Monday, November 16, 2015

MHAC 2015

The Mill City Museum could not have been a more apropos setting for this year’s Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference (MHAC) which was held on October 10-11, 2015. The conference was first held in 2005, envisioned by the senior editor of Le Journal, and has been hosted annually throughout the Midwest region ever since. With approximately 50 people in attendance, this year’s meeting was a resounding success for all those who attended.
Many of the themes for this year’s presiding; war and conflict, industry, immigration, and exploitation, were visible both in the museum’s content, and in the keynote address presented Friday night by Dr. Paul Shackle. His focus centered on the excavations and community involved with the site of the Lattimer Massacre. The Lattimer coal mine near Hazleton Pennsylvania was the site of a peaceful protest that turned tragic when 19 strikers were shot by the local sheriff and his posse.

Photo credit: Jeremy Nienow
Saturday Morning began with two rounds of “Ignite” style presentations (see appendix E for a full list of presentations and authors); each speaker was provided five minutes to discuss his or her topic. The themes for these talks expanded upon what was started by Paul Shackle the night before. Warfare and conflict was the topic of the first set of presentations, the focus being primarily on Fort Snelling and the Dakota Conflict. Industry, immigration, and exploitation were the concentrations for the second round of talks. After the presentations, a period of time was allocated so that attendees could tour the museum and surrounding area. After lunch the conference resumed with a session entitled “Knowledge CafĂ©s” which coincided with specific time set for poster displays. This portion divided those attending into groups of approximately six per table, and the speakers from the morning sessions sat one to a table. After a brief period of time, the speakers rotated which facilitated further conversation about the topics presented; the commitment to intimate discussion is a hallmark of this conference. The conference concluded with a few words from Dr. Michael Nassaney hailing the success of this conference and calling for volunteers to host next year’s gathering. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Archaeology Day 2015

Rebecca and Stephan at Archaeology Day
            On October 10th, a group of WMU students representing the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project headed out to Lansing for the 2015 Michigan Archaeology Day. We set up two display tables where we shared with the public some of our new finds from the 2015 field season. The public asked questions concerning French and Native American artifacts as well as the activities of the FSJAP and some general questions about archaeology itself. We also had on display a video made with a GoPro camera by field school student Austin George during the field season. Austin’s GoPro video gives a first person view of the activities performed by both field school students as well as participants in the annual camp program. It gives great insight into how public archaeology is done at Fort St. Joseph. Austin’s will present this video at the 2016 Society for Historical Archaeology conference in January.
            The event featured many speakers throughout the day. One of these speakers was Terry Martin from the Illinois State Museum. Terry has worked with FSJ students in the past, teaching them how to identify different animal bones found during the field season. Terry spoke about archaeological recovery of animal bones. During his presentation he highlighted many finds from Fort St. Joseph. Another presentation was the Ongoing Quest for the Wreck of the Griffon was presented by Dr. Dean Anderson, Michigan’s state archaeologist. His work showed many different false claims that were once thought to be factual claims of the Griffon wreck. Through the use of modern science such as dendrochronololgy, it was shown that these old claims were not the wreck of the Griffon.

Erika Loveland at Archaeology Day
          Overall, Michigan Archaeology Day was a great experience and opportunity to speak directly to the public about new finds and exciting updates on our activities. I had a chance to walk around the event and see the different archaeological projects going on in Michigan. I think it is important for us to continue sharing with the public that archaeology does go on, and it happens right in some of our backyards. It makes me proud to be a part of a project that is so strongly focused on working and integrating the public into their own history through archaeology. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Closing Time

