Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grandpa History and Beads

Hello everyone,
            My name is Carmell Dennis, and I am one of the undergraduate students from Western Michigan University working on the Fort St. Joseph archeological site in Niles Michigan. This field school is my first field experience and so far it has been great! Next year I will be a senior majoring in both history and anthropology. My mix of interests in anthropology and history first started from listening to my grandpa who used to be a professor himself at Purdue University. My grandpa would always be calling me into his study to talk and teach me random things, whether it be in the car, kitchen, in the middle of a movie, living room, restaurant, or wherever we were and tell me stories from past events in history. He would try explaining to me why these things happened and how they possibly could have been prevented. He would also challenge my thinking in other ways giving me “what if” scenarios about the past such as when things were invented and ask me what effects these things would have in the future which sparked my interest in history and anthropology even more. Finally when I was able to attend Western Michigan University and had taken a few courses I signed up for Dr. Nassaney's Introduction to Archaeology class and Professor Tim Bober's First Americans class. After taking these two classes they both really opened up my eyes to anthropology and I have been hooked ever since.
Seed bead found by Carmell and Rebecca
(photo by Carmell Dennis)
            We have now been at the Lyne site for four days which have been colder than expected but everyone including myself was very eager to start digging and see what we could find. My unit partner Rebecca Stoddard and I started digging in our 1x1 meter unit on Tuesday and we started off great but we were not finding very much. Finally on Wednesday between fifteen to twenty centimeters below datum we had found our first culturally significant artifact a glass seed bead which we were so happy about! The seed bead was actually a common item in the Fort St. Joseph area during the 18th century especially since the site was a trade site. The bead also was our first culturally significant find because it showed that some type of human activity had gone on in the area that we were searching. Seed beads being made mostly in Europe had played a significant role between interactions with Europeans and Native Americans because they were used mostly for trade. They also were an item of high value for Native Americans because Native American made their beads out of bone, animal horn, deer hooves, turtle shells, and clam shells as opposed to glass.  Seed beads were sometimes used as diplomacy trade good items between Europeans and Native Americans. Seed beads got their name for looking very small like a seed are different than other beads like necklace beads which were strictly worn around the neck.
Some of the 2015 crew cleaning up units
(photo by Carmell Dennis)
Finding the seed bead makes me often think about what my grandpa and I talked about the "what if" in history. What if Europeans didn't trade glass beads and other items to establish a friendly diplomatic relationship with Native Americans? As I continue through the next six weeks of the field school I will continue to think about what my grandpa has said and as I find more artifacts continue research information about them.


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