To know where to start her digs, Rose looks at old maps that show the locations of the camps where miners lived and worked. Sometimes she uses planes equipped with high-tech tools that can detect evidence of the camps from above.
Some artifacts are right at the surface. Others are buried underground. Over time, rainwater and wind move sediments like silt, sand, and rock from place to place. After many years, objects can get covered by several feet of soil.
The amount of moisture in the soil affects how well the objects are preserved. Materials such as wood or leather break down in wet soil. But if the soil is dry, the artifacts will likely be better preserved.
Before Rose starts digging, she tapes off her excavation area. She uses shovels and brushes to carefully remove the dirt and dig up the objects.
Last summer, Rose and her team found hundreds of items at a mining site in Oregon. They collected glass bottles, pieces of ceramic cups, and chicken bones. Those objects may sound like trash. But they show what the miners ate and drank after a backbreaking day of work. “We put together big stories using small, humble artifacts,” Rose says.