Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tink Tink

            Imagine that today you are wearing an earring. Somehow, you lose the back to it and it falls off and you can’t find it, so you just go out and buy a new one. What if in 200-300 years an archaeologists decides to open an excavation unit in the area that was previously your garden and they find that earring and claim it as a unique find, learning more from the earring than you ever thought possible; something that you thought of as easily replaceable. This is how archaeology works. At Fort St. Joseph, we are digging in the possible backyards, kitchens, livings rooms, or gardens of people who lived a couple hundred years ago. Things that people once thought of as garbage are now our sources of learning and uncovering past life ways. Keep in mind how many pieces of jewelry or accessories you have discarded in the last 10 years. Personal adornments, otherwise known as accessories of some sort, were just as important to 18th century Native Americans and Europeans as it is to people today, the only difference is the style and presentation of these different objects, as all fashion changes over time.
Jewelry such as beads, wampum (shell), rings, buttons, brooches and tinkling cones were used by both the Natives and the Europeans and found at the site of Fort St. Joseph. Tinkling cones in particular were used as an accessory to clothing; they were put in rows on shirt sleeves, skirts, or other regalia for show. When the person wearing these garments moved around, the cones would make a tinkling noise against one another, hence the clever name. The unique aspect of the production of tinkling cones is that they were made through the collaboration of both Native and European material goods. This means, although it is believed that they were mainly produced by Native Americans, both groups were essential in its construction. Specifically, tinkling cones were not made through a specific craftsman, but individually manufactured which made them rare in that not one was like another (Kerr 2012). Tinkling cones were made of scraps of brass from things such as brass kettles and then folded into a cone-like shape that had no overlapping edges. These brass scraps were the European contribution, while the Native contribution has to do with a large part of their clothing production; leather. They used the leather strip as an attachment piece by tying it in a knot and putting it through the small opening of the cone to attach it to cloth. Both groups wore them, considering the concentration of tinkling cones was far too high to have been just from European usage alone. Again, these varied in size due to individual creation, but they averaged about 26 mm in length. Author Lyle Stone also explains how the tinkling cones from Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, very similar to Fort St. Joseph, were mostly found in the basements of row houses, trenches, and British fills, but were found in almost every unit on the site except in areas of military occupation, showing that they were worn by nearly everyone.
We find small but interesting artifacts in the wet screens everyday!
(photo by John Cardinal)
                Yesterday morning, shortly after finding a piece of a clay pipe stem while troweling through my excavation unit, I was wet screening and came across a piece of copper alloy in a cone-like shape. Luckily, this piece was familiar to me. Our Lab Coordinator, Aaron helped to confirm the identity of the copper as a tinkling cone. Earlier in the field season, the WMU students, including myself, had the opportunity to help organize artifacts found in the 2013 field season. This was a prime opportunity to get familiar with objects that we may find in the field. We organized mounds of unburned bone, iron objects, beads, glass, copper alloy, and a slew of other materials, essentially other people’s garbage. Aaron pointed out some of the types of artifacts typically found at Fort St. Joseph and discussed how to identify these objects. Without this extra advantage, I know I wouldn’t have been able to identify the object. Learning about the tinkling cone and its purpose has helped me understand the relationship between Native Americans and Europeans within Fort St. Joseph.  It has also helped me understand the significance of every little thing I use in my life. While almost everyone has a cell phone nowadays, I wonder how that and many other things will reflect on our history 300 years from now. Recycle when you can and deposit with care.

-          Genevieve 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Flintlock Firearms of the Colonial Age

