Thursday, July 25, 2013

18th Century Swag!

Our third week working at Fort St. Joseph comes to an end, and although this is only our first whole week working at the Fort St. Joseph site since we were previously working at the Lyne site, we are already making some great discoveries.  Digging progressively becomes more and more fun especially since we are all confident in our knowledge of what we are doing at this point.  In our units we are using excavation techniques such as shovel skimming, troweling, and water screening.
I am working in unit N23W9 with my pit partner, Alexis.  There was a hearth found nearby, and with the French colonial house dimensions in mind, we are hoping to find a structural wall in our unit.  Many hearths have been found at Fort St. Joseph, so this year we are hoping to find the walls of many of the houses that used or contained these hearths.

Che and I working in our units with a camper!
Currently in our unit, we hit the beginning of occupation between thirty five and forty centimeters below datum, meaning we reached the level where the colonists lived that is undisturbed soil, which is also known as in situ.  Getting to that level we have found a variety of artifacts through troweling and water screening such as lots of animal bone, pipe stems, lead shot, a musket ball, a chain, a tinkling cone, faience, seed beads in an assortment of colors, stones with mortar on them, iron nails, some unknown metal, and possibly a piece of a gun.
I’m in the orange wet screening with one of the campers this week, Lucas.
There was more than one item of adornment found in our unit. The type of clothing and adornments that people wore were an expression of class, occupation, and gender identity (Wise, 2001).  One of the odd items we discovered, well actually that my pit partner discovered, was a metal chain.  We believe that it was a chain that linked jewelry for some kind of adornment.  The chain resembles a similar chain found at Fort Michilimackinac that was a gilt brass hinged object, which they identified as a possible earing (Stone, 1974).  A chain like this one has never been found at Fort St. Joseph before, but that was not the only item of adornment found in our unit.
While wet screening our dirt, an intern, James, and I found a tinkling cone.  This artifact is made of copper that is rolled into a conical shape.  They served as ornamental pieces that were attached to clothing or hair  and were worn by Europeans and Indians (Hulse, 1977).  Hair would be threaded through the tinkling cone and knotted on the inside so it can be attached to clothing or accessories such as bags, moccasins, purses, and earrings.  Tinkling cones from French colonial sites are seen all over the western Great Lakes, Illinois, and Louisiana areas.  Tinkling cones were found at Native American sites as well and some modern Native Americans today still wear tinkling cones on their clothes or accessories.  There was little variation between tinkling cones, which suggests diffusion or trading between different sites; although, there were slight crafting differences between Native Americans and Europeans (Giordano, 2005).

Today these items of adornment can tell us about the culture of those who lived at the Fort.  As archaeologists, it is our job to not only uncover the artifacts but then to interpret them based on what is previously known about other similar artifacts, knowledge of the site, and time period.  Artifacts can possibly change previous perceptions about a site or suggest new discernments.
--Katie Collier
Giordano, Brock A. Crafting Culture at Fort St. Joseph: An Archaeological Investigation   of Labor Organization on the Colonial Frontier.  Masters thesis, Department of          Anthropology, Western Michigan University: Kalamazoo, Michigan, 2005.
Hulse, Charles. An Archaeological Evaluation of Fort St. Joseph: An Eighteenth Century            Military Post and Settlement in Berrien County, Michigan. Masters thesis,     Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University: Lansing, Michigan, 1977.
Stone, Lyle M. Fort Michilimackinac 1715-1781: An Archaeological Perspective on the   Revolutionary Frontier.  East Lansing: Museum, Michigan State University, 1974. Print.
Wise, Stacy L. An Examination of Social Identity and Material Culture in French colonial             North America. Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Western Michigan             University: Kalamazoo, Michigan, 2001.

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