This blog includes updates from the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project sponsored by Western Michigan University in partnership with the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc. and other community groups. The Project is dedicated to archaeological research, education, community service learning, and intensive public outreach. The Principal investigator of the Project is Dr. Michael Nassaney.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Just Like Home
Our wall feature when
facing the west wall
just numbered our first new feature for this year and it just so happens Seth,
my unit partner, and I are the ones who uncovered it. For those of you who are
curious as to what a feature is, a feature is a collection of one or more
locations that are non-portable evidence of earlier human activity. A few
examples of what a feature is would be fire pits, postholes, foundations,
drains, hearths and the like. The feature we uncovered is a wall from the 18th-century
occupation of the Fort site. This is an important and interesting find here at
Fort St. Joseph. Finding architectural features on any site can give theclever archaeologist valuable knowledge
about the culture of the people who built it. At first thought I supposed the
French colonists at the time wouldn’t have brought much with them here to the
Americas, and would have selected building styles based solely on what was
easiest given their environment and available resources. I found out the French
brought their building style from back home, along with other things like their
language and faith. French colonial architecture is a product of both its
history culturally and naturally.
What sort of architecture style did
the French fur traders and colonists bring with them to Fort St. Joseph? We can
answer this question by studying the building practices of nearby French
settlements at the same time period, for example a Jesuit mission near Lake
Huron Sainte-Marie-aux-Hurons that was erected in 1639. At this mission the
buildings were erected by placing upright posts closely together and filling
the spaces with a mixture of mortar and stone in a technique known as colombage pierroté. We are still left
with the question of the style’s origins. Since we are studying the
architecture of the New World, the best way to find out its origins is by
conducting research on architecture of the Old World. The same practice of colombage pierroté goes back to the
Middle Ages in Northwestern Europe, the roots of New France.
The beam intersecting
Knowing this information we can
look at this wall feature we’ve encountered here on the site and make marvelous
inferences. We uncovered in our unit a series of mortared stones placed on top
of one another in a linear fashion; they start in the north half and run
southeast. The most interesting part of the find is a long wooden beam about
12cm wide that begins after the stone wall ends in the middle of our unit and
extends southeast to the next unit south of us. This beam could
have several interpretations that support previous research on French colonial
architecture. It could be the bottom sill of a wall where the upright post
would have been placed. A hinge was found in the unit south of us, maybe it
could be a doorsill in the back of the house. The beam could also be a
floorboard that was left behind when the last inhabitants abandoned the site.
The soil on the sides of the beam is also different on each side in both our
unit and the unit south of ours. The east side soil is dark while the west side
of the beam has high levels of charcoal deposits and lighter grey soil.
The beam in the unit
south of ours
We are waiting in anticipation for
the conclusion of what we will find out from this feature in our excavation.
Uncovering important architectural features on site will help to advance the
public’s knowledge of what went on here at the Fort Site. All we have left to
do is to excavate and find out!