Thursday, June 25, 2015

Media Day

Hey everyone this is Carmell again,
                Today was media day at the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological site and unfortunately we were met with a little rain. Because of the rain and the Fort St. Joseph site still being slightly flooded we had to improvise a little bit with our preparation, placing our artifact cases and panels underneath our tents. There were a number of people at the media day opening including the City of Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin who had a chance to express his appreciation for the work we were doing in Niles. Also at the opening was Dr. Timothy Greene, the Provost at Western Michigan University and Robert Myers the Co-chair of the 2015 Open House Committee, along with some other members of the Niles community and media. Dr. Nassaney welcomed all who were there with a description of the theme we had for the 2015 dig season “Seeking Shelter from the Storm” which focused on architecture at Fort St. Joseph. The goal of this year’s field season was finding architectural artifacts of the eighteenth century to help give a clearer picture of how French colonial buildings were being constructed.
Traditional ribbon cutting at Fort St. Joseph!
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                Also addressed at the media opening were volunteers that have helped us to make the project possible. Every year at the media opening, a Volunteer of the Year award is given out to an individual or group of individuals. This year the award has gone to the Drolet Family who have been integral parts on this project even before there was any archaeological work done in the area. Donna, the matriarch of the family, was unable to attend but her daughter Margrit Hansen was able to accept the award on her mother and family’s behalf. Many volunteers have given their time, energy, and some even have helped us out with monetary donations. Some individuals like Neil Hassinger and his wife Cathy have spent a lot of their time making lunches for the archaeological field crew and maintaining a system of pumps to pump out the ground water from our site.
Margrit Hansen receives the Volunteer of the Year award
on behalf of the Drolet family.
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                 The Daughters of the American Revolution and Kiawanis Club have also been very kind to help us out in providing meals to us. There are many other volunteers who have helped us greatly, providing services to help us store our artifacts, provide us a warm shower, and to even provide us a place to stay while we are here in Niles. Finishing up our media open house, Austin George, another student from Western Michigan University, gave a brief speech summarizing what we have learned while here in Niles at the Fort St. Joseph site. Austin also mentioned that we have grown into a family while living with each other for the six weeks that we have been in Niles. He mentioned that we have had to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to make things work and to overcome challenges.
                We continue to get more excited as we draw nearer to the open house to Fort St. Joseph which is coming up in less than 48 hours now. Today was a small glimpse of what Saturday and Sunday will look like for us. We expect Saturday to be a really exciting day. We have a number of historical interpreters that will be coming to the site to give people a visual idea of how people lived and what life was like during the French colonial era at Fort St. Joseph. The reenactors will even be putting up small tents and structures similar to what would be used during the French colonial times and one of our volunteer interpreters will be making colonial food. We also were fortunate enough to have members from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi begin construction on a wigwam on site. There will be many things to look forward to during our open house. It will be very gratifying for us students to finally be able to share to the public what we have been working on for this past 7 weeks. We can’t wait until Saturday and Sunday to see the work we’ve done come together. It’s our hope to see you there too.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 Archaeology Open House Itinerary

Saturday, June 27 - Scheduled Events – Main Stage
10:30am—Welcome to the 2015 Open House
James Schwaderer: Public Outreach Coordinator
10:45am—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
11:15am—Blacksmithing: Jim McConnell
12:00pm—Timber Framing: Larry Horrigan
12:30pm—Jesuits of New France: Craig McGirr
1:00pm—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
1:30pm—Update on the 2015 Archaeology Program:
Dr. Michael Nassaney
2:00pm—Wigwam Construction: Pokagon Volunteer
2:30pm—18thCentury Food: Janine Frizzo-Horrigan
3:00pm—18thCentury Music and Dance: Noel Bash

Sunday, June 28 - Scheduled Events – Main Stage
10:30am—Welcome to the 2015 Open House
Dr. Michael Nassaney
10:45am—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
11:15am—Blacksmithing: Jim McConnell
12:00pm—Timber Framing: Larry Horrigan
12:30pm—Jesuits of New France: Craig McGirr
1:00pm—18th Century Music and Dance: Noel Bash
1:30pm—Update on the 2015 Archaeology Program:
Dr. Michael Nassaney
2:00pm—Wigwam Construction: Pokagon Volunteer
2:30pm—18thCentury Food: Janine Frizzo-Horrigan
3:00pm—18thCentury Music and Dance: Noel Bash

Ongoing Events: Saturday and Sunday
Archaeological Dig
Wet Screens
Artifact Displays
Children’s Activities
Living History Reenactors
Sales and Information Tent
Wigwam Reconstruction

Historical Interpreters
Coordinator: Robert and Candace Myers
Dance and Music: Noel Bash
Stefan Sekula: military tents — 84th Regiment
Craig McGirr: Jesuit missions
Larry Horrigan: timber frame construction
Jim McConnell: blacksmithing
Luann McConnell: spinning
Janine Frizzo-Horrigan: cooking and canoe tent
Robert and Candace Myers: Quill-writing
Pokagon Band Potawatomi Volunteer: Wigwam
Boat Launch
Rides in a Voyageur Canoe
Provided by Sarett Nature Center
10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3:30pm
$3 per Person

Provided by Boy Scout Troop 579 from Niles, MI 

Oh So, You Found an O-So?

