Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ma Petit Guimbarde

A modern mouth harp with reed intact
(Photo Credit: Tommy)
         Hey everyone, this is Tommy with a write-up on a quirky little instrument called a mouth harp. Mouth harps, commonly referred to as ‘Jew’s harps’ are small U shaped pieces of brass or iron that have a thin reed, or piece of metal that runs down the length of the instrument. The specimen we recovered from our unit, North 21 West 4, was completely surrounded by rust. Once we had knocked away most of the loose rust we were left with an iron mouth harp measuring 4 cm at its widest and 5 cm at its longest.The mouth harp from our unit is a dead ringer for one of the mouth harps mentioned in Charles Hulse’s thesis. Charles Hulse cataloged the local museum’s collection of artifacts found near the believed site of Fort St Joseph. The mouth harp we found and the one in Hulse’s thesis are both made of iron and measure 4 cm by 5 cm.
The specimen we recovered shortly after
we cleaned it off in lab
(Photo Credit: Tommy)
Our mouth harp next to a 1 to 1 scale
photo of the mouth harp mentioned in
Hulse's Thesis
 (Photo Credit: Tommy)
        Lyle Stone suggests that iron mouth harps were in use at Fort Michilimackinac between 1760 and 1780. Lyle Stone was the first staff archaeologist at Fort Michilimackinac; he wrote his dissertation, Fort Michilimackinac: An Archaeological Perspective on the Revolutionary Frontier, on his findings from the fort. Using this information, we can estimate that the mouth harp recovered from Fort St. Joseph is from a similar time period. An astounding number of mouth harps have been recovered from Fort Michilimackinac when compared to other sites in Michigan. At the time of Hulse’s thesis in 1977, 122 mouth harps had been recovered from Michilimackinac, while only 14 have been found at all other comparative sites in the state. 11 of the 14 mouth harps found at other comparative sites were recovered from Fort St. Joseph. I own a more modern working mouth harp and have included a short video demonstrating what it sounds like. Thanks for reading! 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

101 Activities Around a Hearth

Hello, everyone, it’s Drew again! We have found some interesting artifacts in our unit lately! As a refresher, our unit is one cubic meter and located directly south of a house hearth. We know this because the hearth was excavated in 2011 to reveal the large, purposely placed stones and reddened oxidized soil in the ground.

A lot of activities would take place around the fire for the French. Aside from the fact that these houses were the only real shelter away from the elements, there has always been something about the fire that brings people together.

We have found a number of artifacts, which all seem to tell their own story, and together, can tell us even more! Here’s what we have found:
  • A brass tack, which was often used by the French to decorate furniture, but could also decorate a small chest or gunstock. Our particular tack has twelve small dots around a larger convex dot on the top.
  • Glass beads, which were a common import from Italy. Particularly popular were the seed beads, smaller simple beads, which were usually used by the French to trade for furs with the natives nearby. We have found at least one hundred of these beads in our unit alone!
  • Rosary beads, which were common among the French, often used among the Jesuits to count prayers. Often they are made of ivory and made by Europeans. We found two so far in our unit which appear like they might be made of bone, which has not been often found on the site!
  • An iron eye, which is used most often to connect to unjoined pieces of fabric. That could include collars or seams. Eyes are a single piece of iron bent into two eyes. These could easily come loose or break in several activities.
All of these are particularly telling of possible activities that took place around this fireplace. Furniture could have been tarnished and have tacks fallen off, the beads could easily be lost if a knot loosened or too much force was put on the adorned area. Rosary beads are attached on a necklace that could easily be broken as well. For the mission, rosary beads would have had consistent use. For the iron eye, it could be lost as easily as any of the above.
Three iron fragments found in close proximity to our unit. (Photo by author)

Another set of artifacts that we found around the hearth tell of a much simpler story, but a good one nonetheless. Pictured above is a set of iron fragments that we recovered from the occupation zone of our unit. Because of the zone, we can be almost certain that these fragments are in situ, where they were back in the eighteenth century. Near these fragments in elevation were some shards of various glassware, one sherd of creamware, and many calcined and non-calcined bones.

