Tuesday, July 26, 2016

101 Activities Around a Hearth

Hello, everyone, it’s Drew again! We have found some interesting artifacts in our unit lately! As a refresher, our unit is one cubic meter and located directly south of a house hearth. We know this because the hearth was excavated in 2011 to reveal the large, purposely placed stones and reddened oxidized soil in the ground.

A lot of activities would take place around the fire for the French. Aside from the fact that these houses were the only real shelter away from the elements, there has always been something about the fire that brings people together.

We have found a number of artifacts, which all seem to tell their own story, and together, can tell us even more! Here’s what we have found:
  • A brass tack, which was often used by the French to decorate furniture, but could also decorate a small chest or gunstock. Our particular tack has twelve small dots around a larger convex dot on the top.
  • Glass beads, which were a common import from Italy. Particularly popular were the seed beads, smaller simple beads, which were usually used by the French to trade for furs with the natives nearby. We have found at least one hundred of these beads in our unit alone!
  • Rosary beads, which were common among the French, often used among the Jesuits to count prayers. Often they are made of ivory and made by Europeans. We found two so far in our unit which appear like they might be made of bone, which has not been often found on the site!
  • An iron eye, which is used most often to connect to unjoined pieces of fabric. That could include collars or seams. Eyes are a single piece of iron bent into two eyes. These could easily come loose or break in several activities.
All of these are particularly telling of possible activities that took place around this fireplace. Furniture could have been tarnished and have tacks fallen off, the beads could easily be lost if a knot loosened or too much force was put on the adorned area. Rosary beads are attached on a necklace that could easily be broken as well. For the mission, rosary beads would have had consistent use. For the iron eye, it could be lost as easily as any of the above.
Three iron fragments found in close proximity to our unit. (Photo by author)

Another set of artifacts that we found around the hearth tell of a much simpler story, but a good one nonetheless. Pictured above is a set of iron fragments that we recovered from the occupation zone of our unit. Because of the zone, we can be almost certain that these fragments are in situ, where they were back in the eighteenth century. Near these fragments in elevation were some shards of various glassware, one sherd of creamware, and many calcined and non-calcined bones.

This is dinner. Look at the picture to the below: we have a knife. Particularly a case knife, a straight blade back with a tapered point. A knife like this was useful for carving meat. Based on what we found in the past five centimeters, numerous glassware was broken (though the glass pieces are too small to tell us exactly what) and a plate of some kind cracked but possibly reused since we did not find any other pieces. Of course, the bone tells us that there was plenty of meat to be passed around. Because of the bone size, we can’t say for certain without a faunal expert, but I’m thinking deer! Calcined bone (bone that has been burned) tells us that—as we would imagine—the meat was cooked through.
The three fragments clearly make a knife. (Photo by author)
The French colonists enjoyed the adoption of the native diet, including the animals of which they ate. Especially popular was deer, and we can see the change of diet around the hearth.

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