Friday, August 5, 2016

River Resources at Fort St. Joseph!

Hello everyone! This is Anne again and as I’m sure you all know, the 2016 field season has been quite eventful. Although our main focus in excavating this season is to recover information about the architecture of the fort, we have gained so much knowledge about French culture and the importance of the St. Joseph River to the people of the past. This previous semester at WMU, I took Dr. Nassaney’s class, Anthropology in the Community, and my classmates and I created panels that contained information about the fort in relation to the river. I was able to focus my research on river resources and was very interested by the use of aquatic plants and animals during the occupation of the fort (the panels will be exhibited at the open house this weekend, so make sure to come see!).
Beaver femur found in my and Tommy's unit. (Photo credit By author)
It just so happens that Dr. Terry Martin, Curator Emeritus of the Illinois State Museum, has been able to spend the past week with us! Terry has been a huge part of the project for several years and actually helped my partner and I with information that we included on our panel. As a faunal analyst, he studies animal remains and knows a great deal about the creatures that lived amongst and were consumed by the French. We attended his lecture this past Wednesday and he discussed river resources among archaeological sites, including lake sturgeon. These fish are truly incredible, and are even viewed as mythological creatures in certain native cultures. Although they were once plentiful in the area, dams have prevented them from accessing their normal spawning areas. Lake Sturgeon are potamodromous fish, meaning that they will migrate, but only from fresh water lakes to rivers. Often, small bones from their spine and skull will be recovered in the archaeological record from sites near rivers. Fort St. Joseph however, has so far expressed an under-representation in fish bones overall.

Maureen looking at the various animal bones. (Photo Credit: By author)
To further our understanding of the animals present at Fort St. Joseph, my fellow students and I were able to analyze faunal remains with Terry. We looked at bone fragments that were recovered this year and determined the type of bone found and which animal they were from. I think that this knowledge will be really beneficial to us in the field as we continue to come across animal remains! Speaking of which, my partner Tommy and I came across a beaver tooth and femur these past couple of weeks, which is evidence of the animal having been significant in the fur trade. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Flints, Locks and Who Knows What

Hello readers, this is Connor again with an update on my excavation unit. So far this week we’ve had some pretty amazing artifacts that showed up in the pit. Our unit is primarily a bone midden (or bone pile) but these artifacts aren’t quite what one would expect to find thrown out with the food scraps.

When we had reopened the excavated unit from last year that we are currently working with, we noticed an unnaturally shaped piece of stone in the bottom of the unit. We had a feeling that it was going to turn out to be French gun flints, but we couldn’t do anything about it until we got our unit cleaned up, photographed, and mapped. This week though, we were finally able to excavate the unit and came across not just one French gun flint, but three of them in just two days. These pieces of stone can be easily identified by their distinct honeycomb color and were used to ignite the gunpowder in muzzle loading weapons (flint lock guns). More interesting was the various degrees of which these flints had been used, as indicated by their patterns of wear. The first was about the size of a quarter and showed a good bit of usage while the second one we recovered was quite small from being repeatedly struck. The last one, however is stuck within the wall and there is no way of telling how big it is.
The iron lock recovered in our unit. (Photo Credit: Austin George)
The second, but maybe more fascinating of the two, we found lying on top of a flat rock in the bottom of the unit. It is just over 5 inches long and made entirely out of iron. We didn’t know precisely what we were looking at when it was recovered, but we figured that it was probably gun part based on the size. We really wanted to know more about the piece so we took it back to the lab, cleaned it up and opened up the reference books. Since we had hypothesized that the artifact was a gun part we looked immediately at examples of previously found gun parts in Michigan. It didn’t take long to figure out that it was a gun lock. This was the part of the flint lock firing mechanism that was on the side of the gun. It is the piece of metal that holds the entire flint lock mechanism together and fastens it to the wood of the gun.   

Finally we uncovered a couple bizarre items that have never been found on the Fort St. Joseph site before. These three items are between 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches long and appear to be made out of a copper alloy. They are coiled and resemble modern day springs but seem to be much too thin to have come from a gun. With that information we are left scratching our heads as to what these springs could have come from, though we do have some ideas. One hypothesis to their origin is that they were part of a clock, which could hold true as clocks were a popular piece of décor during the 18th century. But then again it is just a theory and we would like to know what you think of these might be! 
The mysterious springs.. What could they be? (Photo Credit: Austin George)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

You're Invited!

Hello again everyone, Liz here! I am very excited to share with you all the events that will be taking place at our Open House this upcoming weekend! We have lots to be excited about and we can’t wait to see you there!
Our Open House will take place Saturday August 6 and Sunday August 7 from 10-4. Each day we will have children’s activities, different lectures, demonstrations from living history reenactors, wet screening demonstrations, and you will even get the chance to interact with Western Michigan University archaeologists as they guide you through their excavation units. This field season has been very exciting, our students have learned a lot and they are eager to show off all they’ve accomplished. 
Here is what you can expect at our open house:
·         Children’s Activites
o   Bead Barter- This is a perfect way to interact with reenactors and WMU Students! Follow our bead barter signs around the site, ask questions at the indicated stations and collect beads for doing so.  At the end of the day, head back to the kid’s activity station and turn your bead collection into a necklace or bracelet.
o   Jr. Digger- Learn how to become an archaeologist yourself! Practice your archaeology skills by digging and screening for your own artifacts.
o   Stratigraphy- Determine how old the soil is and how old the artifacts are by guessing which layer of soil they can be found it. Color you artifact picture and display it for all to see.
o   Honor Feather- Monica Topash from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi will guide a traditional craft. Feathers have important meaning to the Pokagon Potawatomi Indians.
Monica will also play an Honor song on a hand drum.

