Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Trowel in Hand is Worth Two in the Pit

Greetings and regards to you all on this momentous day of Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project 2017 media coverage! The field team has been hard at work with aspirations to reach the occupation zone (most of us have) before our open house this weekend, August 5-6, 10am-4pm; we hope all of you grace us with your collective presence.
Yesterday afternoon in the field, and at the evening lecture, I had the privilege of interacting with three distinguished individuals that have unique connections to the discipline of archaeology. 

As I worked with my teammates to re-excavate a unit that was tragically flooded in 2015, Terry Martin arrived at the site. Terry is the project’s zooarchaeologist, meaning he specializes in analyzing and identifying animal bones. Bones represent the greatest portion of our recovered materials and Terry assists in providing desired insight on what we can learn from the recovered bones. After a brief tour of the site Terry helped us recover the previously excavated unit from 2015. We did not speak extensively, but I was glad to have his help and to be in the presence of a veteran of the project; Terry has been involved with the Fort St. Joseph field team since 2002.

This photo was taken of me excavating. 

I also met Gordon on site yesterday, a Fort St. Joseph field school student from recent years. Gordon was given special admittance to the field school as a graduate student (almost all field school students have been undergraduates) from the University of Oxford. Gordon was the chief financial officer of a construction company, but is currently progressing in liminality as he pursues archaeology and relating to a non-profit style discourse. Gordon is back at the site, lending a hand in the work of the 2017 field team.

I had the pleasure of meeting our very own state archaeologist, Dr. Dean Anderson, on site yesterday afternoon. I did not get to speak with him on site much but had the opportunity to dine with him at Niles’ own Pizza Transit, where dinner was generously provided by the local Chamber of Commerce. After dinner we had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Dr. Anderson at the Niles District Library.

The content of the lecture focused upon contemporary and historical instances of community-based archaeology, in addition to their impacts. Dr. Anderson discussed numerous archaeological projects throughout Michigan as they relate to education, outreach, local economics, and community partnership. Dr. Anderson is specifically employed by the state of Michigan’s Department of History and Preservation, wherein he reviews the legality of archaeological projects, maintains the state archaeology file, and curates archaeological collections. The overarching theme of Dr. Anderson’s lecture is that archaeological projects have a great potential to stimulate the interest of local communities; however, local communities also have a great potential to stimulate the interest of archaeologists.

Community members and archaeological personnel share a symbiotic relationship wherein their interests collide in the pursuit of educational information, touristic endeavors, and overall collaboration. Our prerogative to uncover information about the past most often relates to individuals from the archaeological discourse, but additionally relates to individuals of non-archaeological discourses. I have had the pleasure of working and conversing with a number of great archaeologists while working on this project; I have also had many great experiences working and conversing with members of the Niles community. When archaeologists have opportunities to work with non- archaeologists, novel opportunities are made to interpret the information of the past. To
paraphrase a quote from Dr. Anderson, our goal is to “add to the knowledge about people from all times and all places.” 

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