This field season’s Open House theme was “Seeking Shelter from the Storm.”  This is in keeping with the season’s archaeological focus of architecture at Fort St. Joseph, and on Saturday was a very fitting title for the festivities.  Attendees crowded under white tents to hear opening remarks from Robert Myers and hoped the rain would soon subside. The community of Niles again showed its resilience to the elements, however, as people came out to enjoy many sights, activities, and presentations from the Open House participants. The rain from the previous night was enough to raise the river and prevent entrance onto the archaeological site yet again but attendees enjoyed many other events and had a great time.
Our new interpretive panels were a highlight of the Open House
(photo by John Cardinal)
The weather on Sunday was much more appealing to most as the sun shone and birds chirped. The sun brought out around 550 visitors to the site.  These visitors enjoyed learning about a native style structure built on-site by the Pokagon band of Potawatomi from Amelia Harp, tours of Father Allouez’s cross and the commemorative Fort Saint Joseph Boulder as well as the Lyne site (a nearby archaeological site associated with the fort), and demonstrations from a number of historical interpreters including timber frame construction, blacksmithing, textile spinning, cooking, and quill writing. Sarett Nature Center also provided rides in a Voyageur canoe, offering participants a look at what being a voyageur during the Fur Trade would be like, about a dozen passengers at a time!
A french timber framing demonstration
(photo by John Cardinal)
Other activities were provided for children such as a mock dig that taught kids how archaeologists excavate and sift for artifacts.  Appetites were satisfied throughout the weekend thanks to Boy Scout Troop 579 from here in Niles, MI.  Noel Bash and her company of talented dancers demonstrated a wide array of 18th century style dancing and on many occasions got the public on their feet to join in and dance along. We could not be happier with the turn out of the Open House and can’t wait to see everyone out in the summer of 2016!
Speaking on behalf of the archaeological team, we are extremely grateful to everyone who participated in and attended this year’s Open House.  I was a field school student in 2013 and am still amazed to witness the excitement and openness of the Niles community at the Open House and throughout the season.  Although we are sad that this exceptionally challenging field season is almost at a close, we are truly grateful for the words of encouragement and offers of assistance from supporters of the project.
Tomorrow the archaeology crew will be packing up and leaving Niles.  For the project veterans, this always comes with a pang of sadness as we think of Niles as a second home.  I’m certain the students will be saddened as well.  Niles has been a key instrument in their growing not only as experienced archaeologists, but as members of a community. We’d like to thank everyone who made this field season one for the books and a wonderful learning experience for all of us.


We'll see you at the 2016 Open House!
(photo by John Cardinal)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Media Day

Hey everyone this is Carmell again,
                Today was media day at the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological site and unfortunately we were met with a little rain. Because of the rain and the Fort St. Joseph site still being slightly flooded we had to improvise a little bit with our preparation, placing our artifact cases and panels underneath our tents. There were a number of people at the media day opening including the City of Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin who had a chance to express his appreciation for the work we were doing in Niles. Also at the opening was Dr. Timothy Greene, the Provost at Western Michigan University and Robert Myers the Co-chair of the 2015 Open House Committee, along with some other members of the Niles community and media. Dr. Nassaney welcomed all who were there with a description of the theme we had for the 2015 dig season “Seeking Shelter from the Storm” which focused on architecture at Fort St. Joseph. The goal of this year’s field season was finding architectural artifacts of the eighteenth century to help give a clearer picture of how French colonial buildings were being constructed.
Traditional ribbon cutting at Fort St. Joseph!
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                Also addressed at the media opening were volunteers that have helped us to make the project possible. Every year at the media opening, a Volunteer of the Year award is given out to an individual or group of individuals. This year the award has gone to the Drolet Family who have been integral parts on this project even before there was any archaeological work done in the area. Donna, the matriarch of the family, was unable to attend but her daughter Margrit Hansen was able to accept the award on her mother and family’s behalf. Many volunteers have given their time, energy, and some even have helped us out with monetary donations. Some individuals like Neil Hassinger and his wife Cathy have spent a lot of their time making lunches for the archaeological field crew and maintaining a system of pumps to pump out the ground water from our site.
Margrit Hansen receives the Volunteer of the Year award
on behalf of the Drolet family.
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                 The Daughters of the American Revolution and Kiawanis Club have also been very kind to help us out in providing meals to us. There are many other volunteers who have helped us greatly, providing services to help us store our artifacts, provide us a warm shower, and to even provide us a place to stay while we are here in Niles. Finishing up our media open house, Austin George, another student from Western Michigan University, gave a brief speech summarizing what we have learned while here in Niles at the Fort St. Joseph site. Austin also mentioned that we have grown into a family while living with each other for the six weeks that we have been in Niles. He mentioned that we have had to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to make things work and to overcome challenges.
                We continue to get more excited as we draw nearer to the open house to Fort St. Joseph which is coming up in less than 48 hours now. Today was a small glimpse of what Saturday and Sunday will look like for us. We expect Saturday to be a really exciting day. We have a number of historical interpreters that will be coming to the site to give people a visual idea of how people lived and what life was like during the French colonial era at Fort St. Joseph. The reenactors will even be putting up small tents and structures similar to what would be used during the French colonial times and one of our volunteer interpreters will be making colonial food. We also were fortunate enough to have members from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi begin construction on a wigwam on site. There will be many things to look forward to during our open house. It will be very gratifying for us students to finally be able to share to the public what we have been working on for this past 7 weeks. We can’t wait until Saturday and Sunday to see the work we’ve done come together. It’s our hope to see you there too.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 Archaeology Open House Itinerary

