Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Passion

A school group visits the site (photo by John Cardinal)
Hey folks,
      I’m Gary Thompson, one of the fifteen college students presently working on the Fort St. Joseph archaeological site in Niles, Michigan. More specifically, I’m a non-traditional anthropology major at WMU with a particular interest in past Native American cultures and their initial interactions with Europeans along the St. Joseph River. As a young man growing up in south-west Michigan, my father and I would sometimes find arrowheads resting on the surface of my grandfather’s farm fields.  When this occurred, my father would always stimulate my imagination by postulating the possible histories of these objects­, “if only they could talk,” he would say to me. So not surprisingly, I grew up daydreaming about history and possibly becoming an archaeologist.  Well, I’m not a kid anymore, and I’ve finally gotten around to becoming an archaeologist; it’s my passion, you see.
Luke and I screening our soil. (photo by John Cardinal)
      So, like I mentioned, we are currently doing excavations in Niles, Michigan. As a group, we started out on Monday by setting up our equipment in a beautiful wooded area overlooking the St. Joseph River, a great habitation area by any standards. Everything went smoothly setting up the site, so by Tuesday morning my pit partner Luke and I were finally scraping and screening soil about fifteen meters away from the water’s edge. After all these years of college, I finally had a trowel in my hand, I reflected. Within a couple hours of work, Luke and I had our 1x1 meter unit several centimeters below grade level. We were encountering a mix of broken glass, 22 caliber shell casings, and small flakes of chert, not to mention a never ending supply of tree roots. Things were going great, and both Luke and I were grinning like two little kids on a field trip. It doesn’t get any better than this; I called to Luke, who smilingly agreed while screening dirt under our tetrapod. This turned out to be an ironic statement, however, because in the very next bucket of dirt we screened out a small arrowhead. For me, this was totally unexpected and somewhat surreal.  In fact, it evoked a nostalgic feeling of being a kid on my grandfather’s farm, finding an arrow head, and wondering what it would tell me if it could talk. That’s the thing you see, I want to give voice to the artifacts we uncover; I want to help tell their/the story. This is my passion.


A madison point found in our first level! (photo by John Cardinal)

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