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