                Since the early interactions between Europeans and Native Americans, flintlock weapons were always a major commodity. They provided an easier method to hunting for the Native Americans and for the colonists, it created new markets of trade for those weapons. In 1624 The French and Iroquois signed a treaty for trade between themselves (essentially guns for fur) and thus made Montreal a new trade capital for the French in the new world. In 1639, unsupervised trade caused the Dutch to pass a law prescribing the death penalty for bootlegging guns to the Native Americans (Hamilton). These weapons were not all the same though. Most firearms were made by individual blacksmiths or gunsmiths. This meant that all of these flintlocks had individual designs on the side and butt of the rifle. Some with patterns of the crown, others with a serpentine figure that wrapped around and some with depictions of hunting dogs chasing game. These designs can help tell us a story about who the firearms belonged too. Lots of the materials used for these designs came from French furniture. This tells us that not only were these materials recycled from other things but the raw materials needed to make the gun parts were scarce and not easily obtained, even with the extensive trading going on.
Flintlock side plate.
(photo by John Cardinal)
Last week at the Fort St. Joseph site I found what we believe to be a piece of a side plate of a flintlock. It depicts a dog running towards something, similar to that of a piece found in a book published by T.M. Hamilton. The piece itself appears to be made of a copper alloy and is very well preserved. When copper oxidizes, which happens a lot in archaeology, it turns a greenish color. Since this piece was found in a swamp, and has been sitting in wet ground for years yet there is not one spec of green corrosion on it. Originally I had no clue to what the piece was and thought it wasn't anything, but when I dropped it accidentally on my trowel it made a distinguishable sound that made me know it was not just a random piece of iron. I showed my professor and he knew what it was and was surprised at how well the condition of the side piece was in. Normally there’s much more corrosion and/or damage. This piece is almost intact, no corrosion and has a brilliant depiction of a hunting dog on it. Personally, it makes me want to find the other side of the piece, it's like I've been given a jigsaw puzzle but with only one piece missing.  It's exciting but frustrating at the same time. But I haven't given up and I know I'll find the piece or others similar to it by the end of the field season.
An exciting find!
(photo by John Cardinal)
                After conducting further research at the library I found a match to the side plate. Hamilton's second book, Guns of Fort Michlimackinac, provided what is almost an exact match of my side plate. Following the end of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Britain’s control of the former lands of New France created an escalated demand for hunting/trade firearms. The growing Hudson’s Bay Company helped to fill this need by expanding production of its “Northwest” or “Mackinaw” trade gun.
                During the colonial era over 73,000 of these firearms were built and distributed all over the new world (Servin). Making this the "Model T" of firearms for the colonial era. The design on the firearm is of Fort Michilimackinac, which narrows down the search of the gun designer, which was more than likely a French Blacksmith by the name of Jean-Baptiste Amiot. He designed most of the side plate designs for this region and more than likely was distributed to Fort St. Joseph.  Finding the other side of this side plate could possible provide further information of who made it and where it possibly came from. This could provide further data on how the French fur trade worked around Michigan and the Great Lakes.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Colonial French Seals

           One of the largest commodities traded between Europeans and Natives during the 17th and 18th centuries in New France was cloth. Europeans would have given the Natives cloth in exchange for fur. Lead seals, also referred to as bale seals, were attached to the cloth packages for a variety of purposes. Catherine Davis wrote in her Honors Thesis in the WMU Department of Anthropology in 2014 that seals were used for taxation, or to prove that no one had tampered with the package. They were inspected by grand jures, who were elected officials from cloth making guilds. They then were attached to the packages to prove that they had passed inspection. Once they had served their main purpose as “merchant tags”, they were often melted down to make lead ammunition (Davis 2014).
Seal of the Crown stamped on a lead seal.
(photo by John Cardinal)
Lead seals usually contained information including where cloth was manufactured, the size, and the quality (Davis 2014). If there was no seal present on a package, whomever had tried to sell the cloth without the seal could have been charged or had their cloth confiscated and destroyed (Davis 2014). These kinds of seals were manufactured particularly in Britain and France, but can be found elsewhere in the world because the British East India Company and the Africa Royal Adventurers’ Company used lead seals too (Davis 2014).
As cloth does not often withstand the tests of time, and therefore is typically absent from the archaeological record, lead seals are all we have left to tell us about the cloth in New France. Even still, lead seals can be very difficult to understand. This is partially due to the fact that there are so few in museum collections. In North America, the largest collection of lead seals comes from Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinac City. All of the seals found at Fort Saint Joseph can be found at the Center for History in South Bend, IN or at the Fort Saint Joseph Museum here in Niles.
Discovering the lead seal in our wet screen.
(photo by John Cardinal)
Lyle Stone conducted a study of lead seals in 1974 at Fort Michilimackinac, and wrote about the classification of lead seals by two discerning characteristics. The first is by type of attachment, the second by decoration. Charles Hulse in his 1977 thesis also classifies the types of attachment. Series A is classified by a knob was pressed through a loop hole and then compressed, Series B is classified by a flange being compressed onto a disc, and Series C is attached by stringing two wires through two separate tunnels.
In our unit, Stephan and I recovered two lead seals. One of them is classified as a Series C which is a one piece seal stamped on both sides. Our seal has a crossed wreath with five markings on one face. The letters “CDI” can be read on the top, and underneath it, a backwards “C” and a regular “C”. On the reverse face, the Seal of the Crown is stamped on. I just happened to stumble upon this seal while I was wet screening our soil last week, and upon further research, Stone points out that the one piece, two faced stamped seals are fairly uncommon. When I discovered this, I was even more excited about this seal! I am looking forward to learning more about lead seals with more (hopefully) lead seal recoveries.