This blog includes updates from the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project sponsored by Western Michigan University in partnership with the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc. and other community groups. The Project is dedicated to archaeological research, education, community service learning, and intensive public outreach. The Principal investigator of the Project is Dr. Michael Nassaney.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Exploring the Sand Bar
Erika and I setting up the Theodolite (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
everyone, I'm Austin George. Gary and I were students in the field school
last year. This year, however, Gary is the Field Assistant and I am currently
serving as the Lab Supervisor. This morning, I'm here to tell you about an
interesting opportunity that we recently took advantage of. That is to say,
when we arrived at the site yesterday, we discovered that the St. Joseph River
was at an all-time low, or at least low enough for us to investigate an interesting magnetic
anomaly that appeared on a geophysical survey conducted over the frozen river a
few years ago by the Department of Geosciences at WMU.
In order to
conduct this investigation before the river reclaimed the sandbar, we canoed
out onto the sand bar and marked the anomaly's exact location (87 North 37
West) using our electronic surveying equipment (the theodolite). We had Erika,
the Teaching Assistant for the field school this year, stand on dry land with
the actual theodolite while we took the prism, a pole for the theodolite to
pick up on in order to identify the location on the invisible grid of the site, out onto
the sandbar. This way she could be at a point on the grid that we have shot
from before in order to pick up on our precise location.
getting out of the canoe, we realized that this sand bar wasn’t really a sand
bar because the mud went up past our ankles and we sank into it a little ways.
After marking the spot with the prism, Gary and I then, systematically, probed around in the
mud with five-foot metal rods until we hit something deep in the ground. We went several meters from our
original point in hopes of getting a couple hits. While Gary continued to stick
to the system, I decided to start going in bigger circles to try and find something, because we weren't getting any hits. Finally, after almost an hour of
probing around, Gary called me over and showed me that he had a couple of
strong hits. However, due to the artifact's depth and the muddy conditions, we
were unable to determine what was beneath the surface. We concluded that there
might be something there, but it was definitely deeper than we could go with
either of our rods. Soon after we left the sand bar the river rose back up and
reclaimed the area that we had just been probing on.
Gary and I on the sand bar (Photo Credit: Genna Perry)
there is a rumor in Niles that a cannon sunk in the river many years ago. They
say that kids used to jump off of the cannon into the river, but for now those
are just oral stories passed down to us through the locals of Niles. Wouldn't
it be nifty if the magnetic anomaly we investigated on the sand bar was
actually the legendary cannon?