Friday, August 30, 2013

Archaeology How-To Guide

I have established a very thorough, though by no means universal, easy peasy 20 step guide to doing archaeology.  These are based on my experiences in Montana.  They may or may not be only truly useful (?) in areas like Montana.  But that really is neither here nor there, as I think some of these steps are appropriate for wherever you do archaeology. I suspect some of the other steps were only appropriate for that particular day in the field for me, but I'm going to make them sound like they are always appropriate. 

Step 1:   Find land where you think humans once lived.

Now, this is probably by far the most important step, and includes a couple of mini-steps.  Archaeology is the study of human culture through the objects they leave behind.  Now, this can clearly only be accomplished if you actually find stuff.  

Part 1 of Step 1 involves knowing something about the archaeology of your area.  Meaning, did these, say, prehistoric, groups move on a daily basis?  Did they settle down and build permanent structures?  These things are important.  You should probably know about the people you want to study, before you get out there.  Even if it is just what the material culture looks like.  I don't know everything about the Plains Indians, but I quickly learned what types of things we'll find in Montana.  So know the basics.  It'll help.   

Part 2 of Step 1 requires you to stop, look at a map, and find someplace where you think people would have lived.  This is far more difficult than it sounds.  Trust me.  You need to ask yourself, "If I were them, would I live there?"  Some may say this is problematic, because you are thinking about yourself and not them.  But, I can tell you that is works on the Great Plains.  I wouldn't live down in a coulee.  It wouldn't be smart.  And the Plains Tribes were clearly smart as they survived for centuries out here.  So, if the answer to the question is "yes," then, just to make sure, you need to conduct background research.  Try to find out if there are other known sites near your area.  Remember, these sites should be similar to yours; that is, if you know you want to find Plains Indian sites, don't try to find out if there are any Aztec sites in Montana.  While entertaining, it would prove fruitless.  So, conducting background research will let you know the likely-hood of there maybe being something in your area.  If you have chosen a low probability area, I recommend finding a high-probability area instead.  Don't waste the time just yet.

Step 2:  Figure out how you are going to survey the area, because we're surveying and not digging.  Digging gets even more complicated.  Besides, you need to survey first to see if stuff is there before you plan to dig.  Don't get ahead of yourself.  

Take a gander at the land and at the size of the area you want to survey.  You can do this in person on the ground, or by looking at a TOPO map.  TOPO maps are great because you can look at them in the comfort of your air-conditioned office whilst twirling in your wheely chair and sipping a latte.  But you need to figure out if you are going to walk one line through the area, a.k.a. a linear survey; or if you are going to break it up into blocks and survey the blocks by walking a bunch of straight lines, a.k.a. transects.  This is kind of self-explanatory....I hope.  Pick the one that will let you get a look at the entire surface of your survey area.

Step 3:  Pack your field bag.

This is a very super important step.  Depending on the the location, and accessibility, of your survey area, you may or may not be able to quickly run back to the truck and/or office to get what you your pencil.  So, here's what to pack:
water, lunch, pencils (do take more than one, and make sure they're all sharpened), field notes notebook, site forms, feature forms, clipboard, GPS, Trimble/GIS system of your choice, snacks, band-aids, sunblock, bug spray, toilet paper, measuring tape (one that goes up to 8 meters is handy), compass, camera, pin flags (how else will you remember where your datum is, or where you find stuff?), maps (road and topographic), a trowel, shovel, pulaski, duct tape, fire extinguisher....
That should be good.  But, you should bring whatever else you feel would be helpful/needed while walking a lot and looking for stuff. 

Your field gear storage bin needs an awesome side-kick.
This is why you need band-aids.  Those pin flags will get

Step 4:  Head out to the field.

Step 5:  Go back to the office and get the maps so you know where you're going.  Might as well grab whatever else you forgot.

Step 6:  Using your road, TOPO maps, and GPS, head out to your survey area.

Be prepared to get lost, because it happens.  Especially when you go out to places in the West.  You'll find yourself driving down a paved highway looking for a road you know exists because it is on all the maps and even the GPS.  However, you'll be damned if you can find it.  And so, an hour later, when you finally find your long sought-after road, you realize it isn't a road, per se.  What you actually find yourself driving on is a barely-there two-track road that looks suspiciously like two parallel cattle trails.  But hey, you found your road, and hopefully your survey area is off of this road, because if you have to find another barely-there two-track off of your current barely-there two track, you may start to wonder what you're doing with your life.

