Monday, November 16, 2015

MHAC 2015

The Mill City Museum could not have been a more apropos setting for this year’s Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference (MHAC) which was held on October 10-11, 2015. The conference was first held in 2005, envisioned by the senior editor of Le Journal, and has been hosted annually throughout the Midwest region ever since. With approximately 50 people in attendance, this year’s meeting was a resounding success for all those who attended.
Many of the themes for this year’s presiding; war and conflict, industry, immigration, and exploitation, were visible both in the museum’s content, and in the keynote address presented Friday night by Dr. Paul Shackle. His focus centered on the excavations and community involved with the site of the Lattimer Massacre. The Lattimer coal mine near Hazleton Pennsylvania was the site of a peaceful protest that turned tragic when 19 strikers were shot by the local sheriff and his posse.

Photo credit: Jeremy Nienow
Saturday Morning began with two rounds of “Ignite” style presentations (see appendix E for a full list of presentations and authors); each speaker was provided five minutes to discuss his or her topic. The themes for these talks expanded upon what was started by Paul Shackle the night before. Warfare and conflict was the topic of the first set of presentations, the focus being primarily on Fort Snelling and the Dakota Conflict. Industry, immigration, and exploitation were the concentrations for the second round of talks. After the presentations, a period of time was allocated so that attendees could tour the museum and surrounding area. After lunch the conference resumed with a session entitled “Knowledge Caf├ęs” which coincided with specific time set for poster displays. This portion divided those attending into groups of approximately six per table, and the speakers from the morning sessions sat one to a table. After a brief period of time, the speakers rotated which facilitated further conversation about the topics presented; the commitment to intimate discussion is a hallmark of this conference. The conference concluded with a few words from Dr. Michael Nassaney hailing the success of this conference and calling for volunteers to host next year’s gathering. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Archaeology Day 2015

Rebecca and Stephan at Archaeology Day
            On October 10th, a group of WMU students representing the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project headed out to Lansing for the 2015 Michigan Archaeology Day. We set up two display tables where we shared with the public some of our new finds from the 2015 field season. The public asked questions concerning French and Native American artifacts as well as the activities of the FSJAP and some general questions about archaeology itself. We also had on display a video made with a GoPro camera by field school student Austin George during the field season. Austin’s GoPro video gives a first person view of the activities performed by both field school students as well as participants in the annual camp program. It gives great insight into how public archaeology is done at Fort St. Joseph. Austin’s will present this video at the 2016 Society for Historical Archaeology conference in January.
            The event featured many speakers throughout the day. One of these speakers was Terry Martin from the Illinois State Museum. Terry has worked with FSJ students in the past, teaching them how to identify different animal bones found during the field season. Terry spoke about archaeological recovery of animal bones. During his presentation he highlighted many finds from Fort St. Joseph. Another presentation was the Ongoing Quest for the Wreck of the Griffon was presented by Dr. Dean Anderson, Michigan’s state archaeologist. His work showed many different false claims that were once thought to be factual claims of the Griffon wreck. Through the use of modern science such as dendrochronololgy, it was shown that these old claims were not the wreck of the Griffon.

Erika Loveland at Archaeology Day
          Overall, Michigan Archaeology Day was a great experience and opportunity to speak directly to the public about new finds and exciting updates on our activities. I had a chance to walk around the event and see the different archaeological projects going on in Michigan. I think it is important for us to continue sharing with the public that archaeology does go on, and it happens right in some of our backyards. It makes me proud to be a part of a project that is so strongly focused on working and integrating the public into their own history through archaeology. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Closing Time

This field season’s Open House theme was “Seeking Shelter from the Storm.”  This is in keeping with the season’s archaeological focus of architecture at Fort St. Joseph, and on Saturday was a very fitting title for the festivities.  Attendees crowded under white tents to hear opening remarks from Robert Myers and hoped the rain would soon subside. The community of Niles again showed its resilience to the elements, however, as people came out to enjoy many sights, activities, and presentations from the Open House participants. The rain from the previous night was enough to raise the river and prevent entrance onto the archaeological site yet again but attendees enjoyed many other events and had a great time.
Our new interpretive panels were a highlight of the Open House
(photo by John Cardinal)
The weather on Sunday was much more appealing to most as the sun shone and birds chirped. The sun brought out around 550 visitors to the site.  These visitors enjoyed learning about a native style structure built on-site by the Pokagon band of Potawatomi from Amelia Harp, tours of Father Allouez’s cross and the commemorative Fort Saint Joseph Boulder as well as the Lyne site (a nearby archaeological site associated with the fort), and demonstrations from a number of historical interpreters including timber frame construction, blacksmithing, textile spinning, cooking, and quill writing. Sarett Nature Center also provided rides in a Voyageur canoe, offering participants a look at what being a voyageur during the Fur Trade would be like, about a dozen passengers at a time!
A french timber framing demonstration
(photo by John Cardinal)
Other activities were provided for children such as a mock dig that taught kids how archaeologists excavate and sift for artifacts.  Appetites were satisfied throughout the weekend thanks to Boy Scout Troop 579 from here in Niles, MI.  Noel Bash and her company of talented dancers demonstrated a wide array of 18th century style dancing and on many occasions got the public on their feet to join in and dance along. We could not be happier with the turn out of the Open House and can’t wait to see everyone out in the summer of 2016!
Speaking on behalf of the archaeological team, we are extremely grateful to everyone who participated in and attended this year’s Open House.  I was a field school student in 2013 and am still amazed to witness the excitement and openness of the Niles community at the Open House and throughout the season.  Although we are sad that this exceptionally challenging field season is almost at a close, we are truly grateful for the words of encouragement and offers of assistance from supporters of the project.
Tomorrow the archaeology crew will be packing up and leaving Niles.  For the project veterans, this always comes with a pang of sadness as we think of Niles as a second home.  I’m certain the students will be saddened as well.  Niles has been a key instrument in their growing not only as experienced archaeologists, but as members of a community. We’d like to thank everyone who made this field season one for the books and a wonderful learning experience for all of us.


