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.” 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Day of Community Outreach

    Hello everyone, it's Bryan again! I am going to share with you what I did on Tuesday with Dr. Nassaney. We both took some time away from the field to meet with a very wonderful group of people that are making a difference in the community of Niles, MI. We also talked to a radio host about our passions in archaeology and what will come next in the upcoming week of the field school.

A beautiful picture from the inside of
Ho Ping Garden.
         It all started out as a regular day and we went out in the field to start digging in our units and wet screening our soil buckets. Around 10:30 a.m., I left the site to go meet with Dr. Nassaney to head to our special lunch. We drove to Ho Ping Garden, an amazingly decorated Chinese restaurant along 11th street to meet with this group called the Optimist Club.

        If you don’t know what the Optimist Club is, they are a group of citizens that work together to create a more optimistic future for kids in their community. This group is not just in Niles, it is an international organization that spreads from Canada all the way south to some parts in the Caribbean. This chapter goes beyond working to improve the lives of the children within Niles, they try to improve everyone’s lives in Niles. All the members of the club are highly invested/interested in what we are doing in this project as well, so they invited Dr. Nassaney to give a short 20-minute presentation on what we have found so far in the project as well as recent finds from this season. Overall it was a very positive experience and it was so nice to meet these amazing people and learn about what they are trying to accomplish within their community. If you are interested in learning more, the club has a Facebook page for you to check out to see upcoming events they are involved with. Here is the motto that they go by and if you like what you read, I would highly recommend you get in contact with someone in the club to start getting involved:
I took this photo of Dr. Nassaney at the restaurant.

Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

The Chamber of Commerce building
where our interview was held.
                  The second meeting today was at the Chamber of Commerce in the city of Niles. We did an interview with a radio show host over the phone for a local station. The purpose of the interview was to promote our open house this weekend! But, he was also interested in why we each chose archaeology as well. Even though it was just a four-minute conversation for the both of us, I believe that we promoted the event well and I hope that it brings in lots of people.

                  After all of that, I had to go back to the field and I worked on my unit again. It was a good day that showed the theme of this year’s open house, community partnerships. It was nice to be involved with the process and to see more of the support that we are getting in our own project. If you want to see what has been going on at the site, what all the students have been working on this past month, and what we have found in our units, come to the open house this Saturday and Sunday from 10-4. Hope to see all of you there!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Special Invitation from the Principal Investigator

Dear friends, colleagues, and fort followers,

This photo was captured at a community meal in 2010.
I would like to personally invite you to attend the 2017 Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Open House. This year’s theme is “Community Partnerships: Building Meaningful Connections Through Archaeology.” Western Michigan University’s 42nd annual Archaeological Field School students have been hard at work discovering how community partnerships played a role at Fort St. Joseph. The students, in conjunction with community collaborators, are examining relationships when the fort was occupied (1691-1781) to determine how interactions affected the lives of Fort St. Joseph occupants. At our upcoming Open House, visitors will get the chance to examine our recent finds, witness Living History reenactments, tour local monuments, ride in a replica of an 18th-century canoe, and engage with student and staff archaeologists conducting real time excavations.

This year’s theme of “Community Partnerships” builds on work conducted by WMU students last semester who reached out to various community groups in Niles to explore shared interests and ways that we might work together. Community groups and academics recognize the importance of collaboration for implementing their goals and visions. The initial search for Fort St. Joseph was conducted by Western Michigan University archaeologists in partnership with Support the Fort, Inc. and the City of Niles. This initiative (the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project) has grown to become a long-term, multidisciplinary, community-based research endeavor that aims to investigate and interpret the history and archaeology of the fur trade and colonialism in the interest of the public. The Project has the potential to engage a wide group of stakeholders on a variety of topics that are explored in this year’s Open House.

Even 7 years later, community partnerships remain at the heart of the project.
This photo was taken on Monday at another community meal.
        I hope that you plan to visit the site this upcoming weekend (August 5-6) to attend a unique event in southwest Michigan. Be sure to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know, meet an archaeologist, fill out a survey, and tell us what attracted you to Fort St. Joseph. I look forward to seeing you and sharing our findings as we continue to investigate and interpret one of the most important sites in the western Great Lakes region in collaboration with so many community partners.

See you soon!

Michael S. Nassaney, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology
Principal Investigator
Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Day in the Field and My Night at the Community Dinner

Hey, it’s Kaylee again! I am going to be blogging about my day in the field and the main event of today, the community dinner that we hosted. 

On a typical Monday, everyone comes back from the weekend and we arrive in the field around 10am. In our unit, N24 W6, we are currently working to get the floor down to 40cmbd. My pit partner and I shovel skimmed and troweled our way down, uncovering bones, structural stones, seed beads, and a pipe stem fragment (one of four found in our unit). While my pit partner wet screened our soil, he found rusty nails, lead shot, lead scrap, and a gun flint.

This week, the Life-Long Learners are joining us in the field. For some, it was their first time at Fort St. Joseph, or even an archaeological site, and some have already done the camp a couple times. They enjoy being part of the project so much that they come back, and I can relate to this feeling as I was a Life-Long Learner in 2015 to see if Archaeology was right for me and here I am now, a field school student. I couldn’t get enough of it, so now I am pursuing a career in it!

While I worked on getting the east half of my unit down to 40cmbd and my pit partner was at the wet screens, I was paired with a camper named Bob. He had done the camp a few times, so he already knew what to expect. He was very fascinated with everything we found and was very careful with how far down he troweled. I really enjoyed working with him.

The Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Project does not only involve the University students and staff, we have the support of the Niles community. The project would not have made it this far (since 1998) with only the help of our crew members. We have support from the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and the Kiwanis Club. We have also had long term support from Support the Fort, which is a group of people who give donations, food, and assistance to the Project. Some members join the week long camps, or have been known to assist in excavation.

We have been hosted multiple times this season for dinner or lunches by these groups and other individuals, and we are treated so well by them. To say thank you, we invited them to the stables for dinner. We set up tents and tables, cooked up so much food, and even had a cake that in pretty, frosting read: Thank You Friends! 

After dinner, we had a little trivia contest on the history of Fort St. Joseph and the Archaeology Project. Everyone was really into that and it helped to reinforce information I already knew, as well as shed light on what information I should research more. I enjoyed myself so much and ensured that everyone around me was having a good time. I was able to talk to community members and tell stories and laugh with them. It felt great to give back to them after everything they have done for us and the Fort. They are wonderful people and I’m glad I get to work with them!
This picture was taken of me chatting with some of our fantastic friends .