Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hi all,

I hope it has been a restful weekend for everyone, especially the hardworking campers and students. To begin today's post let's hear some more from our campers. One writes:

Dedicated campers!
"As first time archaeological campers this was a week of new experiences for many of us. From shoveling thick alluvial soil to gently troweling around sherds of bone, we all got down and dirty (literally!). Our days generally begin with history lessons. Tim, our coordinator, was a wealth of information who obviously loves his work.

Later, in the afternoons, we joined the students on site for lunch and then toured their units to hear about their progress. The campers had three units of our own that were rotated between us. We found areas of ash/charcoal, bones, beads, and some metal. Our time was also spent helping the students with wet-screening and cleaning artifacts."

Another camper, Therese, adds:

Pit tours.
"What we learned at camp was how to look at things differently. When we first opened the pits they didn't look very interesting, but after we learned how to look and what to look for suddenly each unit became fascinating with many stories to tell. It's pretty exciting to be the first person to see these things in 250 years. Archaeology camp was dirty but fun. It will be great to come back next year and see what else shows up."

It is great to hear that I am not alone in the thrill of finding bits and pieces from Fort St. Joesph!

The screening brigade.

Onto an update about one artifact in particular. Some of our wonderful public has come forward with suggestions to deciphering the lead bale seal I wrote about last weekend. The 18th century French word "graine" does not necessarily mean seeds of a plant but could refer to a type of fabric with a bumpy surface or items that could have been referred to as coming in the form of a grain such as beads. Also the word is related to the word "grenette" which could mean "seeds of Avignon" and was a name for buckthorn berries dyers. These berries were used to produce particular colors of dye and, while it may be a bit of a stretch, we do know that vermilion, a bright red/orange pigment, was a trade item desired by Native Americans. Vermilion does not come from buckthorn, but we should not overlook the possibility that this lead seal marks dye products. We still are leaning towards the idea that this was a particular type of fabric given Lille's notoriety as a place of textile manufacture, but archaeologists must entertain all the possibilities!

The shirts look even better in person!
Click for a close-up.
Finally, exciting news! The new Fort St. Joseph t-shirts have arrived and are lookin' good. They are available in sizes S-XXL and come in four colors: glamorous gold, colonial blue, sage green, and charming charcoal (okay, I may be exaggerating with those descriptors, but they are lovely colors!). We will have them for sale at the lecture this Wednesday, French Market on Thursday, and at our upcoming events. Thanks to Alyssa who did  the design for the shirts this year which features the French flag and a pair of voyageurs in a Montreal canoe...perfect for our Fur Trade theme.

Artifacts fresh from the wet screen.
Well, that is about all for this weekend. We are getting down to occupation-level layers in the units which means lots of artifacts, careful mapping, and hope for foundation features. Remember, if you are interested in chatting with any of the students of checking out some of our finds from the excavation we have several opportunities throughout the week. We will have our third lecture of our Summer Speaker Series this Wednesday at 7:30 in the Niles Library, a table with information and some of our artifacts at French Market from 9-2 in downtown Niles on Thursday, and a site tour at 2:00 on Friday. Come to one or all, we look forward to meeting you!

Hope to see you out there,

Photo credits Erica D'Elia, Cathrine Davis, and Kelley Walter

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