Friday, December 15, 2017

2017: Another Year for the Books

Hello everyone! My name is Hailey, I’m a senior at WMU majoring in anthropology, and I have been working as an independent study student under Dr. Nassaney this semester. My primary task for the past several months has been coordinating the construction of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project’s annual report. The annual report is, in essence, a summary of all the work that has been done in the past year.  The report will feature sections about the 2017 field season, this year’s lab procedures and activities, the public education and outreach events that the Project has organized throughout 2017, and the theme of the annual Archaeology Open House – community partnerships. The annual report is the Project’s chance to make sure that the public, and the community partners who make the archaeology possible, are up to date on the work being done and the most recent findings.

Meghan and I at this past year's annual Archaeology
Open House. The Open House was the culmination of the
2017 field work and will be outlined extensively in the report.
2017 has been a busy year for the Project. Several new features were found in the 2017 field season, community partners continued to support the Project, and many people learned about the history of Fort St. Joseph via the social media and public outreach efforts undertaken this year. The annual report will make it clear what exactly the Project has been up to for the past year and leave readers with a better idea of what the future may hold for archaeology at Fort St. Joseph. Stay tuned for the annual report! It will be posted on the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project’s website:
- Hailey

Monday, December 4, 2017

Public Outreach Off-Season

Hello All, my name is Genevieve (Genna) Perry and I have continued my position as the Fort St. Joseph Intern this year. I have been with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project since 2015 and it has been a great pleasure to watch students as they evolve from new archaeologists that have difficulty distinguishing a rock from a stone flake or a piece of a clay pipe from calcined bone, to becoming those that teach others about these things. Thankfully, many of these new teachers of archaeology also continue on to do lab work in the off-season. Apart from artifact analysis, inventory, digitizing field-notes, artifact photography, and creation of promotional documents, the other essential part to being a lab student is helping keep our public outreach alive. 
Students Meghan and Hailey talking to
Michigan Archaeology Day visitors
We attend several events through-out the year to help educate others, especially children, about archaeology and Fort St. Joseph. This semester, we attended two of those events. One of which was Michigan Archaeology Day, which is held in Lansing, MI at the Michigan Historical Museum. This event hosts projects and universities from around the state to focus on and highlight the archaeology that is being done at the local level. This year, a record 1,400 people attended the event. We were able to bring our “Recent Finds” artifact case, the updated site map, the introductory Open House banner, a slideshow demonstrating field activities, flyers and brochures. We interacted with people of all ages, educating them about the specific archaeology that we do at Fort St. Joseph and getting them interested in the various ways we integrate the public during the field season. The event usually takes place at the end of October; stay updated on our social media to find out when it will be held in 2018 and we will see you there! 
Students Kaylee, Meghan, and Hailey teaching Lake
Center Elementary Students about stratigraphy as they
color their artifacts during I <3 STEM Night
The other public outreach event that we participated in this year was Portage Lake Center Elementary I <3 STEM Night. This event hosts multiple STEM programs from Western Michigan University and around the state, such as WMU Chem Club, WMU Engineers, Home Depot, MDOT, KAMSC, Best Buy, Air Zoo, Eaton, among many others. We interacted with children K-5, teaching them about the importance of stratigraphy (layers of soil) and where we might expect to find certain artifacts. We also brought along our “Recent Finds” artifact case, slide show, and brochures to educate parents about Fort St. Joseph. The Project is extremely fortunate to have an active role in not only the community of Niles, but in the community of Kalamazoo as well. A vital component to public archaeology is maintaining a presence within the community to help keep local history in the forefront of peoples’ minds. Stay tuned to hear about the many other events that we will attend in the spring semester, such as WMU’s MLK Career Cruising Event and the annual El Sol Elementary visit to the Anthropology Department! Thank you all for following along with us throughout this semester, we appreciate your support and hope to see you all in the summer!