We'll see you at the 2016 Open House!
(photo by John Cardinal)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Media Day

Hey everyone this is Carmell again,
                Today was media day at the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological site and unfortunately we were met with a little rain. Because of the rain and the Fort St. Joseph site still being slightly flooded we had to improvise a little bit with our preparation, placing our artifact cases and panels underneath our tents. There were a number of people at the media day opening including the City of Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin who had a chance to express his appreciation for the work we were doing in Niles. Also at the opening was Dr. Timothy Greene, the Provost at Western Michigan University and Robert Myers the Co-chair of the 2015 Open House Committee, along with some other members of the Niles community and media. Dr. Nassaney welcomed all who were there with a description of the theme we had for the 2015 dig season “Seeking Shelter from the Storm” which focused on architecture at Fort St. Joseph. The goal of this year’s field season was finding architectural artifacts of the eighteenth century to help give a clearer picture of how French colonial buildings were being constructed.
Traditional ribbon cutting at Fort St. Joseph!
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                Also addressed at the media opening were volunteers that have helped us to make the project possible. Every year at the media opening, a Volunteer of the Year award is given out to an individual or group of individuals. This year the award has gone to the Drolet Family who have been integral parts on this project even before there was any archaeological work done in the area. Donna, the matriarch of the family, was unable to attend but her daughter Margrit Hansen was able to accept the award on her mother and family’s behalf. Many volunteers have given their time, energy, and some even have helped us out with monetary donations. Some individuals like Neil Hassinger and his wife Cathy have spent a lot of their time making lunches for the archaeological field crew and maintaining a system of pumps to pump out the ground water from our site.
Margrit Hansen receives the Volunteer of the Year award
on behalf of the Drolet family.
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                 The Daughters of the American Revolution and Kiawanis Club have also been very kind to help us out in providing meals to us. There are many other volunteers who have helped us greatly, providing services to help us store our artifacts, provide us a warm shower, and to even provide us a place to stay while we are here in Niles. Finishing up our media open house, Austin George, another student from Western Michigan University, gave a brief speech summarizing what we have learned while here in Niles at the Fort St. Joseph site. Austin also mentioned that we have grown into a family while living with each other for the six weeks that we have been in Niles. He mentioned that we have had to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to make things work and to overcome challenges.
                We continue to get more excited as we draw nearer to the open house to Fort St. Joseph which is coming up in less than 48 hours now. Today was a small glimpse of what Saturday and Sunday will look like for us. We expect Saturday to be a really exciting day. We have a number of historical interpreters that will be coming to the site to give people a visual idea of how people lived and what life was like during the French colonial era at Fort St. Joseph. The reenactors will even be putting up small tents and structures similar to what would be used during the French colonial times and one of our volunteer interpreters will be making colonial food. We also were fortunate enough to have members from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi begin construction on a wigwam on site. There will be many things to look forward to during our open house. It will be very gratifying for us students to finally be able to share to the public what we have been working on for this past 7 weeks. We can’t wait until Saturday and Sunday to see the work we’ve done come together. It’s our hope to see you there too.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 Archaeology Open House Itinerary

Saturday, June 27 - Scheduled Events – Main Stage
10:30am—Welcome to the 2015 Open House
James Schwaderer: Public Outreach Coordinator
10:45am—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
11:15am—Blacksmithing: Jim McConnell
12:00pm—Timber Framing: Larry Horrigan
12:30pm—Jesuits of New France: Craig McGirr
1:00pm—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
1:30pm—Update on the 2015 Archaeology Program:
Dr. Michael Nassaney
2:00pm—Wigwam Construction: Pokagon Volunteer
2:30pm—18thCentury Food: Janine Frizzo-Horrigan
3:00pm—18thCentury Music and Dance: Noel Bash