Saturday, June 27 - Scheduled Events – Main Stage
10:30am—Welcome to the 2015 Open House
James Schwaderer: Public Outreach Coordinator
10:45am—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
11:15am—Blacksmithing: Jim McConnell
12:00pm—Timber Framing: Larry Horrigan
12:30pm—Jesuits of New France: Craig McGirr
1:00pm—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
1:30pm—Update on the 2015 Archaeology Program:
Dr. Michael Nassaney
2:00pm—Wigwam Construction: Pokagon Volunteer
2:30pm—18thCentury Food: Janine Frizzo-Horrigan
3:00pm—18thCentury Music and Dance: Noel Bash

Sunday, June 28 - Scheduled Events – Main Stage
10:30am—Welcome to the 2015 Open House
Dr. Michael Nassaney
10:45am—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
11:15am—Blacksmithing: Jim McConnell
12:00pm—Timber Framing: Larry Horrigan
12:30pm—Jesuits of New France: Craig McGirr
1:00pm—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
1:30pm—Update on the 2015 Archaeology Program:
Dr. Michael Nassaney
2:00pm—Wigwam Construction: Pokagon Volunteer
2:30pm—18thCentury Food: Janine Frizzo-Horrigan
3:00pm—18thCentury Music and Dance: Noel Bash

Ongoing Events: Saturday and Sunday
Archaeological Dig
Wet Screens
Artifact Displays
Children’s Activities
Living History Reenactors
Sales and Information Tent
Wigwam Reconstruction

Historical Interpreters
Coordinator: Robert and Candace Myers
Dance and Music: Noel Bash
Stefan Sekula: military tents — 84th Regiment
Craig McGirr: Jesuit missions
Larry Horrigan: timber frame construction
Jim McConnell: blacksmithing
Luann McConnell: spinning
Janine Frizzo-Horrigan: cooking and canoe tent
Robert and Candace Myers: Quill-writing
Pokagon Band Potawatomi Volunteer: Wigwam
Boat Launch
Rides in a Voyageur Canoe
Provided by Sarett Nature Center
10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3:30pm
$3 per Person

Provided by Boy Scout Troop 579 from Niles, MI 

Oh So, You Found an O-So?

                Hi folks, Genevieve here again. As you may have heard, due to the level of the river, we have moved our operations back to the Lyne site on the terrace near the boulder. Although we very much enjoy working on the floodplain, this is an exciting time for the field school. Each field season the students start excavations at the Lyne site in order to help us gain knowledge about artifacts, learn the technique by working in smaller units, and learn how to find information from the artifacts we find. The length spent excavating on the terrace every year is about a week, which isn’t long but gives everyone enough time to do at least one unit. Luckily this year we are able to spend more time on the terrace which gives us an opportunity to investigate, since 18th century life at the Lyne site is still somewhat of a mystery to us. What we do know is that it was a place for Native Americans since we have found an abundance of Native American pottery, stone tool fragments, and small pits used for smoking hides. It is an amazing thing that we are able to get in almost three times the amount of work on the terrace this year so that we can learn more about it and to see how we have grown as archaeologists.
Message from a bottle
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                As we learn more about the Lyne site, we are always finding modern artifacts. One thing that always stumps people is how old something has to be in order to be an artifact. The thing is that an object doesn’t have to be very old at all. Everything that we find at any given site and at any given depth can tell us something about the people that lived or visited a particular place and for what reason. Shortly after starting excavations at our new units on the terrace, about 5 cm below datum, my partner and I encountered a glass bottle that was completely intact from what we could see of it sticking out of our eastern wall. The curious thing was that it still had a decently legible label on it. After troweling around it and brushing off the glass bottle, we were able to read the letters “O-So” printed on a red and white label. Pretty much everyone was confused by the brand and hadn’t heard of it, except for one. A camper from that week, named Curtis, recognized it right away as an “O-So Good Beverages” bottle that was made fairly local and was a soda pop distributing company that stopped production around the 1960s. Sure enough, we were able to look it up and find out that he was right. We had ourselves a modern artifact.
1960's era O-So bottle
                According to, the “O-So” Company was originally famous for their 8 oz bottles of “O-So Grape” flavor and was established in 1946 out of Chicago, IL. The company expanded throughout the 40s and added a whole line of soda flavors to their brand, creating the slogan “O-So Good” and “O-So Delicious”. This specific bottle was most likely from the 1960s, because of its shape and style. As Dr. Nassaney always says, if it looks like a good camping place now, people probably thought the same thing many years before. This bottle could have come from someone camping in the woods around the 1960s, it could have come from people fishing in the river off the side of the bank, or it could have been tossed here by someone along their way. Regardless of how it got there, this bottle can tell us information about the person who deposited it there. It can tell us the time period, location, popularity of the brand, and many other things. Even though we are specifically looking for 18th century artifacts, we are still fascinated by everything we find along the way. Artifacts are artifacts not for their monetary value or age but because of the knowledge they can bring archaeologists.