Cows are about to block our "road," hurry!

Step 7:  We're going to assume you finally found your survey area.  So, Step 7 involves picking where in your site you're going to start.  

Now if you were smart, you picked a starting point, and survey area datum point, before going out to survey.  Although you can just wing it.  I do.  

Step 8:  Now that you have your survey block datum (we're going to assume block surveys since it will be more entertaining), you can start walking transects.

Walking transects is quite fun.  First figure out what kind of spacing you need between transects.  Generally speaking, they are spaced 5-15 meters apart, though this is dependent on ground visibility.  If you are walking in an area with heavy vegetation, you'll want your transects closer together so that you don't miss anything due to the vegetation.  Now, when you are walking through a field that has been grazed by cattle, you can see more of the ground and, therefore, can space yourselves out more.  Just watch out for cow patties.

Now, all you do is walk forward, maybe in a slightly zig zag manner, along a straight line and look for stuff.  Human-made stuff, mind you.  Hopefully you'll know what kind of human-stuff you should be looking is helpful.  You don't need to be an expert, I know I'm not, but you should be able to say "yes!  This is human-made!"  Some things are more difficult than others, so know that if you have to squint at it to make it look like what you expect, then you can safely put it back down and say "nope!"  

I have a few more tips for walking transects:

  • If you are walking transects with other people, your transects should not cross.  That would defeat the point.
  • There is no shame in using your compass to make sure you are still walking in the same cardinal direction.  Even if you have only taken two steps and forget which sagebrush you were supposed to walk towards, and you have to take your compass back out again to double-check, that's okay!  
  • If you have a very large area in your block survey, I highly recommend walking transects to a point where you can see your starting pin flag (I really hope you didn't forget those!).  You see, when you can still see your starting point, you know to walk 5-15 meters to the side of your last pin flag.  When you do this, you have a better chance at not returning to the datum line and asking "Where the hell did that other pin flag go?"  Only to find you have to redo a huge section because you wandered at an angle.  Trust me.  It is better this way.

Lastly, as you walk your transects, use those nifty pin flags to mark every artifact and/or feature you find.  

Good use of pin scales for adorable greater short-horned lizards!!!!  But let's stay focused on surveying shall we?

(note:  Step 8 was a lot to take in...but it really is very simple!!)

Step 9:  So, once your transects are walked and your survey area has been completely...well, surveyed, go back through and play Find-the-Pin-Flags!!

This step is made far easier if you don't use green pin flags in a grassy area.  But hey, if you like a challenge..... 

(note:  Step 9 may be very time consuming)

Step 10:  Record your findings!

Yay!  Look at you being all archaeological and doing science!  Recording stuff is simple, you figure out if it really is what you thought it was when you marked it, if you decide you had been seeing things, repeat Step 9 now, otherwise read on....

When you have decided the thing is really a thing, take a walk around the thing to see if you see other things that you may not have noticed whilst walking the transect.  It happens, don't worry!  Then you need to record the thing, to include taking measurements (on whatever axes make sense to know the size), drawing a sketch of it, getting it's location in the world (either Lat/Long or UTM coordinates will do just fine), describing the thing's relationship to other things around it (this includes human-made things, plant life, soil stuff, anything in the immediate vicinity), taking a photograph of it with a scale that preferably points north, describing it in insane detail (like if it appears to be where it was originally left or if it looks like some cow kicked it around)....and anything else you find to be important to note.  (It is at this point that I hope you remembered all your field gear).  Got it?  Just ramble in your notes.  It helps to not over-think it and just let the writing flow.  Don't impede yourself.  Set your writing muse free, as you will be thanking said muse when you go to do your write-up.

Tape measures are good for measuring, providing scales in photos, and pointing north.  

Once you are done, repeat Step 9 until you are reasonably sure you've found all your pin flags.  This may take awhile.  But you'll get it!

(another note.......we're going to pretend you only had one survey block to accomplish and that you found stuff.  Go you!)

Step 11:  Find your way out of your survey area along all those barely-there two-tracks again.

Step 12:  Get lost....again.

Step 13:  Find the road you need, and eventually how to get there.  

Found it!  Found the road!  How the heck do we get there?!

Step 14:  Finally find your road and head back to your office/lab.

