Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Just Like Home

Our wall feature when facing the west wall

            We have 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 the clever 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 two units
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!


1 comment:

ME said...

You know what this means? MORE paperwork!