Monday, November 12, 2012

A Trip to Niles

Leah, Tabitha, and I were sitting in the lab, doing our usual work, when Alex informed us that he needed a couple of us to do a presentation.
 I look at Leah and Tabitha, then back to Alex and ask “what is it for?”
“Support the Fort would like to know what happened this season. It’s next Tuesday.”
Thinking it over, I agree to do this presentation with Leah.  Now just have to figure out the most amazing PowerPoint I could create.
The waves were giant!
Tuesday fast approached and Hurricane Sandy has been pounding the east coast. Due to the size of Sandy, Lake Michigan was having massive waves! A must see! Leah and I left a couple hours early to stop by the beach at Lake Michigan in St. Joseph.
Lines of cars backed up the beach’s shore, everyone trying to get a glance at the large waves crashing against the beach. Leah is trying to maneuver the car into a prime spot to get pictures on my camera. The high winds were screaming past my window, while I’m hoping to God that I don’t drop my phone out the window! After capturing a couple pictures, Leah follows the long line to make our way to the Niles Senior Center.
At the Niles Senior Center, my PowerPoint was set up, except we had a missing cord! The cord that would attach the projector to my computer was nowhere to be found. Fifteen minutes and multiple cookies [thanks Mary Ellen!] later, Support the Fort members gathered around my computer screen and the presentation commences. Leah and I discussed:
  • The field season: our focus on finding the size of the houses, the special artifacts we found, more about the Lyne site, uncovering past excavated fireplaces
  • The open house: the re-enactors, having 1800 visitors, having exposed the pits to show the public
  • What we personally learned: being an archaeologist, working with different people, importance of public outreach
  • Lab: Pastperfect, inventory, labeling artifacts, fine sort, our visit to Michigan Archaeology Day
  • Our personal experience

Heading home, bags of cookies in hand, Leah and I discuss how great of an experience it was presenting to a great group of people; people who do so much for us. Public outreach is a great thing and full of a variety of rewards (including cookies sometimes).
    -Cassie Mohney

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Weekend With New France

The food was excellent!

Each year, the Center for French Colonial Studies holds an annual meeting to encourage scholarship, foster learning, and hear presentations on topic related to the French in the New World.  Dr. Nassaney and I attended this year's conference on September 28 and 29 in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana, sponsored by the Mathers Museum of World Culture & the Glenn A. Black Laboratory and Indiana University.
            The weekend began on Friday with a workshop in the Great Lakes Ethnohistory Archives in the Glenn A. Black Laboratory. Participants had the opportunity to examine the incredible collection of primary and secondary resources assembled on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice for the Indian Claims Commission. Intended to provide evidence for cases of Indian land claims and treaty infringements, this unique assemblage of indexed documents and microfilm is invaluable for researchers who wish to learn more about any of the sixteen Native tribes referenced there, as well as those who want to learn more about the people with whom the French would have interacted during the fur trade.
            In the evening, the Laboratory, with our host Dr. Timothy Baumann, graciously provided a delicious spread of appetizers as well as a fascinating exhibit on the French military post of Ouiatenon and the artifacts that were excavated there. Many of the artifacts found there were similar to those found at Fort St. Joseph, including lead shot, ceramics, and straight pins, but there were other unique items as well: combs, a repurposed gun barrel transformed into a hide scraper, and a bison bone that was used as a paint brush, following Native tradition.  Dr. Terry Martin, our bone specialist from Illinois is especially excited about this last – no other brushes have been found this far East! Perhaps next year we will find one at Fort St. Joseph.
            Saturday was the day of presentations. Dr. Baumann gave a general introduction on culture and the creolization that took place in the New World among the French, Natives, and Africans. He and Dr. Christina Snyder introduced speakers and moderated the interesting discussions that arose after presentations. Members listened attentively to speaker after speaker for a greater understanding of the French in the New World.  The presentations were all excellent, with topics ranging from the French language and its linguistic descendants in Francophone Louisiana from Dr. Kevin Rottet, to interpretations of material culture and its relation to identity in New France from Dr. Sophie White, to an examination of the ethnohistoric materials on the Sioux as documented by the French from Dr. Raymond J. DeMallie, Jr. 
            Topics of considerable interests to followers of Fort St. Joseph were Dr. Kathleen Ehrhardt's discussion on metal consumption and trade to Indians (so much metal has been found at Fort St. Joseph, including the possible cache of the blacksmith) and Dr. Diana DiPaolo Loren's work on “The Archaeology of Colonial Sounds.” (What might have been heard at the fort on an everyday basis? The splash of oars, the music of glass seed beads and tinkling cones, the rustling of garments, and the loud calls of trade.) Dr. Terry Martin also spoke about how we might interpret the animal remains found at archaeological sites of French forts, including Fort St. Joseph. These animals were used for their pelts in trade, for their bones as various tools, and for meat, but also for fats and oils – which may have been used to make food a bit tastier.
            After the presentations, a brief business meeting was held with a presentation on the venue for next year's meeting: Austin, Texas. This conference will be especially meaningful as it is being held at the opening of the exhibit there on Sieur de la Salle's lost ship: La Belle. The exhibit looks visually striking with an amazing selection of the estimated one million artifacts found on the ship, including 800 axe heads, thousands of glass beads, three bronze cannons, and perhaps 1,500 Jesuit rings. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to attend!
            In the evening, a magnificent repast of food and entertainment was laid out for conference-goers.  Before we were dismissed for dinner, however, we fĂȘted the retiring president Ruth A. Bryant for her many accomplishments as president of the Center. Under her leadership, new technologies have been used to connect members through the website and print publications for members on a simpler and more cost-effective basis. Dr. Karen Marrero, the new president, presented gifts on behalf of the Center: fragrant soaps, imported from France from the same manufacturer who made soap for Napoleon.