Genna and her new friend hunting for artifacts in the Jr. Digger activity. (Photo Credit: John Cardinal)
·        Live History Demonstrations
o   18th Century Music and Dance
o   Sailing and Ships
o   Blacksmithing
o   Quill Writing
o   Textiles
o   Cooking
o   French Marines
o   Jesuit Priest
o   Brewing
o   Voyageur Life

2015 Open House attendees learning colonial style dance from Noel Bash. (Photo Credit: John Cardinal)

·         Canoe Rides
o   Provided by Sarrett Nature Center
o   10am – 12pm, 1pm – 3:30pm
o   $3 per person

·         Guest Speakers
o   Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, Principal Investigator of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project
o   Dr. José Antonió Brandão, Professor of History, Western Michigan University
o   Dr. Terrance Martin, Curator Emeritus  of the Illinois State Museum
·         Live Archaeology
o   Tour the excavation units with field school students
o   Watch artifacts be discovered in front of you during wet screening demonstrations

Dr. Nassaney speaking at the 2015 Open House (Photo Credit: John Cardinal)

Don’t forget to purchase some FSJ gear at the event too! As you can see, we have a full weekend planned ahead and it’s one you don’t want to miss out on! See you Saturday and Sunday!


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Campers

Howdy, everyone. Tommy and Nolan here with a post about the archaeology summer camps at Fort St. Joseph. Throughout the field season we offer three different camps. The first camp is a lifelong learners camp; people of ages 16+ are welcome to come join us during this camp. The second camp offered is for teachers and educators looking to continue their own education. Our third and final camp is for middle school students grade 6-9, who are looking to get a taste of what archaeology is all about. Throughout the week, campers are exposed to in-class activities and field exercises directed by staff and students.
We’ve had great experiences with the campers so far. Everyone has been eager to learn, and willing to help in any way possible. Working with the campers offers us an opportunity to teach the techniques we’ve recently learned.
Last week, I, Nolan worked with a camper named Brit. Together, we did some excavating in my unit and discovered a large structural stone. I helped explain to Brit the significance of the find and how the stone can indicate a possible foundation of a wall. That experience is one that can only be shared between Brit and myself, as we were the ones who discovered the stone.
Campers and member of the public during pit tours
(Photo Credit: Tommy Nagle)

I, Tommy, got the chance to work with Barb, a middle school science teacher. We were working at the wet screen together identifying artifacts when Barb asked a question about the bones that we were finding in the screen. I was able to tell her how the occupants of the fort were mostly eating deer instead of domesticated animals like pigs, and that a lot of the bones were broken because the people living at the fort would have crushed them in order to get to the marrow. I realized how much I had learned as I was teaching Barb about these bones. Having to explain the knowledge that I've gained in a way that someone else can understand reinforces the learning that me and my classmates have already done. 

- Tommy and Nolan

Monday, August 1, 2016

N34 E12

Hi, everyone,
This is Gary, one of the field school students from last year, and I’ve returned this summer as a volunteer field assistant. In addition to providing logistical support for the archaeological project, I’ve also been given the opportunity to work side by side with local resident Mary Ellen Drolet in an excavation unit located at North 34 East 12, which is the same 1x2 meter, river front, excavation unit that field school student Amelia Harp and I were flooded out of last summer during the heavy June rains. Interestingly, I blogged about how much I liked the physical location of this unit last summer. However, while this unit is extremely close to the St. Joseph River today, during the time of French occupation, the river would have been located much farther to the north, and this unit’s location would have been elevated well above the floodplain, making it an ideal location for dry habitation and “canoe parking.” 
A photo of my flooded unit last year. (Photo Credit: John Cardinal)

The reason North 34 East 12 is being excavated is not because it has a nice view of the river, however. The reason it is, once again, being excavated is to determine whether there is any evidence of foundation stones running through it. Meaning that, one of the ongoing research questions at FSJ is determining the size of the structures and dwellings that the French fur traders constructed and utilized. With this goal in mind, several past excavation units to the south of North 34 East 12 have uncovered sections of stone foundations as well as a fireplace feature, all of which were carefully documented and photographed. Accordingly, Mary Ellen and I hope to uncover another section of this foundation, or maybe even the foundations corner, so that we can help fill in the research gaps.
Working with Mary Ellen Drolet. (Photo Credit: Austin George)
While I can only hypothesize that Mary Ellen and I will eventually uncover a section of stone foundation this summer, I can tell you what we have uncovered so far. As of Friday, Mary Ellen and I have excavated North 34 East 12 down to a depth of 47 cm (18.5 inches), and recovered the following artifacts: fire cracked rock, baked clay, animal teeth and bone fragments, calcined bone fragments (burned bone), seed beads, tinkling cones, lead shoot, lead musket balls, pipe stem fragments, glass fragments, ceramic fragments, a musket cleaning attachment (gun worm), several nails, and miscellaneous copper and iron fragments. 

– Gary