Sunday, June 28 - Scheduled Events – Main Stage
10:30am—Welcome to the 2015 Open House
Dr. Michael Nassaney
10:45am—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
11:15am—Blacksmithing: Jim McConnell
12:00pm—Timber Framing: Larry Horrigan
12:30pm—Jesuits of New France: Craig McGirr
1:00pm—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
1:30pm—Update on the 2015 Archaeology Program:
Dr. Michael Nassaney
2:00pm—Wigwam Construction: Pokagon Volunteer
2:30pm—18thCentury Food: Janine Frizzo-Horrigan
3:00pm—18thCentury Music and Dance: Noel Bash

Ongoing Events: Saturday and Sunday
Archaeological Dig
Wet Screens
Artifact Displays
Children’s Activities
Living History Reenactors
Sales and Information Tent
Wigwam Reconstruction

Historical Interpreters
Coordinator: Robert and Candace Myers
Dance and Music: Noel Bash
Stefan Sekula: military tents — 84th Regiment
Craig McGirr: Jesuit missions
Larry Horrigan: timber frame construction
Jim McConnell: blacksmithing
Luann McConnell: spinning
Janine Frizzo-Horrigan: cooking and canoe tent
Robert and Candace Myers: Quill-writing
Pokagon Band Potawatomi Volunteer: Wigwam
Boat Launch
Rides in a Voyageur Canoe
Provided by Sarett Nature Center
10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3:30pm
$3 per Person

Provided by Boy Scout Troop 579 from Niles, MI 

Oh So, You Found an O-So?

                Hi folks, Genevieve here again. As you may have heard, due to the level of the river, we have moved our operations back to the Lyne site on the terrace near the boulder. Although we very much enjoy working on the floodplain, this is an exciting time for the field school. Each field season the students start excavations at the Lyne site in order to help us gain knowledge about artifacts, learn the technique by working in smaller units, and learn how to find information from the artifacts we find. The length spent excavating on the terrace every year is about a week, which isn’t long but gives everyone enough time to do at least one unit. Luckily this year we are able to spend more time on the terrace which gives us an opportunity to investigate, since 18th century life at the Lyne site is still somewhat of a mystery to us. What we do know is that it was a place for Native Americans since we have found an abundance of Native American pottery, stone tool fragments, and small pits used for smoking hides. It is an amazing thing that we are able to get in almost three times the amount of work on the terrace this year so that we can learn more about it and to see how we have grown as archaeologists.
Message from a bottle
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                As we learn more about the Lyne site, we are always finding modern artifacts. One thing that always stumps people is how old something has to be in order to be an artifact. The thing is that an object doesn’t have to be very old at all. Everything that we find at any given site and at any given depth can tell us something about the people that lived or visited a particular place and for what reason. Shortly after starting excavations at our new units on the terrace, about 5 cm below datum, my partner and I encountered a glass bottle that was completely intact from what we could see of it sticking out of our eastern wall. The curious thing was that it still had a decently legible label on it. After troweling around it and brushing off the glass bottle, we were able to read the letters “O-So” printed on a red and white label. Pretty much everyone was confused by the brand and hadn’t heard of it, except for one. A camper from that week, named Curtis, recognized it right away as an “O-So Good Beverages” bottle that was made fairly local and was a soda pop distributing company that stopped production around the 1960s. Sure enough, we were able to look it up and find out that he was right. We had ourselves a modern artifact.
1960's era O-So bottle
                According to, the “O-So” Company was originally famous for their 8 oz bottles of “O-So Grape” flavor and was established in 1946 out of Chicago, IL. The company expanded throughout the 40s and added a whole line of soda flavors to their brand, creating the slogan “O-So Good” and “O-So Delicious”. This specific bottle was most likely from the 1960s, because of its shape and style. As Dr. Nassaney always says, if it looks like a good camping place now, people probably thought the same thing many years before. This bottle could have come from someone camping in the woods around the 1960s, it could have come from people fishing in the river off the side of the bank, or it could have been tossed here by someone along their way. Regardless of how it got there, this bottle can tell us information about the person who deposited it there. It can tell us the time period, location, popularity of the brand, and many other things. Even though we are specifically looking for 18th century artifacts, we are still fascinated by everything we find along the way. Artifacts are artifacts not for their monetary value or age but because of the knowledge they can bring archaeologists.