            Dinner was next, and was nearly indescribable in its excellence. Dr. Baumann had provided a list of ingredients available at the time to the chefs of Indiana University, and they poured all their creative energies into a meal of succulent venison, roasted root vegetables, braised duck in polenta, and for dessert, blueberry cobbler.  The only thing that could top dinner was the entertainment that followed, and no one could be disappointed by Dennis Stroughmatt and his French Creole music. Along with Rob Krumm and a sound system that could not keep up with the awesomeness, Dennis demonstrated various folk tunes that he had learned  in areas of French heritage in the Midwest and Louisiana, and which he had performed all over the country and beyond, including at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this past year.  The lively French music, which inspired both vocal participation and dancing, was a fantastic way to end an amazing conference.
       -Sarah Oren

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Michigan Archaeology Day

Tony the "fur trading" Tiger
On Saturday October 6th, Fort St. Joseph joined Archaeology Day at the Historical Center in Lansing. Archaeology Day is a event where archaeological projects around Michigan came together to show the public their recent work and give updates on their archaeological projects. This year FSJ was represented by Leah Rice, Cassie Mohney, Skylar Bauer, our "mascot" Tony, and myself. Each group was stationed in the museum according to their topic, Fort St. Joseph was in the exhibit for French fur trade. 
This year we had about 500 people come to visit Archaeology Day, which also included presentations and demonstrations by various presenters. This year the public enjoyed talking to us about this past year's excavation and different artifacts that we found. They especially enjoyed the Women of New France publication. I found Archaeology Day to be a lot of fun and cannot wait to see what next year has to bring.- Michelle Letang
Tony, Leah, Cassie, and Michelle

Monday, September 10, 2012

Floating Samples: A Good Way To Start A Monday

Greetings folks!
Jordan and Leah floating soil samples.
       Today we floated soil samples that were collected during the 2012 field season. Flotation is just one of many methods used by archaeologists to collect more information about a site. We start by filling our Flote-Tech Flotation Machine with water. The flotation machine has a system of pvc pipes that connect to a small pump. The pvc jets gently push water up towards the surface, separating the light from the heavy fractions, as well as assisting in clearing out the soil. The light fraction consists of seeds, charcoal, and other lighter material. This light fraction floats to the surface and over to a separate screen area. The heavy fraction consists of seed beads, lead shot, bone, and a variety of other heavy materials. The heavy fraction remains at the bottom of a separate screen. Once the soil sample has been completely sorted by the flotation machine, they are set out to dry, and will be bagged and sorted into more detailed categories in the future. This process helps us, especially, to recover seeds that may be too small to find while excavating. We'll let you know later what we recover from them! 
      Today also marks the first day that our independent study students started their work in the lab! Students participated in both the flotation as well as entering data into past perfect (our database system). We have a tremendous crew this year, consisting of Leah Rice, Michelle Letang, Cassie Mohney, and Tabitha Hubbard. Each of our new lab crew members participated as students in the past field season, so you may have already met them! If not, they will be introducing themselves and updating you on their work in the future. Thanks for stopping by! We'll update you again soon!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Stay Tuned Folks! More Updates From The Lab Coming Soon!

