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.
Friday, July 14, 2017
Lecture: Dr. Larry Zimmerman
Digging at Fort St. Joseph!
Hello all! My name is Meghan
Williams and I am a senior at Western Michigan University. I love archaeology
and history, so I am stoked to be a part of the Archaeological Field School.
Archaeology interprets materials left behind and the knowledge gained from
those materials can help reinterpret history. The historical knowledge that
archaeology holds is the reason I became interested in archaeology. I
encountered archaeology when I was in the seventh-grade while on family
vacation at Fort Michilimackinac. An excavation unit had been placed near one
of the museums and I was immediately fascinated. It was incredible to watch the
archaeologists uncover the past and continue to add knowledge to Fort
Michilimackinac’s rich history.
On the other hand, Fort St. Joseph
also has an incredible and rich history. I am so excited to uncover more of
Fort St. Joseph’s past. However, excavations on the flood plain began only a
few days ago, so it will be a little longer before I can add my
interpretations. The field school does more than excavate the site though.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to attend an exhibit and lecture at The
Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph.
The “Evidence Found:
Explorations in Archaeology” exhibit was created in part by Dr. Michael
Nassaney and portrays the importance of archaeology and how archaeological
sites are not only in exotic places. When I first thought about archaeology I
imagined archaeologists working in exotic places scattered across the world. I could
never really imagine that archaeology took place so close to home. “Evidence
Found” showcases archaeological sites in Southwest Michigan that are ongoing or
completed. One of the archaeological sites is Ramptown, located in Vandalia,
Michigan, that was a part of the Underground Railroad. The display of Ramptown
discusses freedom-seekers and how people in Southwest Michigan were assisting
previously enslaved individuals. I was absolutely unaware that such an
incredible place was located so close to home. Archaeology is astonishing because it uncovers
the unknown, which helps to tell a more accurate history.
The Heritage Museum reminding
us that history is the prologue
to our future.
The lecture at The Heritage
Museum by Dr. Larry Zimmerman, focused around the idea of accuracy and how
archaeology brings accurate representation to the table. Dr. Zimmerman is a
world-renowned scholar and archaeologist. During his lecture, Dr. Zimmerman
discussed how people believe in weird things, such as myths or folklore, and how
these beliefs can be disproved by archaeology. One myth is the Mound-builder
myth, which surrounds the Mounds State Park. The myth goes that giants, the
lost tribes of Israel, or any other group other than Native Americans built the
mounds. Many could not believe that Native Americans could build such huge
structures, and used this belief to justify claiming Native land. The myth
became so huge that Congress asked Cyrus Thomas to determine who the
Mound-builders were. Thomas, after using archaeological techniques, proved that
Native Americans truly built the mounds. Both the exhibit and lecture by Dr.
Larry Zimmerman show how archaeology can tell us about the lifeways of the past
and demystify certain points of history.
I hope to add knowledge to Fort
St. Joseph soon! The Archaeological Field School will keep you updated!