Saturday, July 29, 2017

A sneak peek into one of the pits

Hi everyone, Ashley here again! As we gear up for the FSJAP Open House on August 5th and 6th, I’d like to take this opportunity to provide you with a sneak peek into one of our units and share some of the exciting new discoveries my pit partner, Hailey, and I have made! I would also like to provide insight into some of the possible interpretations of these new discoveries.
            Currently, we have excavated our unit down to about 33 cmbd and are still in the plow zone. If you recall from Bryan’s blog post, “The Stratigraphy of Fort St. Joseph”, the plow zone is the layer of soil that was plowed during the second half of the 19th century. Artifacts from the period of occupation at Fort St. Joseph are, indeed, found in the plow zone. However, since they have been churned up by the plow and are no longer in situ (its original place), they provide us with little to no context. Therefore, we are unable to fully understand and assess the circumstances surrounding these objects.
            Thus far, we have recovered a substantial number of artifacts in the plow zone. Although we are unbale to glean any relevant context they may have held, the artifacts can tell us something about the area within our unit. While troweling, we often uncover large pieces of unburned bone, calcined bone, glass, iron nails, and structural stones. Wet screening provides us with a means to see smaller objects more clearly, and we have uncovered many seed beads, lead shot, lead scrap, a wampum bead, ceramic, and glass shards.
Seed beads and a wampum bead recovered from our unit.
            One exciting discovery we made was a small piece of French faience ceramic. Essentially, French faience is a tin-glazed earthenware with a shiny, white glaze and blue painted decoration. The small sherd we discovered may have once been part of a dish, such as a plate or bowl, as French faience was most often utilized for these purposes. 
French Faience described above!

            We also uncovered a large piece of glass from our unit that exhibits characteristics indicative of a French wine bottle! The glass looks almost black when held in your hand, but held up to the light it shines and reflects an olive-green color. There is also a significant curvature to the glass shard, which indicates that it was most likely part of the neck and body of the bottle.
            Finally, our most exciting discovery yet includes a row of structural stones uncovered in the north-east corner of the unit and extending toward the south-west. The stones appear to be stacked on top of one another and lined up in a row. Although we are still in the plow zone, it is rather curious that the stones are in this formation. There is potential evidence of burning within our unit, as we continue to see oxidized soil throughout. We began “pedestaling” around the stones so that they remain in place for now. We will photograph our unit once we reach 35 cmbd and then determine the best course of action from there.

These structural stones may potentially be part of a feature! 
            In previous years, a unit to the north of ours was excavated and exhibited similar artifacts and features. There appeared to be evidence of burning, as well as structural stones that may have potentially been part of a hearth or fireplace. We are curious to determine if perhaps our structural stones are also part of a fireplace, although it remains too early to tell. We may continue to pedestal around them or excavate further. We intend to uncover more about this fascinating discovery, and we hope to be able to share it with you at the annual FSJAP Open House next weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Another eye opening lecture

Hello, my name is Kaylee Hagemann and I am a junior at Western Michigan University attending the field school this summer. I am enjoying my time here so far and decided to focus on our most recent lecture for my first blog.
Archaeologists are required to follow many guidelines when it comes to studying artifacts and human remains. Rules exist in order to not disturb human burials that would disrespect the community that the remains are affiliated with. There is an act called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) which covers some of these guidelines. According to the website, this was enacted on November 16th, 1990, to address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. Before this act was created, some Native American gravesites were excavated and the material and human remains were kept for research and display at museums. This was done with or without the permission of the tribe these remains were related to. Tribal Communities took a stand against this because it was discourteous and against everything they believed in. Many controversial court cases occurred, and it took a long time but NAGPRA was finally enacted. After NAGPRA was created, museums returned many Native American remains and grave goods.
This past Wednesday, Dr. Beverley Smith was the speaker for our lecture series and she spoke of the ways in which NAGPRA affected her work at an archaeological site in Flint, MI. In 2008, a crew of construction workers dug a square hole in a neighborhood to construct a basement before a house was built above it. While they were digging out all of the dirt, there were human remains being taken out and thrown on the ground surface and into the street. People found out about this and put a stop to the construction. The Saginaw and Chippewa Tribes had documentation to prove that those human remains were their ancestors. So, Dr. Smith, who studies Anthropology and Biology, was called to help research and repatriate the site. She came down and had a crew of volunteers, including some representatives of Tribal communities that helped research the human remains and rebury them.
This photo was taken at Dr. Smith's lecture. She was an engaging speaker and delivered some very interesting information.

