Friday, June 5, 2015

                Hi everyone! I'm Becca Stoddard and I'll be a junior at WMU this upcoming fall. I'm an anthropology major with a minor in public history and just as I was hoping, this field school is an affirmation of my passions in study. This is my first  field experience and I'm loving almost  every minute of it.
Removing the last of the roots.
(photo by John Cardinal)

                If you've been keeping up with our blogs you probably know that the past week has been rather stressful for me, my unit partner, Austin, and the group as a whole. You may have read Austin's blog, where he talked a little about our unit and our battle with roots. As a little follow up for you, I'm happy to share that we've finally moved past the root problem! Being excited to move into a new unit only to have a rough start was a little disheartening and created some stress on me and Austin, always feeling like you've done so much work only to find out that you've just  cut out one of your many roots was not very fun. However, like I said, by going deeper in our unit we've moved pass the root problem and we're excited to keep moving forward. Along with our personal stress over our unit, the group as a whole has had a few rough days.  I think it's safe to say that no project can be complete without a few bumps along the way. From the flooding of the site over the weekend to the business of moving sites, getting new partners with new units and picking up the pace of our work, things have gotten a little crazy at times. What strikes me is that after the day is over, us students seem to be able to leave the stress of the field on the field; maybe with the help a quick nap or a cup of coffee. It's amazing to me how fast the group has bonded, and now as week four is coming to a close, it feels like we've been together for much longer than that. There isn't a single person here that I would feel uncomfortable talking or working with or who I wouldn't call a friend. I think that's the special thing about living in a learning community like this. Having to spend every hour of the day with each other seems to only make our friendships grow, as cheesy as that sounds. Feeling so comfortable around each other allows us to benefit from one another on a personal and educational level. Getting to know my peers on a more personal level has provided the comfort and respect that is sometimes needed on the field to critically teach and encourage one another.  If we weren't living together and only seeing one another for a few hours a day, I think things would be very different. Although we do have fun on the field, most of our bonding forms after work hours. When you have a group of equally tired college students who can bond over common interest and who are living in such close quarters, fun times are hard to avoid. We're only half way through our time at Fort St. Joseph and I'm thrilled to see how our relationships and interactions with each other will develop even further.
Guest lecturer Dr. Ian Kuijt.
(photo by James Schwaderer)

                 Yesterday marked the first Wednesday of our summer lecture series held at the Niles District Library. Our first guest speaker was Dr. Ian Kuijt from the University of Notre  Dame, he shared his research on the archaeology of 18th-20th century Irish architecture with us. What really caught my attention from his lecture was his method of ethnoarchaeology, which is essentially mixing cultural anthropology with the study of archaeology. These are two parts of anthropology that I have the most interest in so it was exciting for me to see how the two fields can work together. There will be an official summary of the lecture coming soon so definitely keep an eye out for that and join us for our future lectures, Wednesdays at 7pm!

- Becca

Thursday, June 4, 2015

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program...

                Greetings and salutations. I’m Jesse Westendorp, one of the students participating in the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project. I’m going to be entering my senior year at Western Michigan University at the end of this summer. As a Public History major, I enrolled in the field school out of sheer professional interest. One can learn quite a lot by working with dusty tomes and the writings of long-dead poets, but I feel that if one does not, at least, have some experience in how the artifacts they work with are recovered then they are perhaps missing out on some context. My eventual goal is, after all, to gain employment at a museum or a historic site. The field school has thus far proven to be an enlightening and illuminating experience, as I had expected. Unfortunately, our digging was delayed this week and our regular schedule disturbed.
                The Fort St. Joseph site flooded over the weekend and our daily activities diverged as a result. I’m a sitting member of the FSJAP artifact display committee and under orders of the staff, we met during the resulting free time to discuss our plans for the upcoming open house. Many of you are probably familiar with the display cases that past open houses made use of. Myself and the other members of the committee, Luke and Carmell, certainly became familiar with them by the end of the meeting. We took some inspiration from their designs, but we sought to improve on them in many ways. First, we took note of their use of colorful construction paper, which had an overall effect of adding some visual spice to the display. We then noted however, that the effect was mitigated to a certain extent by the fact that the colors upon on the construction paper had faded slightly.  We elected to improve upon the design by making use of brighter colors when the time came to construct our own display case.
                But the precise design of the display case is of little use if one does know what is going in it. We compiled a list of artifacts that matched up with our exploration of the architecture of the Fort St. Joseph site. The artifacts we elected to make use of, or at least attempt to make use of can largely be broken up into two or three categories. The first includes building materials like stone and mortar, daub, and material used in the construction of posts. The second is the material that goes into the creation of locks and latches. These devices are made up of numerous complex parts, and the latches and locks themselves can be of differing types, resulting in a wealth of material. The third possible category, which is still under discussion, is the possibility of setting aside a section for the tools used to construct the housing, though this suggestion is very tentative and may well be cut before the final product is produced. We’ll also be attempting to describe the precise construction techniques the house depicted in our display employed. We hope you’ll find the subject matter as fascinating as we all do!
                During the afternoon, as our meetings were winding down, it was decided that, as the site was still waterlogged, that it would be appropriate to take a trip down to South Bend. The History Museum located at South Bend has a long history in the context of the Fort St. Joseph project. Some of the first artifacts unearthed from the site made their way to the museum well before Niles founded their own facility. They also host a lovely exhibit about the St. Joseph region. This was the primary attraction of our own tour of the facility. This exhibit is titled “Voyages: The History of the St. Joseph” region. It covers the history of the region from prehistory (dating back to 600 million years ago) to the 1600’s, the beginning of the French presence within the region, and finally, to the modern day.
Students observe the collection of Fort St. Joseph artifacts
at the History Museum in South Bend
(photo by Austin George)
                It seems that little expense was spared when it came to fleshing out the exhibit, as many parts of the history of the land are restored in convincing mockups of the terrain and scenery of the region. In the part of the exhibit that deals with the 1600’s for example, one would find depictions of hardwood forests and grasslands. In another part of the exhibit, titled “New Order of the Land” which deals with the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, you see depictions, both textual and otherwise, of the founding of the South Bend trading post and the forcible removal of the native Americans in the region. One then moves on to an impressive recreation of the marshes that were drained dry during the march of industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is also worth noting that the exhibit contained a half hour, award-winning documentary on the African American community within the region. Due to our limited time however, were not able to partake fully in this.
             The final part of the exhibit, titled “Wheels of Power” tells the tale of the region's continued growth well into the 19th century! As you can tell from the summary above, the coverage of the Fort St. Joseph region is extensive and quite in-depth. If you have an interest in learning more than a mere summary can tell you, I’d suggest you drop by the museum yourself and take a look. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Overcoming Difficulties in the Field

