Thursday, August 4, 2011

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...

Getting artifacts ready!
It was a dark and stormy night… Well, Tuesday night it was. Hi. I’m Rachel Juen, one of this year’s field school students and a Public History graduate student at Western Michigan University. Last Tuesday I was driving back to Niles from WMU where fellow field school student Erica Stone and I, with the assistance of Ian Kerr, had been taking a break from field work to design and put together an exhibit for this year’s Fort St. Joseph Open House. We’ve put together several cases of fur trade related artifacts from Fort. St. Joseph. In addition, I’ve spent the past three months working on a poster panel exhibit about the fur trade in New France that I hope you will enjoy. Come see the fruits of our labors at the Open House next weekend, August 13th and 14th.

Possible foundation and fireplace!
Although I’m excited about our work on the exhibit, it felt good to be back in the field the next morning after three days away working in the lab. In addition to feeling the dirt between our fingers and toes and seeing our colleagues and friends again, we had some pretty cool finds. In our unit, Xiaomeng, Alex and I found a chisel and several hand-wrought nails which we believe may be associated with a metal cache found in an adjacent unit from last year. This cache may have been a storage heap for metal scraps that the fort blacksmith could have used. We are hoping that in the coming days we will be able to discover the extent of the cache, and uncover more about it.

Pottery and charcoal feature.

In the next unit over Lance, Erika, and Mary Ellen found some cut glass insets which may have once been part of a finger ring or a sleeve button. Even more exciting, their unit contains a feature which appears to have been a fireplace or hearth and shows signs of being part of a foundational wall for a building. Another really cool find—several broken shards of Native pottery— has rarely been found on the site previously. These shards, found by Tim Bober and our middle school campers, may be evidence that Native pottery continued to be used by Native women even after they married French men, pointing to the blending of cultural practices in the multi-ethnic community that was Fort St. Joseph. It always amazes me what we can learn from what we find and I hope you can come experience that wonder with us at the upcoming Open House!

Yours in Archaeology,
~Rachel Juen

Photo credits Cathrine Davis

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