                  Dr. Smith, the Saginaw, and Chippewa Tribal communities made agreements that placed reasonable limits on how the remains were handled. After the research process was over in the area that was excavated, Dr. Smith explained that there was a ceremony with the reburial. All the remains were reburied in special wood coffins with red cloth wrapped around them. The Tribal members and others present passed around a smoking pipe to celebrate peace between them and a prayer was spoken in Anishinabe (with an English translator present). After the reburial ceremony was over, there was a feast for everyone involved in the site. Dr. Smith spoke of how the excavation and reburial ceremony was so meaningful and enjoyable for her, she would do it again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Open House Preparation

Hello! My name is Sara King and I am a student at the University of Michigan Dearborn, visiting as a guest student this semester at Western Michigan University for the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Field School. 
I knew from a young age that I wanted to get into archaeology and learn about the history of Michigan. I started out digging for “treasure” as a kid in my sandbox, then graduated to reading every book I could get my hands on as a teen about archaeology and Michigan’s history. As an adult (and college student) I have taken many courses in anthropology and archaeology, and I was really excited to get some field experience this summer. 
I started the field school in the field with my classmates, learning the methods of archaeology and getting to practice some of them as well. Unfortunately, an issue with my back sidelined me, and I was unable to participate in the daily physical grind that is archaeology in the field.
This photo was taken of me while I spent time researching artifacts.
This setback turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me though, as I was quickly assigned to work on two projects for our Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Open House (August 5-6). With the help of my partner Claire, we have been able to come up with a detailed checklist of information for the guides of the Site Tours we plan on offering at the open house. We visited the library on many occasions to research information and revise our list, even testing out its practicality by doing a mock tour ourselves. We visited the Fort St. Joseph Commemorative Rock, Father Allouez’ cross and the Fort St. Joseph excavation site itself. After successfully completing a tour, we did more research and were able to also come up with some amazing photographs for visual aids to pass around during the tours. 
The recent finds artifact case from last summer
is pictured above. 
The other project we are currently working on is designing the artifact cases for the open house. There will be two display cases with one featuring some of the finds we have made this season, and the other matching our theme for the open house, “Community Partnerships.” To make this idea a reality, we have compiled lists of artifacts that we think represent some of the groups that the Project collaborates with. We are representing groups like the religious community and living history re-enactors, with artifacts that they might find specifically relevant or interesting. I don’t want to spoil the surprise and tell you what we plan on featuring, but I can say that the artifact case will have something for just about everyone.  

It has been a great experience in and out of the field learning the ropes of archaeology, and I can’t wait for everyone to see what everyone’s hard work has accomplished at our Open House. Hope to see you there!   

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bluegill Bounty

      Salutations, I hope this post finds you all as well as I am finding my time in Niles, Michigan. My name is Hannon Clark Hylkema and I am currently enrolled as a student archaeologist in the 2017 Fort St. Joseph Archaeological field school. I have been cultivating anthropological interest for the entirety of my educational experience, but it was only in last winter’s semester that I declared a major in anthropology. I will graduate from Wayne State University in the spring and hope to pursue further studies and vocational opportunities in anthropology, specifically archaeology.

      With that supplemental background information, you as the reader may develop a better appreciation for the experience I would like to share in this blog post. The archaeological work at Fort St. Joseph is fascinating, but I am certain you will have many more opportunities to read about our archaeological endeavors; in this post I would like to recount the events of Sunday, July 23 and the product of Monday, July 24.

      Sunday morning, my teammate Joey and I met with Neil, our floodplain dewatering expert, for a morning of fishing in the village of Edwardsburgh. Neil arrived to pick us up at 7:30 and before we hit the lake we made a few essential stops. First we stopped off at Martin’s grocery on South 11th for a fresh half- dozen donuts, obviously essential to anyone who enjoys Martin’s donuts. The next featured stop was at Walmart to purchase our fishing licenses, ensuring game legality in accordance with the legislation of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The third stop was at Neil’s place to pick up his boat and soon after we arrived at the lake! Pleasant Lake is about 60 acres of fish-filled delight, featuring private residences, in addition to a public access beach and boat launch. Joey, Neil and I were joined at the lake by Lynn, a man of many skills who happens to be Neil’s brother-in-law. To maximize our fish catching opportunities Lynn and I took his vessel out while Joey and Neil took the other. We were fishing for bluegill and according to Neil and Lynn, the best way to catch bluegill is with earthworms. We rigged our lines to bait the worms and got to fishing just before 10am. Neil and Lynn were right as ever; the bluegill were hungry for earthworms. We went for great stretches of time in which every line that was cast reeled up a fish. We must have caught about 100 fish over the course of four hours on the lake, however, we kept 35 select fish for our eating purposes.