My name is Austin George and I am a sophomore at Western Michigan University. I am currently an engineering student but this field school is really making me rethink my major for several reasons. First when we arrived at the stable we are staying at I bonded with several of the other students quicker than I thought I would. I have been more involved and participated in several hands on activities that have made me think more about archeology. I also feel like all of the students here can relate with their passion for history which brings us a lot closer together.
The root we pulled out
(photo by Erika Loveland)
Last week we moved from the Lyne site which was our learning site to the flood plain, our final destination. We were given a new digging partner and that really changed a lot because we got so used to our first partner and found our strengths and weaknesses now we had to start over. It shows that sometimes in life things are going to change but you just have to keep digging. After clearing the site we were assigned our units. It’s exciting because we got to sit down with the teaching assistant and look at field notes from previous years as well as the site map so we had a little bit of a say in where we would be digging. When we looked at the unit my partner and I were given, we realized it was very near to a live tree and it had a large stump at the north corner that took up a big portion of our unit. Seeing this, we were a little let down and not too positive about starting to dig. We knew from the begging it was going to be trouble but we were ready to dig and that’s what we did. We thought that the big root would be our biggest problem but after a few swings of the axe we took it right out.
The bigger problems are the large roots that keep appearing. Cutting roots is a very exhausting task that takes time and wears you out quick. The lower in the unit we go the less small roots we are finding but we keep finding much bigger ones.
Flooded site
(photo by Austin George)
Friday we had a bad storm pull us out the field early and that’s when the chaos began. It rained for almost three days which we knew would be a problem since it is a flood plain. The amount of rain we received brought the river level up far enough to flood the site. We went down on Saturday to check the site and found out that all of the units had flooded and there was standing water everywhere. Because of the flooding, we had to take Monday off and today we worked at bailing out some of the units. We have to wait for the river and water table to drop before we can even think of digging. The pumps we have to lower the water table were too close to going under so we had to pull them out. Hopefully the river gets low enough for us to dig tomorrow.

Stay tuned!


The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project Receives An Award!

                Recently, the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project was registered with the Register for Professional Archaeologists Field School Certification Program. In 1974, the Society of American Archaeology passed a resolution stating, “no site deserves less than professional excavation, analysis, and publication,” and noted that while teaching the next generation of archaeologists is critical to the field, all archaeological fieldwork should have a serious research commitment to the resource.  The Register for Professional Archaeologists (RPA) recently awarded a $1000 scholarship from the Society of American Archaeology to the field school they felt best met the following criteria:
  • The field school includes strong hands-on learning components in both the field and laboratory.
  • The field school provides information on the culture history of the site as well as that of the surrounding region through lectures, tours to other archaeological sites, and if possible interaction with native/indigenous/traditional groups living in the area.
  • The field school teaches students how to communicate their (technical) findings through written journals, blogs, etc.
  • The field school teaches students to interact with the public through open houses, public days, or other outreach programs.
  • The field school includes educational components designed to teach students about archaeological ethics and their responsibility to the various constituencies that they will serve in their careers.

The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project is immensely proud to announce that we are the recipients of this exciting award!  In particular, the SAA was impressed with the program’s focus on community service learning.  We selected two students to receive the $1000 scholarship.  Here is a little bit about both of them:
Amelia Harp is a non-degree graduate student studying anthropology at Western Michigan University. She is also pursuing her M.A. in Anthropology at Georgia State University. She received her Bachelor’s in Anthropology from Kennesaw State University, and completed an internship with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Department of Language and Culture. Her research interests include historical archaeology, public archaeology, and Native American studies with particular focus on the Great Lakes region. She is currently studying architecture and critically analyzing the relationship between academia and other various stakeholders, including Native American tribes, in the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project as part of her thesis work. She has participated in previous archaeological studies at Fort St. Joseph, the Dabbs Site in Georgia’s Bartow County, and Fort Daniel in Gwinett County. She has also aided in analyzing historical artifacts that were uncovered during the 1970s in archaeological excavations associated with the MARTA subway system in Atlanta.
Erika Loveland is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Western Michigan University. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and completed her archaeological field school at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. Her research interests include historical archaeology, public archaeology, colonialism, trade, and regional analysis. She is currently examining the architectural components of Fort St. Joseph, a French mission-garrison-trading post complex. She has participated in research projects for the pre-historic Garden Creek Site in North Carolina and the Undocumented Migration Project in Arizona.

Congratulations to Amelia and Erika and a very big thank you to everyone who has contributed to making the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project what it is!