Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Clues From The Past

 Hey everybody, Carson again!

Today I want to share an intriguing artifact with you that was found at Fort St. Joseph. The artifact is made of copper alloy, about 5 cm long and 1 cm wide. It was folded together by whoever created this piece  about halfway through to form its tallest part at 1.5 cm tall. Otherwise, the artifact is pretty flat except for in the center where it is slightly shaped into a "U" and the tallest part has a hole drilled through both sides. 
The artifact does not appear to be complete as it seems to have been attached to something on the thicker end and broke in half on the other end. 

Due to the strange shape and structure of the artifact and the lack of the other missing pieces of this artifact, we are uncertain as to what exactly this item is. However, I have begun hypothesizing on what the possible artifact could have been when it was used over 200 years ago at Fort St. Joseph. My first hypothesis is that it could be an eighteenth-century kettle lug piece. I thought this may be possible because of the holes located at one end where a handle may have been attached. My second hypothesis is that it is a broken priming pan from an eighteenth-century flintlock. We originally tossed around the idea that it may be a gun part after we recovered it through excavation, but we weren't sure exactly what it was. During the Archaeology Open House, one living history reenactor suggested a priming pan and after performing some research I also believe that may be what this artifact is. My third and final hypothesis is that the artifact is a broken eighteenth-century ramrod guide due to the shape, size, and overall weight of the object. If you have any other leads on what this artifact may be, please reach out. Otherwise, the research continues. 

That's all for now!



Baez, Kevin. “Weapons of War (1600-1800).” Smithsonian Learning Lab,

Fuhring, John. Shooting and Maintaining a Flintlock,

Nassaney, Michael S., et al. “Archaeological Evidence of Economic Activities at an Eighteenth-Century Frontier Outpost in the Western Great Lakes.” Historical Archaeology, vol. 41, no. 4, 2007, pp. 3–19., doi:10.1007/bf03377292.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

If You Like It You Should Have Put a (Trade) Ring on It


It’s Kylie again! During our last week of excavation, I found a “Jesuit” trade ring in my unit S5 W18 while wet screening. These types of rings are typically made of copper alloy and the bezels can be found in numerous shapes such as round, oval, octagonal, etc (Hulse 1977: 396). Other popular rings, included glass insets made to look like precious stones instead of the bezel. The ring I recovered is made out of copper alloy and has a heart-shaped bezel on the band (see below). 

In New France, these iconographic "Jesuit" rings were used for trade and were likely an inexpensive form of jewelry. They were decorated with a variety of motifs that had religious and/or sentimental meanings (Mercier 2011). Mercier (2011) examined several "Jesuit" rings and categorized their 
chronological and geographical distribution across New France based on a technological typology: cast rings, cut and soldered rings, and stamped and soldered rings. She recognized three main phases for the rings use: introductory (1575-1650), peak (1650-1715), and decline phase (1715-1780) (2011: 33). The introductory phase is when rings, specifically the cast rings, were first appearing in the St. Lawrence River Valley (Mercier 2011:34). The peak of the trade rings was shown through the increased volume and varieties available in New France (Mercier 2011:35). For instance, Mercier (2011) recognized that cast rings, cut and soldered rings, and stamped and soldered rings have been recovered archaeologically the peak phase and their distribution extends beyond the St. Lawrence Valley into the western and southern regions of New France. There were several changes in the economy during this time that likely contributed to the peak phase. For instance, the creation of the royal government during the second half of the seventeenth century led to new governing over the colony and increased trade. The number of expeditions also grew, stimulating trade throughout New France. In the early eighteenth century, the use of "Jesuit" rings began to decline slowly, disappearing almost completely in the 1780s (Mercier 35-36). 

Overall, "Jesuit" rings have been recovered from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sites like Fort St. Joseph throughout New France. They appear to have been used during both the French and British occupation, with a higher concentration during the French period (Stone 1974: 131). All three of the iconographic ring technological types (cast rings, cut and soldered rings, and stamped and soldered rings) are present in our Fort St. Joseph collection. Some have been recovered archaeologically at the site, while others were donated in the early twentieth century. Examples of each type can be found on display at the Niles History Center for those who have a chance to visit.

This has been my favorite find this season and I am so excited I got to share it with you! Look out for more updates.




Hulse, Charles 

1977 An Archaeological Evaluation of Fort St. Joseph: An Eighteenth Century Military Post and Settlement in Berrien County, Michigan. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Mercier, Caroline 

2011 "'Jesuit' Rings in Trade Exchanges Between France and New France: Contribution of a Technological Typology to Identifying Supply and Distribution Networks," Northeast Historical Archaeology: Vol. 40, Article 2.

Stone, Lyle 

1974 Fort Michilimackinac 1715–1781: An Archaeological Perspective on the Revolutionary Frontier. The Musuem, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Open House 2022!

 Hello everyone! 

     I wanted to pop in to tell everyone about the 2022 Fort St. Joseph Archeology Open House! Saturday, August 6th was a busy day at the open house. Many people walk around the site learning about wet screening, recently found artifacts, unit tours, and interacting with the reenactors! One of my favorite parts was seeing how so many people from the area have been coming to these open house events for many years. I truly felt supported by the community and praised for my hard work. I was able to expand my public archeology knowledge throughout this event as well. Saturday night my team celebrated with a great meal, axe throwing, and musket shooting! Sunday was sadly cut short because of the rain but we still made the best of the day! Many people were able to make it out before the rain hit! After the rain stopped my team got to celebrate yet again with a canoe ride with the French voyageurs! Many of my duties throughout both Saturday and Sunday revolved around unit tours and sitting at the artifact case station! It was great to have conversation with the community about the units and the artifacts in the case. Overall, it was a great weekend, and thank you to everyone that was able to make it out! The support we felt this weekend does not go unnoticed. We appreciate all of you and we hope you enjoyed our open house event!