Step 15:  Go home for the night and have an age-appropriate drink....or relax.

Step 16:  Analysis time!!!!

So, here you are, all proud of yourself!  Look at you!  You found your survey area, surveyed it, recorded stuff, and found your way back.  Now it is time for you to figure out what everything you recorded really means.  First, decode your notes from the field.  Once completed, organize and name all of the things you found in the field.  Once you give them these names, for the love of all your sanity, keep them at the one name.  

Fill out site forms as completely as possible.  Draw sketches of your sites, and don't worry about your drawing abilities.  Think like Picasso, be are Picasso!  Also, label your photos now, preferably with the official name of whatever it is the photo is of.

I AM Picasso!!!!!!!!!!

Plan views are awesome.  The let you draw something to scale so your circular tipi ring
still looks like a circle and not a square.
Step 17:  Report writing.  (note the lack of exclamation marks)

Writing the report is akin to writing a big o' term paper in college....well, graduate school.  Almost like a thesis.  The final report is what will either make or break all your work in the field.  You will be successful or you'll fail miserably and wonder what you're doing with your life.  I kid.  Sort of.

So, the report is going to be a regurgitation of everything you did for the survey, to include your background research (you need to justify why you chose that area, never mind the fact that you found stuff), a description of the survey area, site descriptions (to include a detailed description of all the things you found), and conclusions (gosh darnit, say in a confident manner what it is you found and what their function was! Be proud of your sites with unknown functions!  It is okay.).  There's more to it, but that is the core of the report.  You need to include your site forms, photographs, site sketch maps, plan views of the features you found, GIS maps (oh, yeah, you need to make those at some point during the analysis.....), a nice table to clearly and neatly organize your new sites, and of course, an awesome report title this:

An antelope on the cover of an archaeological report.
Makes perfect sense.
Step 18:  We're just going to combine numerous steps into this one:  revise, find new mistakes, revise, find more mistakes that you swear weren't there the last time, curl up in a ball and cry for an hour, revise again, cry some more, give up and submit the report.

Step 19:  Sleep for a week and have nightmares about revisions.

Step 20:  Forget about the stress you went through writing that report, return to Step 1.

Welcome to archaeology!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

48 miles in 2 days

Commander Liam is ready to navigate

Ricci:  "I'm putting together a canoeing and camping trip on the Missouri River, you want to go?"  

Me:  "Sure!"

Uh-huh.  That's pretty much how it started.  Two days of canoeing and two nights of camping?  Sounds like an adventure for the city girl that I am.  So there I was, agreeing to be more primitive-outdoorsy than I have ever been in my life...without really thinking it through.  Which, in the end, was probably a good thing as if I had really thought about it, I might have said no.

Up until that fateful weekend, the most adventurous I had ever been in the great wilds was going to cabins in the California deserts or a house in the country of Virginia.  Now, I'm not really counting the Army days in this, since I didn't have to plan for any of it; they supplied everything and I just went with it.  Granted there were several nights of sleeping in a small pup tent in a borrowed sleeping know, I remember those being very good nights because I actually got a decent amount of sleep!

Anywhos.....ignoring my Army days, my "camping" involved cabins with running water, indoor restrooms with showers, beds, and sometimes we got crazy and had TV.  So, not really roughing it in any way, shape, or form.  As far as my boat experience goes, there was that one day on the lake with my brother and that 7 day cruise in Hawaii (great In-Laws are simply amazing).  Neither required me to work.  Hell, on this trip I had to get a sleeping bag and I borrowed a tent from Ricci.  I didn't even have a hindsight, it is a really, really, really, really good thing that I didn't think it through!  

hehehehe.....we did not set them up this way on purpose

We went out on Friday afternoon and camped at our starting point.  That night I discovered just what one can cook over a small camp fire thrown together in an hour:

Nom nom nom....veggies and bacon
WE HAVE FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!  Take that nature!

So, yeah.  Ms. Ricci is pretty amazing.  She cooked actual food and put this whole trip together.  When we went grocery shopping earlier that day, I imagined we'd be buying hot dogs and lunchables.  So as soon as she started listing off all these fresh vegetables I just kind of stared at her, slightly dumbfounded.  Who knew?!  

So the next morning we got up.....bright and early? Bright, yes.  Early, no. It was something like 830 am, and I may have been up and moving, but I was not shining.  