This is me, supervising in the field....we'll go with that.
      We hope that you enjoyed this past field season as much as we did. We're back at Western Michigan University once again after a very successful two months of field work. Now it's time to start analyzing the data we collected and see what we can learn! There are soil samples to run through the flotation machine and sort, artifacts to inventory and evaluate, data to enter into our software system (Past Perfect), publications to put together, and, of course, start planning the next field season! A handful of students (and some old and new faces) will be working in the lab under the supervision of Dr. Nassaney and myself. We will continue to update you throughout the year on special events, lab goals and achievements, new discoveries, and other announcements and publications. Thank you again for your constant support and vested interest in the preservation of the past. We'll update you on a regular basis, so make sure you bookmark our site and visit again soon!

                 Alex Brand

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baby Bye Bye Bye

Hanging out before the Open House

            This past weekend the Fort St. Joseph crew held our annual Open House, an opportunity for people from the community and anyone else who’s interested in the fort to come out and learn all about the dig. There were also re-enactors, men and women who not only dressed up in period garb but also slept in tents in Riverfront Park, fired cannons, and prepared period food. It was an action-packed weekend full of plenty to do, and 1800 people came out over the two-day period to enjoy the activities and learn about everything we’d been doing on the site for the past five weeks.
Jordan welcoming guests to Feature 14
            Though I’m a bit skittish around strangers, I found that I had a BLAST this weekend. It was really exciting when I was down on the site itself and answering questions about our units and the fireplace that we’d uncovered for the public to see. Everyone who walked by was incredibly interested, and even though I probably talked quite a few ears off, I think that everyone who stopped by enjoyed the experience as much as I did. And that really surprised me. I’d heard the numbers from Dr. Nassaney – 2,000 visitors at the highest – and it was hard to believe. Not that many people I knew really cared about archaeology. I was happy to be proven wrong by everyone who came out this weekend to check out the site and all of the great work we’ve been doing.
Captain Leah Sparrow
            And while the Open House itself was incredible, I have to admit that one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the night we spent with the re-enactors. Leah and I headed over to the camp Saturday afternoon and were greeted with friendly smiles and a variety of drinks to choose from. One of the re-enactors, Stefan, showed us his British redcoat, and it wasn’t long before the both of us had costumes of our own. Leah and I made dashing voyageurs (though Leah looked more like she’d just stepped off the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 5). When the rest of the gang arrived, they too got all dressed up, and soon we were just as home in the camp as the real re-enactors were. We had a huge feast of period food laid out for us with meat pie, banana bread, potatoes and ham, and all sorts of delicious dishes. Then we were given the opportunity to work off our meal in some authentic period dancing, which to me still seems very similar to a square dance, which is the sort of stuff we learn in high school in upstate New York. Anyway, we had a blast with the dances (even if we got lost a lot) and the night got even more exciting when we participated in some tomahawk throwing. It turned out that a few of the girls were naturals, though almost everyone sunk their tomahawk once, including Dr. Nassaney himself. Though I didn’t get to throw much, I did get to fire a replica of an 18th century musket, thanks to a very cool re-enactor named Ramone. Sue got quite a few shots off too, and she sure looked cool!
            Unfortunately, our fun time with the re-enactors and the Open House weekend ended, as did today, our last day in the field doing archaeological work. Tomorrow we finish backfilling our units and packing up the site and the house where we’ve been living for the duration of the field season. And then, once all that’s done, we’re back to Kalamazoo. 
            It’s been a wild ride, and I just want to thank the whole Niles community for being so awesome; and here’s to all of those families who came out last weekend to learn more about archaeology and the old French fort that’s been the focus of excavation for the past ten plus years. Thanks for everything!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thank You Everyone!