A Testimony From A Camper

Hi everyone,
                My name is Emily Fletcher, and I’m an eighteen-year-old college student currently participating in a summer camp at Fort St. Joseph. As you may or may not know, multiple camps are held each summer at Fort St. Joseph. These cater to different groups of people (this year it was life long learners, high school students, and middle school students) and aim to teach them about archaeology and the history of Fort St. Joseph.
                 I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist for almost as long as I can remember—originally, I wanted to be a paleontologist. My fascination with digging up history started when my dad found a fossil in the gravel under a playground he had just assembled for me. He showed it to me, and, from then on, I spent the majority of my childhood digging for and collecting fossils, and virtually ignored the newly-built playground above my head (Sorry, Dad).
                At some point, I learned the word “archaeology,” and I was hooked. I quickly developed a love for history, and tried to convince my friends to become archaeologists with me. So, when my mom told me about the Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Summer Camp in 2009, I was ecstatic. I would finally be able to live my dream, and dig some awesome old stuff out of the ground.
                Archaeology was a lot different than I expected it to be. I was surprised that archaeologists don’t just pull artifacts out of the ground and send them straight to museums. There’s a lot of paperwork involved! Many artifacts are mapped, so that their exact location within the site is known, even when the artifact is removed. Even the digging is much different from the digging I expected—archaeologists mostly use precise trowels, brushes and other tools to dig around artifacts, and they do it fairly slowly.
                During camp, I received hands-on experience with many aspects of archaeology—especially troweling, mapping, paperwork, wet screening, and even sorting, cleaning, and identifying artifacts. We also spent plenty of time in the classroom, where we learned all about Fort St. Joseph and its history. I enjoyed the camp so much that I re-enrolled the next year—and dragged my younger brother with me. He must have enjoyed it too, because, when we returned home, we spent the rest of the summer excavating our own unit in our backyard.
Hard at work!
                Understandably, I couldn’t wait to return to Fort St. Joseph this summer. In fact, I walked past some wet dirt earlier in the year and the familiar smell had me smiling uncontrollably for a few minutes. This year, I’ve learned even more about Fort St. Joseph and archaeology, and found even more amazing artifacts. Although I still haven’t found anything as interesting as the Jesuit ring a camper found in 2009, I’ve found lead shot, part of a brass kettle, and too many bones and beads to count. I’ve seen campers and students alike unearth many even more amazing artifacts.
                Not only have the summer camps at Fort St. Joseph informed me and given me invaluable experience, they’ve also been extremely fun, and have repeatedly proven to me that I want to (and, more importantly, can) become an archaeologist. My experiences here led me to other archaeology experiences, to a history major in college, and, eventually, back to Fort St. Joseph. In fact, I hope to enroll in the field school next summer. There, I expect to encounter even more of the valuable learning experiences, amazing artifacts, unbelievable quantities of dirt, and copious amounts of fun which I experienced each year at summer camp.