Friday, July 8, 2016

FSJ Welcomes Dr. Sauck!

My name is Nolan Powers and I am from Grand Rapids. Also, I am going into my third year of university. Due to my interest in anything related to history I have chosen to study both history and anthropology.  I am excited to unearth and discover palpable remains at Fort St. Joseph as I know this will strengthen my understanding and connection to the history of the land I know well. 

Not only were groups finding artifacts such as stone flakes from ancient Native Americans, to a musket ball and a ram pipe from the 18th century, and items from the 20th century, the site also had a visit from a professor from the Geoscience Department. Dr. Bill Sauck has traveled the world researching geophysics and using geophysical methods on almost every continent. His arrival proved to be as interesting as the discoveries that were made today. We surveyed the land and also learned from Dr. Sauck how to properly use and understand readings from the magnetometer. A magnetometer is a device where magnetic material is measured and detected in the ground and that data is collected. The tool is influenced by the earth’s magnetic field. What’s more, the device detects any magnetic conductive material, and can relay that data back to the device. We can then use data, from the magnetometer, to plot out on a map where any anomalies are beneath the ground. This gives us a better understanding where the best place to dig is. Throughout the day we followed Dr. Sauck’s instruction as he carefully followed survey lines that were set up in half meter intervals in a 20x20 meter grid. We were able to see some oddities on the small display screen; however Dr. Sauck will take all the data collected and provide the team with a detailed geophysical map, shortly.

Working with Dr. Sauck (Photo Credit: Austin George)

All of this research has been done on the Lynn site, 20BE10. In only two days of work the team has uncovered objects that promote a promising outlook for the island site. We only have one more day of research, until Friday the 8th, to work on the island site until we move to the Fort site, but without hesitation anyone working on the archaeologically unadulterated land would say that this first week has been a great success. 


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Our Watery Friends: Leave it to Beaver!

Hello, Paul here.  I am currently a junior at Western, and a student in the 2016 Archaeological Field school. As you know, Fort St. Joseph was key to the French fur trade in the 17th and 18th  centuries.  Native American hunters brought pelts to the French traders at the fort from deep inside the continent.  The furs made their way from the fort around the Great Lakes, on to Montreal and Quebec, before making the Atlantic crossing to Europe where they were in great demand.  These waterways and their importance to the fort are the theme this year for the WMU Field School.  I am writing briefly on an animal that impacted, and was impacted by the waterways. 
The single most recognizable animal from the early fur trade has to be the beaver.  The beaver is the largest North American rodent, and was hunted extensively for its fur, causing severe population decline.  I have spent barely two days in Niles, and, without meaning to, have learned two interesting things about the beaver. 
The first thing I learned happened by chance.  Due to morning rain storms on the second day, we put off going to the dig site.  Instead we took the opportunity to visit the Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles.  The museum has an exhibit on display describing “giant” beavers.  These beavers were the size of an adult human.  Bones found point to them having lived over 10,000 years ago.  I tried to imagine what it would be like running into one of them in person. 
A perfect example of a beaver gnawed beech tree (Photo Credit: Austin George)
The second interesting thing about beavers is that they seem to be active in the Fort St Joseph area.  While we were clearing the site where we plan on digging, we saw several tree stumps with evidence of beaver gnawing. On the second day, before we started to actually dig our shovel test pits, I looked around and found even more tree stumps which had been gnawed down.  There were at least 8 stumps, and the majority of them were young beech trees.  Time permitting, I plan on walking the rest of the island and searching for more.  I find it ironic that they are active at a site, which, 300 years ago, was a focal point for exterminating them. I am looking forward to the rest of field school, and hope to find many more interesting things! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

2016 Field Season Bee-gins!

Hello everyone! My name is Anne, and if you frequently read our blogs, you may have read some written by me already. During this past spring semester at WMU, I worked as an independent study student under the supervision of Dr. Nassaney. I learned a great deal about the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project throughout the semester, and worked closely with artifacts from the previous field season. Bright and early this morning, we all arrived in Niles to begin our 2016 field season. I have been looking forward to this day for a long time!          
Surveying the Lyne Site upon our arrival (Photo Credit: Austin George)
We are all super excited for tomorrow, because we will be digging shovel test pits on an “island” near the fort in hopes of finding more signs of past human activity. Today, we all ventured there and cleared the area so that we could set up points (with the Total Station) for us to later dig our pits at. A Total Station, for those of you that do not know, is an instrument that we use to survey the land and determine distances to certain points. We are also using it to overlay a grid onto the terrain to pinpoint digging locations in an organized fashion. We came out with scratches and bruises, and a few of us even suffered from bee stings and wet shoes, but that won’t ruin our spirits.

I am looking forward to learning more about the history of Niles, as well as the fort. We are sure to learn lots about teamwork as well. This will be a bonding experience of a lifetime. Archaeology has forever been an intriguing topic to me and I finally have the opportunity to experience it myself.