Monday, May 18, 2015

First Day of the 2015 Field Season

                Hi there, my name is Genevieve Perry and I am going into my second year of college at Western Michigan University. I am majoring in Anthropology and have found a special interest in learning about archaeology and the science behind the field. I chose to apply to be a part of the Fort St. Joseph project because my first archaeology class with archaeology professor and head of the project, Dr. Nassaney, opened my eyes to the truth behind archaeology in that the point is not to find artifacts and exploit them or become Indiana Jones, but to learn from the things that are found in order to unravel the past and learn from people that lived hundreds or even thousands of years before us. Can you imagine the life lead by those who walked the earth that long ago? Because of archaeology, we no longer have to guess. The project, although still new in its season, has proven to be a success in my eyes already. Just in the first week of the course I’ve learned more about French and Native interactions and the process of the fur trade that took place in Niles, MI than I ever thought possible and I’m sure I have a great deal more to learn.
WMU students taking their skills into the field.  (photo by John Cardinal)
                We arrived in Niles today, bright and early, to be welcomed with smiling face and open arms from Fort St. Joseph Museum Director Carol Bainbridge. She helped us while we got our equipment for the field and packed up our trailers to get started on this long adventure. It is an honor that our team of Western students and staff has such great support from the community and the leadership of the city of Niles. Shortly after parting from Mrs. Bainbridge, our team headed out to the Lyne site, an archaeology site up on a terrace a short distance from Fort St. Joseph that has shown integrity due to past 18th century finds in the area. In our first week of excavation we will be working at the Lyne site in hopes to find more evidence of past activity. After our first week, we will move our crew down to the flood plain and continue our search for the architecture of Fort St. Joseph.
Special thanks to Alex Brand for stopping by and helping with site logistics.  (photo John Cardinal
                Today our Western team prepared for excavation at the Lyne site. Contrary to my inexperienced archaeologist brain, there is a lot of work to be done before we are able to break ground. I know our whole group was bubbling with anticipation to start exploring history.  We took our equipment and cleared the area of the Lyne site after a long two years of overgrowth. We even managed to clear a path down to the flood plain and feast our eyes on the natural beauty of the St. Joseph River and the undisturbed land. The river flows gorgeously along the site; I can’t imagine being any luckier to have a more breathtaking scene in front of us as we journey on. It’s a wonder that there are so many fascinating things to be learned beneath this soil. Choosing just one area in which each group is to examine and excavate is a difficult task put upon the more knowledgeable staff, but I am confident that our team is the very best. This week will be filled with new discoveries along with the excitement of making mistakes and knowing how to become the best archaeologists we can.
               After our long day in the sun, we headed to the Morris Farm which will be our living quarters for the duration of our excavation in Niles. Our generous host Stephanie Layman opens her home to Western students each year in her support of the Fort St. Joseph Project. Stephanie’s farm is a masterpiece with acres of grass and an unbelievable view of the lands that Niles has to offer. After taking in this wonderful view, we set up in our rooms and focused our minds on the benefits and challenges we may face while living in this learning community. I think I can speak for the entire Western archaeology team when I say that we are ready and excited to help the community of Niles learn more about its past. Again, the archaeology students and staff are beyond fortunate to have had and continue to have the support that we do from every aspect of the Niles community. I am sending a big ‘thank you’ from WMU to all Niles residents and supporters because we couldn’t have made any of this happen without you!

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