Saturday, August 10, 2013

Open House Schedule

The uncut ribbon leading to the excavation units
Want to learn more about 18th-century New France? Then come to the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project's Open House! Visitors will have the opportunity to view an archaeological site, interact with real life archaeologists and engage in a variety of activities, reenactments, and educational lectures related to foodways in 18th-century New France.

The schedule for the stage is as follows:

Site tours will be lead by the field students
10:00 am - Open
10:30 am - Michael Nassaney, "Welcome to the Open House"
11:00 am - Noel Bash, "Colonial Dance" (presentation)
11:45 am - Terry Martin, "Fort St. Joseph Foodways"
12:30 pm - Terry Sorchy, "Person of the Past"
1:15 pm – Noel Bash, "Colonial Dance" (presentation)
2:00 pm - Michael Nassaney "Fort St. Joseph Archaeology"
2:30 pm - Noel Bash, "Dance in the 18th-Century" (talk)
3:00 pm - Noel Bash, "Colonial Dance" (presentation)
3:30 pm – Yve Perez, "Native American Foodways"
4:00 pm - Close

See what has been discovered this year

10:00 am - Open
10:30 am - Michael Nassaney, "The Discovery of Fort St. Joseph"
11:00 am - Noel Bash, "Colonial Dance" (presentation)
11:45 am - Terry Martin, "Animals at Fort St. Joseph"
12:30 pm - Noel Bash, "Colonial Dance" (presentation)
1:15 pm - Jeff Pavlik, "An 18th-Century Baker"
2:00 pm - Michael Nassaney "The Future of Fort St. Joseph"
2:30 pm - Noel Bash, "Dance in the 18th-Century" (talk)
3:00 pm - Noel Bash, "Colonial Dance" (presentation)
3:30 pm - WMU Student Archaeologist "Experiences on a Dig"
4:00 pm - Close

Friday, August 9, 2013

Welcome to the Open House!

The days grow bittersweet for us here at Fort St. Joseph; we grow more and more excited about Open House as the hours draw slowly by and evermore sad as the ominous event of backfilling comes near. Media Day was a complete success and it was so lovely to see all of our family and friends come out and support the opening event of our marathon of public outreach. The sun rose bright on a damp and sparkling vista of Niles this morning (I know we were up to witness it). Setting up for Media day has never gone so smoothly, everyone was so helpful setting up refreshments and chairs. A big thanks to Mary Ellen and Janine for amazing refreshments!
The highlight of the Media Day to the Fort St. Joseph family was the Mayor of Niles, Michael McCauslin, announcing that the city of Niles has given a mirandum of verbal agreement, basically an oral contract, that the city of Niles will do everything in their power to ensure the development for the Fort St. Joseph Interpretive Center. This is a huge mile stone for the project! The success of this plan would mean a place to hold public lectures, do laboratory analysis and house artifacts.
Dr. John Dunn, President of Western Michigan University, talked about how proud he was of the field program and how Western never abandoned the tradition when others turned away. The education gain by hands-on experiences is critical to career success and making you invaluable as a global citizen. This is our 38th consecutive year of having a field school at Western and how we have not just reached out to the community of the University, but to the American nation and global community.  
John Lamore receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award
For all of those physic geeks that claim time travel is impossible: Dr. Alex Enyedi challenges all of you! Step down the incline through the vegetation and you step back 250 years into the time of Fort St. Joseph. You see the buckle that fell of the shoe, the button that was torn off a coat and the dish that was dropped. You will see the story of how people lived but to see the drama, the struggle and achievements of those people, the archives must be opened as an archeologist opens a 1x1 unit. Dr. Brando took us level through level of the documents that show the life and times of Fort St. Joseph. While one of our own, Seth Allard, gave a moving speech about not just history and culture and the change that has been present in Niles but about companionship and the importance of working together. When the French came, they needed Native peoples to show them the ways to survive in their new home and as we come back 250 years later once again we need the help of the natives of Niles to reveal the secrets hidden beneath the soil. The remarks made by all the various speakers today was a perfect summation of everything we try to accomplish during our short time here at Fort St. Joseph.
Special thanks to our volunteer of the year John Lamore, tamer of the wilderness and stump vanquisher of the earth. Our site would not look as beautiful or have as many elegant views of the St. Joseph River as it does today without his dedication to the clearing and maintenance of the landscape of Fort St. Joseph.   
Official opening of the site
The events of the weekend are in full swing! A reminder that there will not be site tours at 2 o’clock this Friday but rather all weekend from10am-4pm during the open house! Be sure to stop by to see wet screening demonstrations several times throughout the day and various other marvelous events!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Head and Shoulders Can't Stop These Flakes: Gunflints at FSJ

