Thursday, July 21, 2016

Secrets Beneath the Tarp

Hello again,
Paul here.  I am excited to tell you about how our excavation is going.  Our one meter by one meter unit was chosen for its proximity to a previously excavated unit from 2011 which contained a feature we would like to learn more about.   The feature in question is a fire hearth typical of the times and has been designated Feature 20.  This hearth appears in the ground as large stones in a “U” shaped pattern, however more excavation was needed to determine the exact dimensions. 
We opened our own unit and were fairly quickly able to excavate down to 40 centimeters.  We had found many interesting artifacts along the way, but nothing indicating a continuation of the feature.  At this point, after consultation with Dr. Nassaney and Erika, we decided to re-open half of the 2011 excavation which actually contains what is probably the largest portion of the hearth.   I say half the excavation because the 2011 unit was originally one meter by two meterst.  We were assigned the one meter by one meter section directly to the North of the one we were already working in.  After setting in the stakes and line, we carefully removed as much fill as we could with shovels, before switching to trowels and a whisk broom.  We found the plastic that was in place to protect the feature from contamination, and slowly traced out the edges we needed.  Once it was clear of all the old fill dirt and sand, we carefully peeled it back and looked at Feature 20.   What a sight!   
A look at Feature 20! (Photo Credit: By Author)
There was no mistaking the red fire oxidized earth and the huge stones set in their purposeful pattern.  I could just picture a French trader, maybe his wife sitting by the fire and working on something or just soaking in the heat.  After we took a quick picture, and made a mental note of what we were looking for in our own unit, the hearth was carefully covered back up.  Only a few of the students and staff were given the privilege of looking at it first hand before it was recovered.  Some of them will see it for the first time here on the blog just like you!  We are now excavating our unit down to 50 centimeters, and I am hopeful we will find more of the feature soon.  Eventually the hearth will be uncovered and hopefully our own unit will shed a little more light on life at Fort St. Joseph.  

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