Open House wrapped up today at 4 pm followed by a special canoe ride for the hard-working student archaeologists at Fort St. Joseph. Once again our event was a huge success. Visitor counts estimate about 1,800 people came to join in on the fun, some for the first time this year, many returning for a second, third, or fourth year and some even came in from as far as New Jersey (full disclosure: that's because they're my family). Our students were excited to share everything they've been learning this summer and were grateful for the opportunity to talk to so many interested people. We'd like to say a gigantic THANK YOU! to everyone who came out and helped make this event a success. Stay tuned, we have a  few more days left in the field and a few more exciting stories to tell!

- Erica

FSJ Archaeologists pose for a quick photo after an exhausting, but fun, weekend

Friday, August 10, 2012

Open House this Weekend

The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Open House starts tomorrow! The event will take place in Niles, Michigan at South Riverfront Park from 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. The NWTA will have living history participants portraying life at Fort St. Joseph on the eve of Revolution. There will be merchants, a tea tent, canoe rides by Sarett Nature Center, Children's Games, and of course, the excavation site will be open to the public. This year archaeologists have been working to excavate two features in the hopes of finding the foundation of a building. We are excited for the event and hope you can join us!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A preview for them, a preview for us.

            Like stepping into a time machine and being whisked away to the 18th century, today we got our first taste of what our 2012 Archaeological Open House will be like. Today, we were treated to the sight of many history enthusiasts donning their 18th century attire and excited members of the media all coming to the site of Fort St. Joseph for a glimpse at what this weekend will have in store for everyone.
            The day began the same as any other day with setting up equipment and preparing to give the media a taste of all the hard work and progress we’ve made since starting out here a month ago. Turning away from the Fort, one looked upon the hustle and bustle of tents being erected, displays being prepared, and reenacters pouring in. A podium was placed, a microphone connected, and we were ready to give our message of welcome to the media so they could then send it on to the public.
            A myriad of speakers graced our stage, each with nothing but good things to say about the work we have been doing here at Fort St. Joe. Those we heard from included Dr. Alex Enyedi; Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at WMU, Dr. Timothy Greene, Provost, WMU, Dr. Dean Anderson; Michigan’s State Archaeologist, Barbara Schwaderer and Bob Myers, in full 18th century attire giving a preview of what the open house has in store for everyone, and from the Mayor of Niles, Michael McCauslin. Finally, Dr. Nassaney presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Larry Simpson who has been an avid participant in the project since 2004.
            My personal favorite aspect of the formal presentations was when one of our own, Leah Rice, spoke to everyone about her personal experience this summer. Her speech wasn’t just for her, or for us, but for the public; while everyone is excited about the work we do here, it is nice to inform them about how we feel about this work and our experience on a personal level. While her experiences may differ slightly from each other individual student that worked the Fort this summer, it was a good snapshot of what we have all loved and enjoyed.
            The Colonial Dancers from the area treated everyone to a couple of lively jigs. Their attire, spirited dance, and smiling faces kept the general mood of everyone in attendance high despite a spit of rain that kept a few huddled under umbrellas and tents. It will take a lot of effort for us students not to join them in their dances come the Open House.
            Finally, the ribbon to the Fort was cut and everyone was welcomed down to the site to get a good tour of all that we have been doing. Almost like kids in a candy store people flocked to open units with minds full of questions and eager Archaeology students waiting to receive them. In public Archaeology, this is definitely the best part: giving the excited public exactly what they want to see.
             After speaking to reporters from the Harold Palladium and the South Bend Tribune about the artifacts and interesting information gathered from our unit, I was in the best spirits yet. The last two folks my pit partners and I talked to have been active and interested in Support the Fort since its inception. How great it is to speak to these people who are truly interested in what we are doing and hang on every word and tell us their own stories of their interests and knowledge. Annie Krempa, one of my Pit Partners, summed up speaking to these great folks in that it left us with “a warm and fuzzy feeling inside”. Though I may not personally have many experiences with warm and fuzzy feelings, this was definitely one of them. I love what I do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Road to El Open House