Leveling out for Open House
            Down at the fort site we are very busy starting to prepare for the Open House. Everyone is digging as fast and efficient as they can to try and reach another level before we have to close up for our visitors. We are uncovering more exciting features as we go, but you’ll have to come to the Open House this weekend to see!! While you’re there looking through all of our wonderful artifacts, you might come upon a small square stone-like-thing in one of the display cases. Odds are it’s a gunflint and I’m here to give you some background so that you’ll get a smug sense of satisfaction when you can identify it before your friends and family. You can even drop a few of these facts about it if you want to seem extra intelligent.
             A gunflint is a piece of flint that would be struck with the gun’s hammer in order to produce a spark in order to ignite the gun. At Fort St. Joseph we find a variety of gunflints. The fort was a center for trade and a military outpost so a large concentration of gun parts is expected. The types of flints we find are not limited to one type of gun. We find gunflints that would serve both trade and military guns. We find flints from different countries which makes sense because the French, English and Spanish occupied the site at different points in time. We can use differences in gunflint types to answer questions about who lived at the fort and what they were doing.
            The type of gunflint we are most familiar with at Fort St. Joseph were originally invented in France in 1610. This type of gunflint is found in colonial settlement sites throughout North America. Though originally a French innovation, production of gunflints was not limited to the French. Other countries manufactured different gunflints based on the types of resources they had available. For example, flints that range from olive brown to honey-colored flints are typically associated with the French. Flints that range from black to grey flints are typically associated with the English because those were the stone materials on hand in each country for production.
European flints you can see in person at the Open House
             The general shape of gunflints can be attributed to two main types of manufacturing that produced either gun spalls or blades. Gun spalls (or gun flakes) were made individually by taking pieces off a core that had been pre-prepared. There isn’t documentation on how they were made but we are able to replicate them by studying the pieces that have survived. Spalls are made by creating blades from the cores of flint and then breaking off individual flakes from these blades. 
            By looking at the wear of the gunflint you can also tell how long it was used. Gunflints are suppose to be replaced after so much use, so when we find flints with heavy wear beyond the norm, we could hypothesize that gunflints were harder to come by leading to the flints being used long after they were suppose to be replaced. If we found gunflints with very little wear it could indicate that gunflints were readily available to replace ones being used.
            At Fort St. Joseph we have also found gunflints distributed fairly evenly across the site, not limited to certain pits or areas. Past analyses on the gunflints at Fort St. Joseph indicate that most of the gunflints found were of French origins. The majority were also found to be a trade gun variety, instead of military or small arms. The flints found are fairly uniform which would suggest that they were mass produced and shipped into the Great Lakes regions to supply the fort and to use in trade.
            Now you have at least three good facts to flaunt when you come to the Open House this Saturday and/or Sunday. We’ll see you there! 


Just Like Home

Our wall feature when facing the west wall

            We have just numbered our first new feature for this year and it just so happens Seth, my unit partner, and I are the ones who uncovered it. For those of you who are curious as to what a feature is, a feature is a collection of one or more locations that are non-portable evidence of earlier human activity. A few examples of what a feature is would be fire pits, postholes, foundations, drains, hearths and the like. The feature we uncovered is a wall from the 18th-century occupation of the Fort site. This is an important and interesting find here at Fort St. Joseph. Finding architectural features on any site can give the clever archaeologist valuable knowledge about the culture of the people who built it. At first thought I supposed the French colonists at the time wouldn’t have brought much with them here to the Americas, and would have selected building styles based solely on what was easiest given their environment and available resources. I found out the French brought their building style from back home, along with other things like their language and faith. French colonial architecture is a product of both its history culturally and naturally.
What sort of architecture style did the French fur traders and colonists bring with them to Fort St. Joseph? We can answer this question by studying the building practices of nearby French settlements at the same time period, for example a Jesuit mission near Lake Huron Sainte-Marie-aux-Hurons that was erected in 1639. At this mission the buildings were erected by placing upright posts closely together and filling the spaces with a mixture of mortar and stone in a technique known as colombage pierroté. We are still left with the question of the style’s origins. Since we are studying the architecture of the New World, the best way to find out its origins is by conducting research on architecture of the Old World. The same practice of colombage pierroté goes back to the Middle Ages in Northwestern Europe, the roots of New France.
The beam intersecting two units
Knowing this information we can look at this wall feature we’ve encountered here on the site and make marvelous inferences. We uncovered in our unit a series of mortared stones placed on top of one another in a linear fashion; they start in the north half and run southeast. The most interesting part of the find is a long wooden beam about 12cm wide that begins after the stone wall ends in the middle of our unit and extends southeast to the next unit south of us. This beam could have several interpretations that support previous research on French colonial architecture. It could be the bottom sill of a wall where the upright post would have been placed. A hinge was found in the unit south of us, maybe it could be a doorsill in the back of the house. The beam could also be a floorboard that was left behind when the last inhabitants abandoned the site. The soil on the sides of the beam is also different on each side in both our unit and the unit south of ours. The east side soil is dark while the west side of the beam has high levels of charcoal deposits and lighter grey soil.
The beam in the unit south of ours
We are waiting in anticipation for the conclusion of what we will find out from this feature in our excavation. Uncovering important architectural features on site will help to advance the public’s knowledge of what went on here at the Fort Site. All we have left to do is to excavate and find out!