      Sunday was the day I learned to descale and filet a fish. I got about five fish prepped (10 filets) in
the time Neil and Lynne prepped the rest (60 filets). We added our filets to a batch Neil had prepared previously in order to feed the Fort St. Joseph field team a Monday night feast. We are a large group; all of our meals have to be feast-sized. The feast was prepared for the group to reward a day’s work of digging, something to really look forward to aside from finding artifacts. The meal was truly a spiritual experience, and one I will not soon forget. Thanks to Neil and Cathy, the bar has been set high for field team dinners. Thanks to their combined efforts we will have the energy to dig again. 

The delicious meal I described is pictured above. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thoughts on a moving lecture...

       Quick introduction, my name is Crystal and I attend Western Michigan University. Last semester I was in search of a worthy educational adventure, and Dr. Nassaney assured me that the Archaeological Field School at Fort St. Joseph was exactly what I needed. Honestly, I was unsure about committing to the project, until Dr. Nassaney gave a lecture on challenging dominant narratives. After Sonya Atalay’s lecture yesterday evening, I was officially invested. She spoke about going to research a Neolithic site in Turkey and shared how she was troubled by the absence of a Native narrative. Then, she discussed how she was moved to involve the community further. 
I took this photo during Sonya's lecture at the Niles District Library.
       I am a person of many colors and I was disinterested in being a part of a project that neglected to acknowledge minorities' importance in history. But, I found by participating in this project we could be a part of a forward-thinking movement. Here and now, we can pressure this project to engage Native communities. We can become a mechanism to mobilize knowledge and correct incomplete histories. My public education taught me about Christopher Columbus and how he has been memorialized as the discoverer of the New World. This dominant narrative effectively ignores that Europeans were catalysts for genocide of indigenous people. Chances are your public education taught you a dishonest or incomplete history through textbooks and curricula compiled by the victors—mostly white men. The pervasiveness of these myths in the public schools and the damage they do gnaws at me constantly. This motivated me to develop three goals for myself this semester. The first is to learn a holistic, scientifically derived narrative. The second is to consistently be thorough, inclusive, and honest in all observations and analysis. Finally, I hope to ensure that this archaeological project is held accountable for what and how they educate the public. 
Sonya Atalay shared how she has fought for decades, on a global and national scale, to ensure archaeological projects were morally inclusive. Testimonies of her battles as a social justice warrior made me sensitive to the complexities of community-based participatory research at Fort St. Joseph. I have expressed my concern about Native American absence in the community involvement regarding our archaeological dig. Dr. Nassaney updates me about his efforts, and I am deeply grateful that he hears and addresses my concerns. It’s clear to me there is no villain—and there shouldn’t be. Sonya said something to the effect of, the hardest part of trouble shooting community-research partnerships is sitting down and communicating. Sonya’s stories about Native peoples fighting against highly respected universities for their ancestors’ remains and “grave goods” enlightened me. Native peoples in America are wary of universities’ research agendas, in my opinion rightfully so. And I hope we can remedy that distrust. I hope we can move forward, combine our systems of knowledge, and spread our collaborative knowledge.    
After reading Dr. Nassaney’s article, “Decolonizing Archaeological Theory at Fort St. Joseph, An Eighteenth-Century Multi-Ethnic Community in the Western Great Lakes Region,” I knew there was a strong scholarly interest in mobilizing a holistically derived narrative. Dr. Nassaney’s article breathes eloquent honesty and effortless inclusion. His work also informed me that scholarly interpretations of Fort St. Joseph acknowledge cultural amalgamation as opposed to the previous dominant narrative of cultural cleansing. 
Currently, we know there is archaeological evidence of Native American culture on the other side of the St. Joseph River. I am itching to uncover more artifacts that express cultural blending and cultural interdependency at Fort St. Joseph. As a result of community based archaeology, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi have veto power, and they have asked us not to disturb their buried culture on the other side of the river. Sonya sharing her complicated relationship with Harvard and the University of Michigan gave us the insider perspective. Traditionally Native epistemologies were not regarded when investigating academically motivated research questions. In Niles, Michigan I see an opportunity to show Native People we genuinely want to share the benefits of knowledge production. 
It’s amazing that here in Niles, Western Michigan University is experimenting with not only the advancement of knowledge—but with the advancement of the production of knowledge. Sonya’s stories are telling of the obstacles this project may face. But, I truly believe braiding knowledge will produce the most holistic scientific discoveries.