This is dinner. Look at the picture to the below: we have a knife. Particularly a case knife, a straight blade back with a tapered point. A knife like this was useful for carving meat. Based on what we found in the past five centimeters, numerous glassware was broken (though the glass pieces are too small to tell us exactly what) and a plate of some kind cracked but possibly reused since we did not find any other pieces. Of course, the bone tells us that there was plenty of meat to be passed around. Because of the bone size, we can’t say for certain without a faunal expert, but I’m thinking deer! Calcined bone (bone that has been burned) tells us that—as we would imagine—the meat was cooked through.
The three fragments clearly make a knife. (Photo by author)
The French colonists enjoyed the adoption of the native diet, including the animals of which they ate. Especially popular was deer, and we can see the change of diet around the hearth.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Public Outreach at FSJ

Hello all, Liz here! Last summer, I was a student in the field school and through that became very passionate about the archaeology that we do. I took on an independent study under Dr. Nassaney in both the fall and spring semesters and this field season, I am returning as one of the public outreach coordinators. I’m so happy to be back in Niles working with the project for a second year!
While the students are busy working on the floodplain, Genna, who is the other public outreach coordinator, and myself are busy trying to promote our summer events. As mentioned in an earlier blog from DJ, we just kicked off our summer lecture series! Don’t worry if you missed this past week’s lecture because we still have three more amazing speakers coming to the Niles District Library on Wednesday nights at 7pm in the coming weeks. This Wednesday we will have Allison Hoock, a M.A. graduate from WMU, present on Native American and Euro-American Settlements of the St. Joseph River Valley. On August 3rd, Terrance Martin, Curator Emeritus of the Illinois State Museum will be here and to conclude our series on August 10th, Kenneth Sassaman of the University of Florida will review his work of the St. Johns River of Northeast Florida. These lectures are always very informative and there is a question and answer opportunity following the talk. 

Hanging flyers around Main Street! (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
Of course, what we’re all most excited about is our annual Open House on Saturday, August 6th and Sunday, August 7th from 10-4. This year, we will have a variety of activities for the public to be a part of! At the open house, you will experience live period demonstrations at our Living History Village. You will be able to visit our outdoor museum and view recent artifacts from this field season and even some past seasons. The most exciting event taking place at our open house is watching history come to life right in front of you.  You will be able to witness on site excavations and wet screening demonstrations. This is a family friendly event, so feel free to bring your kids to participate in our children’s activities. Our students have been working really hard to make this open house a great experience for all attendees, so come see all their hard work!

Giving a tour to the YMCA Summer My Way campers! (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
I think one of the most exciting parts of my job is getting to engage with so many members from the Niles community. Our first week here, I gave a tour to the YMCA Summer My Way campers of the site and talked to them about the importance of the St. Joseph River from the time of the fort's occupation until today. Genna and I have been attending French Market every Thursday and have loved spreading the word to some of you about our project and our events. We have been so lucky to have been hosted by great people and organizations for community meals, where students get to share stories and memories of the fort with others from around the area. It’s things like this that make us feel so at home during our stay here. I know I love what I’m doing and the students love what they’re doing because you all love what we’re doing. Without the continuous support from community members, none of this would be possible. We can’t thank the community of Niles enough and we hope to see you at the rest of our summer events!
Hanging out at French Market! (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Resurrecting the Art of Canoe Building

