|We find small but interesting artifacts in the wet screens everyday!|
(photo by John Cardinal)
Thursday, June 11, 2015
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.
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.