I'm up but I refuse to shine until there is coffee.....
Liam and Bella were ready to go!

So, after coffee, which was Via and surprisingly good, we packed all our gear into the canoes and headed out.  Maybe 5 miles later we stopped.  Mainly because the dogs were in different canoes and they were whining non-stop.  Loudly.  The sound echoed off of the breaks.  So, we stopped here:

Most definitely not going to complain about that view!

I think that first stretch was about 5 miles in just over an hour.  Slow, huh?  Well, the river itself only flows at about 2-3 miles an hour, which didn't sound so bad......until we were 20 miles into our trip, and were exhausted because the river literally seemed to stop moving for about the final 6 miles before we got to camp.  I have decided that I shall now inform people when they are moving too slow that the Missouri River moves faster than them.  Nevermind that whole "slower than molasses"  Slower than the Missouri River.  

Somehow we managed to power through 28 miles on that first day.  What now, Slowest River in the World?!  "Exhausted physically" pretty much summed up what I felt like.  My arms hurt, my upper back hurt, and my ass hurt.  There is NOTHING comfortable about sitting on an aluminum seat, even when you try to pad it with your life-jacket.  

Kellie my canoeing partner!  
Now, let me just tell you about our campsites.  The first campsite was a BLM managed camp for the Missouri River Breaks Monument.  The Monument includes the BLM public land running down the river.  Side note, all BLM is public, you simply have to find out how to get there (if it is surrounded by public or state lands) and you generally cannot drive on it unless there are roads (or it is designated as an off road area).  As for the "breaks" part, just take a gander at some of the pictures throughout this post and you'll see what looks suspiciously like mountains.  The tops of these "mountains" are actually part of the prairie.  The BLM's Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument website (holy crap that was a mouthful), explains it like this, "The land and the rugged, surrounding uplands (commonly call the Missouri Breaks)..."  "Uplands," huh?  These uplands are essentially the cliffs running along the river.  Like, way back in the day, a much larger river flowed through this area and cut down into the land.  A lot of these hillsides are basically cliffs.  

I completely got away from describing our campsites.  The first one totally had access to well water and toilets!  It was pretty fancy.  But the second campsite was considered more "primitive."  What I found out that means is that we had fire-rings for campfires and "compost toilets," which I should've taken a picture of because it was pretty freaking hilarious.  It was a box, with a toilet seat on top of it, and an "enclosure" that was only three walls.  3 walls.  No roof.  If you are walking toward the river you can see right on in there.  But, if you are walking away from the river, you can totally see the person's face...peering up and over the "wall."  Unfortunately for us and the hilarious stories that could have ensued, the toilet was closed for composting.  So, it was "find a bush" type of camping.

No toilet.  No water.  The only available water source was at the first campsite.  "What about the river?!" you may ask.  And I shall answer with:  

1)  We were told to NOT drink the river water, even with a filtration system and iodine tablets.

2) While I was thinking that maybe they were being a bit dramatic with #1, I saw for myself why you NEVER drink that water:  Cows.  Hundreds of cows standing in the river.  Pooping.  'Nuff said.

Now, Ricci is a very super duper outdoorsy person.  This woman can camp and do all sorts of outdoorsy stuff without batting an eye.  So, she was also all sorts of prepared and had a 5 gallon jug of water, in addition to us all having bottles of water.  But, it was so freaking hot that first day that we had to be careful with our water consumption, as we only had about 4 gallons left for 4 people and 2 dogs for our second day.  Surrounded by water, can't drink it.    That is called torture, Mother Nature.  Thanks for that.

I will now cease and desist my whining....but only because of this:

View from camp on our second night
We didn't line them up by size this night.  We had to pick the places were there was a lack of cow poo.  That's my (borrowed from Ricci) tent to the left.  :)
I may have lied to you as I have one more complaint.  Ants, who had evidently been living in our canoe, made their home in my sleeping pad.  Big fat angry red ants.  We see them on the prairie all the time and they are very quick to attack and bite, and they made their home in my sleeping pad.  We had to scrape the pad against a tree to get the ants and their larvae off of my stuff.  Then when I went to sleep, I found four more freaking ants in my sleeping bag.  