A Testimony From A Camper

Hi everyone,
                My name is Emily Fletcher, and I’m an eighteen-year-old college student currently participating in a summer camp at Fort St. Joseph. As you may or may not know, multiple camps are held each summer at Fort St. Joseph. These cater to different groups of people (this year it was life long learners, high school students, and middle school students) and aim to teach them about archaeology and the history of Fort St. Joseph.
                 I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist for almost as long as I can remember—originally, I wanted to be a paleontologist. My fascination with digging up history started when my dad found a fossil in the gravel under a playground he had just assembled for me. He showed it to me, and, from then on, I spent the majority of my childhood digging for and collecting fossils, and virtually ignored the newly-built playground above my head (Sorry, Dad).
                At some point, I learned the word “archaeology,” and I was hooked. I quickly developed a love for history, and tried to convince my friends to become archaeologists with me. So, when my mom told me about the Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Summer Camp in 2009, I was ecstatic. I would finally be able to live my dream, and dig some awesome old stuff out of the ground.
                Archaeology was a lot different than I expected it to be. I was surprised that archaeologists don’t just pull artifacts out of the ground and send them straight to museums. There’s a lot of paperwork involved! Many artifacts are mapped, so that their exact location within the site is known, even when the artifact is removed. Even the digging is much different from the digging I expected—archaeologists mostly use precise trowels, brushes and other tools to dig around artifacts, and they do it fairly slowly.
                During camp, I received hands-on experience with many aspects of archaeology—especially troweling, mapping, paperwork, wet screening, and even sorting, cleaning, and identifying artifacts. We also spent plenty of time in the classroom, where we learned all about Fort St. Joseph and its history. I enjoyed the camp so much that I re-enrolled the next year—and dragged my younger brother with me. He must have enjoyed it too, because, when we returned home, we spent the rest of the summer excavating our own unit in our backyard.
Hard at work!
                Understandably, I couldn’t wait to return to Fort St. Joseph this summer. In fact, I walked past some wet dirt earlier in the year and the familiar smell had me smiling uncontrollably for a few minutes. This year, I’ve learned even more about Fort St. Joseph and archaeology, and found even more amazing artifacts. Although I still haven’t found anything as interesting as the Jesuit ring a camper found in 2009, I’ve found lead shot, part of a brass kettle, and too many bones and beads to count. I’ve seen campers and students alike unearth many even more amazing artifacts.
                Not only have the summer camps at Fort St. Joseph informed me and given me invaluable experience, they’ve also been extremely fun, and have repeatedly proven to me that I want to (and, more importantly, can) become an archaeologist. My experiences here led me to other archaeology experiences, to a history major in college, and, eventually, back to Fort St. Joseph. In fact, I hope to enroll in the field school next summer. There, I expect to encounter even more of the valuable learning experiences, amazing artifacts, unbelievable quantities of dirt, and copious amounts of fun which I experienced each year at summer camp.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Open House Welcome

Dear Visitors, Guests, and Friends,
Let me invite you to the 2015 Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project’s Open House. This year’s theme is “Seeking Shelter from the Storm: Architecture in Eighteenth Century New France.” This is an appropriate theme because we have recovered significant architectural evidence from our site investigations including fireplaces, foundation walls, wooden posts, and hardware like hinges, pintles, and ubiquitous nails.
All human societies made and used architecture. Differences in architecture provide clues about past cultural practices related to technology (methods of construction), social organization (group size), settlement mobility (building permanence), and belief systems (houses of prayer and ritual).  The study of shelters and other buildings is also an opportunity to reflect on the spaces that we construct, inhabit, and use today.
Strap hinge with a spear finial recovered from Fort St. Joseph (photo by John Lacko)

Imagine that you are living in the St. Joseph River valley 300 years ago. Native peoples welcomed French fur traders, soldiers, and priests to the area. In winter, it’s cold and snowy. In summer, it’s hot. No one has indoor plumbing, electricity, or air conditioning. There are no matches to make fires—no internet, cable, or cell phones. There is no Lowe’s®, Walmart®, Home Depot®, or a lumberyard nearby. If you lived in a Native village or at Fort St. Joseph in 1730:
*Where would you locate your house? What other buildings would you need?
*What would your house look like?
*How would you build it? What construction materials would you use?
*Who would you live with?
*What would you do on a daily basis inside and outside of your house?
*How would your life be different than it is today?

We welcome you to consider these questions and the importance of architecture in our lives as you:
*meet living history re-enactors who demonstrate daily life of the fur trade community that used the fort
*see architectural hardware and other artifacts on display from past and current excavations
*witness architectural evidence exposed in the ground in ongoing archaeological excavations of the fort
*listen to lectures, presentations, and demonstrations from experts in colonial life
*enjoy opportunities to interact with student archaeologists involved in bringing the eighteenth century to life
Artist's conception courtesy of the Archaeological Conservancy
Fort St. Joseph, one of the most important archaeological sites in the western Great Lakes, was first located on the ground and investigated by Western Michigan University archaeologists in 1998. Since then, a partnership was created between the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc., and other community groups to investigate and interpret the site. Thousands of artifacts, including architectural evidence and remains of daily life, have been recovered that provide insight into the military, commercial, residential and religious activities of the colonial period when the French and British interacted with local Native American groups.
The Open House is an opportunity to learn about the men, women, and children of the Fort St. Joseph fur trade community who inhabited this region over 250 years ago! Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know at this community event and be sure to tell us what you think in the survey waiting for you. We look forward to your comments and the chance to continue sharing our findings as part of our education and outreach program in public archaeology.

Michael Nassaney, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Deluge of Difficulties

FSJ Friends,
            I hope you are all staying dry! Throughout the last week, most of the nation has been getting a lot of rain. While there has not been as much rain here in Niles, we are having a few water issues on the Fort St. Joseph floodplain. As you can see in the photos, it is a little wet! Because of this, we have shifted our focus back up to the Lyne Site on the terrace. We began our 2015 excavations at the Lyne Site and identified some eighteenth-century material. While we are slightly disappointed that we cannot currently work in the floodplain, we are at the same time excited to open new excavations on the terrace. This year’s students have been doing a great job and have truly enjoyed the outreach activities that they have participated in. 
Archaeology at the floodplain is going "swimmingly" (photo by Aaron Howard)
             Other exciting news includes the identification of an architectural feature in the floodplain. This feature requires more investigation which will take place once the river recedes or in a future field season. Despite these difficulties the Open House is moving along nicely and we cannot wait to see everyone there!
             Please keep dry weather in your thoughts!

