Monday, August 12, 2013

The Light and Dark Side of Archaeology

Michigan is one of those places; people don’t think of it as a place to vacation, they don’t even really think about it. This is because Michigan is not an easy place, she does not give up her gems to the unworthy. She will test you, bend you and break you before she reveals her mysteries. This summer we have been tested, bent and broken in numerous ways. We’ve been forced to hack through roots, wait out storms and survive the elements.  We’ve proven worthy and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what she holds. This summer we have gathered a vast amount of data from Fort St. Joseph, we have compiled a million theories and the only thing to do is to pack up, go back to campus and barricade ourselves in the lab. Looking back this summer has been crazy.

I tore through a root, it was dirty sweat breaking hard work but I stuck with it. I hardly ever turn down a challenge and I hacked and troweled and still came up with nothing I would get excited and have the hope torn away by a cold analytical eye that looked logically at the unit and saw that nothing was there. The time dragged by and I found nothing, I came up with nothing. When I found a wooden beam, today when we backfilled in on that beam without taking a sample (other than the previously taken) I felt a part of me cry out in horror knowing that once the matrix around the beam was disturbed it would never survive. Organic matter is very particular thing to preserve which makes it very hard, very expensive and very time consuming. If it was extracted and not preserved it would turn to dust in a box but left in the ground disturbed as it was it will do the same thing and in a year may not even be there. Though I will hope for the best and that Michigan will preserve the jewel she let us unearth this summer and made this experience well worth it.  

Archeology is wonderful and horrible study; we actively destroy everything we touch as we excavate. Yes we come out with amazing artifact that look gorgeous in a display case but those artifacts themselves cannot tell us what we want to know. Those artifacts cannot tell us what would it have looked like to the European settlers coming to this wild and untamed beautiful land? What did they see that we will never understand? In the past few weeks we have made astounding steps to revealing the life of these settlers through the association of artifacts. We’ve found their shoe buckles, their homes, their hearths but what did they see that they didn’t bother to write down?  Fort St. Joseph is not well document; we don’t know what it looks like, where things were or really who lived there. What would this place have looked like? We don’t know, we have complied a picture in our minds of a series of structures possibly homes lined up along the river. We’ve found the hearths we found two walls and a wooden beam but we still have a lot to do.

The voyager of Fort St. Joseph
See you 2015, ready and rearing to discover more of Michigan’s Jewel.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all the students and staff for allowing the public to share in your excitement of the dig as you uncovered more information about the precious Fort St. Joseph. We look forward to more posts as you analyze the artifacts that will tell more of the story.