CLIFTON - Scientists at Michigan Technological University have picked up where they left off one year after the foundation and a wooden staircase of an old mine was uncovered following an excavation at the Cliff Mine in Phoenix.
Last year, the crew in Tech's industrial archaeology program, led by associate professor of social sciences Timothy Scarlett, excavated the Cliff Mine site where they uncovered and studied the foundation of part of the mill. What they found was a well-preserved staircase and wooden foundation which dipped down the side of a hill. Scarlett said the group was interested in excavating a nearby location and made plans to tackle the project this year. So they covered what had already been discovered to preserve the wooden architecture and got to work in a different location.
"We started this project in 2010," he said. "There are a couple of different tasks going on at the same time."
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Scientists in Michigan Technological University’s industrial archaeology program excavate at the Cliff Mine site in Phoenix in June 2011. This year, the group is doing research and hosting public tours near the site.
The group is tackling the nearby area of the mill excavated last year at the mine, which is one of the earliest mines in the Lake Superior copper district.
"We're excavating in areas joining (the mine) directly," he said. "You can see smaller excavations joining either side."
The ideal outcome would be to answer some of the questions the scientists had last year of the general area. Different excavations will take place at the 1850-96 mill site, as well as the 20th century mill in the same general vicinity.
"The work that we're doing is split in different areas and we're working much more intensively mapping," he said. "As a consequence of that, we aren't focusing as much energy in the mill as last year. There will still be things to see but not such a huge hole in the ground."
The crew is also working in Clifton to refine mapping of what the area would have been like before and what is in existence now. Their work includes shovel-test surveys of Clifton, which is located in the wooded area across the street from the Cliff Mine site.
"We've been mapping in Clifton very intensively," Scarlett said.
Anna Lee Sweitz, a Ph.D. student in the industrial heritage and archaeology program at Tech, is one of the students and educators working at the mine site. Sweitz is working in Clifton, which was once a small town where people who worked in the mines lived. It has since been covered, shrouded in a thick forest of trees and plants, keeping the secret of the people who may have lived there years ago.
"We are doing work at dwellings and houses," she said. "We are uncovering evidence of past life there."
So far, the group has found evidence of their food and toiletries and are getting an idea of what their yards would have been like. While focusing on the spaces around the houses, the group is looking at how people would have used their living space.
"We'll be able to walk people around and show them some of the different remains and compare them to maps to get an idea about daily life in Clifton," Scarlett said.
The group is in its fourth week of research and will wrap up the project later in June. They will be giving guided tours this spring and after they complete work, they will hold a series of public presentations in open houses and for the Keweenaw County Historical Society and anyone else interested.
Tour dates are on Saturdays and Sundays, June 16 and 17, June 23 and 24 and June 30 and July 1. Tours begin at the top of each hour and last an hour or more. Participants should prepare for a rough hike and bring along water, a hat, bug repellent and clothes they don't mind getting muddy.
To track the group's progress and keep up with the project, visit cliffmine.wordpress.com.