-Erika Loveland

Of Rain and Pipes

Hello all, Jesse Westendorp again. We’ve had a bit of an exciting time lately, as I’m sure you’re all aware. The rain has made our task...interesting to say the least. However, in between the increasingly hard to ignore sense of impending doom, there was a bright spot in the day that served to distract a few of us from Mother Nature’s increasingly desperate attempts to bog our work down. Yesterday a very particular piece of Native American, or rather, native-French culture was unearthed at the Fort St. Joseph site. It was so precisely cut that at first thought it was simply a machined device of modern make, despite the fact it came from what we term the occupational zone. The occupational zone, for those who don’t know, is a region of soil beneath the disturbed soils in the Fort St. Joseph area. It is, in theory, basically untouched by modern hands.
Hopefully that tidbit of information, and the resulting unlikelihood of the artifact being from the modern era, should indicate to you just how precise the cuts were. As it turned out, the artifact was not a tool of modern times, but was actually a piece of a device called a Micmac pipe. This pipe was, as indicated above, something of a cross-cultural phenomenon. It was used by both the French and the Native Americans for quite some time. The primary features of a Micmac pipe are an inverted acorn shaped bowl, short constricted bowl stem and a triangular base. The pipe worked in a fairly simple way, a hollow reed was into a hole along the bottom of the triangular base, and at times decorations were hung along this reed, depending on the tastes of the soon-to-be user. There may also be a small hole near the “tip” of the pipe to release the smoke as the user partakes in the primary function of the device.
Micmac pipe uncovered this week.  (photo by Aaron Howard)
Now, to get such a wonderfully precise cut on the Micmac pipes, one needs to use a selection from a certain set of materials. The materials in question could be anything from Siltstone, soapstone, shale, limestone or linite. These pipes have been reported in a rather large area, indicate a large degree of cultural diffusion, perhaps aided by French traders. The area in question stretches from Labrador in Canada to Georgia in the United States. This range is impressive to say the least, and could be taken as a testament to the quality of the manufacturing process and the resulting product. A low-quality process would not, with European pipes and the like available from European traders and other native American pipe designs available in addition to the European pipes-have spread quite so far. The pipes are also found in a variety of environments, indicating that they may well have been hardy in addition to being high-quality. Another pipe of the Micmac variety was discovered in an area of rolling hills and bordered by an evergreen forest, the soil was by and large a yellowish sand and the site as a whole was bordered by what could accurately be described as a bog.
Considering our situation at the dig site, I cannot help but feel a stab sympathy to the poor men and women who had to work so close to that concentration of water. In addition, two other pipes were found within the same general area. This area being the Prince Albert area of Saskatchewan.  All three specimens recovered showed signs of professional craftsmanship, and one in particular, crafted from gray limestone, was specifically noted as having been of extra-local origin, indicating that the trade in Micmac had quite the reach indeed.
It’s quite fascinating, and dare I say exciting, to have had a part in unearthing a portion of such an interesting family of artifacts. Several people whom the artifact was shown to noted that the precision of the holes carved into the pipe was something they would attribute to a modern drill piece, rather than the work of long-dead craftsmen. I had not even known that such levels of precision had been reached amongst the natives of the America’s at that time period, so the whole experience regarding the pipe has proven to be very educational, and as I said before, exciting, as finding something out that one did not expect tends to be. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Display of Wealth

Gun parts found this week.
(photo by Austin George)
Digging is getting much easier for my partner and I the lower we go in our unit. We have finally reached the occupation zone, which is where we find undisturbed artifacts. Hopefully this will give us helpful information for uncovering a part of the fort. We have had some trouble with water filling our units, but it is not as bad as when the whole site flooded. Now the pace of our excavations are picking up.  We are low enough now that we can find structural stones from buildings and other features. My partner, Rebecca, and I may have found a ditch and hopefully it proves to be helpful. It could be a drainage ditch or a ditch for garbage. We are looking at maps from past years to draw more information to help us figure out why it’s there. During our lab time at night we are given time to look though past field notes and maps to lay out what we may find near our own units. Last week, we began our camper program with our life-long learners, so it was neat to work with others that have the same interest and excitement that we have about archaeology. We worked with them not only on excavation techniques but also at wet screening. We got to teach the campers what we know, which helped show us how much we have already learned. Throughout the week we found several unique artifacts like a knife blade, a gun flint, a gun part, and the neatest one was a green glass cuff link.