Okay, now I'm done whining.  Our second night was pretty uber exciting as there was an all-night thunderstorm.  And take one more gander at that picture of our camp the second night....we're under trees.  Sadly, it was too late to move when the storm hit, so we dealt with it.  Luckily no lightening hit the trees, nor did any branches fall on us.  The next morning dawned bright and clear, and we headed out early.  The thing was though, we were all done (read: so over) with canoeing.  But we had 20 miles to go, so we went....we didn't have any other choice.  You see, even if we had really wanted to quit, we were miles from anything except prairie and cows.  

There is NOTHING out here for as far as the eye can see.  Even with my glasses on.

Luckily, this part of the trip was on a Missouri River that actually wanted to move.  We even had a couple of "rapids," if you can call them that.  The canoes bumped a little.  Regardless, we were still over it.  This happened a lot and for considerable periods of time:

And here we have Ricci, demonstrating the appropriate way to canoe when one is fed up with the river.
Even Liam was tired.  (P.S.  Isn't his life-jacket adorable!?!?!?!  I love him!)
You've no idea how happy I really was just floating and not rowing  (and I am clearly sitting backward in the front of the was far more comfortable for my butt)
So, we floated a ways and finally realized we had maybe 2 miles left, so the rowing recommenced.  I had this strange idea that when we got to the take-out point we would stop and take pictures or relax for a moment, or something.  But no.  We saw the bridge (read:  civilization and air conditioning and water and food) and rowed like the river monsters were chasing us.  We got there, pulled the canoes out of the water, unloaded our gear, put it in the truck, and were driving back to Havre within 15 minutes.  No joke.  We did not stop to gander at anything.  It was unload the canoes and head out.  We were tired, our arms hurt, our backs hurt, our asses hurt, even our hands hurt, it was hot, we were all sun-burned, we were freaking done.  It was so nice to sit in the truck with padded seats and AC.  

Even Liam was worn out:

Sleepy puppy!  Bella was still going strong,
can see her hunting cars behind Liam.

In hindsight, and after sleeping in a cozy bed, I realized that it was a lot of fun!  We rowed 48 miles in a day and a half.  And since only Ricci had ever been canoeing before, it is safe to assume that we were awesome.  Be inspired.  

We even saw a few interesting things....besides cows pooping in the river.  First, there was the Seven Sisters rock formation in the White Cliffs area:

Gosh, it is a pretty picture, but you can't see the Sisters all that well....they are near the center.
What you CAN see is the lack of river movement.
Now, I had gotten over the views pretty quickly on the first day.  Staring at rock formations and mountains is only fun and interesting for a short period of time.  Then I saw this!!!!!!!!

Historic archaeology stuff!!  And a non-moving river!

That would be an abandoned farmhouse.  I didn't get up close to it, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was a homestead house.  I was surprised, though, by the random power lines, which made me think that the house was newer.   Then I realized that while I was distracted by the old house, there was a large, currently occupied farm/ranch on the other side of the river.  So that was where the power lines went. 

In short, if you are ever near Big Sandy, Montana, you should get camping gear and canoe down the Missouri River.  I recommend doing the 48 miles in 3 days rather than 2, and spend some time hiking through the BLM lands.  Oh, and take a crap ton of water!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Putting yourself in someone else's tipi ring

Doesn't look like much, but it is definitely prime real estate on the prairie.

When I was a kid I always hated going to museums with my dad.  I liked looking at all the stuff on display, but I was so impatient that I'd glance and run off.  Meanwhile, my dad would stop to read every single word for every single object (museums love visitors like my dad).  We went to a lot of museums.  And I mean a lot.  We made one or two or three cross-country road trips to Kansas (a state that will forever remain special to me) or Missouri, and along the way, my dad would find the smallest and most out of the way museums to stop at.  I remember all of them being museums all about the Old West:  cowboys, outlaws, and stuff like that.  I guess I liked them.

And then there was the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, California (it totally brought me to tears when I heard it was closed...actually, I may cry again).  We went there more than once.  Know what my dad did?  Looked at every object and read all their descriptions.  Know what I did?  Ran through the museum to the end where Buttercup, Trigger, and Trigger Jr. were stuffed and on display.  Holy crap, I loved those horses!  I still do.  They are still, by far, my very favorite museum "objects."  I remember how I would stand there and imagine myself riding them across rolling hills (hahaha!  It was the priarie I have come to love!).  They let me do what I now realize is the best part about studying the past.