                Hi folks, Genevieve here again. As you may have heard, due to the level of the river, we have moved our operations back to the Lyne site on the terrace near the boulder. Although we very much enjoy working on the floodplain, this is an exciting time for the field school. Each field season the students start excavations at the Lyne site in order to help us gain knowledge about artifacts, learn the technique by working in smaller units, and learn how to find information from the artifacts we find. The length spent excavating on the terrace every year is about a week, which isn’t long but gives everyone enough time to do at least one unit. Luckily this year we are able to spend more time on the terrace which gives us an opportunity to investigate, since 18th century life at the Lyne site is still somewhat of a mystery to us. What we do know is that it was a place for Native Americans since we have found an abundance of Native American pottery, stone tool fragments, and small pits used for smoking hides. It is an amazing thing that we are able to get in almost three times the amount of work on the terrace this year so that we can learn more about it and to see how we have grown as archaeologists.
Message from a bottle
(photo by Aaron Howard)
                As we learn more about the Lyne site, we are always finding modern artifacts. One thing that always stumps people is how old something has to be in order to be an artifact. The thing is that an object doesn’t have to be very old at all. Everything that we find at any given site and at any given depth can tell us something about the people that lived or visited a particular place and for what reason. Shortly after starting excavations at our new units on the terrace, about 5 cm below datum, my partner and I encountered a glass bottle that was completely intact from what we could see of it sticking out of our eastern wall. The curious thing was that it still had a decently legible label on it. After troweling around it and brushing off the glass bottle, we were able to read the letters “O-So” printed on a red and white label. Pretty much everyone was confused by the brand and hadn’t heard of it, except for one. A camper from that week, named Curtis, recognized it right away as an “O-So Good Beverages” bottle that was made fairly local and was a soda pop distributing company that stopped production around the 1960s. Sure enough, we were able to look it up and find out that he was right. We had ourselves a modern artifact.
1960's era O-So bottle
                According to, the “O-So” Company was originally famous for their 8 oz bottles of “O-So Grape” flavor and was established in 1946 out of Chicago, IL. The company expanded throughout the 40s and added a whole line of soda flavors to their brand, creating the slogan “O-So Good” and “O-So Delicious”. This specific bottle was most likely from the 1960s, because of its shape and style. As Dr. Nassaney always says, if it looks like a good camping place now, people probably thought the same thing many years before. This bottle could have come from someone camping in the woods around the 1960s, it could have come from people fishing in the river off the side of the bank, or it could have been tossed here by someone along their way. Regardless of how it got there, this bottle can tell us information about the person who deposited it there. It can tell us the time period, location, popularity of the brand, and many other things. Even though we are specifically looking for 18th century artifacts, we are still fascinated by everything we find along the way. Artifacts are artifacts not for their monetary value or age but because of the knowledge they can bring archaeologists.


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.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Open House Welcome

Dear Visitors, Guests, and Friends,
Let me invite you to the 2015 Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project’s Open House. This year’s theme is “Seeking Shelter from the Storm: Architecture in Eighteenth Century New France.” This is an appropriate theme because we have recovered significant architectural evidence from our site investigations including fireplaces, foundation walls, wooden posts, and hardware like hinges, pintles, and ubiquitous nails.
All human societies made and used architecture. Differences in architecture provide clues about past cultural practices related to technology (methods of construction), social organization (group size), settlement mobility (building permanence), and belief systems (houses of prayer and ritual).  The study of shelters and other buildings is also an opportunity to reflect on the spaces that we construct, inhabit, and use today.
Strap hinge with a spear finial recovered from Fort St. Joseph (photo by John Lacko)

Imagine that you are living in the St. Joseph River valley 300 years ago. Native peoples welcomed French fur traders, soldiers, and priests to the area. In winter, it’s cold and snowy. In summer, it’s hot. No one has indoor plumbing, electricity, or air conditioning. There are no matches to make fires—no internet, cable, or cell phones. There is no Lowe’s®, Walmart®, Home Depot®, or a lumberyard nearby. If you lived in a Native village or at Fort St. Joseph in 1730:
*Where would you locate your house? What other buildings would you need?
*What would your house look like?
*How would you build it? What construction materials would you use?
*Who would you live with?
*What would you do on a daily basis inside and outside of your house?
*How would your life be different than it is today?

We welcome you to consider these questions and the importance of architecture in our lives as you:
*meet living history re-enactors who demonstrate daily life of the fur trade community that used the fort
*see architectural hardware and other artifacts on display from past and current excavations
*witness architectural evidence exposed in the ground in ongoing archaeological excavations of the fort
*listen to lectures, presentations, and demonstrations from experts in colonial life
*enjoy opportunities to interact with student archaeologists involved in bringing the eighteenth century to life
Artist's conception courtesy of the Archaeological Conservancy
Fort St. Joseph, one of the most important archaeological sites in the western Great Lakes, was first located on the ground and investigated by Western Michigan University archaeologists in 1998. Since then, a partnership was created between the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc., and other community groups to investigate and interpret the site. Thousands of artifacts, including architectural evidence and remains of daily life, have been recovered that provide insight into the military, commercial, residential and religious activities of the colonial period when the French and British interacted with local Native American groups.
The Open House is an opportunity to learn about the men, women, and children of the Fort St. Joseph fur trade community who inhabited this region over 250 years ago! Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know at this community event and be sure to tell us what you think in the survey waiting for you. We look forward to your comments and the chance to continue sharing our findings as part of our education and outreach program in public archaeology.

Michael Nassaney, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project