Hello all! It’s DJ again. On Wednesday, July 20, our 2016 field school team attended a lecture by Kevin Finney at the Niles Public Library, titled “Dugout and Bark Canoes.” Kevin gave a comprehensive look at the various canoes that were used by native peoples and early European settlers. He has personally built, using the technology and methods of their respective time, each of the canoes he describes. He divided each category of canoe by era, material, and function and in doing so, revealed the ingenuity of those who first invented them.
Kevin Finney with a Full House!
 (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
The first type of canoe he shed light on was the dugout canoe, spoken by the Potawatomi as mtego jiman.  Although they can be fashioned from many trees, the tulip poplar and white pine trees are most commonly used because they are large and easily carved due to their soft wood. Their name is somewhat misleading since the canoes were not made by digging out the wood to shape a canoe. While Kevin was researching the proper way to create a dugout canoe, he discovered watercolor photos that displayed native peoples using fire to burn out the center of the cut log that would become their canoe, all while floating in the water on the log itself. After testing this method himself, he found out that the canoe he had created matched many of the physical observations he had made on actual canoes constructed during that time period, such as undulating surfaces and being about 1 ½ inches in thickness. After describing how well the canoe worked he began discussing the other type of canoe.
Bark canoes are aptly named after the material they are made of. They are much lighter than the dugout canoes and primarily used to traverse rivers since they can be portaged easily. Two of the main barks used were birch and elm, each with their own beneficial properties. Elm was heavier and sturdier of the two but made portaging the boat more difficult. Birch was lightweight and easily portaged but was more fragile as a result.
He ended the lecture by covering the work he does with children through the Jijak foundation. Each of the canoes he makes is done with the help of students from the area. He also organizes events to keep the heritage of the Gun Lake Band of the Potawatomi Indians intact. 
This was just one of many lectures that will be held in part with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project at the Niles District Library each Wednesday at 7 p.m. until August 10. I really enjoyed the friendly and energetic atmosphere the Niles locals brought with them to the lecture. I’d highly recommend coming down to anyone who enjoys an interesting listen and good conversation.
Our set up for Third Thursday
(Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
The following day, Thursday, July 21, I spent some time downtown in front of Daysha Fritz’s “Olfactory Hue Bistro” for Third Thursday, a small monthly festival, talking about Fort St. Joseph with people passing by. I had an amazing time with the community members whose genuine interest in the fort and what we were doing furthered my conviction that Niles, MI is a special place. If you are a seeker of hidden wonders, look no further. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Secrets Beneath the Tarp

Hello again,
Paul here.  I am excited to tell you about how our excavation is going.  Our one meter by one meter unit was chosen for its proximity to a previously excavated unit from 2011 which contained a feature we would like to learn more about.   The feature in question is a fire hearth typical of the times and has been designated Feature 20.  This hearth appears in the ground as large stones in a “U” shaped pattern, however more excavation was needed to determine the exact dimensions. 
We opened our own unit and were fairly quickly able to excavate down to 40 centimeters.  We had found many interesting artifacts along the way, but nothing indicating a continuation of the feature.  At this point, after consultation with Dr. Nassaney and Erika, we decided to re-open half of the 2011 excavation which actually contains what is probably the largest portion of the hearth.   I say half the excavation because the 2011 unit was originally one meter by two meterst.  We were assigned the one meter by one meter section directly to the North of the one we were already working in.  After setting in the stakes and line, we carefully removed as much fill as we could with shovels, before switching to trowels and a whisk broom.  We found the plastic that was in place to protect the feature from contamination, and slowly traced out the edges we needed.  Once it was clear of all the old fill dirt and sand, we carefully peeled it back and looked at Feature 20.   What a sight!   
A look at Feature 20! (Photo Credit: By Author)
There was no mistaking the red fire oxidized earth and the huge stones set in their purposeful pattern.  I could just picture a French trader, maybe his wife sitting by the fire and working on something or just soaking in the heat.  After we took a quick picture, and made a mental note of what we were looking for in our own unit, the hearth was carefully covered back up.  Only a few of the students and staff were given the privilege of looking at it first hand before it was recovered.  Some of them will see it for the first time here on the blog just like you!  We are now excavating our unit down to 50 centimeters, and I am hopeful we will find more of the feature soon.  Eventually the hearth will be uncovered and hopefully our own unit will shed a little more light on life at Fort St. Joseph.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Exploring the Sand Bar

Erika and I setting up the Theodolite
 (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)