            And so ends what could possibly be the crew’s last full day of digging. With preparations for Open House well underway – what with Media Day tomorrow and the setup we’ll be doing on Friday – it’s possible that we may not fit in as much pure excavation as we’d like. Add that to the dismal weather we’ve got looming on the horizon (if it even hits us; what’s up with this Michigan weather anyway?) and our chances of pushing our units to 65 or even 70 centimeters below datum dwindle.
Tabitha doing an incredible job removing a jaw bone. 
            But that’s okay, because we have enjoyed our time in Fort St. Joseph while it lasted. And even though we’ve only had about a week and a half to excavate what past field schools have had three or four weeks to do, no one is falling behind. The shallowest unit is at least 50 cm deep – and the girls digging there could hide in it, if they wanted to! We’ve been pushing the envelope since day one, proving that each and every team we’ve got is made of powerhouses ready to get down and reveal the history hidden beneath the ground. Though we may not have the time to fully complete our excavations, each and every one of us is yearning to take out just one more trowel full of dirt, because that may be what it takes to find a Jesuit finger ring or a complete trigger guard or even another feature.
            Today my unit became the first feature of the season – feature 23, in fact, a huge ash deposit in the east side of our unit, almost taking up an entire meter of space. Though it was only about four centimeters deep, it raised a lot of questions: where did this come from? Why is it here? Is this from a chimney, or a hearth, or perhaps something else? Hopefully future field schools will be able to find the answer if we can’t. This year we did dig up old units to get a bigger picture of where two civilian houses were located. Maybe one summer years from now, some new baby-faced undergrad will dig up our little unit and find a chimney or even a foundation wall to the house. Who knows! The possibilities are endless.
Joe being Joe.
            And though we hid sniffles of despair as the conclusion of our field season races toward us, we did end the day on a positive note. Down in South Bend, Indiana, in a really cool and fun museum, the Center for History, we heard a lecture from Joseph GagnĂ© about the militia in New France. Before the presentation began, we took twenty minutes or so to explore the museum, taking in all of the interesting exhibits they had on display. One of my personal favorites was a painting of a woman sitting in front of her vanity. At first the scene seems tranquil, quiet, and at peace; until you step back and see that her profile and gilded mirror together give the image of a brilliant white skull against a black backdrop. There were tons of other interesting things to see, such as old advertisements and outdated exercise machines. And to top it off, we learned of the militia and military policy in New France with a fluent French speaker and an extremely comfortable auditorium. A combination of soda and cookies provided by the museum helped ease us into our after-lecture glow as we enjoyed the warm stone of the pavement outside. It was a great end to a good, not-too-hot day.
            We can only hope that tomorrow will be just as nice and let us get our hands dirty a few more times before we all have to go home. 

-A. Lent

Join us for the Final Installment of our Lecture Series

Join us tonight at the Center for History in South Bend (808 West Washington Street
South Bend, Indiana 46601))for the final installment of our four part lecture series. Tonight Joseph Gagne, from Universitie Laval, will be doing a program titled "Minding Militia: Canadian Militiamen and the Great Lakes during the Seven Years' War." We're looking forward to another successful and informative talk and we thank everyone who comes out.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baby, I'm troweling for you

Today was the start of the last and final 7 days of the 2012 Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Field School.  It absolutely blows my mind that we only have one week left.  I can remember the very first day of our orientation.  It was the 28th of June when I met my classmates for the first time.  We all arrived into orientation not knowing exactly what was in store for us or knowing each other.  I have had classes with several of the students, but never made great relationships with any of them.  It has been a little over 5 weeks since then and it’s truly amazing to realize how great of an experience its been so far.  5 weeks ago all of my classmates were strangers, and now I consider all of them to be close friends. We have worked hard and worked well together and I don’t think Doctor Nassaney could have gathered a more competent group.

When we arrived in the field this morning, Southwestern Michigan couldn’t have graced us with more beautiful weather. It was low 70s and in my opinion, that is what a Michigan summer should be.  I do enjoy the days in the 100s as much as the next guy, but not when I’m hunched over my unit moving dirt by the bucket-full. 