Metal alloy cuff link adorned with green glass.  (photo by John Cardinal)

Last week I began wet screening and started to find artifacts right away. I saw something in the screen that looked like green glass, which was pretty exciting, but when I pulled it out I realized it was a cuff link. Cuff links are usually found in areas where the French would have occupied and where they were trading. The presence of glass sleeve buttons related Fort St. Joseph to Quebec, Montreal, and most French cites. Cuff links were worn exclusively by males and were usually a sign of wealth and would show that the person was trading very ornate objects. There were many things that could have showed wealth back then like clothing type, clothing detail complexity, jewelry, and other things. So if someone had a very colorful or large cuff link it would have signified that they were trading more expensive items than someone with plain cuff links. Cuff links have two characteristics when you make an attempt to identify them. The first characteristic you can look for is whether the metal attachment has an oval or octagonal shape. Secondly, you look at the glass to see how it’s shaped. The glass is mounted to the metal and it is cut to reflect the most light it can. There have been about eight cufflinks found so far at the fort, which would make sense because very few are found in locations that the British also occupied.


A Little Jingle At Fort St. Joseph

As my fellow students have shown in previous blog entries, we have found (and found out) so many interesting things while working at the Fort St. Joseph site. My unit, N29 E12, is no exception! Last week, while I was wet screening a bucket of our dirt from 30-35cm below datum, one inconspicuous clump of mud melted away to reveal what looked like a squished, rusty, hollow metal ball about 1.75 cm in diameter. At first I thought it was a button, because there was a small loop on one side of the artifact. The chipped underside was more telling, however: There, the metal was very thin, and one half was bent inward toward the center, along a slot. Upon closer inspection and consultation with the field staff, we concluded this artifact was not a button, but a metal alloy bell!
Powell JW. 1894. Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Washington: Government Printing Office.

Back of the recently excavated hawk bell.
(photo by Aaron Howard)
Artifacts like this one are referred to as hawk bells. They are made of brass, and when complete are made up of four elements: the crown, back, eye, and clanker or clapper (Charles Hulse, Fort St. Joseph Artifacts, 1977). The crown and back make up the main shell of the bell – the back is the top, while the crown is the bottom and has a slit across it (Lyle Stone, Fort Michilimackinac 1715-1781, 1974). The eye is a small loop on the back.  Finally, the clanker is a small loose piece of either iron or lead that is put inside the shell to produce that familiar jingle when the bell is rattled. When the crown and back are joined together, there is often a seam or raised lip around the middle of the bell (Hulse 1977). This holds true for a number of other bells that have been found at the Fort St. Joseph site in previous years – including this bell. Even more interesting is the fact that this bell is missing its clanker. This is likely due to the fact that half of its crown was broken off either before it was disposed of or while it slept beneath the soil. Even if this were not the case and this bell was otherwise complete, the clanker might still be missing, rusted away considerably more than the brass shell, especially if the clanker was iron (Jim Maus, Indian Brass Hawk Bells, 2013). Missing element aside, the most remarkable feature of this particular bell is its unique, squat, almost oblong shape – not unlike a few specimens uncovered at Fort Michilimackinac!
The fact that hawk bells like this one have been found at other French forts gives us an important hint about their origins. Made in Europe, these bells were brought over to the Americas to trade with the indigenous peoples (Maus 2013). The Native Americans then wore them like jewelry, or affixed them to clothes. To this day, similar bells are incorporated in some of our regalia, alongside other small items that our ancestors once traded for, like glass beads. In fact, such personal adornments were among the first goods traded with the Native Americans as far back as 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed near San Salvador (Maus 2013). Beads and bells did not make it further inland until the Europeans began to explore the interior of the continent.
I got a fever and the only prescription is more hawk bell.
(photo by Aaron Howard)
So, why are these artifacts called hawk bells? The term comes from their original uses in falconry. Starting in about the 13th century AD, Europeans put these small bells on their hunting birds so they were easier to find (Maus 2013). Hawk bells are essentially cat collars, but for raptors! However, because falconry was restricted to all but the social elite in France and England, it seems unlikely Fort St. Joseph’s non-indigenous inhabitants brought along their own birds of prey. Even so, hawk bells definitely played a part in the functions of Fort St. Joseph, serving as yet another medium of exchange. And who knows? Perhaps the Europeans at the fort picked up on the bell-wearing trend, too!

-Amelia Harp

It Only Takes A Spark

Hi Everyone,
      This is Gary, again, here to update everyone on my latest field school experiences. Since I last blogged, my fellow students and I have relocated to a new site along the St. Joseph River, which we all refer to as “the floodplain.”
About to apply some underwater archaeology techniques.
(photo by John Cardinal)
      At this new location, Amelia, my new pit partner, and I first opened up a new 1x2 meter unit within about six feet of the river. We had a great view and joked with our fellow classmates about it, telling them that we had the best real estate in town. The joke was on us, however, because the river rose and filled our perfectly excavated unit with water. Sadly, my partner and I felt a little displaced after being swamped out of our new unit; we wondered around for a few days helping others with their units, but both of us just wanted to return to our precious river front location. Its funny how attached we’d become to this excavation unit. Unfortunately, the water never completely receded, so Amelia and I opened up a new unit, which we “insightfully” placed farther away from the river’s edge.