-       - Genna

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Archaeology Senior Project

Hello, my name is Garrett Mohney, and I am a senior at Mattawan High School. As a senior, I was tasked with finding a field of interest, and completing a project on it. One of the requirements included meeting with a mentor in the field for around 10 hours, where I can learn and experience the subject first hand. Now I found myself with a challenging dilemma: what on earth could I do a project on? After years of intense love for history, an enjoyment of the beautiful Michigan wilderness, and endlessly watching everyone's favorite whip brandishing collector of rare artifacts on the TV, I knew that archaeology would be the perfect fit for a senior project.
One of the artifact bags I helped sort during inventory
with Dr. Nassaney and Kaylee
                  I was very interested in finding out what real Archaeologists do, contrary to running through South American temples. In meeting with my mentor, Dr. Michael Nassaney of Western Michigan University and the Fort St. Joseph Archeology Project, and working with other great students of archaeology, I found that archaeology exists as much in the library and lab as in the field. One of the first things I learned from my project is the concept of careful artifact inventory and preservation. The careful process of identifying calcined bones, lead shot, and trade beads and carefully bagging them with proper labels soon came natural.
                  Additionally, I wanted to know more about what we can learn from archaeology. Through excavation and inventory, we can learn where people lived, how they lived, and what their lives consisted of. Finding a plethora of nails and tools might indicate a blacksmith was around. Finding pieces of building materials, a door hinge, and a foundation feature can indicate a possible location for a house. Other times, archaeology leads to more questions than answers. For instance, finding little to no fishing supplies from a riverside trading post, while another post just north is full of fishing items, leads to confusion and more research.
Lead shot, calcined and unburned
 bone that were sorted and bagged
                  Archaeology is a fun, educational, and thought provoking field that can really benefit all aspects of our lives today. We learn how to be careful, how to think critically, and most importantly, we learn how to better our future by considering the past. Archaeology isn’t just about studying the past, it’s about learning from it. Even as I continue my education beyond high school, the information that I have learned from archaeology has certainly helped shape my interests for the future. After all, who doesn’t want to be Indiana Jones?
 - Garrett

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Digitizing Notes: Another Way to Analyze Archaeology

Hi there, it’s Meghan. I am a graduating senior at Western and I hope to be attending graduate school in the near future! I am one of this past summer’s field school students, and as Kaylee mentioned I am currently working in the lab digitizing field school notes. The process of digitizing notes is not as thrilling as working in the field, but the work is necessary and important.
Keeping detailed notes in the field
The field notes taken for each unit are a way to analyze not only the work completed during the season, but a way to determine the work that will need to be done in future excavations. During one of the first weeks of the field school we had a rainy day and since archaeologists never take a day off work, the field school students were tasked with identifying new units to open during this past summer. We all rushed to the binders full of field notes from previous years, because the binders held information on which units were previously excavated, but more importantly what was excavated from those units and past student’s recommendations. The field notes provided us with a way to examine and identify which units we thought would be viable to open or even re-open.
Transferring paper notes to digitized
notes in the lab
The digitized notes create a new way to access the field notes that can be more easily read. When we are out in the field we all try our hardest to keep our field notes safe and clean. For example, whenever it would rain, our field notes would be the first item my partner and I would grab. However, we are not perfect, so our notes may be illegible or dirt-smeared. Another reason to have a digitized copy of the field notes is that they are a copy, so if something ever happened to the notes, there is a back-up version. Field notes are important in either form, paper or digitized, because they provide a link to the past, so that future archaeologists can continue to work forward.

Once I complete digitizing the field notes I will be helping Kaylee create our newest brochure! I am excited to determine the Project’s recent outcomes and go through all of the photos taken this past summer. The next big event coming up for me is Michigan Archaeology Day, which is October 28th this year at the Michigan History Museum in Lansing, MI. I attended last year and it was absolutely incredible to see so many people excited about archaeology from all over the state and the country! I hope to see all of you there!