            Olivia Crandall

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Around S5 W11

 Hello Fort fans! 

    We have had a busy week so far preparing for the open house this weekend, August sixth and seventh. I wanted to take a moment and update everyone on some great finds from Mary and my unit, S5 W11. Today we powered through another five cm across our entire one-meter by two-meter unit. We found a variety of artifacts including teeth and bone from deer and beaver, seed beads, lead buckshot, a possible flint core rock, and a beautiful Jesuit ring! The ring itself is a very exciting find because it represents a possible piece of evidence that women lived in the fort when it was in use. It is so rewarding to look at our unit and think back to when we were struggling to dig through the roots at the surface and were hoping to find something interesting. Now it feels like we really have a good hold on what we are doing and are finding artifacts of historical value. I am very proud to be a part of this field school and to have the opportunity to contribute to the history of Fort St. Joseph. Everyone in the field school has been working very hard to put together events, tours, demonstrations, and a display case of our discoveries this year for the open house. I have heard that there will also be food provided by a local boy scout troop and live historical reenactors. As an Eagle Scout myself it is a great feeling to see young men of the community come out to events like this build memories that I know they will take with them for the rest of their lives. I hope I get to see a great turn out this weekend and get to share the joy of history with the greater Niles community. 


               Matthew Runk

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Updates from South 9 West 21

    Hello, Carson Manfred here again this last week on the dig site my Unit South 9 West 21 has made some interesting discoveries in our unit. We are currently at Level 7 40 cmbd and are moving onto Level 8 which is 45 cmbd. We are still in the plow zone and in our East half of our unit we have begun to unearth an unidentified bone currently. Some other interesting recent finds at our unit have been a lead musket ball and a pipe stem but overall Unit South 9 West 21 is still having less artifacts found than surrounding units. Now over these last two weeks at Fort St. Joseph, we have had Middle School and Highschool campers come on site with us to help us excavate. These students did excellent on site doing stuff such as excavating out units alone and with help from staff while also wet screening the dirt that was being excavated from these units. I think everyone could agree though that the students favorite thing was finding artifacts especially the middle school group they would get really excited when they found artifacts. Overall, I would have to say that being able to show and talk to the students about archaeology was very enjoyable for me and the rest of the FSJ Crew.

Can't wait to see everyone at the open house!

        Carson Manfred

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Mole Team

 Hi there! 

     It is Katy writing to you from unit S5W7! Cole and I have been busy at our unit this week as we continue to find a wide range of artifacts. With help from the middle school campers last week and the high school campers this week, we have made it to 30cmbd level all around. Getting to excavate in the floodplain has been an exciting experience for sure. Excavating in uncharted territory has led us to some potential answers about the size of Fort St. Joseph, which is our main goal for the 2022 field school season. In our unit, Cole and I have hypothesized that it could have been a potential structure, or place where the cooking was done based upon the variety of artifacts that have been found thus far. For example, we have been finding teeth both from deer and beaver, bone, calcined bone, pottery, redware, lead shot, hand wrought nails, lead, a possible kettle lug, seed beads both regular and tubular, along with a clear mulberry bead, a possible piece of a clay pipe stem, gunflint, a couple larger structural stones which have since been removed from the plow zone, and 18th century window and container glass. Getting to work with the campers these past two weeks has been great! They are all super eager to learn and excavate the units down in the floodplain. Some challenges that the campers and I ran into were having to dig around the structural stones and bioturbations within the entirety of our unit. We have a larger bioturbation in the N1/2 of the unit that goes down roughly 20cm. We also had some unusual soil changes that we were instructed to excavate around just in case it was a potential feature underneath. The soil went from a dark brown to a lighter yellowish color which was sandy in texture. Around 25cmbd was when we learned that the soil changes were not crucial to our unit, and they were dug through until our unit was level at 30cmbd. Our next goal is to excavate further and attempt to make it to the occupation zone by next week. Overall, Cole and I are having so much fun this field school season and are excited to see what else we can discover and reveal about Fort St. Joseph. Thank you for reading!

Katy Dreger

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Updates from S5 W11!

Hi everyone!

    Here’s a small update on Matt and I’s unit! So far, we’re at 25 cm bd on the North half and around 23 cm bd on the South half! We’re currently getting about 5 cm done each day in the field. Once we complete 25 cm bd on the South half, we’re going back to the North half and going to either 30 cm bd, or where we can see a distinct change from the plow zone (or Level 2) to the occupation zone (or Level 3).

So far, we’re finding some really cool artifacts! We’ve found many seed beads, most of them are white but I managed to find a blue seed bead in the wet screen! We’ve found many bones, and even some teeth. There’s glass, and some slag, which is the core or remnants of burned charcoal. We’ve also found an awl and a few nails! The awl and one of the nails are in pretty good condition, the awl is 11 cm long and has very little corrosion. Both in the wet screen and during excavation, we’ve found multiple lead shots and even a musket ball. Those are my favorite to find because they’re so small but because they’re made of lead, they’re so much heavier than they look! Remember your lead wipes!

    Matt and I are getting a lot done and have developed a pretty good system to be as efficient as we can! We dig together in the mornings, and I take our dirt up to the wet screens in the afternoons. This way, we get as much dirt excavated in the morning while it’s cooler as we can while not getting backed up on buckets of dirt! Overall, S5 W11 is cooking with gas and finding some really cool things! Check back soon for more unit updates!