The Educators observing during our after-lunch pit tours.
The day was a little different than normal because we had so many extra sets of hands waiting to grab a trowel and help us out.  An associate and long time friend of Doctor Nassaney, Renee, came to the field today with a group of Boy Scouts eager to achieve their Archaeological badges.  We also had the pleasure of working with our Host Stephanie’s daughter, Jessica, as well as the summer camp who this week happens to be current educators.  The great thing about working under Doctor Nassaney is that he has actively promoted Public Archaeology.  Public Archaeology is essentially doing our work as we normally would, but doing everything we can to engage with the general public.  We know archaeological projects of this magnitude will raise the interest of members of the community and we welcome them with open arms.  We want them to be interested in what we do and we do everything we can to answer their questions and let them know that we appreciate their interest in what we do.  The feeling of being welcomed and being supported by the people of Niles has absolutely gone above and beyond what I expected.  Numerous people have hosted us for events, invited ALL of us over for dinner parties, and come to the site to see what we are doing.  I am very thankful for everything the people of Niles have done for us so far.

Two boy scouts listening to a demonstration.

The most exciting find of the today surfaced from the great depths of Cassie and Tabitha’s unit.  They worked hard as ever and were able to present the site with a beautiful, intact 18th century Jesuit ring.  It was an absolutely amazing find because something this old and this meaningful does not often come in the condition that it was found in.  It is complete, with very little damage, and the etchings on the face of the ring are still visible.  We know Fort St Joseph was one of the most influential Fur Trading posts of the Great Lakes area as well as a French mission and garrison.  This ring is just another piece of evidence of the great impact the Jesuit priests had on the fort and the surrounding area.
18th century Jesuit ring.

My unit is N33 E8, and is worked on by Sue, Adam, and myself.  We officially entered the occupation zone of the fort and we came into the occupation zone at about 55 cm bd.  Through countless hours of troweling and wet screening, we were able to uncover a great ash deposit.  We are not 100% sure if this is part of a hearth, a burned down home, or just a trash pit.  All three of us are working our tails off to uncover the story of unit N33 E8 and the viewers of this blog will be the first to know.  Don’t forget though, if you are coming to our open house which is this weekend; Saturday August 11th and Sunday August 12th, you will also have the chance to talk to me in person and ask as many questions as you want.  Please feel welcomed to invite anybody and everybody you know and come on out to Fort St Joseph to learn about local history.  I look forward to meeting you this weekend!

Alternative view of Jesuit ring.

-Jonathan VanderLind 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Countdown to Open House: Day 5

             Today dawned a new week. This is our last full week excavating at Fort St. Joseph, and already many of us are talking about how much we will miss this place of dirt, work, and dirty work.  But so much remains to be done before we are ready to leave!  Our units are now almost completely in the occupation zone, but still hold many secrets. Excavated artifacts are piled in heaps waiting for attention from the washing and sorting crews. Finally, we must prepare for the culmination of our efforts, the Open House.  If you weren't aware of this extravaganza or haven't thought about your weekend plans, please allow me to issue you a formal invitation to our Open House this weekend … trust me, it will be an amazing time.
Jon proving his strength.
            This morning began with cleanup from this weekend's heavy storm.  Fortunately, nothing was broken and no trees fallen, and so all that was necessary was to bail out water from our units.  (One individual did take it upon himself to chase my pit partner with a poor drowned mouse from our unit; the perpetrator Joe will remain nameless)  Then it was off to work. 

