excursion. Our upcoming trip into the Absoroka Mountains, WY will be 8 days of camping and hunting for high altitude sites :) !! But first we had to make it out West.

We got to Sturbridge Massachusetts in the early evening, so we just checked into our cute Bed-and-Breakfast rather than going over to Sturbridge that evening. We went to Picadilly's Tavern for dinner, for some good colonial New England fare: Chicken Pot Pie and Blueberry Mojitos (believe it or not, blueberry mojitos are wonderful. They just mash up the blueberries at the bottom of the glass). 

The next morning, we woke up fairly early, loaded the car and went over to Old Sturbridge Village. Old Sturbridge Village is the oldest Living Museum created. It is a wonderful recreated colonial village, "a journey through time to a rural New England town of the 1930s". They have 40 buildings with "history interpreters" dressed in period clothing carrying out the daily activities throughout the village. 

We arrived on "MUSTER DAY" so the village was packed with Militia Men and Fife and Drum bands. 
Unfortunately the weather was pretty dreary and wet. The rain kept most of the other tourist crowds away which was nice.

We got to see the militia drilling and musket and cannon firing.


One of the guides told us that the animals in the village are all "Back bred", which means that the livestock is bred to be smaller and hairier, like the animals of that time would have been. We saw sheep, roosters, cows, and a striped pig (the stripes were painted on)!
Baby Lamb 

 Among the demonstrations we got to see were print making, blacksmithing, shoemaking, tin smithing, saw milling and pottery making.

Outside the Bank
Outside the Glass Shop
I thought I was posing as the lady... Thanks Matt.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hirundo Stone Structures

During the final days of our field session at Hirundo, we were informed by Fred the caretaker of some curious stone piles on the property. Stone piles in the area are not that uncommon considering the past glacial activity throughout central Maine. However, at first glance, Fred's structures were unquestionably man made.

Over the course of the day we recorded and measured 18 stone structures. Many of them have a 2 meter diameter and are half a meter in height. A few of the structures have obvious courses and were finely made.

The question remains though, when were they constructed and for what purpose? Man made stone structures are extremely common in the North East and were made for a variety of purposes. In many cases, they were simply the end result of early Colonial farmers or loggers clearing away cobbles from their work spaces. Other examples include stone walls as property markers and livestock pens. Some prehistoric stone structures have been recorded in the area, but their significance is more ambiguous. Some ethnographic evidence associates them with adolescent coming of age rights, perhaps similar to visionquest structures found in the Rocky Mountains.

If these were prehistoric, we hoped to find some additional evidence such as ground or chipped stone artifacts. We sunk numerous test holes throughout the site and found nothing. Thus, the story behind the structures remains inconclusive and to be solved next time around!

Over the River and Through the Woods

Well, yesterday we launched our aquatic survey campaign. Rather than going by canoe, we upgraded to something so so so much better. We had a motorized-paddle pontoon boat.  We could paddle, or we could run the motor. So we spent the day chugging down the river. 

I can't decide whether riding down the river on our little boat felt more like rednecks floating down the bayou in this:


On some grand adventure floating down the river like Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in "African Queen.

Matt the Captain

Enjoying the wonderful weather
Since the original Hirundo site was discovered by noticing flakes along the shore in the eroding river banks, we hoped to find more of the same. In the end, the survey expedition proved fruitless, but at the least, we had enjoyed a wonderful day on the water.

That evening, we were treated to a gorgeous view from the shelter door. The sunset was pretty unbelievable,  and the spring peepers and our bullfrog friends were going wild. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Canoe Day!

On Friday, Jon, one of Matt's Davidson buddies was driving through the upper-east coast and came up to spend the weekend with us.  Saturday, with my mom and cousin in town as well, we all loaded up into some canoes and went exploring on Pushaw Stream.

Jon was the Captain of our Canoe

 Of course, we took the necessary saftey precautions. But a lack in good adult sized life vests left me sporting a snugger fit. I didn't  mind all that much, since I think the yellow did a lot for me, fashionwise.

A life vest that size can only produce 7 lbs of force, supporting a person of 30-50lbs. In the event of an emergency I could always synchronize swim myself down the river to saftey.

Perhaps Jon wasn't the biggest fan of this plan. Or perhaps, it was the pressures of navigating that caused his distress.  

We paddled from Gate 3 (June's House) a short ways downstream to the Twin's Nest. Twin's Nest, the original site of Hirundo, used to be a small camp that my great-grandparents lived in. A collection of cabins and a great fishing spot  meant that my mom and her cousins had spent most of the summers here. Her uncle, Oliver Larouche, began to buy properties around this plot and with the joint trust of the University of Maine, created the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge.

Boats on the shore of the Twins Nest
 We got back in the canoes with Matt up front and Jon in back, and me with the best job: Lie in the middle and take photographs. I felt like Pocahontas or Cleopatra and sometimes both!
View from my seat
 We noticed that alot of the riverbank is thick marshy scrub in which would be incredibly difficult to search for possible sites. Other parts of the river however, looked promising, with some raised wooded areas above the anual flood line.

Cousin Rebecca (front) and mom (back) pointing out beaver lodge
The Wildlife was plentiful, and we saw a variety of birds and waterfowl. We saw a number of large beaver lodges, however no beaver or muskrat.  As the boys were hard at work, towing me around, I set to work perfecting my photography skills (I had to get a training course from our regular photographer Matt first). 

Ok, so Matt played with the colors on his computer a little bit.

 This photo perfectly captures the day, perfectly relaxing for me in the middle.  I offered to trade with the boys when they got tired, but neither took me up on that.
Our "Action shot"

 After a great morning of canoeing, we headed back to the shelter to set up for our evening talk.