Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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.


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