The oxidized soil of our unit is on the left; the feet point towards it.
            Michelle and I had reluctantly left our unit last week with only a little bit of work remaining, and so we were eager to finish our paperwork and our level.  Last Friday we came across a large patch of orange oxidized soil in our unit which is very interesting to us.  The oxidation in the soil tells us that something was burned, while the location of the soil implies this burning was related to the hearth which had been previously excavated directly next to our unit.  After we carefully exposed all the oxidized soil, we removed a 10 liter sample which we will take back to the lab for flotation.  By carefully analyzing all the soil, we will be able to find even the smallest carbonized seed or scrap of organic material which will tell us a lot of about what was happening here.
              Progress continues across the site: buckets are screened, walls cleaned, photographs snapped, and artifacts carefully mapped.  Along with the omnipresent piles of animal bone, Michelle and I turned up lead shot, copper scrap, seed beads, and our first piece of wampum.  Other groups had some great finds as well: a tiny carved bird missing its head, a round ridged upholstery tack, and two separate pieces of the same micmac pipe.  Although archaeology is not just about the artifacts, it is fascinating to see all the remnants of Fort St. Joseph emerging from the ground.
The micmac pipe.

One adorable headless carved bird.

             After packing up after our long day in the field, we hit the showers at the YMCA, and then headed over for dinner. Our meal tonight was generously prepared by Mary Ellen Drolet and her family. The vast quantities of baked beans and pulled pork, and the array of delights around the chocolate fountain went a long way towards satisfying us hungering students, fortifying us for the long night of lab work ahead.

Joe wants YOU to come to the Open House.

Washing in lab.

     Four days in the field lay ahead of us, and we are ready.

- Sarah Oren

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Food for the Masses

Hello, friends! We’ve enjoyed another gloriously busy day in the field. Though the artifacts weren’t pouring out of the Pit of Opportunity today, we learned a lot and once again experienced the undying hospitality of the people of Niles.
Thank you, Kiwanis Club!

We were lucky enough to have the Kiwanis Club provide a bountiful lunch for us in the field. Thank you, Kiwanis Club, for the generous gift and affection you showed us today!

Hard at work in the field

Our cultural finds of the day included a window hinge, a blue cut glass stone (hopefully from a ring that we will discover in its entirety in a few centimeters…), portions of a blade, wampum, and a piece of wire described by the Good Doctor as the ‘duct tape of the 18th century.” So what do we think they used in place of WD-40?

After the eventful day in the field, we students were finally given the chance to give a little bit of affection back to the community. With the usual helpful kindness of the Layman family, we hosted a barbecue at the farmhouse. Has there ever been an archaeological field school that ate this well?! A special thanks to all of our friends for coming out to see us this evening.

Joe vs. Cobbler

Our goal in the field this year is to continue uncovering a few of the features discovered in past field schools. A hearth and a fireplace, discovered deep beneath the alluvium in years previous, were re-excavated this season, in order for us to have a better visual of how the buildings in the fort were laid out. None of the units have uncovered the walls we are searching for, YET. Keep it tuned, folks, we have a good feeling about those walls.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Unlocking the 18th century

What can we unlock?
Trigger guard got the site buzzing

Today was an exciting day at the fort site. We are in full swing now with wet screening going on continuously and people already through the alluvial and plow zones. With the first few units hitting the levels of occupation some very interesting artifacts have come out. Some of today's are sure to be highlights of this field season. Tonight was also part 3 of the lecture series at the Niles senior center with Bob Meyers and his presentation of “Marines and Militia of Fort St. Joseph”.
4 of the wet screening stations
                We have five wet screens going nonstop, and our pump was only shut down twice, once for lunch and another to be refueled. Buckets were being filled faster than they could be screened and all the expected artifacts were coming out. We have found large amounts of bone, beads, and various metal scraps. What got people really pumped though were a couple of keys and a trigger guard, all coming from the same 2x1 meter unit! Hopefully the trio working in the area will find plenty more and give us a little more information, adding to our understanding of the fort and New France.
today's lucky trio
                Even though we have been doing this for over a month it still is an amazing feeling to be the first person in centuries to touch whatever it is that you’re pulling out of the ground. These artifacts represent little bits in the puzzle of who these people were and how they spent their time, the everyday things that weren’t written down. That’s what we are searching for as archaeologists. The unwritten pages in history are vast and we have accepted the challenge of filling them.
                Part 3 of 4 of our lecture series was tonight at the Niles senior center. Bob Meyers gave an informative presentation on the military history of Fort St. Joseph. The lectures are always a welcomed opportunity to spray the mud off ourselves and get into a more classroom like setting. They are always filled with good people and great presenters, and tonight’s was no different. We could not ask for more gracious hosts, the people of Niles have greeted us with open arms everywhere we go.

