Saturday, July 30, 2011

All in a week's work...

Hi everyone,

To start off I suggest everyone take a look at this article in the Niles Daily Star. Thanks to Kate of the Star for coming out to the site last week to see what we are up to!

It certainly has been a busy week down at the site, but there are some excellent finds to show for it! This week was also the first week of Archaeology Campers, and we could not be more appreciative of the extra hands on site and hope the first group enjoyed the opportunity to work like a real archaeologist--digging, screening, paperwork, and all. Some of these campers decided to share their experience for the blog, so I will be posting one or two of these every so often so you all can hear about what is it like to join the staff and students in the pits. The following are the thoughts of one of these brave souls:

Some of our hard-working campers!
"We have learned much about the world of archaeology--from the lectures on the lives of those living in historic times to the eureka of discovery, granted it might be a bead, rock, or a not-so-old bottle...all are discoveries nonetheless.

We have also experienced the hard work of digging holes, sliding and sinking in mud, and washing artifacts in a dark basement. Still, what actually started out as a "bucket list" activity has turned into something I intend to do again."

I say the more future archaeologists the better! As for some of the great finds this week one of them may be the first feature of the year. A large stone, far too large to have been brought in by the river, has been uncovered in one of the units. At this time we are thinking that this may mark part of a foundation, and are eager to get back into the trenches to continue the investigation!

Other exciting finds include purple and white shell beads called wampum (please click the photo to the left for a close-up). Wampum were strung and woven together into belts by Native Americans to commemorate sacred and historic events like alliances and treaties. These belts were sometimes also used as currency, especially after the arrival of Europeans who began to produce the belts in greater quantities. This is such an exciting find because wampum is made from quahog or whelk shells that are only found along the northeast coast--these beads traveled quite a distance to get here, and likely mark some serious trade activities!

This is what it is "awl" about!
This week also marks the discovery of our first awl for this year. Awls made out of bone or antler were used by Native Americans to punch holes in hides in order to stitch them together. When Europeans entered the area they brought with them metal awls that could be used in trade negotiations. Awls are pointed tools that are much heavier than typical sewing needles, making them ideal for working with thick materials like leather. This type of tool has been around for thousands and thousands of years and has been made from many different materials including antler, bone, stone, and metal. Today many awl kits come with a wooden handle into which interchangable awl tips can be inserted.

Glass inset.
Two other eye-catching finds include a cufflink with green glass inset and a clear glass inset that also could have been part of a cufflink or some item of personal adornment. While these may be some of the most alluring finds, they are no more important than the bone and nails that we pull out of the dirt. For archaeologists every single type of artifact has the potential to tell a story. Nails can direct us towards the location of buildings, bones can tell us about what people were eating, and cufflinks can tell us about adornment styles. Each is a clue to understanding the past, and should not be overlooked.

I will check back in tomorrow with an update on our lead bale seal, tales from campers, and more (I have to leave some surprises!). Thank you to everyone who came out to the Wednesday lecture and our Friday 2:00 tour. Also, a big thanks to those following along with our blog--we really appreciate your support!


Photo credits Cathrine Davis

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