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 

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