As usual, Joe being sassy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Artifacts and Facts of Art

Jon surveying the damage.
  Today was our second full day at Fort site.  The morning began with reminders of the unexpected nature of archaeology: a tree fallen across one tetrapod, excavations turned into swimming pools, even a friendly bullfrog trying to take up residence in our unit!  No worries, though – we archaeologists made short work of the cleanup and soon launched into the day’s digging.  Everyone is aware of the time crunch; with only a week and a half left before Open House, we will need to muster all our energy and expertise to finish our excavations.

The wet-screening station.
    It really wouldn’t be so bad if our site wasn't so plentiful and giving.  Now that we are beyond the layer of alluvium, the soil deposited by the river, artifacts are turning up nearly as fast as we can trowel.  My partner Michelle and I found quite a few shards of discarded animal bones in Pit Gelller, as well as what might have been a European flint firestarter –finds that make a lot of sense in their context near a previously discovered hearth.  Broken bits of faience, or glazed French earthenware, have been found across the site as well as additional glass seed beads.  Pit Tassie (home to Tabitha and Cassie) found a beautifully decorated bead from what have been a bracelet, and Annie, Jordan, and Scott’s pit yielded both wampum and a mouth harp that looks nearly new.

Annie playing the mouth harp.
            After lunch, we had the pleasure of hosting some of the summer campers who were both attentive and helpful. Michelle and I were at the stage of level mapping, and sadly weren't interesting enough for demonstration, but other groups had visitors. In particular, Tabitha and Cassie had the assistance of Alec, a young man who became very good at identifying bone.  We are very glad to have the campers with us!
Calvin, Mary Ellen, Charlie, and Ashley.

Joe, wanting you to envy us.
            Other exciting things were found in the afternoon, such as clay pipestems, but Michelle and I had to leave early to facilitate another key part of field school: dinner.  Aside from showering, food time is the most important part of an archaeologist’s day, and us students take turns providing sustenance to our fellow hungerers in the evening. Tonight’s menu included: homemade tomato soup, grilled cheese with ham, summer carrot salad, and chocolate-upon-chocolate cake.  Feel free to envy us all! 

- Sarah Oren

Public Lecture Tomorrow Night

Join us for the next talk in our public lecture series tomorrow night. Robert Myers will give a presentation titled "Marines and Militia: The Military History of Fort St. Joseph" beginning at 7pm. It will be held at the Niles Senior Center. We hope you can make it!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Finally Digging at the Fort Site!

Today was the day that we have all been waiting for; we finally broke ground at the fort site!  In the morning we were working on opening up past units until we got down to tarps that covered them from previous excavations. 
Uncovering previous units
Were reopening features ten and fourteen which contained fireplace features from previous years so we can attempt to locate walls of an eighteenth century building. After this tedious process we were allowed to open up our brand new 2 by 1 meter unit. Mostly everyone seemed to get a pretty good unit, well everyone except for mine and Calvin’s unit. Calvin and I got blessed with the privilege of having a nice tree directly on the south wall of our unit that is producing some awesome roots that we just love digging around and through. As one can imagine these roots are severely holding up the excavation process for my pit partner and I. In my unit specifically we are probably around six or seven centimeters at the most, in the rest of the units most people are at 25 centimeters down or more. Already some artifacts are being found in some units which is pretty exciting for everyone on the site. We found the most artifacts at the end of the day when we had our first lesson on wet screening. Found in the wet screen was one musket ball, multiple seed beads and lead shot, and countless animal bones.  
Wet screening demo

Our amazing dinner!
Now I understand why they recommend wearing flip flops while wet screening, after I was finished my shoes and legs were soaked. But it was very refreshing after being in the hot sun all day. Even though it was a great feeling starting at the fort site today, for me the highlight of the day was the food that the Layman family had made for us. If I could cook as well as Stephanie Layman does I would be about ten thousand pounds by now. I would like to formally thank Stephanie and anyone who helped with dinner tonight, it was fabulous as always.  Tonight I will go to bed dreaming of the meatballs from dinner and then musket balls from the site.

Force feeding michelle