      Yesterday, while excavating our newly placed unit, I was using a technique we call shovel skimming, a method of removing a thin layer of dirt with a long handled, razor sharp, flat bladed shovel. And, as I was skimming the dirt, I felt a small vibration run up the handle of my shovel. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I’d unearthed a gun flint—the first one I’ve ever found.
Chert gun flint. (photo by John Cardinal

    For those unfamiliar with gun flints, they are small precision shaped rocks used to ignite the gun powder in muskets, and, because of this ignition system, these guns are also referred to as flintlocks. Gun flint classification is surprisingly complex, but they are basically classified according to their, raw material (chert vs flint), method of manufacture (core vs blade), function (long gun vs pistol), shape (physical dimensions), and color (determined by the source of the raw material used). The particular gun flint that I unearthed is made from chert, honey in color, and technically referred to as a French gun spall.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tink Tink

            Imagine that today you are wearing an earring. Somehow, you lose the back to it and it falls off and you can’t find it, so you just go out and buy a new one. What if in 200-300 years an archaeologists decides to open an excavation unit in the area that was previously your garden and they find that earring and claim it as a unique find, learning more from the earring than you ever thought possible; something that you thought of as easily replaceable. This is how archaeology works. At Fort St. Joseph, we are digging in the possible backyards, kitchens, livings rooms, or gardens of people who lived a couple hundred years ago. Things that people once thought of as garbage are now our sources of learning and uncovering past life ways. Keep in mind how many pieces of jewelry or accessories you have discarded in the last 10 years. Personal adornments, otherwise known as accessories of some sort, were just as important to 18th century Native Americans and Europeans as it is to people today, the only difference is the style and presentation of these different objects, as all fashion changes over time.
Jewelry such as beads, wampum (shell), rings, buttons, brooches and tinkling cones were used by both the Natives and the Europeans and found at the site of Fort St. Joseph. Tinkling cones in particular were used as an accessory to clothing; they were put in rows on shirt sleeves, skirts, or other regalia for show. When the person wearing these garments moved around, the cones would make a tinkling noise against one another, hence the clever name. The unique aspect of the production of tinkling cones is that they were made through the collaboration of both Native and European material goods. This means, although it is believed that they were mainly produced by Native Americans, both groups were essential in its construction. Specifically, tinkling cones were not made through a specific craftsman, but individually manufactured which made them rare in that not one was like another (Kerr 2012). Tinkling cones were made of scraps of brass from things such as brass kettles and then folded into a cone-like shape that had no overlapping edges. These brass scraps were the European contribution, while the Native contribution has to do with a large part of their clothing production; leather. They used the leather strip as an attachment piece by tying it in a knot and putting it through the small opening of the cone to attach it to cloth. Both groups wore them, considering the concentration of tinkling cones was far too high to have been just from European usage alone. Again, these varied in size due to individual creation, but they averaged about 26 mm in length. Author Lyle Stone also explains how the tinkling cones from Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, very similar to Fort St. Joseph, were mostly found in the basements of row houses, trenches, and British fills, but were found in almost every unit on the site except in areas of military occupation, showing that they were worn by nearly everyone.
We find small but interesting artifacts in the wet screens everyday!
(photo by John Cardinal)
                Yesterday morning, shortly after finding a piece of a clay pipe stem while troweling through my excavation unit, I was wet screening and came across a piece of copper alloy in a cone-like shape. Luckily, this piece was familiar to me. Our Lab Coordinator, Aaron helped to confirm the identity of the copper as a tinkling cone. Earlier in the field season, the WMU students, including myself, had the opportunity to help organize artifacts found in the 2013 field season. This was a prime opportunity to get familiar with objects that we may find in the field. We organized mounds of unburned bone, iron objects, beads, glass, copper alloy, and a slew of other materials, essentially other people’s garbage. Aaron pointed out some of the types of artifacts typically found at Fort St. Joseph and discussed how to identify these objects. Without this extra advantage, I know I wouldn’t have been able to identify the object. Learning about the tinkling cone and its purpose has helped me understand the relationship between Native Americans and Europeans within Fort St. Joseph.  It has also helped me understand the significance of every little thing I use in my life. While almost everyone has a cell phone nowadays, I wonder how that and many other things will reflect on our history 300 years from now. Recycle when you can and deposit with care.

