This blog includes updates from the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project sponsored by Western Michigan University in partnership with the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc. and other community groups. The Project is dedicated to archaeological research, education, community service learning, and intensive public outreach. The Principal investigator of the Project is Dr. Michael Nassaney.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Floating in the Floodplain
Hello blog readers, this is
Tommy from the 2016 field season. I’m back with a post on flotation samples!
Botanical (plant) remains can be charred or uncharred and
include remains such as seeds, charcoal, wood, corn cobs, kernels, and other
plant parts. These remains are usually recovered from sediment samples by water
flotation or directly from their cultural contexts during excavation. Botanical
remains can provide evidence for the utilization, processing, or domestication
of plant resources by the occupants of an archaeological site, which can help answer
questions regarding diet, subsistence, season of occupation, trade, and site
botanical remains at Fort St. Joseph are most often are recovered from cultural
features such as hearths, fire pits, and middens (trash deposits). We are
mostly looking for charred seeds that can tell us if the occupants of Fort St.
Joseph were eating domesticated plants like wheat. During the 2016 field season
we took several flotation samples. The process of gathering a flotation sample
starts with identifying an area to gather float sample. We were looking for
areas of Oxidized (burned) soil and middens. Once we found an area that we
decided was suitable for a flotation sample we would trace a box around it and
collect 10 liters of soil. Once the soil was collected we transferred it into a
bag so we could bring it back to the lab for processing.
A sample that has been run through the screens
our lab at Western Michigan University (WMU) we have begun processing our float
samples. The first step when processing float samples is to run them through a
Flote-Tech float machine. The float machine has two chambers, one to catch the
heavy fraction (artifacts that don’t float) and one for the light fraction
(botanical remains that float). Once the sample has been run through the float
machine, we take the heavy and light fractions and let them dry. After the
samples have dried we run them through a series of screens that are stacked on
top of each other in order to separate the materials by size. We use 2
different screens when processing our float samples, one is 2 mm and the other
is .85 mm. After the samples are run through the screen we sort the samples to
pick out the botanical remains we are looking for from the other materials
I have sorted 2 light fractions and one heavy fraction. I haven’t recovered any
charred seeds, but I have recovered some unburned grape seeds. The heavy
fraction had a lead bale seal inside of it. Bale seals were used to provide
proof that cloth or other goods had met the standard set by the guild which
controlled the materials in the bale. I hope to find a lot of other helpful
materials during the rest of the semester!