Hey everyone, I'm Austin George. Gary and I were students in the field school last year. This year, however, Gary is the Field Assistant and I am currently serving as the Lab Supervisor. This morning, I'm here to tell you about an interesting opportunity that we recently took advantage of. That is to say, when we arrived at the site yesterday, we discovered that the St. Joseph River was at an all-time low, or at least low enough for us to investigate an interesting magnetic anomaly that appeared on a geophysical survey conducted over the frozen river a few years ago by the Department of Geosciences at WMU.   
In order to conduct this investigation before the river reclaimed the sandbar, we canoed out onto the sand bar and marked the anomaly's exact location (87 North 37 West) using our electronic surveying equipment (the theodolite). We had Erika, the Teaching Assistant for the field school this year, stand on dry land with the actual theodolite while we took the prism, a pole for the theodolite to pick up on in order to identify the location on the invisible grid of the site, out onto the sandbar. This way she could be at a point on the grid that we have shot from before in order to pick up on our precise location.
While getting out of the canoe, we realized that this sand bar wasn’t really a sand bar because the mud went up past our ankles and we sank into it a little ways. After marking the spot with the prism, Gary and I then, systematically, probed around in the mud with five-foot metal rods until we hit something deep in the ground. We went several meters from our original point in hopes of getting a couple hits. While Gary continued to stick to the system, I decided to start going in bigger circles to try and find something, because we weren't getting any hits. Finally, after almost an hour of probing around, Gary called me over and showed me that he had a couple of strong hits. However, due to the artifact's depth and the muddy conditions, we were unable to determine what was beneath the surface. We concluded that there might be something there, but it was definitely deeper than we could go with either of our rods. Soon after we left the sand bar the river rose back up and reclaimed the area that we had just been probing on.

Gary and I on the sand bar (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
Interestingly, there is a rumor in Niles that a cannon sunk in the river many years ago. They say that kids used to jump off of the cannon into the river, but for now those are just oral stories passed down to us through the locals of Niles. Wouldn't it be nifty if the magnetic anomaly we investigated on the sand bar was actually the legendary cannon? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Religious Find at FSJ!

Hello, this is Maureen posting on the blog again!  I’ve been having a fabulous time this summer and I cannot wait to tell you about what we have found (and found out) so far during our excavations.
In 1686, Jesuit missionaries led by Father Allouez were granted tracts of land along the St. Joseph River to establish a mission.   This mission was also named after St. Joseph, the patron saint of New France.   Followed by a trading post and garrison in 1691, the mission’s influence grew.    Often the Indigenous American wives and mixed children of the French fur traders were baptized by missionaries at Fort St. Joseph and learned to practice Catholicism.  The French often displayed their religious devotion through the wearing of ornate crucifixes and other types of religious adornments.
  Over several seasons of digging on the site we have found many such items, but we were surprised to find such an artifact on only our second day working in the floodplain this summer.    While troweling in our 1x1 meter excavation unit, my partner, DJ, and I suddenly uncovered an interesting piece of metal; when it was turned over we noticed clear, glass jewels embedded in the front of the piece and it was then we realized that we had definitely found something unique.   Initially we were puzzled by this artifact and hypothesized that perhaps it was a fragment of some type of jewelry.  When it was shown to Dr. Nassaney, judging from the shape, he suggested it could possibly be the top part of a crucifix. 
Upon closer examination and also looking among the artifact photos used by Charles Hulse in his 1977 thesis, we have concluded that it is highly likely this item is a crucifix part and Dr. Nassaney was right.  Even though the artifact in Hulse’s work, which was most similar to ours, had green glass, the other characteristics are very comparable.   He describes the central stone being “square cut and faceted” while being “surrounded by round, faceted stones.”    Even when this artifact was placed adjacent to the picture in Hulse’s work, one can easily see it is a close match.

Crucifix with Glass Insets (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
In conclusion, finding this artifacts is relevant to our excavation not only to the collection of physical material, but through continuing our search to know the peoples who lived and worked at Fort St. Joseph and their beliefs.  Stay tuned to read about what else we will find out this summer from the artifacts!