-          Genevieve 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Flintlock Firearms of the Colonial Age

                Since the early interactions between Europeans and Native Americans, flintlock weapons were always a major commodity. They provided an easier method to hunting for the Native Americans and for the colonists, it created new markets of trade for those weapons. In 1624 The French and Iroquois signed a treaty for trade between themselves (essentially guns for fur) and thus made Montreal a new trade capital for the French in the new world. In 1639, unsupervised trade caused the Dutch to pass a law prescribing the death penalty for bootlegging guns to the Native Americans (Hamilton). These weapons were not all the same though. Most firearms were made by individual blacksmiths or gunsmiths. This meant that all of these flintlocks had individual designs on the side and butt of the rifle. Some with patterns of the crown, others with a serpentine figure that wrapped around and some with depictions of hunting dogs chasing game. These designs can help tell us a story about who the firearms belonged too. Lots of the materials used for these designs came from French furniture. This tells us that not only were these materials recycled from other things but the raw materials needed to make the gun parts were scarce and not easily obtained, even with the extensive trading going on.
Flintlock side plate.
(photo by John Cardinal)
Last week at the Fort St. Joseph site I found what we believe to be a piece of a side plate of a flintlock. It depicts a dog running towards something, similar to that of a piece found in a book published by T.M. Hamilton. The piece itself appears to be made of a copper alloy and is very well preserved. When copper oxidizes, which happens a lot in archaeology, it turns a greenish color. Since this piece was found in a swamp, and has been sitting in wet ground for years yet there is not one spec of green corrosion on it. Originally I had no clue to what the piece was and thought it wasn't anything, but when I dropped it accidentally on my trowel it made a distinguishable sound that made me know it was not just a random piece of iron. I showed my professor and he knew what it was and was surprised at how well the condition of the side piece was in. Normally there’s much more corrosion and/or damage. This piece is almost intact, no corrosion and has a brilliant depiction of a hunting dog on it. Personally, it makes me want to find the other side of the piece, it's like I've been given a jigsaw puzzle but with only one piece missing.  It's exciting but frustrating at the same time. But I haven't given up and I know I'll find the piece or others similar to it by the end of the field season.
An exciting find!
(photo by John Cardinal)
                After conducting further research at the library I found a match to the side plate. Hamilton's second book, Guns of Fort Michlimackinac, provided what is almost an exact match of my side plate. Following the end of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Britain’s control of the former lands of New France created an escalated demand for hunting/trade firearms. The growing Hudson’s Bay Company helped to fill this need by expanding production of its “Northwest” or “Mackinaw” trade gun.
                During the colonial era over 73,000 of these firearms were built and distributed all over the new world (Servin). Making this the "Model T" of firearms for the colonial era. The design on the firearm is of Fort Michilimackinac, which narrows down the search of the gun designer, which was more than likely a French Blacksmith by the name of Jean-Baptiste Amiot. He designed most of the side plate designs for this region and more than likely was distributed to Fort St. Joseph.  Finding the other side of this side plate could possible provide further information of who made it and where it possibly came from. This could provide further data on how the French fur trade worked around Michigan and the Great Lakes.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Colonial French Seals

           One of the largest commodities traded between Europeans and Natives during the 17th and 18th centuries in New France was cloth. Europeans would have given the Natives cloth in exchange for fur. Lead seals, also referred to as bale seals, were attached to the cloth packages for a variety of purposes. Catherine Davis wrote in her Honors Thesis in the WMU Department of Anthropology in 2014 that seals were used for taxation, or to prove that no one had tampered with the package. They were inspected by grand jures, who were elected officials from cloth making guilds. They then were attached to the packages to prove that they had passed inspection. Once they had served their main purpose as “merchant tags”, they were often melted down to make lead ammunition (Davis 2014).
Seal of the Crown stamped on a lead seal.
(photo by John Cardinal)
Lead seals usually contained information including where cloth was manufactured, the size, and the quality (Davis 2014). If there was no seal present on a package, whomever had tried to sell the cloth without the seal could have been charged or had their cloth confiscated and destroyed (Davis 2014). These kinds of seals were manufactured particularly in Britain and France, but can be found elsewhere in the world because the British East India Company and the Africa Royal Adventurers’ Company used lead seals too (Davis 2014).
As cloth does not often withstand the tests of time, and therefore is typically absent from the archaeological record, lead seals are all we have left to tell us about the cloth in New France. Even still, lead seals can be very difficult to understand. This is partially due to the fact that there are so few in museum collections. In North America, the largest collection of lead seals comes from Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinac City. All of the seals found at Fort Saint Joseph can be found at the Center for History in South Bend, IN or at the Fort Saint Joseph Museum here in Niles.
Discovering the lead seal in our wet screen.
(photo by John Cardinal)
Lyle Stone conducted a study of lead seals in 1974 at Fort Michilimackinac, and wrote about the classification of lead seals by two discerning characteristics. The first is by type of attachment, the second by decoration. Charles Hulse in his 1977 thesis also classifies the types of attachment. Series A is classified by a knob was pressed through a loop hole and then compressed, Series B is classified by a flange being compressed onto a disc, and Series C is attached by stringing two wires through two separate tunnels.
In our unit, Stephan and I recovered two lead seals. One of them is classified as a Series C which is a one piece seal stamped on both sides. Our seal has a crossed wreath with five markings on one face. The letters “CDI” can be read on the top, and underneath it, a backwards “C” and a regular “C”. On the reverse face, the Seal of the Crown is stamped on. I just happened to stumble upon this seal while I was wet screening our soil last week, and upon further research, Stone points out that the one piece, two faced stamped seals are fairly uncommon. When I discovered this, I was even more excited about this seal! I am looking forward to learning more about lead seals with more (hopefully) lead seal recoveries.