I believe it is (left-right) Trigger Jr., Buttermilk, and Trigger.  And I completely forgot about Bullet, the dog.  
I won't lie...I don't remember anything else about that museum except for the horses.  And to this day, the Palomino is one of my very favorite horses.  Doesn't that picture make you happy?  Those horses, and Bullet, were the companions of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  They were (I assume, what with the stuffing and displaying) loved and cherished friends.  I also assume, based on how people loved Roy Rogers' movies, that many other people once felt a connection with these iconic horses.  So, they were not only cherished by their owners, but by other people as well.  That makes them more than just museum objects.

Just as Trigger, Buttermilk, Trigger Jr., and Bullet were more than just objects in a museum, the artifacts or sites I come across in archaeology are more than just things.  They were once someone's home, or plate, or cup, or meal, or someone's lookout point, or fasting/ritual place, or any number of things.  Oftentimes, I forget that a tipi ring is more than just a ring of stones on the ground.  A tipi ring was once a home.


Randomly, it'll hit me that I am standing in the tipi ring.  In what was once a person's home.  And that realization makes me want to ask permission to enter, and then giggle uncontrollably at the idea of asking someone hundreds, if not thousands, of years dead for permission to stand in their home.  And what a fantastic home it must have been.  Something big, but not too big, because skins were used to form the walls, a small hearth in the center, random lithics from someone needing a stone tool, and located about 1/4 mile from a river up on a hilltop so you can see your enemies coming.

Someone once had this view outside of their home.

I took this picture from the inside of a tipi ring (not the ring pictured above, but another one in the area), and surprisingly you can't actually see any of the modern farm houses surrounding the area, so it looks remarkably undeveloped.  When I realized that I was standing in a home, I realized that this view is probably very similar to what the inhabitants of the tipi saw, with only hundreds, if not thousands of years, separating us.  

I'm afraid that sometimes we archaeologists forget about the people.  We focus so much on the things that we forget that archaeology is about people.  Just look at the three primary arguments surrounding repatriation:

1)  We can't give anything back because we'll lose all that valuable data.

2)  Give stuff back because it was part of their culture.

3)  Maybe give it back, but only after we've studied it and taken photos and measurements.

I, personally, am part of numbers 2 and 3.  I like the idea of studying other cultures, but only if that culture doesn't have any objections.  I certainly don't want to dig up any graves, or tombs.  And most definitely do not want to dig up graves and put those bodies on display or study them like they weren't once a living, breathing human.  A grave was dug, and the person laid to rest by those who knew and/or loved them.  Now, if someone agrees to give their body to science/museum, then by all means, put them on display.  I wouldn't mind my skeleton on display in a museum, so long as my hand is up in the air, with a sign reading "High five, yo!" for all visitors to see!

Now, as for the "science is more important than anything" argument...just fall off your pedestal face first, and go suck a toe.  My charming, and completely adult, response to them would be, "If I rummaged through your house and took your shit, and put it on display, how would you feel?"  Or, "Why don't I crack open your grandparent's or parent's graves, study their remains as if they weren't living things, and then put them on display or in storage at some museum?  How you like them apples?!"  Most definitely not my most professional or eloquent statements, but I feel as if they would get the point across.     

I guess my point is that all archaeologists, while remaining objective in their research, should also stop and think about the people they are studying, even if just for a moment.  Stop and look at whatever is being studied and think about how the original people would have viewed the object.  A tipi ring wasn't a tipi ring, it was a home.  A burial isn't just a burial, it was a person's resting place.  A fasting alcove isn't a pile of rocks, it was a sacred ceremonial place.  

Nothing is ever just a thing, it was valued in some way, and therefore deserves more than just objective measurements and analysis.  In Montana there are so many abandoned homesteads, and these kind of make me sad.  Having been here for 3.5 months, I have learned that in the early 1900s, many people took everything they had and headed west.  Once here, they built homes and started ranching or farming.  And of all those who came out here, it is estimated that at least half of them lost everything trying to homestead.  They were not successful, and had to sell or abandon their homes.  And so, whenever I see a homestead that has been abandoned I get all sorts of happy about seeing them, only to quickly wonder how the home became empty.  And then I get a little sad.  This is where I think archaeology becomes more than just a science; it becomes a way to see how past people's saw the world.  Archaeologists just need to remember the "people" part.

Old homestead building, with a modern-ish metal building next to it.
Old stove inside the homestead.

This is more than just a farm tool, it was how someone made a living.